Travel

Too Old To Go?

I remember. I remember. I remember. The Red Eye Express to Los Angeles, for instance, and still having the energy to hit the early morning pavement without crumbling with exhaustion from the overnight flight.

I remember flying through seven time zones to reach Cologne, Germany and needing only a few hours sleep to adjust. Jet lag may have slowed me down a tad when I was young, but it didn’t set me back two days. Indeed, cicardian rhythms — the body’s internal clock — wasn’t quite so well understood back then, so it didn’t get blamed for every international traveler’s headache, foggy thinking or bad hair day.

The impact of light and dark on positive mental attitude, aromatherapy, diet, the harmone melatonin, watches that run slower when flying in a westerly direction, and a host of other jet lag remedies were unknowns, also. They were unneeded. Youth just seemed to have its own staying power.

I remember weekend float trips on lazy rivers in Missouri that started at the crack of dawn on Saturday and went nonstop ’til late Sunday night. Powdered donuts and Budweiser were the breakfast foods of champions, and feeling bad — seasickness, or even a hangover — wasn’t an option.

As travel has become more sophisticated, advanced theories about jet lag and seasickness and the higher ratio of re-circulated air in new jets and insecticide spraying and much, much more have been investigated to help us figure out maladies associated with travel. But me thinks the real culprits — shifting harmones, impaired vision, slowing metabolisms and aging, in general — are nothing new. Growing old just happens.

Of course, caving in to old age is worse than the growing-old-pains that accompany it. If you think you’re too old to go on a safari, you are. If you think you’re going to get nauseous ballooning over the South of France, you will. If you think the nerve in another tooth is going to die while you’re hiking in the Andes, it probably will hurt you.

More than success is, aging is a mind game. And if we don’t let little stuff like discomfort stand in our ways, travel can actually be a Fountain of Youth for all us old fogies. Oh sure, these days I get crankier from 18-hour flights than I used to, and I pack more pills. But I know horseback riding in Puerto Rico’s El Junque rainforest is as addictive as Prozac.

A few pointers from world travelers older than me have been far more helpful to me than the latest travel gizmos and gadgets. Eyes are my biggest concern. In fact, I’m pretty sure my deteriorating vision contributes immensely to my increasing problem with motion sickness. Just focusing clearly when I’m sitting still produces vertigo. At home I have a half dozen pairs of glasses, each suited to a different distance, each worn for a different task. On the road, I carry two pairs of bifocals, plus prescription sunglasses because, well, in some cultures, seeing is believing.

My digestive tract isn’t what it used to be, and no positive mental attitude can change that, although some altered behavior helps. I still canoe, kayak and whitewater raft, but I no longer breakfast on donuts and beer. Truth is, I’m unable to absorb the quantity of alcohol I did when I was younger, and many animal fats are way too heavy for me.

Fruits, vegetables and water are in. Instead of cocktails, I drink eight ounces of water every hour I spend in an airplane or a canoe. And when I’ve reached my destination, eight eight-ounce glasses a day safeguards against dehydration. Of course when I relax at sunset, I still slip a shot of Wild Turkey into at least one of them.

Travel and its irritating incidents probably have no impact on hot flashes and the attendant emotional swings that come with menopause, but it’s a cinch I’m calmer when I’m cooler. Northern exposures like Nova Scotia and Iceland show up on my wish list itineraries where gloves, hats and woolly socks are needed to keep me warm when the night sweats don’t. Vitamin E and an herbal mix I’ve concocted help ease such physical discomforts.

All this means more pills; more stuff; more carryalls. Jeez, it’s almost like being an infant who needs a diaper bag. Only, one serious difference separates my zippered bag from the baby’s: Big safety pins are attached to my zipper pulls to make them easier to unzip. Arthritis, you know.

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