Travel: Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone
There are a number of reasons people don’t leave US borders. Many people don’t like to fly, which is no doubt a common obstacle for the elderly. There can be an increased cost to traveling to foreign countries. Plus, there is enough to see in this country so you never run out of options right here.
There is something that is lost by Americans not venturing outside our borders in retirement travel. We neither get to see how the rest of the world lives nor does the rest of the world get to see us. Most importantly, senior travel changes the way you see yourself, your country and the rest of the world. It also reminds us that as different as cultures are, people are still similar in what they want out of life.
When my husband and I traveled to Cambodia, we went to Tonle Sap Lake where people live in boats, much as they have for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. I was always reluctant to share these photos with friends back home. People tend to look at the photos and see poverty. These people are without money, but they are not poor. They were happy and content living full and vital lives. Certainly they face many challenges as the world is changing.
It is very easy in retirement life to become complacent and safe. Travel forces you out of your comfort zone. When my husband and I recently traveled to Portugal, I wanted to explore Lisbon by public transportation. Having always lived in the suburbs, travel by subway and bus is uncomfortable. The second day we were there, I hopped onto a bus for a short ride to our hotel. I didn’t realize I needed to push a button to alert the driver as he passed by my spot to disembark. I found myself in an unknown location, not sure how to get back. It was getting late and I certainly didn’t want to be stranded by myself at night. I had my map of the bus routes, identified the best bus and also a plan B to use the subway and returned with no problems. It reminded me I could handle myself and figure out how to read the signs and maps to get where I needed to go. After that experience, I traveled by myself all over the city.
For experienced travelers, like my sister in-law, who mastered public transportation as a teenager, my triumph sounds silly. Much of the senior population might read this and think, “Oh, I could never do that.” Everyone has their own comfort zone. What is extending my level may be completely different than what it is for you.