When my husband and I quit our full-time corporate jobs in the first half of 2021, the plan was to ease into semi-retirement. I’d returned to part-time freelance writing and editing, which is what I’d done for years while raising our children, and my husband would work part-time for our family business. We could do this self-employed work from anywhere, so we set our sights on traveling — a lot. And for a while, that’s exactly what we did.
With our young-adult children on their college campuses, and little keeping us tied to our Colorado home, in the late summer of 2021, we set off on a 7-week cross-country RV trip, soon followed by 12 magical days in French Polynesia. We embarked on the most amazing extended-family vacation in the Galapagos Islands and then spent 3 weeks checking out Sayulita and San Pancho, Mexico, as a potential place to spend even more time during cold Colorado winters.
Then, our exciting spate of travel came to a crashing halt, as I (finally) scheduled ankle ligament reconstruction surgery to take care of longtime pain and gait issues. That was followed by weeks of non-weightbearing rest and physical therapy. Then, unfortunately, other problems came to light: The hip pain I thought would dissipate after addressing the unstable ankle didn’t go away. More specialists’ visits and diagnostic tests have followed as I’ve sought pain-relieving treatment while based firmly right here in Colorado.
With another round of twice-weekly physical therapy sessions on the books through mid-summer, not to mention follow-up medical and alternative-therapy appointments, I’ve put extensive long-term travel on the back burner. This was not the plan!
For decades, my husband and I have been active vacationers. With more time on our hands — and with children out of the house — we’d long dreamed of weeks on the road or weeks spent in vacation rentals. Instead, thanks to these medical concerns, we’re both spending a lot more time at home — and I’m spending a lot of time at rest. (Refreezable ice packs are my new best friends.)
While I freely admit to indulging in woe-is-me pity parties involving wine and too many carbs, I’m also figuring out how to best cope with being grounded for a while. For someone with a severe case of wanderlust — and dreams to visit all 50 states, all of the continental national parks, and many more international destinations — this is hard. That said, I absolutely recognize that given the state of the world today — including America’s stock market freefall, sky-high gas prices, and seemingly never-ending mass shootings, plus an ongoing pandemic and war in Ukraine — my clipped wings are hardly a tragedy.
I keep reminding myself that my current health issues are just a bump in the road. My passport will be waiting for me when I’m feeling better equipped for long-haul flights and sightseeing on foot for miles in a new-to-me locale. In the meantime, here are other ways I’m coping:
1. Enjoying My Own Backyard
I’m fortunate to live 30 minutes from the world-famous ski resorts of Aspen and Snowmass. On the other end of my scenic valley is Glenwood Springs, home to healing hot spring pools. There’s no dearth of fabulous restaurants and entertainment to be had just minutes from my home. So, I’ve been supporting the local economy lately by enjoying patio happy hours with live music at local bars and restaurants, as well as attending concerts, theater performances, and non-profit fundraising events.
My husband and I recently made the most out of a 20-hour local getaway to upscale Aspen. At a silent auction a couple years ago, I had the winning bid on an overnight stay at the luxurious St. Regis Aspen, and we finally put that gift certificate to good use, reveling in a sumptuous hotel room and the resort’s renowned white-glove service. (A glass of Champagne at check-in? Don’t mind if I do!)
We dined on sushi at locals’ favorite Kenichi and had cocktails at the historic J-Bar on the grounds of Hotel Jerome. Then, we woke up the next morning for a mountain hike that pushed my current abilities for sure. (Whoo-wee, I was sore the next day.)
2. Adjusting Expectations
On trips throughout my adult life, I’ve gone scuba diving through underwater caves in Hawaii, jumped from an airplane in Florida, and scaled mountains on a via ferrata in the Canadian Rockies. My husband and I don’t like to sit still on vacation. Or, at the least, we spend our mornings being active — say, with a jungle hike or lengthy snorkeling stint — then rest on a beach bed in the afternoons.
