Solo travels for elderly - Peter's real story
Updated: Jan 16
This is a story that I wrote with the help from Peter's daughter, with her and Peter's permission.
Meet Peter, he’s 81.
He had been working as a college teacher for all his life and served enough to be eligible for a decent retirement plan. His both kids are grown-ups with their own separate life and live a thousand miles away from him...
No, this is not a story about being a lonely senior – Peter lives in a very nice small community in one of the western US-states and despite the distance is very close to his children – they come often to visit him and talk by Skype few time per week. However, most of his time he’s left to himself.
When his wife passed away few years ago he thought he wouldn't recover from grief – his daughter even hired Sara – a professional “grief consultant”, who was helping him to overcome the stress. Once she mentioned that it would be good for Peter to go somewhere traveling – to take some time away from the surroundings.
That seemed like a crazy idea – Peter never really traveled in his life, only visiting his children for a few days within the US and at 70 plus going overseas for the first time… No, that seemed too risky! But Sara took courage and discussed her idea with Peter’s children, she saw it as a good way to support the overall therapy and was sure it would bring nothing but the positive effect to Peter’s life.
Long discussions and travel planning followed... Peter recalls how he kept on saying: “No”, but at the same time, deep inside his soul he was dreaming already about the unknown places and journeys that he could make. Yes, dreaming – who said that seniors do not dream? We are used to thinking that they have no interest in anything except for their favorite armchair, short walks and evenings in front of a TV. A recent study shows – the #elderly are more eager to get new knowledge than people in their 20s! One of the reasons, as psychologists explain – they are afraid of being “dropped out” of the life, of being viewed as “outdated, old-fashioned”, so they are trying to understand everything new to them, to feel that they still are a part of the society, part of the community. It’s not very easy though with all the modern technologies that surround us nowadays!
Jerusalem has always been Peter’s favorite destination, but apart from watching TV series on Jerusalem and travel reports on Discovery, he wouldn’t think that this would become a reality one day. The family physician confirmed there were no health issues that may have stopped Peter from traveling unless he has someone with him to provide basic administrative services and support.
A private companion would be the best choice – Peter insisted he didn’t want to go with a group, because he wouldn’t feel comfortable “tied” for two weeks to unknown strange people. Jill, Peter’s daughter, shares her thoughts on how she was looking for a travel companion for her father: “I knew it shouldn’t be a woman – we were trying to help him to recover from the loss of my dear mother, so we didn’t want him to have any emotional parallels by traveling with a female. I knew the travel companion shouldn’t be young – Pete tends of kind of “ruling” over the youth, so that may offend a younger travel professional and cause interrelational issues. I knew the guide should be super-experienced and at the same time smart and easy-going – to become a good travel companion for my father’s first-ever overseas trip... My bro said I`ll never find anyone acceptable (laughing), but eventually, I did”.
Amir – a private travel companion from Israel – turned out to be a gift from heaven. Being a paramedic and having a huge travel experience he was an ideal candidate.
After one month of thorough travel planning, he went all the way from Israel to Seattle to meet Peter at the airport and take him for the journey of his life. Jill said that though she hadn’t seen Amir in person before this meeting at the airport (they were communicating by Skype) she instantly felt that he’s a trustful person and indeed an excellent travel companion for her father.
This first journey was sheer excitement. Amir has a gift of such travel planning that Peter's never felt tired during the trip, and at the same time hasn't felt deprived of something. A professional traveler for more than 30 years, Amir turned out to be a highly valued senior travel companion. Sara was so right when insisted on going for a journey – Peter came back 20 years younger than he left.
Saying goodbye to Amir again at Seattle’s airport he said: “So when is our next trip?” It followed three and a half months later. And then another one followed. And another one is being planned currently.
Peter jokingly blames Amir that he turned him into a travel addict but at the same time he confesses that he feels grateful for this.
Each journey gives him much more that a whole year of therapy at home. He stopped looking back and waits impatiently for the next time he takes a sit on a plane, eagerly waiting for what’s ahead.
Thank you, Jill Giorgiou and Peter Chappell for your input for creation of this article.