Taking it easy made easy
“I have never been tired, so why would I retire?” a 100-year-old woman and public figure responds every time people ask when she’d rest and take it easy.
Now that is the kind of woman I want to grow into. Even in my dotage, I’d like to do the things I enjoy doing and do best at a pace and time of my own choosing. Friends had encouraged me to find another job after I retired recently, but I thought, “Hey, wait! What about having fun first and enjoying myself outside of a deadline?”
Almost nine months since I left my desk job at the Inquirer, I have not had a day when I felt idle or bored. In fact, I have had to list down daily the things I needed to prioritize to make sure I find time for all the activities I had planned the day before.
Declutter, travel, do volunteer work, check my health status, monitor my money trail, attend training courses, go on outings with friends and family, attend retreats and meditation classes, etc. The list goes on and on, with me ticking each one as I accomplish them.
To stave off insecurities over financial constraints now that I no longer have a regular income, I decided to adopt a minimalist lifestyle so I could further stretch my savings.
It was time to stop worrying and start living. And with that resolve, I began going to travel expos and scouring ads for airline promos, sharing bargain info with friends who’d tag along if their schedules permit.
I also listened to friends who’ve started farming and got wholesome recipes from vegetarian friends as I embark on a healthier lifestyle.
Along the way, I became some sort of expert on travel. Here are a few tips I’ve learned from my trips:
Where to go
Have a list of places you want to go to or things you want to experience before you kick the bucket, and while your legs are still steady enough.
You must know why you are going to a place. Is it to see a famous sight, taste a local delicacy, learn something new? I was walking along the streets of Venice in April looking for souvenirs when I asked myself the same question: What are you looking for? Why are you tiring yourself walking these streets?
Why you should go
So many reasons to cite and places to go, and not just because I can, what with cheap tickets readily available. New places and new experiences have allowed me to conquer my fears of heights and the unknown, and feel exhilarated about it. Whenever my legs wanted to give up, excitement made the adrenaline flow, and I managed the long walk to the St. Francis of Assisi complex in Umbria, Italy, paddle a boat in Boracay, climb a rock in Palawan, and trek the mountains to reach a cave in Sagada. Having passed the test, I am ready for the next level.
The experience need not be expensive. Travel with several friends so you can share the cost of accommodations, transportation and even food. Choose a lodging you can afford. Who needs a five-star place when you’d be out all day? But always, choose security over budget. My rule of thumb is to choose some place midprice near the center of town or within walking distance to tourist spots.
Staying in a place where you can cook will reduce your food expenses. Bread and cheese, salad greens and fruits are readily available and cheaper in supermarkets so make sure you have enough to nibble on while traveling.
Use apps like Momondo or Kayak for the best, fastest or cheapest plane, train orbus tickets; for the cheapest hotels and accommodations, use booking.com or hostelling.com. These sites allow you to make reservations without having to pay in advance.
Check out hotels and tourist sites by reading reviews on TripAdvisor where fellow travelers rate them based on firsthand experiences. Online apps may be convenient, but it is better to book direct with airlines or hotels. Pay in cash to airlines to avoid bank charges when you use your credit card. Use your senior citizen ID and get a further 20-percent discount off budget fares for international travel.
Having friends abroad may be convenient, but don’t abuse their hospitality. Be sure to bring them a gift or offer to cook them your favorite dish.
Take the train, tram and mass transit as taxis can be expensive. Bikers can turn to bike rentals in some European cities, like Amsterdam.
Schedule your trip on off-peak months for reduced fare and hotel costs, and less crowd. But be prepared for uncertain weather and the cold if you go off-season. But then again, the weather these days can be unpredictable, given the reality of climate change.
Older travelers have to be fit to endure the long distances they often have to walk even in big cities. Strong legs and a healthy heart are a must, and so are comfortable shoes and outfits that fit the weather and the terrain.
Bring water to hydrate yourself, but be sure to know where the toilets are. Bring your medication and extra prescriptions as pharmacies abroad do not dispense drugs without that piece of paper. Medication for simple ailments may cost a lot abroad so bring your own. Bring an N95 mask and hand sanitizer too in this age of Zika, dengue and chikungunya.
One more tip: If you have urinary incontinence, be sure to wear adult diapers.
Safety and security
With the specter of terrorism stalking travelers, be aware that anything can happen anytime, but don’t let that spoil your trip. Stay away from crowds if you can and make sure to safeguard your valuables from snatchers and pickpockets.
Always keep belongings like shawls, beanies, hats, phones or wallets tucked inside your zippered bag or securely tied to your body so they won’t get forgotten or blown away. I did not lose money to thieves in my trip to Europe this year, but I must have misplaced my Pashmina shawl, two beanies, sunglasses and phone charger.
If you need to communicate, use a local SIM to communicate to friends and family members; it will come out cheaper.
Photographs and memories
The easiest way to take photos is via your phone camera, which is light and easy to use. An SLR (single lens reflex) camera is heavy and obvious, and can tempt thieves. Take a unique angle of an oft-photographed spot so your photos are worth posting on Instagram.
But don’t get too engrossed with taking photos and videos. Enjoy the sights even as you lose yourself in the moment.
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