body surfing

Traveling at 70

When I turned 70, I said, “I’ve got this.” Isn’t 70 the new 50? Except for the wrinkles, arthritis and bunions. Cheer up, if you have always loved to travel you can still hit the tarmac hard, if you learn to mollify your approach. And yes, it is going to cost more money, but hey I can’t travel for more than three weeks at a time anyway (not like the glory days of backpacking through 6 countries in one summer).

The first thing I do is save money by taking early morning flights (6am). That way the plane is already at the gate, it is not coming from somewhere else (or not coming at all, ever, from some place). However, it means we stay in a hotel near the airport the night before. We always stay at a place with free 24-hour shuttle service and free parking for a week. If you are staying longer, look for a long-term parking garage with a shuttle. Why go the night before? I am not getting up at 2am to make a 6am flight. Ever.

I do not over pack. I always do carry-on only. Yes, for a cruise you can go bonkers because the cruise line lugs your stuff around once you get to the dock. But even now I would only pack a wheelie for a cruise. Why travel so light? Because it is easier to keep track of two pieces of luggage and no one cares what a 70-year-old lady looks like. Solid colors, bright scarfs (no jewelry; anything shiny says, knock down the old lady first and steal her stuff) and some kind of small purse for cash, cards and passports.

Wear flat comfortable shoes. No, you don’t have to look like Granny on the Beverly Hillbillies. There are some great flat shoes out there. Get a pair of black flats and add clip-on embellishments if you like.

I ignore the labels on my travel clothes and just wear them until they wear out. Case in point is my bathing suit label. Apparently, they think “bathing” suit means sunbathing. I go to the tropics to bodysurf in rough waves. I swim out to where the waves are breaking. Massive tubular, hollow, echoing, rolling, crashing like thunder, racing down the beach for a quarter mile waves. That’s where I like to be, right smack dab in the middle of the chaos. So, when I read the bathing suit label I laughed: Do not twist, wring or put in a washing machine. Um, that describes body surfing. In fact, when you get caught in a bad wave it is referred to as going through the washing machine. (The suit was fine. Me? A little crumpled.)

bathing suit and sunblock

Sunblock is a must. I have had so many moles removed on my back the scars look like a gummy worm factory exploded there. I had to promise my dermatologist that I would keep covered which means a light lycra wetsuit while I am swimming. That worked well until the 50-block sunscreen on my face wore off and I fried my cheeks and nose on my second to last day at the beach. Talk about a dilemma; do I save my last day of body surfing or save my face? To a serious water-baby that really is a question. Covid mask to the rescue. I surfed with my suit, goggles and face mask. At 70 I couldn’t care less how I look.

A few more things I have learned about travel at 70: if someone offers me a seat, I take it. If there is a senior discount, I take it. And I since I use a cane to walk (especially in airports) I ask to board first as I need extra time down the jetway. I am apt to get a bit anxious about my luggage. If I board first (albeit in the cattle car section) I can put my overhead luggage up and my stowaway bag below and chill before we take off. You must ask for this and sit in or near the handicapped seats. As the song goes, “Take a load off Fanny.” Otherwise, first they call the Diamond class, The Emerald class, The Garnet class and then last and least with no carry-on space left it’s my class, the Cubic Zirconia.

Sally Franz and her third husband live on the Olympic Peninsula. She has two daughters, a stepson, and three grandchildren. Sally is the author of several humor books including Scrambled Leggs: A Snarky Tale of Hospital Hooey and The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Menopause

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