I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Gearing up for a trip

Turkish lira with a US $100 bill
It seemed so far in the future last year when my old boss Mickey asked me if I would be willing to travel with him to some exotic place for his "swan song" of a meeting. It's been seven years since I retired, and I hesitated for weeks before agreeing to go, but eventually I did, all the while thinking that it might not all work out. Well, it did, and now it's less than three weeks before I will fly to Antalya, Turkey, for this four-day-long meeting.

This is the sort of thing I did with Mickey for many years before retiring: he would get funding for a conference of scientists and resource managers in some part of the world, usually somewhere in Southeast Asia, and I'd find a venue, make all the arrangements, firm up the list of attendees, and travel there with Mickey. I've been to China six times, Vietnam twice, Thailand a couple more, and Malaysia. There were a few times we went to places in Europe, Russia once, and many more that my tired old brain has forgotten for the moment.

But I've never been to Turkey or anywhere in the Middle East, for that matter. And in less than three weeks I will board a plane (three of them, to be exact) and travel for an entire day to get there. My trip is funded by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), based in Switzerland, and I've received my ticket and had the Daily Subsistence Allowance transferred to my bank account. All I have to do is take notes at the conference and help prepare a report before I return home. That was only part of what I did for Mickey in the past, and by the time we were in the midst of the conference, most of my work was done.

The meeting itself is to examine Disaster Risk Reduction in a Changing Climate. It's the same sort of thing Mickey has done in the past. That link takes you to his website with information about the meeting, if you're interested. I haven't had to do anything so far for it, but now it's imminent and I'm beginning to get concerned. It's the Middle East, after all, and I am no longer as resilient as I once was, and all that travel is the part that makes me the most anxious. My economy ticket will NOT allow me much of a chance to sleep on the plane. When I traveled with Mickey, he usually was able to upgrade me to business class, because he flies so much he's got lots of perks. But not this time; I'm traveling by myself to the meeting.

I've gotten sick three out of the last four airplane trips I've taken. It was last year in February that I traveled to Florida and then Texas for my sister's Celebration of Life. Of course, it was very emotional and draining, but after I returned home I realized I was sick with a respiratory illness of some sort. That led to a series of infections and distress for a couple of months. And that was just a small portion of the travel that lies ahead of me in a couple of weeks. My mental state about all this is not helping, is it?

So I will be taking myself to see a naturopath here in town. I've been told he is wonderful, and it will be my intent to ask him for any and all assistance to keep from getting sick. Do you know anything about naturopathy? I'm going to see a doctor at the Northwestern Clinic for Naturopathic Medicine, and I've heard wonderful things about it. It is not covered by my insurance, but I really cannot go to my regular doctor and ask him for ways to prevent illness. I am encouraged by the fact that this doctor has a "keen interest in natural approaches to both pediatric and geriatric health issues."

I am a firm believer in the importance of one's state of mind in regards to illness, and I realized that I had worked myself into quite a state over this trip. Just the fact that I have taken the step to see this doctor has relieved me and given me a sense of optimism. Just because I'm old doesn't mean I am not up for this task. But it's been seven years since I retired, and that is not inconsequential. We all know how quickly we begin to see the inevitable signs of age in ourselves at this time of life. It's one reason why I have decided that it's no longer in my best interests to keep skydiving, although nothing is stopping me. I'll make another few skydives this year, but nothing like I used to in the past.

I've learned in my life that there is good stress and bad stress. I exercise my body for the effects that it gains from being well used, and even though sometimes I hurt when we're hiking uphill and my muscles are protesting, I know I'll be stronger and feel better for having pushed myself. I remember when I was first learning to skydive, how anxious I would be before each jump. But once I successfully accomplished it, I was euphoric for days. That eventually diminished somewhat, but I still feel exhilarated after a skydive. And anxious beforehand, obsessively checking all my equipment before I exit the airplane. There's a reason why I really don't want to stop completely until I really must, because it still gives me great pleasure to have a successful skydive.

I am in the process for the next week or so of taking charge of my state of mind, and finding everything I can to assist me in the process. For better or worse, I'm going on a life adventure, and I sure would like it to be a positive experience. It's funny, it's not the actual conference and the work that is the problem with my state of mind; it's the travel. I know I will enjoy (and endure) the long sessions at the meeting where I must pay attention and take notes, because I've done it successfully in the past. I suppose that if air travel were not such a stressor in itself, I might have a different attitude about it. We'll see what the naturopath can do for me.

In other things going on in my life this week, my friend Judy and I are in the process of seeing all the movies that have been nominated for Oscars. We went both days last weekend and yesterday as well. She said her husband is getting a little miffed at all our movie-going, which reminds me again how fortunate I am to have my guy, who doesn't mind in the least. He's glad I'm not the type to drag him to a movie, but he also knows that if I see one that I know he will enjoy, I'll tell him about it and he will go to see it on his own. We saw Whiplash yesterday, after hearing nothing about it until the Academy Awards were announced. I left the theater feeling literally worn out, since it's a fast-paced story that doesn't let up one iota for the entire time. It was a wonderful experience, but a little hard to take on one hand. I'll say no more about it, but if you're interested, check out the link.

