"To be too certain of anything is the beginning of bigotry." -- Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah

Saturday, March 22, 2014

If You're Retired, Do You Have to Travel?

     A lot of people say they want to travel when they retire. It almost seems as if travel is a prerequisite for a fulfilling retirement, like it's part of the package of the successful middle-class retirement lifestyle.

     I've been to Costa Rica and Ecuador, people tell me, walked the El Camino de Santiago, and chartered a river boat down the Rhine. Where have you been?

     And I mumble in return, Uh, I was in New Jersey last weekend.

     I admit that I don't really like to travel all that much. And when I do travel I mostly stay close to home.

     Does that make me a failure at retirement? Do people feel sorry for me, because I can't afford to travel, or don't have the imagination or the curiosity to want to visit strange, foreign lands?

     For one thing, I do not like to fly. There's getting to the airport. Then the crowds. I don't like being herded through security and corralled into a narrow aluminum tube. You squeeze into a narrow seat, and a stranger guns the engines and you start trundling down a runway, hoping the heavier-than-air machine will actually lift off the ground before it smashes against the fence at the end of the pavement.

     No, I don't like to fly. And when I do, I pop a couple of pills, taking advantage of a little psychological aid called Lorazepam. Some people take Xanax instead. I wonder ... do you rely on a mood-altering drug when you fly, and does it help ease anxiety?

     Honestly, I don't really like to drive either -- dealing with the truckers, the speeders, the lane-changers and tailgaters. And then the hours and hours of sheer boredom as you sit there staring out the windshield at the ribbon of road ahead of you.

     All of this is worth it if you really, really want to be where you're going. And I do confess I'm ready to put up with the inconvenience of traveling when the weather gets cold in January, and the sun has disappeared, and my fingers are cracking from the cold, dry air -- and I just have to find a warm, tropical environment to bask in for a little while. I usually drive to Florida, where I take respite in the sun and the moist air for two or three weeks. A few times, I've bitten the bullet and stepped into an airplane for a flight to California or Arizona. Sometimes you just need a change of pace. And an airplane does get you there faster.

     But traveling to Europe or Asia or South America. Why? They don't even speak English there!

     Seriously, when I was younger and more adaptable, I traveled to Europe several times. I spent a summer in college bumming around Europe -- Spain, Italy, France, Germany, England and Ireland. But that was when I didn't mind sharing a bathroom with random strangers, and it didn't phase me to arrive in a city and not know where I'd be sleeping that night. I didn't mind struggling to communicate with people in a different language. In fact, I enjoyed unpacking my high-school French to see if it would work in the real world.

     And I do remember, later on, vacationing for two weeks in France with my wife. By the end of our stay, in Paris and beyond, and after a couple of weeks of practice, we could actually hold something that resembled a conversation with real, French-speaking people.

     But now? It's been a long time since I've spoken any French, and I only remember a few words, and the prospect of struggling through the language while impatient French people roll their eyes just seems like an unecessary annoyance.

     And forget about trying to navigate a vacation to Eastern Europe, South America or Asia, where I have no idea what the language is all about. Yes, some people speak English. But mostly it's the people who deal with American tourists, and it's their job to talk to you. To me that seems artificial. You get the tourist experience, but not the experience of the people who actually live there. Not to mention the fact that you don't know what they're saying behind your back!

     Besides, being a tourist doesn't appeal to me. You stand around and watch things. You go somewhere else and watch more things. Then you go back to your hotel (or cruise ship, but don't get me started on cruise ships!) and bed down in a generically furnished room. 

     I once proposed to B that after she retires we could take a trip around the world -- but only go to countries where they speak English. We'd go to England and Ireland, Israel, South Africa, India, Hong Kong, Australia. I thought it might be fun. And I wanted to prove to myself that the world is actually round. But B scoffed at the idea. She's not interested ... and probably thought I wasn't being serious anyway.

     To retirees who like to travel, I say more power to you. I admire your sense of adventure. But as for the rest of us, we shouldn't feel that we're missing something by not liking to travel. We shouldn't feel that we're somehow cheating our retirement years. Travel is one thing to do in retirement; but it's not the only thing, and it's not something we should feel required to "check off" in order to fullfill our retirement dreams.

     Besides, I say there's plenty to see in the world, even if you never travel more than a couple of hundred miles from home. For me, I can go to Boston and Cape Cod; to Vermont and New Hampshire, to New York City and the Hamptons, to Pennsylvania and the Jersey Shore and Washington DC. We've got the mountains and the beach; the city and the country; and all the cultural enrichments anyone could possibly want.

