Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Travel Club and Summer Vacations

 

The pandemic came into our lives last year like a wrecking ball and look what it’s done to me…I’m spouting Miley Cyrus lyrics. The pandemic, however, is nothing like a love affair that wrecks your life and makes you do stupid stuff like ride a wrecking ball across a stage and write songs about your torrid love-life that's gone badly. Still, I couldn’t get the image of a wrecking ball out of my head last week when I went to a travel club presentation for the first time in over a year. Normally there would be one every other month and there were usually 35-40 people attending. And maybe there was this time, too, but I only saw 15 because they had to do two presentations in order to social distance those of us who wanted to come.

Listening to how hard it was to deal with all the reservations that had to be canceled for their 2020 group tours because of the pandemic is what made me think of that wrecking ball. The two sisters who own the travel company specialize in escorted senior citizen trips and I’ve always said if I was going to travel abroad I’d go with them. I’ve known one of the ladies nearly 15 years, she’s the director of our senior hall. The other gal is her sister and they both have backgrounds in the travel industry. Everyone I know who has traveled with them gives them high marks and one person has been on five of their group trips. I’d have a nervous breakdown spending that kind of money on travel over 2-3 years. She lives in an area that isn’t safe. But she promised her dying husband that she’d have fun after he was gone---she’d been his long time caregiver like I was to Don---and by God, she’s going to grant him his dying wish. To me, it would would have been more fun to move to a better neighborhood where break-ins, getting mugged and drive-by shootings aren't as common as full moons. Oh, well, we aren’t all cookie cutter made people and I guess that’s a good thing? Widows. We all have different ideas about what to do with life insurance money. I could write a book.

I’ve gone to these travelogue presentations faithful since the beginning of their enterprise just because I like learning about new places although I never seriously thought about going anywhere. But this time hearing about their Iceland trip---6 days, $4,099---it dawned on me that now with Levi gone I could take a trip without worrying about his well-being. Growing up we had a dog who refused to eat while we were on vacation and he died of a broken heart and I thought my mom would too when we got back. That dog was her constant companion and her protector when she had to drive to a sketchy part of town to take my dad back and forth to work. Don and I traveled with our dog/s, bought a RV that my husband called our rolling dog house just so the “kid” didn’t have to stay behind. As soon as the thought about Levi's death freeing me up for travel passed through my head I felt guilty for thinking it because I still miss him terribly. Fixing straw berries for shortcake today, for example, I missed seeing him sit patiently for the berry slices I'd give him and I wondered how my acquaintance from the travel club felt when she was touring the pyramids three months after her husband died, did she feel guilty for enjoying herself? Did she enjoy herself?

Circling back to the travel presentation and the idea of overseas travel this year. No way am I interested when the pandemic could close them down again. Their Christmas on the Danube River and the Markets of Prague trip, however, is almost full---8 days, $3,798 w/a roommate. So I guess others don't share my lack of confidence in the pandemic going away before Christmas. Not to mention that I don’t even like to Christmas shop here and with my luck I’d get a roommate like Kathy Bates in Misery. In addition to the every other month travelogues they have mixers for those who've signed up for a trip so you can get to know others the going and maybe find a good match for your roommate. With some trips you can upgrade to a single room but not with all of them and upgrades are not cheap.

This year they are also offering two trips within the U.S. which hasn’t been their norm for travel destinations but the pandemic is changing the way a lot of businesses do what they do. One trip is to San Antonio---4 days, $2,599. Been there done that. Wandering Texas was one of the top two best trips of my life, but I don’t want to chance ruining those memories by going back again. The other U.S. trip is to South Dakota---6 days, $2,948. Been there done that, don’t want to go in August. What’s in South Dakota besides Mount Rushmore, The Badlands and buffalo, you ask that would take up six days? That’s what I wanted to know. The answer: an off road jeep Safari, Devils Tower, Crazy Horse Memorial, Deadwood and of course, the famous Wall Drug Store. I still have my Wall Drug Store sign from when Don and I was there back in the ‘80s. These two in-country trips are what they're calling Spotlight Tours. You stay in one hotel the entire time and take day trips from that place. At my age, that kind of trip is appealing, staying in the same bed each night, only unpacking once but I'd rather do it near a large body of water.