Today we'll go see Selma, which is about Martin Luther King and LBJ during a historic three-month period in 1965. It is a movie that has garnered great reviews and plenty of controversy. Neither the director nor the actor who plays King were nominated, and people feel it's a huge snub. The depiction of LBJ as an obstacle to progress toward the Voting Rights Act is also in dispute. Since I lived through that time, it will be hard to be reminded how awful things were, but it's also a perfect way to remember a man on his birthday weekend who changed history.

Another post is written on a dark Sunday morning. I can hear the rain beating down hard, with the wind whipping around as well. It's also the day when the NFL championship game will be played here in Seattle, and I'm hoping that the weather calms down a little before everyone has to head out to the game. I know my friend Linda in Seattle will be warm and dry in her home watching on TV. I may have to wait until after the movie to find out who won. Go Hawks!


Linda Reeder said...

Good Morning, DJan. The rain is still pounding on the skylight in the bathroom across the hall from me. At 8:00, the light from the window at my shoulder is dim. So far it is indeed a nasty day. I'm hoping to get out for a walk, maybe after the game. I'll either have to walk off stress and excitement, or stress and disappointment.
I am fortunate in my partner, too, in that we do like the same kind of movies. I am hesitant about seeing "Selma", since I remember too well those awful events in the south, but seeing it in honor of MLK makes sense. I felt that way about 12 Years a Slave last year and then was glad I watched it.
As for your travel worries, the flight back and forth is definitely the worst part of travel. I hope you get some calming advice from your naturopath. I also hope you have time for some exploring during your conference. That's a long trip for just four days. We had no trouble with our flight to the Mediterranean in the fall. Lots of hand washing helps.
Hopefully you can work yourself into some peace of mind and look at it as an exciting adventure.

Far Side of Fifty said...

We have lots of those Natural Doctors up here, my Dad went to one once...I think it is all a crap shoot...someone said "WELL you have got to BELIEVE that it will work." Maybe. I have a friend who has been doing flushes for her gallbladder for years...personally I think they along with Chiropractors are all quacks. They just like repeat business. I wish you good luck with your appointment...perhaps he/she will have a recommendation for you.
We don't watch football so I have no idea who is playing what and I saw a good movie yesterday Get Low on Netflix I am about 4 years behind on movies:)

Pippa said...

Oh how lucky to be able to travel to some exotic location! I've always wanted to visit Turkey; I hope you have some downtime to do a little sightseeing. I don't know much about naturopaths, but hopefully they can help you with something natural to relax during those long plane rides. My own recommendation is to get a pneumonia shot from your DR (I am prone to upper resp infections and diseases and it's the best thing ever to keep those away - I have't had bronchitis or pneumonia or even a bad chest cold since I received mine several years ago and I was a yearly candidate for one if not all of those before. It's time for another one for me, I think) and also..this is something I do whenver I am going to be out and about or enclosed with a lot of people..I dab a little hand sanitizer in my nostrils a couple of times a day. That's where most germs get in and it seems to help for me. Just my opinion, of course. I agree lots and lots of hand washing and using antibacterial lotion (like the Drs and Nurses use in the hospital) may help. You want to be able to enjoy and savor this experience, not worry about catching a bad cold. I rarely delurk on here but, to me, this is such exciting news! I hope you are able to blog from there, it would be nice to experience it as you are. Have a wonderful time!

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about the woes of plane travel across several time zones. I was absolutely sick flying from Hawaii to Croatia and then back to Hawaii. This is one of the reasons why I have not returned to Europe since 1990.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I’m surprised to hear about your trip to Turkey but happy for you that you will have such a great adventure. Somehow, since I’ve been following Eye, I didn’t pick up on the fact that you used to travel all over the world. What a great experience. Very neat. Now that I know that, I can see why you have an open mind when reflecting on so many things. Not that you would have a closed mind anyway, but in my opinion, world travel opens a person up to a lot of things they wouldn’t otherwise appreciate. I’ve done a little bit of international travel and one thing it did for me is make me appreciate what we have here in the good ol’ USA. Turkey should be really interesting, I hope you will take lots of photos for us and share them sometime after your return. I can visualize a great post coming on “My trip to Turkey.” : - ) Now, already this morning, you’ve had a few fairly lengthy comments on this post … interesting as well. I think I can second what Pippa said about getting a pneumonia shot, being extra careful about washing hands, and use that sanitizer frequently. I will be sending you some positive vibes about having the strength for such long flights. Oh, you will make it just fine … For me, at least, it’s just more of a psychological barrier about being stuck in those fairly small seats for so long. Thanks for another great post. John

Elephant's Child said...

