Is there an age at which one should stop traveling? According to my mom, the answer is a resounding “no.” Yes, there are adjustments to be made and places that are no longer feasible to visit but none of that will keep her home. Travel isn’t just something that mom enjoys, each new adventure keeps her vibrant and vital.
It’s appropriate that mom’s birthday is in May. Mom is a Taurus, which is known for being a tad stubborn or more specifically, “bull-headed;” Taurus is, after-all, represented by a bull. They have a determination and will that can’t be deterred. This is mom to a T.
A few years ago, we had a trip to Ireland planned when mom found out that she needed surgery to have a cancerous tumor removed. The surgery was a mere three weeks before our trip, but mom wasn’t deterred. Some felt that perhaps waiting would be better, but once mom was given the OK by her doctor, nothing was going to stop her. We went to Ireland as planned and had a wonderful time.
Mom later acknowledged that perhaps waiting might have been better because her energy level wasn’t back to normal yet. However, it is this drive and determination to do things on her own terms that has kept her so active and vital in her later years. I say: mom, keep doing what you’re doing!
Being in her 90s now, we are making some travel adjustments. We used to leave at least a few days without lodging so we could have flexibility to explore in the moment. Now, mom prefers not to have the stress of wondering where we’ll be staying that night. Mom still remembers us driving around the Isle of Skye in Scotland in the rain and every place we pulled into was fully booked. Those types of “adventures” have now lost their charm.
One of the things we’ve been doing for a few years now is requesting wheelchair assistance at the airport. Walking far in airports, especially after a long flight, isn’t feasible for mom, and a wheelchair keeps her safe from accidental falls or being bumped into by rushing travelers. Though Mom learned her lesson the hard way. On a trip with a friend, they gave up their wheelchair assistance to grab some food at a restaurant in the terminal. Fumbling with her carry-on bags, mom fell getting off a moving sidewalk. The paramedics arrived to find mom had stopped the bleeding by slapping a panty liner on her arm. If anything, mom is ingenious! They bandaged her up and off she went on her vacation.
Being an older traveler has also affected the destination choices mom makes. We used to pick trips that would be a fun adventure or were on one of our must-see lists. Now mom’s trips are more about the people—the new friends mom makes and the kindness and hospitality we experience. For mom, a new acquaintance can become a cherished friend. Our upcoming trip to Belfast is to see one such friend, whom we met on our last visit.
One thing that has stayed consistent is including a road trip as part of our itinerary. We used to choose road trips because they’re an ideal way to see more of a country, as well as the perfect vehicle for unexpected adventures. Mom also loves to drive along beaches and ocean cliffs, over breathtaking mountains, and picturesque countryside. Now, we choose road trips because they allow mom to enjoy the beautiful sights from the comfort of our car, not having to worry about her more limited mobility, navigating crowds, or having a fall.
Taking a road trip also gives us ample opportunities for delightful discoveries like a charming former fishing lodge along a lake on the way to Kylemore Abbey in Ireland. Mom happily soaked in the traditional atmosphere as we had a wonderful lunch among local visitors. Mom is also kind enough to put up with my pulling over for pictures, excitedly taking an interesting-looking detour, or even meditating on a pink-flowered cliff.
Our road trips sometimes lead to unexpected adventures. We once had a flat tire on a country road in England; dusk was approaching, and nobody would stop to help. Mom was somehow able to guilt a couple of reluctant bikers into changing our tire. As I said before, she’s the resourceful one, not me.
Lodging is another area that no longer is as simple as picking whatever crosses our path or looks good. For starters, we need to stay somewhere with either ground floor rooms or an elevator. For hotels, this usually isn’t too much of an issue. However, mom simply adores B&Bs, which rarely have elevators and often the rooms are upstairs. It just takes a little more time researching our options, but we always find something wonderful. I also look for options like accessible bathrooms, which include things like grab rails, walk-in showers, shower chairs, etc.
Our daily escapes are also pared down. We can’t sightsee for as many hours as we used to. Mom needs to rest more often and by later in the day, her knees and legs may hurt. Our new itinerary consists of a leisurely morning (OK, it’s me who doesn’t like to get up early and rush out the door!), a nice scenic drive, stopping for a delicious lunch, then a quick peek at a castle or other historical landmark. We then go back to the hotel/B&B for a rest before dinner.
I actually don’t miss the days of rushing around to see as much as possible or me freaking out, unable to decide on where to go because I had a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out)! Mom and I have hit our grove, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. So to those of you who may be unsure of traveling with an older family member, let go of your expectations, just live in the moment, and have fun with your loved one. I know mom would agree.