     Mais ... J'aime Paris au printemps. Peut-être qu'un de ces jours.


DJan said...

Long ago I loved to travel, but that was pre-9/11. Now it's a real pain to travel by air. I had to travel for work and now the only flying I do is maybe twice a year to visit family or occasionally a skydiving vacation. I'm going to be flying to southern California next month and I'm looking forward to it with both excitement and trepidation. I know whereof you speak. I'm also very happy to stay home for long periods of time and ride the bus around town. :-)

Vagabonde said...

I saw your blog on the side of the blog “Aging Gratefully” and now see that my friend DJan came to comment. Well, I will say the reverse from you – I have traveled since I was 5 or 6 when my mum took me from Paris to Istambul to get my grandma and that gave me the love of travel. I went to 58 countries and islands, but that is counting each one just once as for England I must have been there 15 times, Italy a dozen and so forth. Since I lived in the US and my parents in Paris I visited then over the years at least 2 times a year and I just counted that my next trip to Paris, soon, will be my 60th! And I did not count all the states I visited – at least 48 of them including Alaska and Hawaii.
If I could not travel it would be like placing me into a jail. Now that I am retired, I don’t travel as much, but started many trips close by … I love to travel where I don’t speak the language (I speak 3, English being my 3rd) and feel totally like an outsider – it’s fun. I felt like this in Yojakarta in Indonesia and also in Luang Prabang, Laos, not to forget Tashkent in Uzbekistan. But I understand that some people do not like to travel and that is OK. There are many things I don’t like to do – don’t like to join clubs, don’t like people who are too conservative or extremely religious – as long as someone is happy, they need to do what they like. Laissez faire ce que vous voulez ... pourquoi pas?

Douglas said...

I like to think I got all of my wanderlust under control during my Navy days and my many relocations around the country (NY, Florida, California, Virginia) but I still have the urge from time to time. I used to, like you, self medicate before getting on an airliner (tip: never take LSD before boarding!) but it was usually a joint, smoked on the way to the airport. Not that I feared flying, just that I was turning my life and safety to a person in the cockpit who I did not know.

And, yet, Faye and I are contemplating a trip to the British Isles this summer. They speak English there but it's a weird version.

June said...

I'm not really interested in traveling, either. What I look forward to about retirement is never having to leave home!
I'd like to go to a Warm Place in winter, but I'd really prefer to beam myself there. When they've perfected that, we'll talk about other destinations.

Anonymous said...

Like minds think alike. I did most all of my traveling while I was employed. And young(er). I visited what I wanted to see, once, as I never liked to go to the same place twice. Except Italy. :)
I'm not going to list the places I've been to (and it's many) but now that I am retired, traveling is the last thing on my list. I laugh at those white haired geezer tourists and pity them. How awful to be so old and feeble and finally see Paris whereby they really couldn't enjoy as a 20-30-40 yr old could!
Now that I'm retired, I like to buy and utilize vacation homes, preferably at a beach or mountain resort. I enjoy going to the same place whenever I want. I also like to take little 'day trips' close by, but all driveable. The only goal I have left on my bucket list is the Grand Canyon.
Flying after 9/11 is horrid. Hotels are expensive. Staying at people's condos and renting is super expensive ($2500 a week plus....insane!) nor would I house swap. I don't like strangers in my house touching my stuff. I'm also appalled at people who scramble to rack up frequent flyer miles via their charge cards. That forces them to spend money which retirees shouldn't do! Think about that.
I'd rather save my money by spending less and more wisely. I shop at a grocery store that is 50% less than other supermarkets. They don't take credit cards. So, if I normally spend $3000 a year on food, this grocery store only charges me $1500 for the year. So, when my daughter was stationed in Hong Kong for 6 months and asked me to visit, I had the $1500 for the airline ticket immediately. I didn't have to spend and rack up 160,000 worth of airline points to get that 'free' ticket. Stupidity, as far as I am concerned and a total waste of time and energy.
I have more important things to do with my time in retirement than wait on phones or research the best deal for hours on end. If I want to go somewhere, I just pick up and go. Time has more value to me now.
Oh, and if I want to spend a week in Las Vegas (which has bus service to the Grand Canyon) airfare and hotel for hubby and I comes out to around $800. Meals are at all-you-can-eat buffets (you can get a 24 hr buffet pass for $25 a person) and for under a grand, hubby and I can have a great vacation. Without the hassle of spending money to get something for free. Please don't fool yourself: people who use charge cards to rack up miles spend MORE money than they would have otherwise.

Olga said...