These two ladies know I’ll probably never travel with them but they invite everyone to come to these events for the word-of-mouth advertising they hope you’ll help spread and I do my part on that. They used an inheritance they got from their grandmother for the startup money for their company and I’d hate to see the pandemic wreck it for them. They’ve worked hard to get it going this past five years, gave a lot of people great travel memories and gave other people like me hours of entertainment. But I missed their Trader Joe cookies and coffee this time. Masks required, no food or beverages allowed. Damn pandemic! Still, it felt good doing something halfway 'normal' again. ©

 

NOTE: In the spirit of Truth and Accuracy Mily Cyrus claims Like a Wrecking Ball is not a breakup song. She says the song is about her brother and not the guy she'd recently broken up when she wrote it. The internet rumor mill, however, claims otherwise and right or wrong the song will always be known as Mily's break up song.

42 comments:

  1. We had planned a Morocco trip later this year but canned that because of the uncertainty of COVID-19. We are totally vaxxed but getting stuck someplace without recourse to getting back made the choice easy. So instead we are doing Death Valley,Kings Canyon, Sequoia, Yosemite, then Napa Valley and up the coast on Hwy 1. We were lucky last March on coming back from Madagascar that we were in the air from France to Montreal at midnight on March 13 so they allowed us into the US just as the borders were closing. I don't do tour groups.

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  2. Sounds like a great alternative trip, Dean. Getting stuck overseas because of another shutdown would be stressful and expensive! I've never done a group tour either but without Don to travel with anymore it seems like a better way for ME than going alone....which I'd never do. I'm not that brave. LOL

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  3. I hope the world opens up in time for their business although it seems unlikely right now. Regardless, making plans to have something to look forward to is a good thing. I’d love to go overseas again but between the pandemic and a dog with many health issues I don’t see it happening. In fact I decided to not even take a trip this summer to the East coast to see family but rather to get foot surgery out of the way. Hopefully things will be more predictably safe in 2022.

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    1. In the back of my mind I always thought I'd take a big trip like Iceland or Alaska between dogs. Now that Levi's gone but there's a pandemic raging around the globe I don't see that happening this year. Timing your foot surgery now makes a lot of sense. You'll feel better when you can travel safely again.

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  4. It would be hard to plan a trip out of country for the fear of that country going into lock down. Guess I'll try to be content going to town.

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    1. Michigan's numbers have surged upward again so that we have the most covid-19 cases in the country. Hospitals in danger of overflowing.

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  5. Thanks for your blog. I can't wait for Wednesday and Saturday roll around so I can read your new stories. I decided yesterday that I was cutting way back on "news", tv, radio, internet. It's so depressing. I put on music or my husband recorded tons of Garrison Keilor's radio shows (he's from the famous Prairie Home Companion) that I listen to. Here's to a better today, tomorrow and forever. At our (advanced) age, we should be happy, not sad, and your stories do that for me. Vicki

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    1. Oh, my gosh! Is this the Vicki I think it is from down south? Either way, thank you for reading here and for the comment.

      For many decades I was in the habit of turning the TV on before getting out of bed and it would be the last thing do at night to turn it off. But shortly after the Capital was overrun, I gave myself a media time out and I'm still not watching more than 2 hours of TV a day. Between the late night comedians a 1/2 hour of local news at noon I'm doing surprisingly well without it or music or ANYTHING but my own thoughts during the day.

      We used to listen to Prairie Home Companion when traveling. Wish I could story-tell that good!

