Editor’s Note: Below is another column in Steve Canipe’s series called Boomer Bytes. The column, as the title suggests, will focus on a variety of topics that may be of interest to baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. But Canipe also hopes to start a conversation with younger generations, too. Check out an introduction and Canipe’s (first self-titled) column here.
- See second column – Are We Really Old? – here.
- See third column – Cars and More Cars – here.
- See fourth column – Getting Educated – here.
- See fifth column – Home Alone? – here.
- See sixth column – Death – here.
- See seventh column – They’re Playing Our Song – here.
- See eighth column – Driving: Knowing When To Quit – here.
- See ninth column – Hobbies: What’s Your Favorite – here.
- See 10th column – ‘The Last of Life, for which the First was Made’ – here.
- See 11th column – Volunteeering – here.
- See 12th column – Duck and Cover – here.
- See 13th column – Providing for the Future – here.
- See 14th column – Here We Go Wandering… – here.
- See 15th column – State of Schools – here.
- See 16th column – Our War – here.
- See 17th column – Behind the Curtain – here.
- See 18th column: Our Mind
- See 19th column: Change
- See 20th column: Memorials
- See 21th: When is Old?
- See 22nd: Roles
- See 23rd: Becoming a Dad
- See 24th: Where Are My Roots?
- 25th: Is it our fault?
Getting There From Here
By Steve Canipe
July 11, 2014. As an introduction to a five part series on travel to remote, exciting locations, this column recalls an earlier column when travel was described in a general way. Experiences from China, Russia, India, and Tanzania will be the focus of those columns. I will share my thoughts and impressions of these very different cultures.
It was in Boomer Bytes #14 Here We Go A Wandering, that I first introduced the traveling idea. I think travel is an important aspect of who we are as Boomers, because throughout the adult experience of most Boomers, we have traveled or desired to do so anyway. Whether it was us in the 1970s doing backpacking across Europe on a shoestring, hitchhiking across the US (was still safe then), wanting some exotic locales to visit like our adoption of the Club Med life styles, or our staying in luxury hotels, we have been setting the travel agenda of the country. We are probably still setting it, although with the mini-depression we had in 2008, we have curtailed our trips somewhat.
A report in a 2013 New York Times article described some changes that may be coming our way. At that point we were 5 years past the bust of the market and many of us lost substantial dollars in the “crash.” What seems to have happened is that many of us are still working or planning to work at least until we are 70. This has several implications. One of the major of which is that the three and four week vacations are no longer feasible. Road Scholar one of the premiere travel groups for seniors, formerly called Elderhostel, has started moving their trips, including international ones, to two weeks. This shorter time requirement allows continued work while still fitting into the corporate vacation time frame.
As a group we are healthier and more financially capable than our parents were to take and enjoy trips in this country as well as abroad. Many of us also want to explore places and cultures that are different from our own. We, as a group, seem unwilling to accept the stay put mentality. When did that start? For some of us, like generations before us, it was the military that opened horizons through basic and advanced training locations and work assignments outside our local area. Unlike our parents who went to war and then came back home, we often relocated where we had been stationed. Many of us worked with corporations that in the 1970s-90s were willing to transfer people form one place to another. We became part of the mobile generation.
Recalling information from Bytes #14, the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch reported the benefits of travel among seniors. One startling statistic in the Journal report is that a “…nine-year study found that annual vacations reduced the risk of death from any cause, and specifically death from heart disease, in a group of men at high risk for coronary heart disease.” A report in Time magazine in December 2013 says that travel is not part of a retirement plan but really part of a health plan.
Did this wanderlust start when we got old? I cannot speak for others, but for me, the desire to travel started when I was in the 4th grade with me looking at National Geographic Magazine (and no I am not talking about the naked top photos!) I started reading (and looking at photos) and planning where I would travel when “I got old enough.”
Oh such naiveté I had. While I was in college at App State, I still had done next to no travel, but I was in classes with students from other parts of the country who had traveled so much more than I had. This exposure continued to whet my desire to travel.
One of my best friends enlisted in the Army and was ultimately stationed in California. Remember this time was during Viet Nam build-up. My buddy and I corresponded and I made big plans to drive across the country to visit him during summer vacation. We made such plans; he was stationed near San Francisco which was such a radical place then – just the type place that a very naïve 19 year old from rural North Carolina found so alluring! Of course my parents were dead set against this trip but I was very determined and after many arguments, I set off heading westward. I hate to admit it but I found out that it is very lonely to travel alone across the country. As it turns out I turned around and came back to North Carolina when I was just west of Little Rock, Arkansas.
When I got back, my parents did not do the “I told you so” thing, they just welcomed me back. I was of course devastated in many ways, I had failed at something I was sure I could do and maybe more importantly, I thought it might have been the last time I saw my friend who was going to be sent to Viet Nam, where so many did not come back or did not come back whole. Well he did come back and I eventually got my confidence back. Since then I’ve traveled alone across the country several times but there’s not one time when I am driving that I don’t remember the fear I had that first time I tried the solo cross-country drive.
Obviously with my travel history, that early fear has not created any serious psychological issues. On last count, I’ve visited 35 countries, 7 continents, 50 states, 10 Canadian provinces and 2 Canadian territories, and 2 Mexican states. Some of the mentioned visits were alone but most were with my wife, who also loves to travel.
I mentioned earlier that I was going to do four more travel columns on exciting places I’ve been. I will describe those trips in this column during the summer vacation season in the hopes that other Boomers will enjoy taking some of the same trips, I’ve enjoyed over the past several years. I also hope that you will share your former or current travels with readers, either through posting at the end of the column or on Facebook or by writing to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I do want to hear from you.
Next week join me on an exploration to China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace, visits to the Terra Cotta warriors, and the vibrant city of Shanghai. Buckle your seat belts for the next four columns. For a preliminary view of some photographs, visit the website linked here.