Mike and I did a lot of traveling before we retired. I thought that would continue after retirement, but he was really over air travel by then. My plan then became to take some trips with my grand children and I will still do that.

Rosaria Williams said...

Ah, but you do want to escape your circumstances now and then...Having time allows retirees to dream about travel; having resources and good health allows them to actually take the plunge. Even with all the hustle, traveling is most appealing when boredom hits me.

stephen Hayes said...

My wife and I are avid travelers as you know from reading my blog. I think people wait too long to travel. I see them on our trips climbing out of buses and looking bored or tired. We have a few health issues that has made it necessary to travel now instead of later, but people shouldn't think they need to travel if they don't want to.

Dick Klade said...

We traveled far and often in our late 50s and early 60s, reasoning that during those years we had the finances and physical ability to experience maximum enjoyment. It worked for us. Now we are very selective about scheduling trips, stay within our region of the U.S., and are pleased with that situation.

Meryl Baer said...

I always wanted to travel, and now want to do as much as possible before I am too old and/or sick or plain too tired.
Retirement should be all about doing what you want to do, whatever that is. Like to travel, fine. Want to stay home, that's fine too. This is our time. Enjoy!

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

When I was young, I traveled on writing assignments or speaking engagements all the time and loved it. Now...not so much. I don't travel for the sake of travel. Now it's just to see people who are dear to me: going back to L.A. to see friends mostly. My brother lives most of the time in Bangkok, Thailand and we've been over to see him once and may go back on occasion, but usually see him when he is at his Los Angeles area home. Our favorite place is Maui and we've been there twice since we retired four years ago. We have plans to go back this year and maybe one or two more times, but that's it. We don't want to blow our budget with a lot of traveling. (Some neighbors did just that and are now struggling.) And there comes a time when it's just too difficult. We love our home so much that staying home most of the time is fine with us! And, too often, when we do go away, we look at each other and say "What were we thinking?"

Linda Myers said...

We've done a lot of traveling since we retired nearly four years ago. But we're slowing down. For one thing, we've been to most of the places we wanted to see. For another, we've decided we like Arizona in the winter. And then there's the energy it takes to plan and execute a trip.

We may still travel, but the urgency has diminished.

Anonymous said...

I circled the world alone when I was in my 20s and have traveled together with David to many nice cities and countries. Wonderful memories!

Retired Syd said...

I think I'd be pretty happy spending 11 months of the year at home and 1 month each year in New York City (we do this through exchanging homes each year.) The truth is, I'm pretty much a homebody--sometimes not leaving my house for days.

But then something comes up with friends, or I see a deal to a place I've never been to (or even one I have) and I think my Sagittarius kicks in and my wanderlust takes me there.

Every trip, on the way home (the travel part is a pain in the ass) I say, that's the LAST trip for awhile. But that never turns out to be true . . .

I wish I didn't get the urge to travel--it would save me some serious money--it's the third largest line item in our budget after property taxes and health care.

Jono said...

I like going anywhere close or far away. If I ever retire I will not likely be able to afford to leave home, so I will work until I drop or they kick me out. Both are distinct possibilities.

Tabor said...

Like any challenge in life, travel has its good side and its bad side. It is better to travel while young, but you cannot afford the better places to stay and the better food. If you wait until you are old you cannot afford the adventurous routes. I am addicted to travel and endure whatever is needed to get somewhere, but I have lived overseas in third world countries and am more mellow about such stuff.

Janette said...

We traveled extensively when we were young. Sometimes we look at each other and say, "Can you believe we went there without a care in the world?"
Now our travel centers on our kids. We travel to them, them to us or we meet them someplace. We also look forward to traveling to them and kicking them to the curb to travel without their kiddo...yup, grandchild care:)

Kirk said...

I traveled a lot as a kid (car trips) and then a lot more for business. Since I retired I've taken several round-the-world trips, and I would like to do more.

I don't need drugs to fly, but the whole air travel experience had gotten more and more unpleasant over the years. But it's the price to pay to go to interesting places.

Friko said...

Me too, me too.
I hate flying, did enough of it when I was working. All airports are the same. Seen one, seen them all.

I like the idea of being elsewhere, but not actually doing it, the travelling part. The tourist route thing is boring. we make jokes about Americans : if it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium.

I feel a bit guilty about being such a stay-at-home, but that’s just plain silly. When I still had family there, I used to go to Germany frequently.

So, you won’t find me on far away shores.

The weird thing is that I would love to do a many months long road trip through the States. Preferably alone, but maybe with a security guard/guide in my baggage.

Would you be willing?

Bob Lowry said...

