Travel Oomph: Why Boomers Need It

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After a few not-fit-for-travel experiences of my own, I’m on a mission to educate boomers about the role fitness plays on their travel adventures. Last month, Nora Lynch of Fit Travelers Have More Fun gave us tips for Staying Fit On A Road Trip, today she’s back to tell us why we need Travel Oomph:

Great Wall of China
The stairs are steep at China’s Great Wall

What’s the one thing most boomer travelers forget when they’re planning an international trip?

It’s not the passport — or the guidebook — or the travel alarm.

It’s not the language phrasebook — or the best day-trip or restaurant recommendations.

What is it then?

Physical preparedness and energy. Or, as I like to call it: Travel Oomph!

It’s easy to become comfortable in our routines at home. We don’t think about what it means to radically change those routines for long days of boomer travel that include sightseeing, walking, standing, carrying bags, and (heaven forbid) climbing stairs and hills.

Is your body ready? Do you have the energy reserves to power your boomer vacation?

Most of us don’t think about this until it’s too late. It’s day two or three of the trip and we’re maneuvering ourselves up the tiny, winding steps of the castle tower or climbing the broad marble staircase of a famous museum with the paintings we’ve waited years to see — up a long flight of stairs! Perhaps we enjoy taking local public transport and can’t believe how far those small distances on our map seem as we walk them. Maybe the day’s exertions have worn us out and we don’t feel like going out for an early evening concert or a late dinner in the piazza.

The amazing thing is – we forget all about our lack of Travel Oomph as soon as we get home. I call it “Travel Unfitness Amnesia.” There’s that moment on the trip when we think to ourselves, “I’m really out of shape. I need to do something about this. Next trip will be different”. But is it?

One reason why we may be so prone to forgetting our physical foibles as soon as we return home from a vacation is the Peak-End Rule, devised by Nobel-prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman. It suggests that we remember past experiences based on two things: a peak experience (good or bad) and how that experience ended. Happily, the discomfort we feel when we’re traveling while out of shape is usually overshadowed by the majesty or beauty or fun of other experiences on our trip, so we don’t retain those memories about our lack of fitness. However, Travel Unfitness Amnesia has a downside — we can’t take action if we don’t remember the problem.

Entering one of Lucca's gates
Keep your balance on the cobblestone streets of Europe

After my 45th birthday and a knee surgery, I began to notice significant issues with Travel Oomph. Walking around Bucharest all day after a long flight was much more taxing than I expected it to be. My husband discovered his lack of fitness towards the end of the trip, when over-tiredness from long days of sightseeing resulted in his carelessly stepping off a curb onto cobblestones, twisting an ankle. On another trip to Cozumel, Mexico, I realized that the all-day snorkels I had so thoroughly enjoyed in the past now seemed like an impossibility.  Two hours were more than enough. And Rome! The fantastic Roman Forum was transformed into a chore — such a huge expanse to traverse on our way from Trastevere, where we were staying, to the Via Cavour. The view at sunset from the Gianicolo was incredible, but what a hill!

And I’m not the only boomer to experience this. Read the story of one woman’s surprise at how challenging her visit to The Great Wall of China was. For some interesting tips on travel planning based on human psychology and social sciences research, check out this article from the New York Times.

Do you have a story to share about discovering that you weren’t physically or energetically up to a boomer travel challenge? Join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook or send us an email to ask a question or share your experience.

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