I’m back, yet I’m not back.
Five years ago, my son Ryan dreamed up the title of this blog and it was good. Over the years, I deviated from the intent: I wrote about travel (Three Days in Philadelphia or Copenhagen, Cheap Eats in Bratislava). I opined and rambled and eventually grew tired of my own voice.
In April, we returned to the United States for a month—Charlottesville—and I went to the doctor for my annual physical. While nothing was terribly wrong, too many things weren’t terribly right. My cholesterol was high. I was pre-diabetic. My blood pressure was drifting north.
“You need to take a statin. Or at least get your carotid artery scanned. You need to give up carbs. But you’re still so tall! At least you haven’t started to shrink!!”
She talked to me in that voice reserved for the elderly, children, and feral dogs—a warbling singsong which crested a half octave or more above her normal speaking voice.
I hate that voice.
For good and bad reasons, I dismissed her advice and the next day decided to hike the 87-mile Wicklow Way from its southern terminus into Dublin. Then, I signed up for The Philly 10k.
Years behind schedule, my mid-life crisis had begun.
Since April, I have focused on my health and stepped away from this blog—actually, from all writing. Fifteen pounds lighter and in much better shape, my mental fog has begun to clear. Last month, I decided I wanted to start a new blog focused on healthy travel and mapped out ideas.
After all, during May we lived in Budapest, Hungary where a typical menu resembles the forbidden food list from the American Heart Association. If I could eat heart healthy in Budapest, surely I’d have something to write about.
When I mentioned this idea to Ryan (because, of course, I needed him to invent a name for this new blog), he cautioned me, “Mom, flesh it out, but sit on it for a while. If you still like the idea in a week, let’s talk.”
I took his advice and wrote down a list of topics I wanted to pursue. They involved aging and the related emotions, home free living, healthy travel, limitations—both real and imagined. Then I realized, I know this blog. I called it The World in Between (or rather, Ryan did). What I had mapped out was my original intent.
The next time I spoke to Ryan and shared my thoughts, his reaction was brief.
Yet, after a few weeks of mulling my return to blogging, I decided not to move forward.
Until, that is, Ryan visited us in Ireland and I borrowed his copy of Travels with Charley. John Steinbeck was 58—my age—when he took off on an adventure across America with his aging standard poodle, Charley.
All I remembered from my first reading of this book some 40 years ago was that Steinbeck washed his clothes in a garbage can tied in the back of his truck as he bounced across America and that Charley was a dog.
What gripped me this time was his discourse about aging–from the opening chapter where his doctor warns him of his high cholesterol and he reacts by planning a trip across America to poor old Charley’s affliction with prostate issues. I devoured the book and realized how much a discourse on aging means to me. And I realized maybe–just maybe–I have something to say about this.
So yes, I am back, but with a different blog, one intended for the largest disenfranchised group in America: The No Longer Young. If you are under 40, take an early lunch, sip a craft beer, and get back to work. This blog isn’t about you (Sorry, not everything in life can be).
For the rest of us, I’ve danced around the implication of the title; now it’s time to clarify.
The World in Between is that phase of life between freedom (leaving work, emptying the nest, finishing whatever occupied your time and attention) and death. It’s the last months, years, or decades of our effective life (by effective life, I mean life before Depends, assuming you don’t have the good fortune to drop dead).
For those who are anxious about aging, I hope you have found a place where you realize you aren’t alone. For any of you who want to become full-time travelers, I have some very specific advice for you—a roadmap of sorts. Every now and then, I’ll throw in a long form piece about place. After all, living abroad is what I do—just don’t expect restaurant recommendations (unless you email me, of course.)
(Spoiler alert: Expect a lot about Paris and Ireland)
During one of our brainstorming conversations, Ryan recounted a story from a party he had attended recently. A couple asked him if his parents still lived in Colorado. “Mom, I took a deep breathe, as I always do when people ask about you. Then I shorthanded how you retired, sold everything, and began to travel.”
He continued on, “That’s when the wife grabbed her husbands hand and peered earnestly into his eyes and said, ‘Let’s do that!’. It’s amazing. Every person over the age of 50 reacts the same way. Then they ask me how you did it.”
Enter The World in Between.
It’s a place of longing, yet it’s a place of inertia.
It’s in our control, yet it’s so frighteningly beyond our control.
It’s scary, yet it’s invigorating.
We will never again be as young as we are at this moment. Perhaps it’s time to get started.