I am writing from the town of Arles in France.
At one point, I would go on vacation and figure out my itinerary on the fly. That nimbleness has been given over to being a member of a tour group. Our fellow tourists are mainly other middle age or older Americans who have the money to see different sites around the world and do it without much “foreign” influence.
Today, I travel in a pampered cocoon. There is really no risk of finding myself in the seedier parts of town as I did in my younger days when exploring cities. My group is shown the sights, dutifully told where to eat, and on this excursion, when to be back on the river boat to sail to our next destination.
In some respects, I miss my vacations from younger days. There was no particular schedule to follow. What you saw, did, and ate was determined by who you met and interacted with. There were frequent times when you did meet unexpectedly other people…a feeling of freedom with a little fear as you navigated the unknown city.
As I became older, trying to put such an excursion together became harder. Where once, I was able to pack everything in a carryon bag. Now more is needed. In the past, a bottle of aspirin was all the medication I would pack…. usually in anticipation of a hangover from fun evenings in new and exciting places. Now many more pill bottles need to come along.
Mostly I still want to see new places and return to old favorites. That aspect has not changed. And if I go to Paris for a few days, my wife and I can figure it out ourselves. It is the more complicated adventures such as visiting Provence and Burgundy and getting from point “A” to point “B” over the course of 10 days that I find daunting. Car, hotels, restaurants, tours, and all else is just too challenging.
With aging, accommodations must be made. I am still in the beginnings of young old age. And luckily have the wherewithal to have a tour operator plan the intricacies of my learning experience in other lands. Unfortunately, the chance encounters with people are greatly reduced. That should also be part of the experience and, sadly for me, there are fewer of those.
Now I am getting ready to go to lunch and then off to see Avignon which I have wanted to experience forever. I am sure as I am escorted by my guide that I will be told things that, in the past, I would read in Frommer’s as I walked the sites. At least the guidebook is one less thing to carry.