I’m not complaining…but…

Today I had a doctor’s appointment for some blood work. It’s time for my yearly checkup and they wanted to do the labs before they sat down with me to discuss all the ways my body is falling apart at 47. Really, it has been falling apart since I was 19, but who’s counting?

After getting my blood drawn, taking care of some emails, and doing some other things, I looked outside this afternoon and saw just how beautiful the light was on the mountains. It has been nearly two weeks since my dog was spayed, so I decided to load her up and take a trip with the camera to get some shots of the mountains before days like this are just a memory again.

We went west of town to a place called Delaney Buttes. It’s a popular area with the fishermen who visit the county. I don’t fish, so the experience is lost on me. It’s not that I suck at fishing, I just don’t like eating them, and I could think of about ten other things I would rather be doing than standing on the edge of a lake, throwing a baited hook into the water over and over again to catch some elusive, boney animal I will never eat. I can cut out the middleman and just be outside enjoying myself without impaling worms and hoping the hooks don’t set too deep into a fish that is just going to die a short while after I let it go again.

So, we climbed the Butte and did some photography.

The aspens are changing on the Park Range and the clouds were doing a great job at diffusing the light in all sorts of ways. Delaney Butte isn’t all that tough of a hike, but weaving through the sage brush to get there from the trailhead was tougher than I hoped. Penny did great and didn’t have any problems after. We got some great shots and I felt like I got my excercise.

But by the time I got home, I could feel it deep in my joints and muscles. Even after a long soak with a bath bomb, I still ached. Maybe that’s a sign I need to exercise more regularly, or maybe it’s a sign of my body slowing down at 47. Fifty isn’t all that far away. There’s a twenty plus year chunk of my life I feel like could have been used a little bit better. And even in the last five or six years, I noticed I no longer do the mountain biking o the long hikes like I used to. I top out now at about eight miles. I did three today.

The last time I made this climb, I was with my dad. It was later in the year. Or maybe earlier. There were no leaves on the trees and little flecks of snow blew past us as we hiked. At the time, he would have been younger than me. I have no way of knowing how well he did that day compared to how well I did today. All I know is five years ago, this would have been a little easier. I wouldn’t have had that fear of rolling my ankle like I did today. Walking carefully through the sage brush, following game trails and taking my time.

It reminds me of that dream where you are running, but it feels like you are running in sand.

I don’t mean to complain, but getting older kinda sucks. My body is definitely lagging a little from the last time I used it. Maybe that was what a two year slack fest with Covid did, or maybe I’m just (gasp) slowing down. I can’t help but wonder how long I can keep up with this pace. Barring any injuries, I think I can maintain and still be pretty active. But as I go, I can’t help but recognize that some things have fallen off from my list of interests. The mountain biking. The long hikes. Swimming. Running (at ALL). There are times I can feel my ACL and miniscus stretching nearly to the point where things would get interesting and I usually call it. Nope.

Anyway, here are some shots I got today. I hope you enjoy them.

Not everyone shares your values

It’s hard to know where to begin, so I’ll just take a stab at it.

A couple years ago, a friend of mine and I used to talk about how cool it would be to travel together internationally. I had been to the UK, bumping around London and other places for ten days. I had always wanted to travel internationally, ever since I was 17 and the bug got me. I was lucky enough to have been selected to take a bus trip across the US with 40 other high school kids, from Colorado to New York City and back again. That was my first taste of leaving the country. We went to Niagara Falls in Canada for a day. Come to think of it, Canada was where I got my first kiss, overlooking the falls.

There was something about being in Canada, even that close to the border. Things were different. For one, everything was clean. They used different money (though you could pay with dollars, you’d get your change back in looneys). Just little differences. I was hooked.

When I got married, I had expectations to go abroad. My wife at the time had been to Honduras on a rafting trip. Mexico a couple times. She seemed eager to see new places. Only that never happened. Our adventures were limited to what she knew and what was close. The Black Hills two or three times. Santa Fe four or five times. Honestly all those trips blur in together. There was a lot of fighting, disagreements over where to go, what to eat. An extension of the chaos of that unholy union. She still takes the kids to those two places. I can imagine they have just as much fun as we did. Cue the eyerolling.

Where was India? Where was France? What about Ireland? What happened to Greece?

Too dangerous. There’s a war going on in Europe. Terrorists. Excuses.

