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‘What did you do this summer?’

This is the age-old first day of school assignment, ice-breaker exercise.

I love summer and had a good one. Some travel, lots of swimming, good food from the garden, fun times with friends, some wonderful hikes. What more could I ask?

One perplexing thing happened though, before I drove to Santa Fe for a week. Fears about all sorts of things I’m not really afraid of came up for me. What if the car breaks down? What if they eat dinner at 8 instead of 6? What if I can’t find a comfortable place to sleep, or I get robbed, or have a health issue, or ...

This anxiety hasn’t happened to me before traveling, and I’m questioning others my age now if they also have a reluctance to travel. Upsetting the daily routine, changing surroundings, being vulnerable to surprises and perhaps emergencies, and being more exposed to everything really had an effect on me. I ended up having a wonderful time with no problems, but I certainly noticed the stress going into it.

Traveling has always been so easy, fun and delightful for me. Why this sudden apprehension? It could be from being so close to home for so long because of the pandemic, or the difficult foot surgery I had last winter or simply old age! It’s probably a combination of them all, but still a question for me.

It’s harder to make so much effort now. Planning, packing, arranging, driving or flying, being in other people’s houses and schedules and lives so completely. I was just not used to it. Perhaps this hesitation is good, a natural slowing down. Do we now have a stronger desire for the richness of the regular day-to-day life we lead at home? There seems so much “out there energy” in the world, so much intensity, pressure and stimulation. Why leave home and go seek out more?

Yes, the museums, friends, food and fun were wonderful and expanded my little life. I guess that’s what it’s all about, this aging process: being fed new things, new ideas, new thoughts and impressions. Keeping us healthy and fit? Mental stimulation, physical exercise, good diets, connections to others, trying new things, a sense of accomplishment – all of these things we can find in traveling.

Our bodies are aging and we naturally have less energy. I only tried to plan one big outing a day in Santa Fe, though it was tempting to do so much more. Here at home, if I do a big morning event, I know I need to do something less physical in the afternoon. The days when I have several things on my list and run around doing them all, I feel exhausted and depleted. It’s interesting to watch and feel this gradual weakening.

I’ve just learned there is a medical term for extreme fear of travel – hodophobia. It can come from a past negative experience while traveling, or from a significant world event, such as a pandemic. People get anxious, even have panic attacks. Ways to prevent or manage this fear are:

  • Stay healthy as you approach the trip.
  • Allow extra time for any delays or surprise interesting distractions.
  • Visualize yourself successfully making your trip safely and smoothly.
  • Practice breathing techniques to relax.
  • Travel with friends or family.

I do not think I have hodophobia, but perhaps others do reading this.

Does this column complete the class assignment – a bit personal, a little research, an interesting topic? Not sure, but it is something to share with other elders. Hoping we can all continue to get out there and see whatever in the world we wish, for as long as we wish.

Martha McClellan has lived in Durango since 1993 and has been an educator, consultant and writer. Reach her at mmm@bresnan.net.