One of the distinct pleasures of growing older is the ability to plan and take vacations without having to consider the needs of one’s children. Places like Disney World are immediately removed from the list as the desire to snake around endless lines with other silent, suffering, sweating parents, with hyper-kinetic children in-tow, is second only to having a root canal.
In the empty nest stage of life, vacation brochures are filled with scenes of empty beaches with a nary a concession stand in sight, mountain ranges without the obligatory burger joint at every turn, and bed & breakfast inns that offer “Quiet Time” rather than vibrating beds. Yes, this time of life offers the true meaning of the word vacation, which is freedom from obligation, as the primary concern is not “Are we there, yet?” but “When are we coming back?”
This does not mean that vacationing while gray, aka graycation, is without its perils. AARP discounts aside, traveling to distant places can definitely put a dent in one’s wallet, particularly if one is a consumer of anything purchased at an airport. I recently paid an amount of money for a slice of pizza in the Philadelphia airport that would, in any other setting, be considered price gouging. Sadly, I hardly even blinked an eye as I washed it down with my $3.00 bottle of water.
When not traveling by air, those of us who take to the nation’s highways soon realize that rest stops are for those whose sanitary requirements, unlike us, have not come of age. Added to this is the realization that the miles between stops lacks an appreciation for the prostate condition of anyone over the age of 30.
All that being said, it’s truly a wonderful time to take time off from the daily grind and appreciate being old enough to appreciate natural wonders and life's simple pleasures. As an added benefit, when traveling off-season, one finds one's self in the company of other grayers who are also seeking a taste of the retired life knowing that children between the ages of 5 and 18 are safely in the confines of a local school system.
With a maturing attitude toward life in general, it’s easier to suffer through unexpected twists and turns that are a part of any trip without suffering a nervous breakdown. Headaches of lost luggage, misplaced room keys, a failed GPS just as you enter the 5 lane highway, etc, become stories to tell when we get back rather than reasons to move "Staying at home" to the top of the list of next years vacation ideas.
So, whether your next trip is around the corner or across the globe enjoy the freedom that comes from being old enough to make your own plans and explore your own dreams. Heck, visit Disney World, park yourself on a bench, watch as stressed out parents try to corral their wandering children, and give Mickey a high-five; it's not only a small world, it's pure magic.