When my husband and I left our full-time jobs with the company in the first half of 2021, the plan was to gradually transition into semi-retirement. I had returned to part-time freelance writing and publishing, which I had done for years while raising our children, and my husband was working part-time for our family business. We could do this freelance work from anywhere, so we decided to travel – a lot. And for a while, that’s exactly what we did.
With our young adult children on their college campuses and little else keeping us tethered to our Colorado home, in late summer 2021 we set off on a 7 week RV trip across the country, soon followed by 12 magical days in French Polynesia. We embarked on the most amazing extended family vacation to the Galapagos Islands and then spent 3 weeks visiting Sayulita and San Pancho, Mexico as a potential place to spend even more time during the cold Colorado winters.
Then our exciting streak of travel came to an abrupt halt, as I (finally) scheduled ankle ligament reconstruction surgery to take care of long-standing pain and gait issues. This was followed by weeks of unweighted rest and physical therapy. Then, unfortunately, other problems appeared: the hip pain that I thought would go away after treating the unstable ankle did not go away. More specialist visits and diagnostic tests followed as I sought pain relief while firmly based here in Colorado.
With another round of twice-weekly physical therapy sessions scheduled through mid-summer, not to mention medical follow-up and alternative therapy appointments, I’ve put long trips on the back burner. That wasn’t the plan!
For decades my husband and I have been active vacationers. With more free time – and with kids out of the house – we’ve long dreamed of weeks on the road or weeks in vacation rentals. Instead, thanks to these medical issues, we’re both spending a lot more time at home — and I’m spending a lot of time resting. (Refreezable ice packs are my new best friends.)
While I freely admit to indulging in pity parties with wine and too many carbs, I’m also looking for the best way to deal with being grounded for a while. For someone with a severe case of wanderlust — and who dreams of visiting all 50 states, all of the continental national parks, and many other international destinations — it’s tough. That said, I absolutely recognize that given the state of the world today – including the free fall of the US stock market, sky-high gas prices and seemingly endless mass shootings, as well as a pandemic and a ongoing war in Ukraine – my severed wings are hardly a tragedy.
I keep reminding myself that my current health issues are just an obstacle in the way. My passport will be waiting for me when I feel better equipped for long-haul flights and sightseeing on foot for miles in a place new to me. In the meantime, here are other ways to cope:
1. Enjoying my own garden
I am fortunate to live 30 minutes from the world famous ski resorts of Aspen and Snowmass. At the other end of my scenic valley is Glenwood Springs, home to healing hot springs. There is no shortage of fabulous restaurants and entertainment within minutes of my home. So, I’ve been supporting the local economy lately by enjoying happy hours on the patio with live music at local bars and restaurants, as well as attending concerts, theater performances, and fundraising events. non-profit funds.
My husband and I recently made the most of a 20 hour local getaway in upscale Aspen. At a silent auction a few years ago, I had the winning bid on a one-night stay at the luxurious St. Regis Aspen, and we ultimately put that gift certificate to good use, we delighting in a sumptuous hotel room and the resort’s famous white glove. service. (A glass of champagne on arrival? I don’t mind if I do!)
We dined on sushi at the locals favorite Kenichi and had cocktails at the historic J-Bar on the grounds of the Jerome Hotel. Then we woke up the next morning for a mountain hike that certainly pushed my current abilities. (Whoo-wee, I was in pain the next day.)
2. Adjust expectations
On trips throughout my adult life, I’ve scuba-dived in underwater caves in Hawaii, jumped out of airplanes in Florida, and climbed mountains on a via ferrata in the Canadian Rockies. My husband and I don’t like to sit still on vacation. Or, at least, we spend our mornings being active – say, with a jungle hike or a long snorkeling trip – then we relax on a beach bed in the afternoon.
When planning getaways, I always look for nearby starting points and plot tourist routes to travel. Daily exercise is still a part of our days away from home, if only because I love trying all the local foods, and staying active helps strike a healthy balance.
But going forward, I adjust my expectations for activity levels. Dedicated backpacking trips may not be in my future – which is a tough pill to swallow, as I love hiking through mountains and along ocean cliffs. I will never be able to hike the long, steep Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, backpack Circuit O to Torres del Paine, or hike between towns in the Cinque Terre. But I should be able to take shorter sightseeing walks around town without a problem. And who knows? Maybe I’ll learn enough tools to handle my hip conditions and allow for more challenging adventures. But until then, it seems that beach vacations that involve lots of time in the water (swimming is good!) are key. And that’s fine with me.
3. Adapt to a new reality
My husband and I planned to spend several weeks in our RV this summer, traveling throughout the Pacific Northwest. Luckily this trip was only sketched out on paper and no campground deposits were made. We canceled this adventure, partly because sitting for long periods of time is not helpful for my current condition. (Which is of course a big bummer for someone who likes to take RV trips.) Again, I’m hoping I can figure out how to alleviate these painful issues so that long-term VR isn’t entirely irrelevant in the years to come.
In the meantime, later this summer we are planning a much shorter RV adventure within the borders of Colorado. Since my husband is familiar with the national highways, he won’t need my navigation aid in the front seat – and I can lay in the back bedroom of the motorhome if I feel my hips tense from sitting too long. Plus, the short travel days mean we won’t be riding for hours between point A and point B. We’ll have plenty of time to both stop to stretch properly.
4. Dreaming about a future trip
When a Scott’s Cheap Flights deal landed in my inbox a few weeks ago, I jumped on it: $2,700 first class flights to Bali from New York. It’s a bargain, with first-class tickets (which include gloriously wonderful stretched seats for 8-2pm flights) normally costing $13,000 or more! We booked flights for March 2023 (I’d like to think I’ll feel closer to 100% by then!) and set off to find all there is to see, do and to live on the island in Indonesia. Alas, those flight prices were indeed too good to be true. A few days later we received an email from Delta, informing us that they were going to cancel our tickets, reversing the wrong fare. (They gave us each $200 in flight credit for our disappointment, though.)
This experience reminded me how much I love having trips in the books – and how much fun I have researching destinations and planning trips. So, in addition to dreaming of future travels, I am actively looking for opportunities. I just discovered that travel providers, like Backroads, offer e-bike routes! So maybe I can’t cycle miles on my own through French vineyards, but an Easygoing Champagne & Alsace Easygoing E-Bike Tour might be just the ticket to a future trip!
5. Stop taking good health for granted
For the vast majority of my adult life, I’ve functioned from a “good health” perspective – able to engage in rigorous activity without having to make many compromises when it comes to travel planning or active entertainment. Now that I’ve been faced with (hopefully temporary) limiting conditions, it’s clear that I’ve taken my previous ability to operate at full power for granted.
Having conditions that limit my travels reminded me how important it is to travel when you have the time and the means – and not wait until tomorrow because you never know what’s in store. The pandemic that crippled our lives in 2020 certainly underscored that philosophy for me — and now these health issues have cemented it.
Although I find joy here at home every week – in nature, short walks, a water aerobics class for new – I look forward to extended days when I feel good enough for further travels. But for now, I enjoy sunny days when I can dance with my husband or walk my daughter’s dog along our dirt road. I also take full advantage of the relaxation that comes with lying on the couch with a good book. After all, all we have is the present moment, so I’m making the most of my current reality. And when I feel closer to 100% again, I will never take that status for granted again.