By Tom Blake
When my partner, Greta, and I had our first date on June 27, 1998, at the Claim Jumper on La Paz, one of the first things we discovered we had in common was a love of traveling. We agreed that if we became a couple, we would try to travel as much as we could while we were physically and financially able to do so.
While we were working, we were able to take one trip a year. Now that we are retired, we are trying to squeeze in as many trips as we reasonably can. We have been blessed; our trips have happened without any serious or dangerous incidents.
However, that does not mean we have not had safety concerns before leaving on trips.
In March 2004, we were going to Spain. Our itinerary back then was to fly to Madrid and hop a train from Madrid’s Atocha train station to go to the Costa del Sol for a week. While there, we planned to take day train trips to Barcelona and Valencia and back. We would return to Madrid by train to the Atocha station.
But on March 4, 2004, a week before we were to leave, our excitement turned to trepidation. Ten terrorists’ bombs ripped through three Spanish train stations, including Atocha, killing 192 and injuring more than 2,000 people. The tracks we would have been on were among the ones bombed.
Our first reaction: “This could have happened to us; it’s too dangerous to go to Spain.” However, we ended up going, but we rented a car instead, which we later realized was likely more dangerous than the train.
A year ago in October, we made travel plans to fly to Germany in April of this year, and then take the train through Brussels to Paris. During our stay in Paris, we had several day trips by train planned and other train trips scheduled in Italy in early May.
On Nov. 13, six coordinated terrorist attacks occurred in Paris, killing 130 people and wounding hundreds more. Those attacks put Greta and I into “Should we go?” mode.
After pondering that question for a couple of months, terrorism in Europe seemed to have settled down. We decided, “Yup, we are going.” We would leave California in early April.
Then, on March 22, two suicide bombers attacked the Brussels Airport, and one attacked a Metro station—35 people died. Again, we wondered, should we just stay in Dana Point and not travel to Europe this year? We decided to go. Our trip turned out to be rewarding and wonderful.
On July 13, 2016, Bastille Day in France, Greta and I were saddened by the ISIS-inspired attack when a truck plowed through a crowded street in Nice, France, killing 85. Greta and I had walked on that same street a few years before.
We weigh events like that versus knowing that time is slipping away, and someday we won’t be able to travel as much as we have over the last 18 years. Then we think of our San Clemente friend, Chris Anastasio, who is 81, and his English girlfriend, Tina, who still travel more than 200 days each year. They are an inspiration to Greta and me.
So this week, it’s travel time again; Greta and I leave for India and Nepal this Saturday, Nov. 12.
Suitcases are packed. Check-off lists are complete. We are raring to go. So, what happens? On Nov. 1, the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi sent out this email:
“Recent Indian media reports indicate ISIL’s desire to attack targets in India,” the email stated. “The U.S. Embassy warns of an increased threat to places in India frequented by Westerners, such as religious sites, markets and festival venues.
“All U.S. citizens are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness as detailed in the State Department’s Worldwide Caution of September 9, 2016.”
Of course, the Taj Mahal is on our bucket list. It’s probably the most frequented site visited by Westerners in all of India. Holy smokes!
We realize how blessed and fortunate we are to be able to travel at our age. We intend to continue to do so for as long as we can, while we are healthy enough to go. We will keep you posted.
Comment from Tom: On Nov. 5, Greta and I attended a Kris Kristofferson concert at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
While standing in the lobby before the show, a woman named Brigitte introduced herself. She said she enjoyed an article in 2015 about us visiting Graz, Austria. Brigitte was born in Linz, Austria, and said she hoped we would continue to write about our travels.
After Brigitte walked away, another woman walked in the direction of Greta and me. She said to her woman friend, “Oh, there’s that guy that writes that love column that we sometimes don’t agree with.” It takes all kinds!
Tom Blake is a Dana Point resident and a former Dana Point businessman who has authored several books on middle-aged dating. See his websites at www.findingloveafter50.com; www.vicsta.com and www.travelafter55.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.