A travel trifecta squandered?

stevesWill I ever win the travel trifecta? Time, money, and health. The three things you need to have, all at once, to really indulge in serious travel.

I’ll be lucky to ever have two out of three ever in my life. I’ll always have to work to get serious-travel money. Work will eat up the time that I’d rather spend traveling.

My parents won the travel trifecta about 10 years ago. They spent the first 10 years of their retirement caring for Nana in her final years. They had money and health, but no time. When Nana left us, they finally had the means to explore the globe a little. They showed no interest, content to watch their Rick Steves DVD box set, but they were generous enough to send me and Paul, unaccompanied, on a Mediterranean cruise to celebrate our civil union. I was surprised, because when I was a little kid, they took me on road trips all the time. Nothing exotic, but the White House, Colonial Williamsburg, Pennsylvania Dutch Country, and Philadelphia in time for the Bicentennial celebrations. I was the first in my neighborhood to jet off to Disney World. Now, to them, nothing could compare to the simple pleasures of being home, feeding the birds.

Yesterday I made my weekly phone call to a friend of mine. He’s in his mid-80s, about my Mom’s age, but back in 2001, he was a healthy, active clergyman retiring from a late-in-life stint at a cathedral off Yale University’s campus, and his congregation sent him off with a ticket to Venice and Florence. A clergyman has a front-row seat into others’ lives, both happy and tragic. Mostly tragic. He seized the moment.

Not wishing to travel alone, he took me with him. I was overjoyed to finally see Italy, and we had a wonderful seven days marveling at cathedrals and relaxing in piazzas. Later that year, Guillain–Barré syndrome weakened his body and killed his self-confidence. His travel trifecta was brief, but today he still talks about how glad he is to have traveled when he could. I call him each Saturday to check in on his health and to chat a bit. He sounds tired and befuddled, but he is satisfied that his was a life well lived.

About 10 years before that, it was he who introduced me to the concept of leisure travel. He loved Key West, a place devoid of cathedrals and piazzas. And yet this highly cultured gentleman seemed to enjoy an annual pilgrimage.  He persuaded me to go along, so wearing my green flannel shirt and a gray New England pallor, clutching some paperwork that I thought I could finish by the pool, I arrived at the Oasis guesthouse in the historic district. I never thought I’d take to this level of mindless hedonism. I was single and just 25 or 26, and a bit of a young fogey. It took an elderly Episcopalian priest, with a sense of formality that included traveling in a blue blazer and striped tie with his school colors, to show me how to relax “on holiday.” We appeared to be an odd pair, and I was flattered that some people seemed to assume I was “paid for,” and in a way I did received a payoff by way of a lesson in how to live. I soon traded the flannel for a pink tank top and tiny trunks and basked in the sun for a week. I never did get to that paperwork.

Now I’m older, and neither Key West nor the Oasis are the same anymore. I’m glad I could enjoy what I could when I did. 

Soon, I’m traveling to Yucatán with my dad, who has lower-body Parkinson’s Disease and a weak heart, and a mom who’s prone to falling, which is not such a good thing considering her bone density. They have the time and money, and their doctor assures me that health is still good enough to travel. Just barely. Knock wood.

They’re curious about Yucatán now that I’ve been going on about it incessantly since 2011. Otherwise, they would be staying home. Maybe they’re grounded in a way I’m not, content to live their inner lives and inhabit their immediate world. A vacation spend lounging by the pool is not even in their realm of understanding. “I could do that at home,” I can hear them say.

I can tell you that even on trips that haven’t gone well, I’ve never felt homesick in my life, which is funny because I’m actually a homebody myself. My life alternates between long stretches barely leaving home with about six brief trips a year involving air travel. It would be ideal if those trips allowed me to settle at my destination for a month or two. Lots of people could do that, but it never seems to occur to them. They won the trifecta and never cashed in the ticket.


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  1. Great post, Lee. Many things I can relate to from the desire of the trifecta to the love of travel while still being a homebody to the joy of your parents coming to visit. My mom is coming down in November, her first tropical trip ever.

