If one were to make a list of everything taken for granted in youth, it would be shamefully long. Alas, we put light value on life's treasures in our younger years because we get the gift of perspective only after time and experience.
But one thing about perspective is for certain: By the time we reach retirement, we've got it. We can appreciate our freedom. And we're certainly not about to squander it.
Neither are we going to settle for careers as couch potatoes. (After all, how many sitcoms can one absorb in a normal life? I for one could go for something way more interesting and authentic; and you're welcome to get on the bandwagon with me.)
Despite our culture's clinging nostalgic attachment to youth, let's face it, youth does have its limitations - time and money come to mind immediately. If one doesn't have the time, one can't get away; and if one doesn't have money, one can't get very far. (This is the same principle that forces fully-grown kids, no longer living at home, to drive right back to the old homestead for a chance to borrow a little money to tide them over, right?)
Ahh, retirement, when it all comes together at once. Free at last, to choose whatever one likes. And these days, we are generally healthier than our forebears, with more options than they had, and more years in which to take advantage of them. To bend an old saw slightly, the world is your oyster bar.
In these glorious times, we no longer have to succumb to the myths of what one can't do past a "certain age." We, as a culture, take care of our health and agility, and those of us who spent 40 years or so sitting behind a desk sometimes discover that we're in better shape now than we were before we retired.
On top of that, we enjoy less stress, more liberty and more time to plan our recreation. If we want to do something physically ambitious, we can train for it ahead of time - perhaps more vigorous exercise than usual, perhaps a little time in the pool, perhaps dropping a few pounds or giving up the cart and carrying the clubs for 18 holes. And we can accomplish this all with more joy, ease and grace than when we had all those other obligations and obstacles in pre-retirement years.
I say leave those complications to the young. This writer has one basic attitude that's never failed to lift my spirits or add value to my life, and has never been truer than in the retirement years. Here it is - the secret of life in just two words: Let's Go!
Think about it. When was the last time you paddled a kayak (yes, but on the ocean?) or picked wildflowers (yes, but in the English countryside?), or rode a horse (yes, but down a the side of a volcano?). These days they call that adventure - "soft adventure" is the correct and trendy phrase, although no one can define it precisely. You'll find it on vacations that can really get your motor running.
So ask yourself, have things become routine? Have you slipped into a little rut lately? Then break out of it and get yourself an experience that's about 2% perspiration and at least 98% fun. Make those 45-year-olds who are stuck behind desks, look like the fuddy-duddies they are.
It feels so good!
Camels and desert air? Expeditions to Antarctica? Discovering South America?
Whatever, expert guides can take you into the brave new world - white-water rafting, on safari, into the rainforest ...
And most trips rate themselves in advance, so you can pick one that suits your preferred level of exertion in exotic lands. Of course, sometimes it's not about exertion, it's about learning how to participate in an activity you've never tried before - how daring, how bold!
Snowshoe at a ski resort. Hike a national park. Try your hand at deep-sea fishing. Paddle yourself along a quiet shoreline.
A well-chosen, well-planned trip can become an invigorating blend of active adventure, culture and relaxation ... all the ingredients of serious fun.
So plan something new - perhaps one of the trips that follow, perhaps another idea we can orchestrate for you. But do allow yourself to be tempted off the treadmill and into hiking shoes, out of the garden and into the rainforest - yes, even bag golf clubs and head for a helicopter. There's a whole world of adventure waiting out there ... come and get it!
Forge through lush jungle thickets, or pause along a craggy ridge to gaze at a cascading falls. Stand knee-deep in an alpine stream and cast your fly rod into crystalline waters. Wherever you are, your spirit has called you here - to this place where there are no roads, no trails, no signs of the life you left behind. It is but a piece of pure wilderness that, for this moment at least, is yours alone.
Are you ready for a walk on the wild side? How about a flight? This one-of-a-kind heli-adventure will transport you to the little-seen world of western Canada's majestic mountains, vast valleys, rushing rivers and thick alpine forests.