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  6. It is so good to read your comments about continuing to live cautiously as it seems most of the people in the US are rejoicing that "it's over!" Not so fast, is what I think. I had a deposit on a land/sea tour when everything shut down and only got my deposit back last month. I've never taken a tour but thought it would be worth it for Alaska. Now, I don't ever see me going on a cruise (never have before), although I will still consider tours for certain destinations. My brother and two sisters each inherited a little money when my mom passed away, so we went to Machu Picchu together, using a tour company. Best money I ever spent; we don't live near each other so seeing each other every day was a real treat. The tour was ok - more restrictive than I prefer when on vacation but worth it for the knowledgable tour guides they provide.
    Nina

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    1. Where I live, the vast majority of us are still wearing masks and social distancing in public. But I do notice less people wearing masks in smaller groups. It's not unusual to hear the greeting: "I've had my shots and the two week waiting period, so I'm safe." I actually do feel safe in that situation but still social distance and I won't be hugging anytime soon.

      What a great way to spend an inheritance! Your mom would have been happy that her kids got that bonding experience again. The travel company I wrote about usually puts one day in the package where you're free to do whatever you want on your own and they'll help with tickets or whatever you need to make your desire happen.

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  7. That kind of travel isn't my cup of tea, and not only because of the cost. I want to freedom to do my research, choose a general direction, and then veer off the path whenever the urge strikes. Of course, I'm still physically fit, and able to balance curiosity and caution relatively well. I don't demand much in terms of accomodations or food, and I prefer meeting people in small town diners. Even if I confine myself to Texas, there are enough places I haven't been to and want to visit to keep me busy for a decade.

    If you ever get a hankering to visit Texas, give me a shout. I can give you four days for about $259.

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    1. I've never traveled in a tour but I'm not one to travel alone like you do. When my husband and I traveled we always took the back roads and ate at non-chain places. That's a great way to get a feel for the area. We'd even slept in the bed of our truck more than a few times. But my husband could fix anything that went wrong with our trucks and could talk our way out of any sticky situation. He was also macho enough looking I always felt safe traveling with him---people didn't mess with him. I can't image traveling alone after 42 years of traveling with Don thus the tour idea would be a second choice.

      Texas is certainly an interesting state. We had the best time down there. When we came back my husband was telling a black co-worker about some of our experiences and the guy said, "I wish I could do a trip like that." And my naive husband said, "You can, you make good money." The guy said words to the effect that as a black man he wasn't safe to just wander the back roads down in the south. That was in the '80s.

      Considering where all you'd take me in Texas I'd have to get my Epipen renewed but it would be SO worth it. You go to some stellar places!

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  8. In Fall 2019 I took my daughter to Italy (a retirement gift for me so I treated her). We went on a Rick Steve's tour and it was terrific - Venice, Florence and Rome. Thank goodness we went when we did - before flooding in Venice, before COVID shut everything down - we had good timing!

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    1. Being half Italian, the trip you took was on my Bucket List for many years. Glad you had a great time!

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  9. Like the other poste group trips are not for me. I need to be able to head off in whatever directions I am called. I will be ready to travel by the fall. But I would getvtravel insurance in case things needed to be canceled. A multiple Christmas market trip is high on my short list.

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    1. I just remembered that I've been on a dozen or so day trips planned and escorted by the same lady who owns this travel company...organized by our senior hall. So I guess I should say I have been on group trips. It really makes a difference who your seat mate was for the day. I've had great ones and so-so ones. The biggest advantage to the tours is not having to deal with parking because the bus dropped us off and picked us back up so close to the places we went. Where ever we went they always included a cultural place, lunch and a time slot for shopping.

      We would be each other's worst traveling companion because I really hate shopping. LOL

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  10. Ii've never been on a cruise or an organized vacation. Last night I got together with my neighbors, masked, on their patio just like the good old days! I'm not ready to leave the mainland ... or be in big groups. Some day, some day ....

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    1. I think a lot of us are hoping to get back to doing some 'normal' things again.

