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This Traveler is Getting Older

I just flew back from Italy this past week, and although I’m always interested in an adventure and really can’t wait until I’m back in Italy again, I’m quite content to be hanging out with my cats and sleeping in my own bed for now. I used to be a better traveler than this, but now when I get home it takes me a good week to get back on a normal sleep schedule, and at least a few days to stop feeling weird aches from the airplane seats. I’d like to chalk it up to something unrelated to me, but I think it’s just that I’m getting older. How annoying.

Back in college, I once slept for all but one hour of a flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, including the then-necessary stop in Hawaii to refuel. These days, I’m lucky if I can get an hour of sleep total on a trans-Atlantic flight, regardless of whether I take a sleeping pill or not. Plus, I’m immediately all aches and pains when I sit down, even though I’m short enough to fit into coach seats without too much effort. I’ve come to detest plane travel, which really sucks.

While on a break between semesters during my study abroad in England, I decided to visit my Parisian cousins for a week without so much as consulting a Paris travel guide or a map, and then when I got turned around coming out of a Metro station I just kept walking instead of trying to figure out where I was. It ended well, as I finally found another Metro station after awhile and got myself back on track, but that kind of miscalculation now makes me stop in my tracks until I’ve figured out my mistake. I’m no longer the happy-go-lucky “it’ll work out” kind of girl. Now, I want to know how it’ll work out.

Despite several flights that included layovers at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, I have yet to make it into Amsterdam itself. And now that I’m no longer a young traveler, I kind of regret that. Even in my college years I probably wouldn’t have wanted to spend my whole trip in coffeeshops or been particularly fascinated by the Red Light District, but now I doubt I’ll do more than a cursory walk through both. I’ve read enough about the hostels in Amsterdam to know they’re some of the most fun hostels to be found anywhere, but when I finally visit I’ll be booking myself into a hotel instead. (Okay, so it’ll be one of the cheap Amsterdam hotels and not something expensive or fancy, but I’d like my own bathroom and no party outside my door, thankyouverymuch.)

Even in Italy, a country I know better than any other (aside from my own), I still find things that I would likely have handled better in my younger years. On recent trips, at the top of that list is that I’d be less apt to turn in so early. I’ve never been a partyer, but Italy travel (as well as living in Italy) involves a certain amount of late-night revelry – and not of the drunken variety, either. In Milan, where I spend most of my time, dinner doesn’t start until 9pm or later, and every time I ride the tram back to my apartment I’m amazed at how full the bars are – on weeknights – well after midnight. It makes me tired just thinking about it. I know those people have jobs they’ll go to the next day, and that they’ll probably be out late again the next night, so I can’t figure out how they do it. It’s not like in Spain, where they’re napping the afternoon away, and those tiny cups of espresso in the afternoon just aren’t powerful enough to keep anyone going that late.

What’s most depressing to me about seeing those Milanese enjoying a drink and some conversation with friends late into the night – several nights a week – and still going to work a full day at the office the following day, is that they’re not all 20-somethings who I could just assume have more stamina than I do. Sure, many of them are much younger than me, but not all of them. There are plenty of folks my age and even older who are keeping that same schedule. If there’s something in Milan’s water that’s helping in this regard, all the more reason to move myself to Milan, STAT.

Now, in some ways, I’ve always been kind of old and boring – so there are some things about travel that I’m sure I deal with in much the same way now as I did in my 20s. But I guess I’ve got to face the fact that in addition to getting wiser, getting older means that I’m not the same traveler I used to be. And if that’s not an irritating realization, I dunno what is.