I’ve read that we can keep our minds sharp as we age by doing word puzzles, playing bridge, and taking classes. I can tell you that another way is to travel. Yes, the travel itself is mind-expanding – seeing things for the very first time, learning how to get around in a strange city, experiencing different food, art, and music.
I can also attest to the fact that the process begins the minute you decide to go. There was a time when you phoned the airline and booked a flight or you walked into a travel agency and told them to arrange it. Now you go on-line and look at schedules, seats, air fares, plane configurations. You check every airline to get the best of each of those details. Air France has larger seats; Delta has the cheapest fare; US Air has less leg room but better connections.
You move on to more decisions: will we need some Euros as soon as we land? Where do we get Euros in Phoenix? I’ve bought books for my Kindle so I don’t have to drag heavy ones, transferred my music from my computer and iPod to it as well and will download some movies and tv shows before we leave. It has often taken more time to figure out “how” to do it than the task itself.
I’m staying in an apartment in Paris so I found the location on a city map – a paper map –“old school.” Then I gave in to my adult “kids” and got on Google Earth and literally looked at every street, bistro, metro, bookstore and tabac around the neighborhood. I even walked across the Pont Neuf to Notre Dame – live – visual – as if I were standing there. How do they do that??
I’m listening to audio CD’s to learn the language while I read my flash cards to see the spelling because French looks nothing like it sounds and I may need to read some signs and menus. I watch French movies and read the subtitles as I pay close attention to dialogue, gestures and nuances, including clothing styles.
I’ve read books on How to Be French, How to Dress Like a Parisian Woman, Sights and Sounds of Paris. Then came the hours and days of looking at specific web-sites, blogs, u tubes, and chats. Which castles? Versailles or the Loire? Rail or bus? Tour or on our own? The Lido or Moulin Rouge? Which restaurants can we afford? Can we go to Easter services at Notre Dame? What day is the Louvre closed? Where’s the nearest hospital?
I write to the apartment owner: How do we get the key? Do I need an adaptor for a laptop? A hair dryer? Can I use a USB plug to charge our devices on her computer? What size USB? Are they “universal” – a new term I learned not long ago. Oh, I need one with an A on one end and a B on the other and then it will work. I go to Amazon to purchase one, then learn that universal means my cell phone cord will work on my netbook, my iPod, and my Kindle Fire. But not my camera. Luckily my camera has a USB cord of its own!
I start waking at night and dash down notes like: call the bank and credit card companies with our itinerary so they don’t cut us off. Call the Dr. for extra scripts in case bags get lost. Buy a new bottle of Tums.
Then there’s the shopping: French women wear black or other solid colors with scarves and good walking shoes. I have none of those items so I’m off to the mall.
I get out my tape measure and measure my carry-on to see if it matches Delta’s requirements. Then measure my clothes and say to heck with that.
Each morning over coffee I check the Accuweather web-site to see if it’s warming up and pray it is. Otherwise, I may need to find a wool coat which in March in Phoenix will be impossible. We’re in shorts already.
I begin walking daily – 30- 45– 60 minutes. I’ll be walking 7 to 8 hours a day when I get there. I decide to study the Metro map carefully to break up the walking!
My daughter wants to shop so she’s Googling the best areas of town. I’ve researched book stores and the Bastille.
My head is swimming; I’m getting carpal tunnel from texting, Googling, and browsing the web. But I’m using my brain, and I can just feel those neurons firing and those cells expanding and my memory improving!
Now I just hope I’m not too tired to make the trip.