Turkey? Jealous thoughts. The smaller portion loved it.
Travel is something I dread and these days it is simply too difficult. Or I have decided it is, which comes down to the same thing.
Have a wonderful time, look after yourself and I am soooo looking forward to reading about your trip.

Marty said...

Before I retired I finally realized that on the rare occasions when I developed a cold, I had always just finished some stressful event and had also not been getting enough sleep.
(I was a high school teacher and I think as a result had enough anti-bodies in my system to cure a small country. I literally don't think I've had the flu since the 70s.)
So, yes - mental attitude is a huge factor in wellness. The naturopath sounds like an intriguing idea. How about some yoga, too?

Alexia said...

Antalya is very beautiful, Djan - I spent a week there in 2010, and I would go back to Turkey tomorrow if I could; it's my favourite of all the countries I've been lucky enough to visit.
I do hope you stay well, and have a great time; we'll all enjoy hearing about it.

The Furry Gnome said...

Wow, such long and thoughtful comments! I do hope you have a great time. I've found that I simply could not maintain the mental intensity of things I did before retiring. It's taken me four years to zero in on what I'm comfortable with, which is writing and photography. I've recently found that an absorbing book is the best way to keep my mind off things during a long flight. We also paid a little bit extra to have a driver meet us at the Paris airport and take us to the hotel. Just a bit more than a taxi, but such a relief at the end of a long flight!

Red said...

You have a lot on your mind today. It is hard to slow things down when we become anxious. Enjoy your trip . If you're in good health age is not a barrier. It's good to be challenged. as seniors I think we want to take the easy way out.

#1Nana said...

I'm excited for you. I think it's healthy to break out of your routine, even if it involves a germ infested airplane! I haven't travelled anywhere and still managed to get sick. The spouse says that's what I get for hanging out with the homeless. Safe travels my friend.

Rita said...

I think you'll feel more assured after seeing the naturopath. And--getting sick for a while isn't the worst thing in the world as a trade off for such an adventure. (I usually calm myself by doing worst case scenarios, can you tell?) You could get sick just going to the coffee shop. Getting sick because you went to Turkey...now that's something to brag about. ;) And most people going on shorter trips like this get sick on the way home or right after they get home, so odds are with you to feel well for you guys' last hurrah. And you will have good advice from the naturopath so you shouldn't be sick as long if you do get sick. Just thinking positive over here--LOL! ;)

Enjoy all the movies. I have heard there is controversy about the movie on King. Be interested to hear what you think.

Arkansas Patti said...

Think you are smart to do all you can to get your immune system up and ready. You are all ready a more than healthy example of a senior so any boost you can get should be sufficient. I wish you weren't flying alone but hope you get an interesting and healthy seat buddy to pass the time.
I hope with all the meetings, you still get a chance to tour that mysterious country a bit. How wonderful to be part of something that is focusing on solving our many problems. Looking forward to your account of the trip.
Breathe deeply and relax--as much as possible.

Rian said...

DJan, this post was so inclusive that I had to think about it a while before commenting. First of all, I can't see any problem with you going to Turkey with Mickey as it seems that this is something you are already familiar with (the arrangements and the travel). And from what I know of you from your blog... a bit of adventure is right up your alley.
As far as the travel by plane, that could be a bit dodgy what with air-borne germs and resiliency, but if you take necessary precautions (washing your hands, saline solution in nose, etc.) you should be fine. Stressing out over it is the worse thing you can do. Mind over matter, right? Your body is strong and healthy, you should be fine.
But do keep us informed about the Naturopathic appointment. Sounds interesting.

Sally Wessely said...

You really are taking adventure to an entirely new level with this one, DJan. I so admire you, but I also hear your concerns. You are wise to think about the wear and tear this will take on your body. I think your plan for taking precautions and getting pre-trip advice on staying well is wise. I also like the way you are preparing your mind for the flight. I'm sure you will get up and move around as much as possible on the flight, and I would guess you will wear support stockings etc. Hand washing is key to staying well, they say.

I am so excited for you. This will be very interesting.

Linda Myers said...

Can you imagine, when you're a very old woman, saying to yourself, "I sure am glad I never went to Turkey." It's a fascnating place, and to my mind, worth the discomfort of the airplane. Hopefully you'll have a day to rest before your meeting starts.

Friko said...

I don’t much believe in alternative practitioners. The time they spend with you and the attention they pay you is very nice, but for the money you pay them they do nothing much.

Catching colds and chest infections are the hazards of flying. All that recycled air.

But having said that I sincerely hope that you’ll enjoy this special trip, this reminder of the working you. You are so fit and physically well that surely you will come out the other side happy and with flying colours (pun intended).

Have a great time, drink plenty of (bottled) water and get enough rest as well as a good working balance.

Happy Landings!

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I applaud your decision to go, and your choice to get some nature-based guidance for staying healthy. Western medicine doesn't have all the answers, or even the right questions sometimes! Have a great time on this adventure!