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Prime: Don’t put off retirement travel plans

It just might be too late to go later
Mobility and vision challenges may be part of your future, but even the cobblestone streets of Europe pose potential trip, slip, and fall hazards. Solid, supportive shoes are essential, and a cane might just be the solution to the uneven surfaces. Travel insurance can be your safety net if health or injury requires hospitalization.

“Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today!” should be our guiding motto, because life seems to throw some crazy twists and turns at us as we check off the years. 

So let’s toss some clothes, a bathing suit, flip flops and our passport into a bag and go somewhere. Don’t put your next trip on a wait and wish list.

Reminded of the 1969 film “If It’s Tuesday This Must Be Belgium,” recent experiences have forced me to acknowledge that travel is an adventure. You really do find your sense of the calendar and country being slightly skewed by jet lag and now add the semi-annual time change; it is not as easy as it once was.

Oversold or cancelled flights, luggage delays, long line-ups at check-in and security, plus long distances to gates all add up to much standing and maybe even some running.

Maybe you should bring a cane and a tensor bandage! Some good solid shoes with no slip soles for those cobbled streets are now not just sensible but a necessity. One missed step, a curb of an unexpected height, nearly debilitating pain, and all you want to do is go home.

What about aspirin, some Visine, the medications… it seemed easier when you were 18 and doing it all with just a backpack, tennis shoes, and a two-month Eurail Pass. 

Then who considered blood pressure pills, or cholesterol tablets as essentials? Then it was hostels and cheap beer; now it is single vineyard Pinot Noirs, a selection of local cheeses, the opera, a private bathroom, and an afternoon nap are de rigueur no matter if it is England’s, Holland’s, or Luxembourg’s most famous sights.

Starring Suzanne Pleshette, the crazy comedy “If It’s Tuesday This Must Be Belgium,” sees individuals, couples and families cover much of the highlights of Europe in 18 days. 

It features Rhine cruises, train journeys, castles, the sights of Venice, and reconnection with long lost relatives and lovers. It’s a romp that will add to your laugh lines. It sure isn’t Rick Steves.

Perhaps as you approach retirement you too are considering “what shall I do to mark this change in life?” Your first year of retirement checklist may feature an Alaskan or Caribbean cruise, a trip up the Nile, hiking in Nepal, volunteering at an animal sanctuary in Thailand, India or specifically supporting elephant orphans with the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya.

In Grade 6 you studied Egypt or Japan, and have you not – your whole life – had a smouldering desire to go? Do the ads for the Cunard trans-Atlantic crossing or hot air ballooning in Cappadocia make the heart beat a little faster?

It may be the less ambitious European grand tour on a Danube riverboat is your style. You’ve seen the enticing ads on PBS and perhaps even requested the brochures. 

Alternatively, maybe just one country with a deeper meaning based on your heritage and homeland of your ancestors. Optimistically, they will be delighted to see you. 

Living by the adage “visitors are like fish; after three days they smell” it is always a good idea to limit your stays. You might just be invited back … if your health allows it.

And as the years tick by you find it harder to get to sleep, so you bring an eye mask and ear plugs.

Maybe noise cancelling headphones for the flight. You find the pillows too hard, or too soft, so you pack one from home. You like a change of clothing daily and maybe a book or two because not all countries have English language publications. 

And the laptop or tablet cannot be forgotten. How did the luggage get so heavy, and why do I need a second piece? Thank goodness for roller bags.

The option is to leave much of it behind. This is supposed to be an escape. OK, you can’t forget the medications, but attempt to follow Antoine De St. Exupery who once said “He who would travel happily must travel light.” He was not just talking about luggage, but shedding the trappings that limit you.

Less stuff is always better. 

If you have a bucket list of destinations, maybe now is the time to fly before you make excuses or build only future regrets.

Recently a dear friend who wanted to take VIA’s The Canadian cross-country died before he could make the train trip a reality. It was painful to know he never would make the excursion. The point really is this: don’t wait!

One of the last times I attempted a European adventure, work still constrained the duration. Shortened by a start and hard stop, it felt wrapped a little too tightly. And then I pulled my back! A trip, slip, or fall can make your travel seem impossible. But you booked it and so you must go! Forfeiting an airfare these days is not an easy decision but if smart and safeguarded, there is the cushion of trip disruption and cancellation coverage. Maybe your credit card has these as features, but check the age restrictions.

Strokes, a history of heart attacks, macular degeneration or other vision problems, surgery, cancer, diabetes and just your birthdate can make insurance a sizeable chunk of change for your budget planning. 

You can shop around and many travel agencies and airlines have preferred pricing if you book through them. A strong word of cautiousness is that without protection medical care — or repatriation, alive or dead — is painfully expensive.

You have saved for retirement, and you know you can’t take it with you. Don’t leave it for the kids, book that ticket today. Go make some memories. Bon voyage!

Hugh Kruzel is a writer in Greater Sudbury. Prime features stories about senior living and the issues impacting seniors in our community. It is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.