Ask Helen: Planning a trip is half the fun


A Nosh of Jewish Wisdom: How lovely is the sun after rain and how lovely is laughter after sorrow.

Dear Helen:

I’m a single mom with a 14-year-old son. We have a great relationship. I’d like to take him traveling next summer: Europe, Morocco, Thailand and as many cool places as we can explore together. How can I get him invested in this dream and also to help save for it? It’s really hard to say “No” every time he asks to eat out or for movie money.

Itchy Feet

Dear Itchy Feet:

Get a box that’s easy to put money into and hard to get it out of. Even an empty Kleenex box will do. Every time either of you has a discretionary decision to make about money, especially one you’d make together, talk about delayed gratification (eat in instead of out, see a cheapie instead of a new movie, etc.). You won’t win every time but look at alternatives. Put the money you “save” into the box. Open a new bank account called Travel Fund with both your names on it. Every month empty the money from the savings box into the account and check the balance. Then ask your son, “Where’s your favorite destination this month?” Label the box with his country of current interest.

Use the public library to check out travel guides, especially the kind that would appeal to young travelers. Rent DVDs and listen to music from the cultures you’re interested in. Get him as invested in this trip as you are, in every way you can.

Dear Helen:

Virtually all my retired friends like to travel. They go to visit friends and relatives around the United States, on beach vacations, adventure and sports vacations, cultural trips, Elderhostel excursions, and foreign travel to places both exotic and traditional. I enjoy hearing about their time away from home, but I am in no way interested in joining them. Partially it is a matter of finances, though I could certainly find the cash if I cared. While I like them as friends, I have very little interest in spending a week with them. There are other friends that I can imagine traveling with, but they are not yet retired.

The biggest truth is this: I really like my permanent staycation life that allows me to take classes at the university, dabble in learning art and putter in my garden. Is there a polite way to decline invitations without going into detail? I don’t want people to think I am broke when I’m not, and I genuinely like my friends for local events like concerts and movies. But a big trip for me is an event that I would rather share with other people.

Home Girl

Dear Home Girl:

Everyone gets to decide what makes them happy. Fortunately we are not all the same; the “different strokes for different folks” adage is one you can cite as you wish them bon voyage on their travels. If you politely decline often enough, they will stop asking you. You will get a reputation of “doesn’t like to travel” that you can simply accede to as the easiest solution. If you feel the need to be more explicit, say you have plans to travel later with a friend who’s not yet retired, and in the meantime you’re very content to explore cultural opportunities in your own backyard and hear about their adventures when they return from them.

Most people who’ve retired have a long list of activities they haven’t been able to make time for while they worked. Those can take years to explore. My only caveat would be this: If you really do want to travel, make it a priority while your health and mobility are still good. Climbing the Great Wall or trekking up Machu Picchu requires good knees, so do those trips first. Chilling on a beach, whether it’s in Hawaii or Croatia, is much easier on an aging body. Do what makes you happy. You’ve earned it.

A resident of Eugene, OR, since 1981, Helen is a member of Temple Beth Israel, where she’s studied and spoken on Torah. She claims to have black belts in schmoozing, problem solving and chutzpah. She’s a writer and an artist (kabbalahglass.com).

 

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