By Alice Herb
Glancing at my emails a few months ago, the name of a friend whom I had not seen or heard from in more than 40 years came up. I was startled and excited. She and I had worked together at ABC News but she had always had a yearning to live in France, and so departed some 4 decades ago to see if she could make a home there. I had unsuccessfully tried to find her on a few occasions but here she was.
I replied immediately and it was as though we had only recently been in touch. We exchanged almost daily emails. She invited me to visit her in the south of France and I suggested she come to stay with me on Fire Island. But she wanted me to come first. At first, I thought that traveling again was just a dream but my son and brother suggested that I could book the assistance I needed to travel safely. After all, the only health issue I had was not life-threatening – sciatica. Since I had always been an avid traveler, it didn’t take me long to make this dream come true.
The mere thought of traveling again energized me as I hadn’t been in a long time. I called my wonderful travel agent who immediately said “Go for it” and sent me on to the person who does airline bookings for their agency. Faced with taking that concrete step, I hesitated for a couple of days. My stomach told me “no:” My heart told me “yes.” And my brain said, “Why not.” On the phone, I spoke with utter assurance but I still couldn’t imagine that I was contemplating an overseas flight with a change- – a round-trip ticket but with a lot of perks. I would be flying Business Class at a time that would get me into Paris at a reasonable hour, with a connecting flight to Marseilles less than 3 hours later. Now I became really nervous. The reality of what I was about to do hit me. My second husband, Matthew, had once told me that the reason I was able to do so many things and even invest wisely was that I did not ponder the decisions I made. I just jumped in and then panicked when I could no longer pull back without dire consequences. Here I was with a very expensive ticket and wondering if this wasn’t a ridiculous decision given my age.
Needless to say, I moved forward because I figured if I didn’t at least make the effort I would never forgive myself. I’d think of myself as a terrible coward. I hadn’t traveled in about 5 years, since I last visited family in Sweden. When I was ready to consider travel again, Covid had taken over and I was stuck at home. In that time, the world had moved on and I felt that after all my years of travel for work or for pleasure, I now knew nothing about what I should expect.
First off, I don’t have a paper ticket. I will have to make certain that my mobile phone has the right link when I get to the airport. Apparently, that’s the only part I have to manage myself. I have to get myself and my luggage to the check-in window where a wheelchair will await me. After check-in, I will be transported via wheelchair to the gate. I will be taken aboard and will be met in France with a wheelchair and taken to the airline’s lounge. I will try to take my baggage with me so as to avoid waiting anxiously for my minimal luggage to be brought down either in Paris or in Marseilles. My connecting flight is some three hours later and I will be picked up and taken to the gate and then boarded on the plane. When I arrive in Marseilles, I will be transported through immigration and customs. Once I come out of customs, I am to be met by a car and driver and taken to my friend’s home. (I specifically asked that my friend not pick me up, as she has a shoulder injury that makes driving difficult.). There are a lot of moving parts to this plan that leave me with increasing anxiety, but I figure I have moved through some pretty shaky plans before and managed to arrive at my goal, so I shall do so here as well.
There are some other tasks to complete. I have my passport and my Global Entry Card. I will have to check in with my bank so that there is no issue with either my bank account or credit card. I need to buy some Euros although my credit card will do for much of my needs. I have to buy some new clothes – haven’t bought anything but the most practical clothes since the beginning of Covid.
I will not close my beach house until I get back. That does make me anxious. But I have asked my son, the resident contractor, and the woman who cleans the house to be aware that I will not close until mid-October. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be anxious anyway.
The closer I get to actually leaving, the more my stomach rages. One little mishap and I may left having to improvise, basically having to do it myself in a foreign country where I unfortunately do not speak the language. That does raise some real fears.
Finally, I will be staying for two weeks with someone I have not seen or spoken to in almost half a century. She was barely out of college when I first met her and now she is a seasoned journalist retired at age 78. I am quite calm about this part of the visit. We have a lot in common and a lot to catch up on. But will I be able to move around enough so we can travel a bit locally? I don’t know. But I am definitely excited about going. I will let you know about my adventure when I return.
Alice Herb is a retired attorney, journalist, and bioethics consultant. Having reached the age of 90+, she’s more than ready to share her experiences and opinions with agebuzz readers. Want to comment on something she’s said? She welcomes your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org
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