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  11. I've been on a few guided tours and they were okay. Safety in numbers, less independence in numbers. It's a trade-off. I'd like to be planning a few vacations for us right about now, I have the time, BUT no way do we want to travel until this pandemic is more under control.

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    1. The pandemic has really hurt the travel industry but I don't see that changing this summer. It's better, but look out the summer of 2022. EVERYONE will be on the move.

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  12. I've been on a couple cruises, and I don't see myself ever doing that again. They were ok, but like others, I like to control my own time and where I go day by day. We did do a couple of biking trips with groups and those were wonderful. We talk of doing another, but neither of us has ridden our bike in a long time, so we would have considerable work to do getting back into biking shape. I question that ever happening again, but who knows?

    It does sound like a lot of people are traveling again. We looked into our favorite Airbnb in Sedona and they have suspended renting it for now. Like you, we thought after our dog was gone, we'd travel without worrying about him or spending a fortune on boarding him. But now...well, neither of us is too keen on it until the pandemic is farther behind us. Also, we looked into some of our other favorites for a fall trip and the reviews are awful on many of them - mostly because the service and staffing are not great lately. Covid has really affected everything. Time will tell, but I don't see us going far in 2021.

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    1. My niece and her husband biked the entire distance around Lake Michigan, not in a group either. They did another long distance bike trip out East but I forgot where they went. I am not good at riding a bike. A trip like that would kill me. You really to have to train to get in biking shape and this would be a good summer to do it.

      RV sales are way up and I can see why. The only traveling I'll do this year are to the south end of town when I move.

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  13. I'm missing our Canada trips like crazy! It feels like forever since we've been able to travel at all.

    Being without Levi gives you more freedom, yes. Even just being away for an entire day without being concerned about his feeding times or needing to go out frees you up a bit. The tradeoff is still sad, though.

    Being vaccinated is making me impatient and irritated by those who still won't get their vaccination. It's the path back to Normalcy! Let's go!

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    1. My dogs have always been free feeders so I never had to be worried about being back in time to feed a dog. I know some breeds can't be trained that way because they over eat but for the others, it's the best way to train them.

      Is the border between Canads and the USA even open again? Isn't it irritating that so many won't get the vaccinations. I know four who won't and, of course, three of them are Trump supporters who think he's coming to the White House. The fourth person, I think, is worried they were brought to market too fast and aren't safe. Getting the virus isn't safe either so it's a trade-off on what you want to worry about.

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  14. It’s really difficult even without Covid. I love to travel and did a good bit with my husband when he was alive. But now, as much as I’d like to go, I’d have to go alone or do a group tour. The only one I’ve heard really good things about is Road Scholar...but still it is a trade off, not being able to go and come and stay as you please and then safety. I no longer feel too safe in our country anymore..too many crazies out there.

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    1. I know what you mean. Sometimes it feels like the crazy people have taken us over but I'm sure that's not the case.

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  15. My husband's father and step-mother often took those top-of-the-line expensive Tauck tours, both here in the U.S. and once to Europe. When they got back from Europe, all they could talk about was how the weak the coffee was and how there were a lot of "foreigners." Truly the Ugly Americans you hear about. We always used to joke that it would be just our luck (if we took a guided tour) to be seated next to people like them. The most fun traveling that we had was in the early 80's with just the two of us, our little Aljo trailer, and our long-haired Chihuahua, Lolita, up to British Columbia.

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    1. One of the things I like about the way these two sisters plan things. When they are on buses no one can sit in the same row, same seat the entire trip They have a systemic way of arranging things so if you get a bad seatmate you're not stuck with the same person each day, nor do you get stuck sitting in the back or inside seats. They rotate.

      Going to a foreign country and complaining that there were a lot of foreigners is crazy. LOL

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  16. We are on a wait list for a tour/trip to Ireland maybe in the fall....I actually wouldn't mind waiting until 2022. But next week I'll be in NYC and I'm really looking forward to it. I am so grateful for the vaccine!

