Faraway Places are Still Within Reach

Travel helps us see things from a different perspective and lean away from old age.

November 22, 2017 | | Over the Next Hill

I am increasingly plagued by the f-word. At the grocery store (Do I need milk?), or “Oh, hi!” (What is her name?), or gazing blankly around the laundry room wondering what took me there. These episodes can produce giggles, the classic shoulder shrug of resignation, or jaw-dropping disbelief. Forgetfulness is my new reality.

On her first solo trip, Barbara McKenzie had the pleasure of feeding a koala at the Sydney Zoo in Australia.

On her first solo trip, Barbara McKenzie had the pleasure of feeding a koala at the Sydney Zoo in Australia.

I’m also noticing I’m not nearly as quick at making decisions as I once was. Taken together, these factors have made me reconsider how I do my travelling. In the past, when I felt stale and in need of some mental floss, or wanted to run from the dark, cold Caledon winter, I chose a destination, spent a few hours on the computer and packed a bag.

But now travel has somehow become more complicated, with an ever-increasing number of details requiring attention before that bag is packed. Time to seek professional advice.

Naomi Rogers has run Caledon Travel in Caledon East since 2009. Her company is part of Travel Professionals International, a consortium of more than 1,000 travel advisers across Canada. Formerly a financial planner, Naomi now uses her connections to customize travel for her clients. “If a specific destination has been a dream, then I find a way to make it happen,” she says.

For Naomi, fulfilling a travel dream is about investing cash and time wisely. “Part of planning your travel is customizing it to take into account your physical abilities as you age,” she says.

What’s more, as we age, the cost of travel insurance can be a stumbling block. Just sifting through what’s on offer may be daunting. There is medical insurance, cancellation or trip interruption insurance, accidental death and dismemberment insurance, and insurance for baggage and personal effects. Most types are subject to eligibility, with costs escalating the farther we get from our birthdate. And if you have been unlucky enough to experience any kind of health problem or even a recent change in a prescription, you can expect increasingly hefty premiums or outright denial of coverage.

As a result, some of my friends have chosen to ignore travel insurance entirely, and let the chips fall where they may. This approach makes me queasy, but anything more than basic medical insurance is probably unnecessary.

Dana Omstead and his wife Helga own Migrations Travel and Cruises, a boutique travel service run from a tiny office in Palgrave. Helga started the business nearly 25 years ago, and Dana joined her a few years later. Now, with five full-time agents, each specializing in various areas of the travel business, it’s a very busy place.

Dana has noticed that as his clients mature, their travel interests shift. Where everything may once have been about beaches and all-inclusives, many are now more interested in experiential and intercultural travel. Most often, the excursions Dana puts together have a theme or purpose. Some involve cultural immersion, others focus on wine or food, and still others may be tailored for those with an artistic bent.

In the past few years Dana has also observed a surge in the number of single travellers. Together, Barbara McKenzie and her husband Chuck had enjoyed a few of Dana’s excursions, but after Chuck’s death, Barbara says she was too nervous to travel on her own. Friends encouraged her to rethink her position, and she has never looked back.

Her first solo trip was to Australia and New Zealand, and though she was initially full of misgivings, those quickly dissolved at the Pearson Airport departure lounge. There she was warmly welcomed by a group of fellow travellers who made her feel like part of the family.

“When I travel with a professionally escorted group,” says Barbara, “I don’t have to make any decisions. I feel safe and can let the experience evolve without worrying about the details. It’s comforting to know that someone knowledgeable and connected has your back.”

Although we are wearily accustomed to the ordeal flying has become, travel is still one of the most profound ways we humans can reach across time and space to promote understanding. Travel helps us see things from a different perspective and lean away from old age. And it’s well documented that people who have more frequent social interactions live longer, healthier lives.

Though zipping suspended from a cable over a canyon may no longer be in the cards, if we are willing to step out of our comfort zone, travel can still produce zing in our lives and keep the synapses firing in aging brains.

Besides, we all know it’s the journey, not the destination.

About the Author More by Gail Grant

Gail Grant is a freelance writer who lives in Palgrave.

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