So, after my divorce, I dated a woman for a couple years. She had the resources to go abroad and she was a professor, so she got a lot of time off in the summer. In the time we were together, she went many places. Greece, Paris, Italy, Turkey, Croatia, Boston, Prince Edward Island, Quebec. But she went with friends I would never be introduced to. And if it wasn’t in a cluster of friends, it was with tour groups, family, or on a cruise ship. Lots of stamps in her passport, but usually as a result of a six hour shore leave from a floating casino.

I never got invited. Her excuse was “You don’t have a lot of resources right now and you’ve got your kids.” True enough that half of my paycheck each month went to child support, but looking back now, there was never going to be an invitation. One time she even told me “You always say you want to travel abroad, but I think if you really wanted to do it, you would have done it by now.”

What a kick in the teeth from someone who prided themselves on eating at every Hard Rock Cafe in every country they visited and buying the t-shirts to prove it. I had scrimped and saved what I could to get my passport in 2016. It was a lot of money considering what I had to work with.

If you’ve made it this far, just keep with me for a bit.

Eventually, I figured out a way to make it happen. I took a big chunk from a tax return a few years ago and I found incredibly cheap plane tickets to London. I went. Cold. I had never flown out of the country before. I had never booked my own flight. I booked an AirBnB for the first time in Knightsbridge. I hit the ground running at Heathrow and got on the blue line to London. And once I stepped off the tube, I immediately got lost. It took me an hour and a half to find my flat. I was so overwhelmed I took a nap for two hours. Then I went downstairs, put on my shoes, and started walking.

The next ten days changed everything. This was not the kind of trip I could rely on anyone else to do. I didn’t have an itenary. I didn’t have the money for taxis or guides. I had to figure out everything on my own, from the money to the tube to reading train timetables, ordering tickets online, figuring out where to use the bathroom, and how to just relax and absorb everything. How to let go of my ego and admit that I had no idea what I was doing. To be a piece of flotsam on the currents.

So, whenever I would talk to this friend of mine about going places, she was excited. But she didn’t have a passport. So, for her birthday, I sent her $140 so she could get one, because I knew if she had that kind of money, like me all those years ago, it would be spent on her kids. She was reluctant to accept it, and I am reluctant to mention it here, but things have changed and it’s my story to tell now.

She never got her passport. I’m pretty sure she nickel and dimed it to hang out with her friends at the bar, or do wine and painting events. It doesn’t matter really, since the gesture of the gift was to give someone something I had wanted for years, but could never “afford.”

When I gave her the money, I even said, whether or not we got to enjoy adventures together didn’t matter. For me, having a passport has unlocked the world, and I couldn’t think of a greater gift to give someone you cared about. Maybe I didn’t really expect her to get her passport. She’s gone now, and doesn’t really matter what she does. I just don’t understand why people don’t rush at the chance to get the hell out of their comfort zones and discover something new.

I try to have adventures in my life all the time. There are many places I would revisit, and many that I am greatful for getting to see. Each place has brought with it challenges. They have made me face my fears, get me out of my comfort zones. When I talk to my dad, he says he has no desire to go anywhere else. Even my former girlfriend who used to carry her unused passport in her wallet wherever she went thought we could go to Disney World instead of Scotland when we had to cancel our trip together when the pandemic started. Fucking Disney. We didn’t last the first six weeks of lockdowns. Maybe it’s for the best.

It baffles me, but like I said from the start, not everyone shares your values. I have lots of friends whose idea of a great time is to get a bunch of beer and grill chicken or steaks and consume them in the back yard. Which is great and all. But have you ever smelled the inside of a 900 year old library? Have you smelled the salty sea air off the North Atlantic? Have you abandoned all of your mundane worries you carry around with you just so you can focus on getting to the next place, through the next day, and not getting lost in the process? And knowing that there is no help coming. You have to figure this out on your own.

Maybe it’s not for everyone.

That friend was probably more suited for the hang out at a cookout crowd–I can’t begrudge her for using the money on something else. I just hoped it would be what she needed to really shine. And maybe my former gf was more of a dreamer, unsure of the expectations of her fantasy meeting reality. Or like my ex or even my dad, fine with what they have always known and always done.

I can assure you, nothing will prepare you for the moment you actually do it. It won’t be like anything you’ve expected. The world is subtle. Nuanced. Rich and mundane at the same time. My values are to see as much of this place I can before I can’t do it anymore. To meet interesting people. To share stories. To have adventures. To push my comfort zones and see exactly what I am capable of. It might sound romantic and exciting (it is) but it’s not for everyone.