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    1. Everyone I know who's been to Ireland loved that country and I know people who went as part of a tour group and others who went on their own. The complaint I heard is the bathrooms are not up to our standards. The vaccines really are the answer...if people would just show up!

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  17. I love traveling though I like escorted tour if we have to travel to any nonenglish speaking country, we had loved trafalger tours we took to Italy very well planned tours & we had lot of fun meeting different people, ofcourse most of the people in there were wither couple or friends traveling together to have good time & I felt they were all reasonably priced, we had bought our own plane tickets & everything was included in the tour sightseeing & lodging & food. we were worried about our dietary needs but they took excellent care of it.

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    1. It doesn't get much better than that, as far as recommendations go. I've seen the photos you've posted online of your travels and I wondered if you went on your own or with a group.

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  18. I have friends who love guided vacations where every minute is planned and you only pay once...don’t even need to bring a wallet on vacation. They are very busy people so I think they enjoy someone else doing all the work and thinking for them. I’m not sure that would be for me, but never say never!

    Deb

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    1. Our needs change at different points in our lives. Guided tours do take the worry out of traveling alone like I'd have to do now and it would an alternative to not being able to travel at all because I'd never go to a foreign country all by myself.

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  19. I have never done an organized tour -- it seems like most of the places I want to go I can do without that and have more flexibility. I suppose if I was going to a place with a language I couldn't manage or one that might be politically dicey, I'd do a tour. I like my own schedule and now it's so easy to book, even overseas (especially when we now have a world of overseas blog friends who can offer suggestions about their countries!). England is easy by yourself and so are the Netherlands as so many speak English and the signs are multilingual and the alphabet is the same as ours so one can look things up. I was glad Rick spoke and read Japanese when we went to Japan -- I freaked a little the first few days and we did home stays most of the time so it felt safe.

    I'll go back to England in 2022. Rick, too, but we will probably split up while he cycles and meet up again. I'm looking at fall, hoping by then Covid is under control. And hopefully Canada before. I'm getting itchy!

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    1. For you, planning and research is probably half the fun of going to Europe and your beloved England and other English speaking countries. Now days they have those translation apps that would even take the fear out of communication in non-English speaking countries. Japanese is not supposed to be an easy language to learn. Rick impresses me!

      Hope we all get our wished for Covid to settle down so we can all go back to whatever kind of travel we like best.

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    2. Your travel lecture sounds interesting. I’m not to keen on travel groups as my husband and I and then with our children enjoyed trips he enjoyed planning. We liked off road drives but he didn't like roughing it so we stayed in clean but inexpensive motels that were next to decent restaurants for our breakfasts. There was much more travel we had in mind but his health change short-circuited that plan. I would have liked more travel to other counties which didn't interest him, but am not so interested now — would have been better when I was younger.

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    3. Just about everything that requires physical active was better when I was younger, the idea of travel included.

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  20. Your Widow Friend may very well be quite attached to her Neighborhood even tho' it has it's Issues? I was quite Content in my Historic Home which was in Da Hood and I knew everyone and if you 'belonged' everyone looked out for you. Whereas, in Affluent Subdivision Hell they wouldn't have pissed on you if you were on Fire... and I was Miserable there, they were not at all a Neighborly Community like I was used to. Anyway, Trips still give that Friend the Fantasy Escapes without having to outlay her Insurance Proceeds to upgrade to a better area and mebbe take on Debt to do it? I'd rather Travel extensively too and if I'd been able to keep our Paid Off Historic Home I'd have plenty of spare Cash to enjoy Retirement with... which was the intention in our Old Age. Glad you got out and doing something Fun even if the Gourmet Cookies were nixed... yep, Damned Pandemic has screwed up a lot of things, hasn't it?

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    1. You make a great point about living in a place where you're attached and while outsides might feel safe you do because you feel a sense of belonging that feels protective. I think she lived there here entire adult life.

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