When planning getaways, I always look for nearby trailheads and map out sightseeing routes to walk through. Daily exercise is always woven into our days away from home — if only because I absolutely love to try all the local foods, and keeping active helps to strike a healthy balance.
But moving forward, I’m adjusting my expectations for activity levels. Trips dedicated to hiking may not be in my future — which is a hard pill to swallow, since I adore traipsing through mountains and alongside ocean cliffs. I may never hike the steep and lengthy Inca Trail at Machu Picchu, backpack the O Circuit in Torres del Paine, or trek between towns in Cinque Terre. But I should be able to take shorter in-town sightseeing walks without trouble. And who knows? Maybe I’ll learn enough tools to manage my hip conditions and allow for more rugged adventures. But until then, it appears that beach vacations that involve plenty of time in the water (swimming feels great!) are key. And that’s alright with me.
3. Accommodating A New Reality
My husband and I had planned to spend several weeks in our RV this summer, traveling throughout the Pacific Northwest. Thankfully, this trip was just sketched out on paper and no campground deposits were put down. We nixed that adventure, in part because sitting for long periods isn’t helpful for my current condition. (Which is of course a big bummer for someone who loves to take RV road trips.) Again, I hope to be able to figure out how to mitigate these painful issues so that long-term RVing isn’t totally off the table in the coming years.
In the meantime, later this summer, we’re planning a much shorter RV adventure within Colorado’s borders. Since my husband knows the state highways well, he won’t need my front-seat navigation help — and I can lie down in the RV’s back bedroom if I feel my hips seizing from sitting too long. Plus, short travel days mean we won’t be motoring for hours between point A and point B. There will be plenty of time to pull over for both of us to properly stretch.
4. Dreaming Of Future Travel
When a Scott’s Cheap Flights deal landed in my email inbox a couple weeks ago, I jumped on it: $2,700 first-class flights to Bali from New York. This is a steal, with first-class tickets (which include gloriously wonderful lie-down seats for 8-to-14-hour flights) normally going for $13,000 or more! We booked flights for March 2023 (I’d like to think I’ll be feeling closer to 100 percent by then!), and I threw myself into researching all there is to see, do, and experience on the island in Indonesia. Alas, those flight prices were indeed too good to be true. A couple of days later, we received an email from Delta, notifying us they’d be canceling our tickets, rescinding the mistake fare. (They did give us each $200 in flight credit for our disappointment, though.)
This experience reminded me how much I love having trips on the books — and what fun I have researching destinations and making travel plans. So, in addition to dreaming about future travel, I’m actively researching opportunities. I just discovered that travel outfitters, like Backroads, offer electric-bike itineraries! So, maybe I can’t bicycle for miles on my own accord through French vineyards, but an Easygoing Champagne & Alsace Easygoing E-Bike Tour could be just the ticket for a future trip!
5. No Longer Taking Good Health For Granted
For the large majority of my adult life, I’ve operated from a “good health” standpoint — able to enjoy rigorous activity while not having to make many compromises when it came to scheduling travel or active fun. Now that I’ve been whalloped with some limiting (hopefully temporary) conditions, it’s clear I’ve taken my previous ability to operate at full strength for granted.
Having conditions that limit my movement has reminded me how important it is to travel when you have the time and the means — and not wait for tomorrow since you never know what it holds. The pandemic that brought our lives to a standstill in 2020 certainly underscored that philosophy for me — and now these health issues have cemented it.
While I’m finding joy here at home on a weekly basis — in nature, abbreviated walks, a new-to-me water aerobics class — I do look forward to sustained days of feeling well enough for more far-flung travel. But for now, I appreciate the good days when I can dance with my husband or walk my daughter’s dog along our dirt road. I’m also fully enjoying the relaxation that comes with lying on the couch with a good book. After all, all we ever have is the present moment, so I’m making the most of what my present reality is. And when I’m back to feeling closer to 100 percent, I won’t take that status for granted ever again.