If you are reading this and you feel exhilarated by the idea of such things, you are my people. I see you. I hope to meet you out there one day.

Itenary

A couple of other things that have crossed my mind is this weird headspace I’m in about being alone. For most of my life, I’ve always thought I had to live for others. Like my time was never mine. Like that was supposed to be a good thing. In one of my best relationships there was even that thought of having to consider others. I know that sounds bad, but hear me out.

We had planned a trip to the UK in May 2020. As everyone knows, those plans got derailed. But in the planning, pre-pandemic, I found myself planning the trip around her. What things I could show her. Distances we could go from train stations to our rental. All that kind of thing. I have to admit, it was kinda a drag having so much planning on my shoulders. Not just with romantic relationships, but I’ve thought about traveling with a bunch of friends too, and really the amount of cat-herding involved with that would irritate the hell out of me.

The last time I went someplace with family, I found myself a few days in just wanting no responsibilities. If even just for a couple of hours. It was exhausting entertaining pre-teens and being the mediator with grandparents. Here I was alone in the middle while everyone else was on vacation. Mr. Responsible. I had to make sure the dog was going out enough, and I didn’t have anyone to talk to. Other than texting someone who was a thousand miles away.

One night I excused myself and walked the boardwalk into Seaside. It was March, so the place was nearly abandoned. I found myself at a sportsbar watching basketball–which I am not really into–drinking a beer by myself. As the servers started stacking chairs up for the night, I was alone, but I felt lighter. Everything I was doing at that moment was just for me, even though my capacity was limited.

I think that is how I could get hooked on solo travel. Sure, it’s a little overwhelming, but it can be really nice to just have a moment to yourself. Sitting alone at a restaurant can be freeing. You can have conversations with strangers. You can take your time. You don’t have to worry about a significant other getting jealous, or a kid getting bored, or little missions like finding the perfect sourvenir, or t-shirts to bring back home. I really hate souvenirs. Things I bring home need to have some sort of meaning other than just being stuff on a shelf you dust occasionally. It’s even worse when the stuff you buy was made in China and you weren’t in China to get it.

I like being able to do what I want, and if I don’t want to do it anymore, I can just leave and do something else. I don’t have to wear that mask.

You know the one. The “We are having just the greatest time! HAHAHA!” mask. You don’t have to put on a show for anyone. You can have resting bitch face if you want. You can be pensive. You can feel lonely if you want. Or you can feel lighter than the breath from a dove. Or you can smile for just you.

When our plans to go to the UK dissolved (and before our relationship followed) she suggested we could go to Disney World instead. Maybe that was a red flag. I know a lot of people love Disney, but if it’s standing in line for Pirates of the Carribean vs. taking a train across Europe and eating all the cheese and drinking all the wine…yeah.

It probably wasn’t going to work out, was it?

I guess if you are going to travel with other people, make sure your vibe matches theirs. I’ve yet to experience that. But the people who have gotten to know me already know that if I want to do something else, I’ll just leave. Since my earlier years of going places with other people, I have had the nasty habit of just being along for the ride. I didn’t have to challenge my sense of direction. I just watched everything go past and got a lot less out of it than I probably would have if I had to pay attention. Later, my decisions were always second-guessed anyway. Whatever I wanted to do was stupid or “we’ll do that next time.” Which we never did, or if we did, it was often considered a waste of time.

My favorite itenary is to have no plan other than a start time and a time to get back. Though I do have a list of things to see that I check off, I try not to let the schedule be dictated by it. Usually when you deal with timetables, you have to at least have that. I like being spontaneous, but I also like having a nice hot bath or shower to get back to at the end of the day. I’ve often heard that women think that a man who can plan something out is attractive. I’m no longer interested in impressing someone based on my ability to plan shit for them. Here’s my itenary: Keep up.

There will also be naps.

And food.

And trying new shit. Doing something every day that scares you.

But there is a drawback to that. Sometimes planning helps you connect the dots for some really cool stuff. Like I missed a Shakespearean play at the Globe when I was in London because I happened to be there the day nothing was playing. Also, traveling alone means you are paying the full bill. So, maybe a little bit of research is okay so you don’t miss out on cool stuff as it happens. Just don’t let it rule you. Or maybe I’m just full of shit.