Fly by helicopter to the remote Columbia Mountains of British Columbia, where your oh-so-homey mountain lodge awaits. Daily helicopter flights deliver you on incredible mountain hikes along 9,000-foot ridges, past glittering glaciers and stunning meadows blanketed in wildflowers. There, nature overpowers you, but you're not overwhelmed; a Canadian Mountain Holiday accommodates hikers of all abilities.
Stop for lunch along a tranquil alpine lake, sitting silently as a family of caribou pauses to drink nearby. Head off with your guide in search of mountain goats, or go birdwatching; the days are completely flexible.
Then head back to your lodge, which blends harmoniously into its mountain surroundings. Enjoy a massage, relax by the stone fireplace, or share stories over the glassed topographic map. Sumptuous dinners are complimented with lively conversations among guests and staff.
Afterward, retreat to your cozy bedroom with all the modern amenities, including a comfy duvet, private bath and plenty of space. Outdoor sundecks, whirlpools and saunas help complete the "back to nature" scene, with a touch of luxury.
Travel between June and September on your choice of three-, four- and six-night trips with Canadian Mountain Holidays and for your best deal.
Hang on tight, because we know a sleek French adventure yacht that is going to take your breath away. Le Levant will carry you on the sort of adventure that, until its arrival just two years ago, was never achieved with such style.
Jungle treks through thick forest. Visits to hidden Indian villages. Zodiac rides in search of the elusive pink dolphin. With a full tenth of the earth's flora and fauna and an amazing array of wildlife, Amazonia is an explorer's paradise.
Each moment, the landscape can change before your eyes, from the darkest expanses to the palest of green, from silver sunrises to iridescent sunsets. Squawks and chirps of mysterious origin play counterpoint to the jungle's silence. Scents of orchids and acacia hang in the warm air.
Your Amazon voyage follows the storied river to towns such as these, with names as exotic as their environs: Amapa, Limao, Macapa, Pucurui, and Guajara.
Pass stilt villages as smiling children in canoes paddle to greet you. Watch for capuchin monkeys, three-toed sloths and caimans - a little relative of the alligator - slipping noiselessly into the water.
Stop in Alter do Chao, where the waters of the crystal Tapajos River and the dark "Lago Verde" (Green Lagoon) meet but never mix. You'll also visit Bailaio and Manaus. Onboard, the atmosphere is leisurely, with naturalist guides sharing stories with you and just 89 others, while a crew of 50 makes your journey enormously comfortable.
Travel in Amazonia from November through December. Prices start in the $4,600-$5,200 range.
Laughing gulls chuckle and willets watch with interest as you disembark Lindblad Special Expeditions' Zodiac craft. Stroll ashore as Darwin did, to find sea lion pups playing about you while their lounging mothers sun themselves nearby.
Some 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador lies this nature lover's paradise, isolated from the mainland and man's intrusion. With your own Lindblad team of naturalists, historians and cultural experts onboard the ship Polaris, you'll encounter wildlife that doesn't fear people, and exists no place else in the world.
Snap a shot of a blue-footed boobie trying to impress potential mates with wild dancing, or a capture the image of a feral dog digging nearby. Careful! You don't want to disturb that passing iguana.
Keep an eye out for an endangered giant tortoise plodding across the sand. Snorkel with sea urchins and conger eels, or watch them from Lindblad's own glassbottom boat.
Fly from Miami to Guayaquil for an overnight before your flight to Baltra Island, where you'll embark the Polaris. Life onboard is intimate and informal; you and just a small group of guests will find comfortable rooms and a spacious lounge for evening recaps and socializing.
Spend six full days exploring the islands, investigating Hood, Floreana, Tower, Isabela, Fernandina, James, Bartolome and Santa Cruz with a fleet of Zodiacs. The itineraries are kept flexible so you can, say, follow a school of dolphin or go off birding on your own. Afterward you'll overnight in Quito, Ecuador's capitol, for a tour of this colonial city before returning to Miami.