It’s All So Easy To Travel Around The World On Social Security
October 12, 2008 by rtwsenior
It’s easy to take easy for granted, especially in this time of instant global communication. But, in 1935, my life, as well as my father’s, depended entirely upon the existence of a tiny, homemade, seven-watt ship’s radio. He was about to die at sea aboard a large, wooden sailing vessel rapidly taking on water. If the First Mate hadn’t cobbled together a working radio out of scrap parts and against the wishes of a tyrannical madman captain; and if that little set hadn’t succeeded in rousing the Honolulu Coast Guard, then the Seth Parker would have eventually gone down, taking my mother’s fiancé with it. I would not have been born two years later.
Father was attempting to sail around the world at the time but he never made it across the Pacific Ocean. Now, I have succeeded in circumambulating the planet once and am soon to do it again, the other way around. He was a young man. I’m an old woman. How did I come to such a pass? Surely, it’s genetics from both sides of my family, for sea captains populate my parent’s past. Mother’s grandfather was a Bermudian tall ship captain, and Father sprang from New England sea captains, becoming one himself. Obviously, the itchy-feet gene was bound to surface again somewhere in my family. But mine had to wait till I had raised my kids, divorced my husband, retired from work, and found a way to pay for an unconventional, burgeoning travel bug.
If I didn’t exactly live small, I lived regularly. I had an ordinary life and I still do. But, genes and DNA, once activated, are very persistent in claiming their fifteen percent of one’s time and attention and now, mine seem to be making up for lost time. I don’t sail; I fly into countries and backpack alone around each continent; then come home and write about it. Three years ago, at age 67, I backpacked, for a year, throughout Eastern Europe, Turkey, Egypt, India, Thailand, Hawaii, and the U.S. West Coast. For awhile, that satisfied my inner wanderlust. But now, with a new book published and a blog site to tend, my genetic code is firing up again; inspiring me to plan my new trek across the Southern Hemisphere, going in the other direction – East to West. As before, I plan to hostel and backpack in a spontaneous wandering way, through South America, the Pacific Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Borneo, Africa, Israel and Spain, before returning home to write another book.
Because I’m seventy-one years old by now, I’ve been investing time, energy, and money into making my very healthy body even healthier. My food is all organic; my water, bottled; I detoxify herbally; and do strength and weight training so that I can again lug that really heavy pack under some pretty basic travel conditions. It makes sense not to have to carry any extra pounds beneath my own skin. Meanwhile, before departure day, I have a book to promote: Hey Boomers, Dust Off Your Backpacks; Travel The World On A Limited Budget.
This book chronicles my adventures as a single woman of a certain age and describes what happens when one sets out alone to explore less-well-traveled regions with nothing pre-planned except the stack of airline tickets in my pocket. For each location, those provide an entrance city and a far distant exit point for a randomly-selected future date. It’s a blank slate in-between for me to write upon with my body.
How does it feel to sleep in a crowded coed bunk room with hostellers half your age? Is it safe to take the local buses and trains in Bosnia, Albania, and India? What about language barriers, street food, and drinking water? How are the emergency rooms in Goa and Bangkok, compared with one in Los Angeles? What does it feel like to ride elephants and camels? What’s it like to sit up all night in airports and train stations, worldwide; and how about the occasional involuntary adoptions that persistent natives sometimes wish to perform upon you? How does one deal with touts and cheeky beggars who see you as an undefended target in their midst? Who are the friends you make along the way?
Before I leave home again, I really hope that I’ll have many opportunities to answer these burning questions and tell the story of my first around the world adventures. Hopefully, I’ll be besieged with speaking invitations when my press release goes out. Because, in the process of analyzing that trip, I realize that I have a message for leading edge baby boomers, some of whom were world-class backpackers in the sixties. Perhaps they don’t fully understand that it’s still entirely possible to do such things in old age and on a limited income. Their generation has found a way to perpetuate youth with every new decade they’ve entered as the leaders of that gigantic population bubble. But, within their heart of hearts, I hear, that secretly they dread the unknown future which advertising tells them is littered with ill health, mental decline, and loss of freedom and fun.
Eligibility for social security represents that rapidly-approaching boundary line, which in youthful minds, spells old age, dotage, pipe and slippers. This is an emotional misconception nowadays, but it’s often there, lurking in the psyche, until the line is crossed, and….. Voila! The sun still shines! I wish to be a pied piper to those nervous boomers, telling them that it’s not so bad over here across the SS line. In fact, it’s even possible to do outrageously audacious things. I will always sound really old to them, at eight years and more, their senior. So, they will conclude that if I can do it, then it will surely be a piece of cake for them.
It will be interesting to see how I can manage to stay in touch with my new friends on the internet, as a blogger, from deep within the Amazon. For me, questions like that are part of the whole fascination with this kind of life: the uncertainties; the adaptations; the surprising discoveries and simple solutions. Traveling free-form around the world has proven one thing to me. It’s really all so easy!
Linda J. Brown’s new book, “Hey Boomers Dust Off Your Backpacks” can be purchased on Amazon.com and through her blogsite, heyboomers.com.