Thursday, September 3, 2009
Reading my friend Barbara’s account of her recent trip to South Africa has inspired me to think about doing some real traveling again.
From my friend Barbara Roth, a dedicated, award winning teacher, who has just retired from an exhausting job in the Philadelphia public school system:
On my first trip abroad 35+ years ago, the contents of my backpack weighed only 15 pounds and I didn’t even pack an aspirin tablet. Now, newly retired and on a recent trip to South Africa, I took 2 suitcases half of which were filled with precautionary pharmaceuticals and enough fiber to float the Titanic. How times have changed!
I too have shared Karen’s feelings about long distance travel - the plane hassles only continue to get more random and crazier (like landing in Dakar at 2 am & having to sit in your seat with all your overhead baggage on your lap while “they” conduct a USA required search of overhead bins & seats). This all gets harder to deal with as we age along with the jet lag which now requires “daze” to recover from.
However, I’ve always thought the pluses of travel outweigh the inevitable trials. Travel makes me feel energized which is even more important in “the next stage”. Prior to a trip, I have something to look forward to and plan for and afterwards new memories for my old age.
When I went to Europe in ’71, it was with a copy of Frommers’ “Europe on Five Dollars a Day” and a splurge was a gelato. So, another benefit for older travel is being able to sit down in a real restaurant with actual tablecloths and good wine and not have to worry that I can’t afford to get home.
Travel also broadens my world. During apartheid in South Africa, I was simply living my life, only marginally aware of Mandela and boycotts. I had read “Kaffir Boy”, seen “Master Harold and the Boys” and watched the nightly news but it was not until I was there that I had a better sense of how devastating and all pervasive the policy was.
It was also amazing to observe on a tourist level a country trying to heal itself and the incongruity of my TV images of Soweto then and how it is today. In Capetown we had a ‘coloured’ or mixed race cabdriver relating horrid stories of the day to day reality of apartheid. The only problem was that he kept taking both hands off the steering wheel to emphasize his points! Travel places a human face on my world.
One of the best things travel does for me is that it puts me in the now in ‘yogaspeak’. When I’m away, I don’t make lists, think about the weeds growing or worry about the future and things I can’t control. I also realize that the best part of my trip is coming home and appreciating all the little pieces of my everyday life even the weeds.
My recent journey was also different from my first foreign adventure on another level. On my initial trip, I went with a girlfriend from college and on this, I traveled with my 30 year old daughter who shares my passion for travel, an experience I wouldn’t trade for my youth!