My last haircut was in January 2020, when my husband Barry and I were on vacation in La Paz, a town on the Baja peninsula. Then came COVID.
Since I couldn’t get a haircut at a salon, I ordered a $4.00 two-sided razor comb, a nifty tool that thins hair — and I’ve never looked back. I admit it’s tricky to reach certain parts, but most of the time my hair ends up looking reasonably professional. My problem is I love the vigorous sensation of shaving my hair so much that I go overboard and end up with shorn patches! Barry threatens to hide the comb when I abuse it, but it’s great for channeling aggressive energy.
This is just one example of an activity I’ve let go of as I’m aging. Whereas some people are still filling their bucket lists, at 71 I’m more interested in what I think of as an “unbucket” list — those things I’ve decided not to keep doing.
Here are 7 others:
1. Bicycle Touring In Europe
For many years, Barry and I toured around Europe on our bicycles. We’d ship our bikes to Nice, Milan, Athens or wherever we’d start from and cycle for several weeks through glorious countryside. Exploring an area by bike is much more intimate and immediate than by car or train.
After about 20 years, we were ready for another routine. While bicycles offer freedom and flexibility, they can also be a lot of work. For example, schlepping our panniers up one col (pass) after another in the Pyrenees got a bit old! At the pass, we’d enjoy breathtaking scenery followed by a delicious descent — only to face another steep climb.
Where to leave the bags in which we packed the bikes was a challenge, too. One year, in those innocent pre-September 11 days, I actually convinced the British Airways official in Turin, Italy to let us leave them in the BA airport office.
We still sometimes take our bikes to Europe, but now we base ourselves in one place, staying in an Airbnb (or through a home exchange with the house we own in Guanajuato, Mexico).
2. Inline Skating
The year I turned 40, I bought myself a birthday present of inline skates. I loved skating around my Palo Alto neighborhood, especially early in the morning. I would glide along the empty, dreamlike streets, inhaling the dawn air. I even took my skates on family vacations and to professional conferences, because they were so portable and easy to pack.
Sadly, neither of the towns I now live in — Eureka, on California’s North Coast, or Guanajuato, Mexico — is skating-friendly. Guanajuato is steep, hilly, and strewn with obstacles, and many of Eureka’s streets are rough. Plus, having slipped on a crack and broken my wrist a few years ago, I have more of a fear of falling than I once did. Reluctantly, I’ve let skating go.
3. Investing In Another Car
Barry and I own an elderly 1990 Mazda Miata and a 2003 VW camper. While I’m envious of our friends and family members who own hybrids and electric cars — which clearly are more environmentally friendly — we don’t, because in Eureka we drive the Miata once or twice a week, at most. We don’t have or want a car in Guanajuato, a very pedestrian-friendly town. If we drove a lot, it would make sense to buy a hybrid or an electric car, but since we don’t, it doesn’t help the planet to use the raw materials necessary to manufacture and ship a car.
4. Joining A Gym
In the past, I often went to a gym not only to get in shape but for two other reasons: when I was new in town and wanted to meet people; and as a self-employed person, because I needed to get out of the house. These days, I don’t feel the need because I have other ways of meeting people, and I’m already in and out of our home. In both Eureka and Guanajuato, I have fitness tools like kettlebells, a yoga mat, and a foam roller. Plus I’m a great believer in bodyweight exercises like push-ups and planks.
5. Attending Language Schools
For many years I studied Spanish in different parts of Mexico. Although language schools always assess new students, I’ve found classes to be uneven, with different levels of mastery in the same class, leaving me frustrated. I decided I’d rather my money go to paying a Spanish tutor a decent wage than to a school’s overhead. With a tutor, I’m also able to focus on the themes that interest me. One year, for example, my teacher, Laura, helped me prepare the talks I gave on wellness to working moms in Guanajuato. My current tutor, Camila, is so good that I study with her in person when I’m in Guanajuato and on Skype when I’m away.
6. Questioning Eureka As A Place To Call Home
Barry and I chose Eureka by accident, moving there in 2001, and although much else has changed in our lives, we have stayed in the same Old Town apartment for the entire time. While I love the region, I never fell in love with Eureka itself, and for a long time, I wanted to live somewhere else. But where? As self-employed, semi-retired people, we could live anywhere. The inland Oregon towns of Eugene and Ashland appealed to me, but as the years went by, they looked less attractive, with their vulnerability to heat and wildfires.
Meanwhile, Eureka improved. Now I can stroll with friends on the newly completed Waterfront Trail, walk on the beach, and paddle on my SUP in Humboldt Bay, less than three minutes from our apartment. For now, Eureka is a good base for part of the year.
Reading Melody Warnick’s book, This Is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are, helped, too. She maintains that loving a place (like loving a person) is not a feeling, but an active daily decision.
7. Longing To Write A Memoir
For years I daydreamed about writing a bestselling memoir and being interviewed on Oprah. I’ve discovered that too much digging around in the crevices of my past leaves me feeling bored, lethargic, and depressed. Whenever I re-read one of my adolescent journals, for example, I find myself constantly second-guessing my younger self. Why all the drama? Why didn’t I…? As soon as I resurface from the cave of the journal, I rub my eyes and stretch, relieved to be back in the daylight.
Through TravelAwaits and other websites where I publish my articles, I enjoy sharing anecdotes from my life. I don’t think a long, sustained examination of my past is a healthy choice for me.
There are plenty of things I still want to do, of course. To keep writing, revitalize my dormant sketchbook practice, read more in Spanish, try out new spiralizer recipes, and explore the beauty of the planet. In the second half of my life, my goal, rather than focusing on what I want more of, is to let go of what I don’t need and delight in the pleasures I already have.