Like all the other parts of retirement, there are no longer any "rules." Travel is no more required to be happy than having to move to a retirement community when you are 70 or playing golf 6 days a week.

We all design our own life after work. If you are content to stay close to home then you have found what suits you. If you get the urge to fly to Phoenix in January, then do it....or not.

Retirement is a journey we all get to design for ourselves.

I am very happy to be close to home, and very happy to hit the road in our RV. It is wonderful I am free to follow both paths.

Brian from HomeExchange50plus said...

Travel is not for everyone, maybe because they have done it all before or it is a cost reason but for those who travel, enjoy it.

We are currently in the planning stage for our second road trip in Europe driving through France to Northern Spain and looking forward to it enormously. We are also enjoying the planning which to me is always part of the fun.



Anonymous said...

Hi there. My name is JoAnn Florez and I am not yet retired, just turning 50, but I love to travel. I have been all over south america, USA, Europe, and my last trip I went around the world. If you don't like to travel that's ok but maybe you just haven't been to the right places? You can read my blog
whatsupjo.net and see my pic of my travels. Please reconsider traveling, I think it's great fun and quite educational.

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Anonymous said...

While reading each comment to see how long we'll enjoy travel in retirement, we kept our sour grapes detectors on high.

So far, since retiring at 53 three years ago, we love travel. (Even before retirement we traveled to escape the mundane. Coworkers were amazed we would forego a month's income and add to it four weeks vacation time just to travel.). Currently, through volunteer work we landed a two year residence permit for the EU!

Next spring we will be in Kyoto in early March waiting with six weeks worth of train passes for the cherry blossoming to begin. Then, each day we'll take a bullet train to the peak blossoming region starting south of Kyoto and ending north of there. We see this as carefree, nimble retirement.

By travel as described by a comment above, we actually learn languages. From a native base of English we have gleefully expanded to Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Hungarian, German, and Japanese. Next, Greek or Slavic dialects. (NEA member junior high school language teachers told me I was too stupid to learn a foreign language.) Don't believe the experts. Pick a country you like go there for a month. Study in the early morning, and go out and use what you know the rest of the day. Repeat daily. We learned Hungarian at the age of 56, and it ain't an easy one.

As much as you can afford get out and play. Reasonable housing is out there. Train tickets are relatively cheap. With a genuine smile on your face, the whole world is out there ready to help you. They love to hear your efforts in their languages! They'll respond with equal enthusiasm in any English from fluent to broken that they have. Maybe they know Spanish like you! Adventure awaits!

Yes, we have four adult, married, financially responsible self made children, and fourteen grand children through them. We visit happily together often, but they don't need us there all the time. They're adults. The grandchildren are thrilled to share their lives when we return, and to receive letters and cards from abroad while we travel. They enjoy real time photos sent by media. Just think how it expands their world view without the political filters of news organizations.

Go! Travel! Often! Adventure awaits!

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JoansGate said...

I've been retired for 4 full years now, after being a RN since 21 y/o. My hubster + I traveled alot in our 20s, 30s, + 40s, doing the tropical islands of the Caribbean, cruises, frequent Washington DC trips, California, Florida + even owning a gorgeous timeshare at the Marriott Aruba. Now in retirement and living in Newport, Rhode Island, why would we want to go anywhere? Besides blowing threw your savings (without having a pension plan, either of us), we decided we are perfectly fine at home. This small New England city has it all-a university with classes of interest for our age group, fine restaurants, beaches in the summertime, the Newport Jazz + Folk festivals, lots of walking places..we had alot of fun younger, traveling. Today, I'm too worn out to pack up + go! Besides, there's nothing There, that I couldn't do Here!!

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Dolan Yok said...

The most beautiful trip in my opinion was done when I was young, but if someone's life choices want to travel in the old age it doesn't matter, but you should choose a travel route that is easy to reach or there are more complete facilities

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Mark said...

Long distance travel was never a necessity with me though I always had a fascination with islands such as in the south Pacific but never got there. I've thought about cruises thru the years but I'm largely an introvert so crowds (which are likely going to be much younger than me) wouldn't be something of interest either. So finally after watching a Hallmark movie that's set mostly on a train, I flew to Chicago and went on a cross country Amtrak train and loved it as I got a room package. Short trips of 100-200 miles has been the usual rule with me. I avoid interstate highways as they are so boring with packs of truckers and billboards of chain establishments that I never patronize anyways. Give me a nice two lane highway over a freeway any day. I only have one long distance relative, my brother 1200 miles away in Arizona that I will go see now and then. When you travel out of the country, you're relying on strangers for your well being which does not really thrill me.

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