  2. A very well written post. My greatest passion in life has been to travel. I have done quite a bit of it in my lifetime, and I plan to continue to do so for as long as I can.
    I hope that your parents enjoy their trip and come to have a better understanding of your “love affair” with Mérida.
    I have been reading your blog for a while, and following the progress of your house. I only just now realized that the comments on my blog were from you! I hope that you enjoy my blog half as much as I enjoy yours.

    • Thank you, and may I say I’m really enjoying your blog as well! You are a fantastic storyteller, and are very generous with photos. I see you were a Spanish teacher. How I wish I listened to mine more way back when.

      • Yes, I’ve heard that from a lot of my former students. But at that age you have no idea what direction your life will take. I did, however, have several students who continued with their Spanish, and even a couple who became Spanish teachers themselves.

        • I still remember the film strip in which a mouse met up with a donkey who starts braying… “¡Ay no no! ¡Que me da miedo! ¡No puedo casarme contigo, señor burro!” That’s the thing I remember most from that class.

      • And thank you for your kind words about my blog. I’m glad that you are enjoying it!

  3. Nicely written. Thoughtful, human, and kind. I like reading stuff like this.

    For a brief moment, but only a brief one because your post is so well done and a bit deeper, I was reminding of something in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City (only paraphrased from memory so possibly inaccurate):

    “You can have a great job, a great love life, or a great apartment, but never all three at once.” The Trifecta is a big deal because, in so many pursuits, three things being “great” is rare occasion in life.

    I’m glad your parents are coming to see your place. Hope they enjoy Merida as much as you do.

    • That means a lot, Cholo. Thank you so much. Every once in a while, I can dig deep and write about something other than cocktails or panuchos.

  4. I enjoyed this post. I think I’m close to winning the trifecta, but then little things just keep coming up that keep me in Boston. Soon, real soon, I’m going to do my big road trip. Meanwhile, I’m like you: total homebody in Boston, interspersed with gallivanting around Mexico.

    Sometimes I think I should venture further afield, but then I remember how much I like Mexico. Just writing my latest post on San Luis Potosí made me want to go back there and deepen my knowledge, and explore more.


    Kim G
    San Francisco, CA
    Where we have one more day before the snow-axe falls.

    • I just left a comment on your wonderful post, which makes me feel like I started the day strolling a new city. (Well, new to me, anyhow.) I have so much to learn about the rest of the country. For now, I’m working on skills that will keep me in panuchos once we make it to Merida. Being a homebody/traveler seems like a contradiction, and maybe it is, but these days I won’t travel more than five miles for a meal, and even work is just a three-mile shot up the road, but I’ll travel over 1,000 to visit my home away from home.

  5. I agree with Cherie – your post today was excellent on so many levels. The writing , the sentiments and the humor, to name but three.

    I think it is marvelous that your parents are coming to Merida; we look so forward to meeting them


  6. P.S.

    I also like that you always travel with your cuddle buddy…

  7. It took me 60+ years to win the trifecta, but our travel was just to our new home in Mexico. I don’t exactly see further trips to Europe or Asia, or anywhere much, other than possible driving excursions to other parts of Mexico. I no longer relish air travel and it’s likely that the only time I will get on a plane will be to travel back to the USA for family functions. Maybe it is an “age” thing, but I’m also happiest at home with my little family.

    By the way, I think it is wonderful that you call your friend once a week. I don’t even speak to my family that often. Safe travels down with your Mom and Dad.

  8. For us, travel presents a push/pull dynamic. Travel provides one of our greatest sources of pleasure and inspiration. Yet, when away from home, we pine for our little family and the simple joy of cuddling all together for an evening in front of the TV. So, we travel for shorter periods only.

  9. Lovely, literate lingo today from the title to the priest who experiences front row seats of others lives. Thanks for the enjoyment of reading your blog today and a well-thought out perspective.

    • It’s a topic that I’ve been giving a lot of thought to lately. Dad turned 89 today, and I sent him a card depicting him parachuting over Chichen Itza. Our actual trip probably won’t be all that adventurous … a daily elevator ride down to the hotel buffet. Thanks for the kind words!

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