My last haircut was in January 2020 when my husband Barry and I were vacationing in La Paz, a city on the Baja Peninsula. Then came COVID.
Unable to get a haircut at a salon, I ordered a $4.00 double-ended razor comb, a nifty tool that thins hair — and I’ve never looked back. I’ll admit that it’s difficult to get to certain parts, but for the most part my hair looks pretty professional. My problem is that I love the vigorous feel of shaving my hair so much that I go overboard and end up with shaved spots! Barry threatens to hide the comb if I abuse it, but it’s great for channeling aggressive energy.
This is just one example of an activity I’ve given up as I’ve gotten older. While some people are still filling their bucket lists, at 71 I’m more interested in what I call the “unbucket” list — the things I’ve decided not to do anymore.
Here are 7 more:
1. Bicycle tours in Europe
For many years Barry and I toured Europe on our bikes. We would ship our bikes to Nice, Milan, Athens or wherever we started and cycle through beautiful countryside for several weeks. Exploring an area by bike is much more intimate and immediate than by car or train.
After about 20 years we were ready for another routine. While bikes offer freedom and flexibility, they can also mean a lot of work. For example, lugging up our panniers Col (Pass) after another in the Pyrenees got a bit old! On the pass we would enjoy stunning scenery followed by a delicious descent – only to face another steep climb.
Where to leave the bags we packed the bikes in was also a challenge. A year ago, in those innocent days before 9/11, I actually convinced the British Airways officials in Turin, Italy, that we should let them at the BA airport office.
We still take our bikes to Europe sometimes, but now we’re settled in one place and live in an Airbnb (or through a home swap with the house we own in Guanajuato, Mexico).
2. Inline skating
The year I turned 40, I bought inline skates as a birthday present. I loved to skate around my neighborhood in Palo Alto, especially early in the morning. I would glide through the empty, dreamy streets and breathe in the morning air. I’ve even taken my skates on family vacations and professional conferences because they were so portable and easy to pack.
Unfortunately, none of the cities I live in now — Eureka on California’s north coast or Guanajuato in Mexico — are skate-friendly. Guanajuato is steep, hilly, and riddled with obstacles, and many of Eureka’s roads are rough. Also, a few years ago I slipped on a crack and broke my wrist. I’m more afraid of falling than I used to be. I reluctantly gave up skating.
3. Invest in another car
Barry and I own an aged 1990 Mazda Miata and a 2003 VW Camper. While I’m jealous of our friends and family who own hybrid and electric cars – which are clearly more environmentally friendly – we don’t because in Eureka we only have one – or drive the Miata twice a week. In Guanajuato, a very pedestrian-friendly city, we neither have nor want a car. If we drove a lot, it would make sense to buy a hybrid or electric car, but since we don’t, using the raw materials needed to make and ship a car doesn’t help the planet.
4. Join a gym
In the past I’ve often gone to the gym not only to get in shape, but also for two other reasons: when I was new in town and wanted to meet people; and as a self-employed person because I had to get out of the house. Nowadays I don’t feel the need because I have other opportunities to meet people and I’m already in and out of our house. In both Eureka and Guanajuato I have fitness equipment such as kettlebells, a yoga mat and a foam roller. I’m also a big believer in bodyweight exercises like push-ups and planks.
5. Visiting language schools
For many years I studied Spanish in different parts of Mexico. Although language schools always assess new students, I have found classes to be inconsistent, with different levels of proficiency in the same class, which leaves me frustrated. I decided that I would rather use my money to pay a decent salary to a Spanish teacher than to pay for school overheads. With a tutor, I can also focus on the topics that interest me. For example, one year my teacher, Laura, helped me prepare the talks I gave on wellness to working moms in Guanajuato. My current tutor, Camila, is so good that I study with her in person when I’m in Guanajuato and on Skype when I’m away.
6. Question Eureka as a hometown
Barry and I chose Eureka by accident, moved there in 2001 and although many things have changed in our lives we have lived in the same apartment in the old town the whole time. Although I love the region, I have never fallen in love with Eureka itself and have long wanted to live elsewhere. But where? As self-employed, partial retirement, we could live anywhere. The towns of Eugene and Ashland in inland Oregon appealed to me, but over the years their vulnerability to heat and wildfires made them look less attractive.
Meanwhile, Eureka improved. Now I can walk the newly completed Waterfront Trail with friends, stroll the beach and paddle my SUP in Humboldt Bay less than three minutes from our condo. For now, Eureka is a good base for part of the year.
I’m reading Melody Warnick’s book This is where you belong: finding home wherever you are, also helped. She claims that loving a place (like loving a person) is not a feeling, but an active daily choice.
7. Longing to write memories
For years I’ve dreamed of writing a bestseller and being interviewed by Oprah. I’ve discovered that too much digging through the crevices of my past makes me feel bored, lethargic, and depressed. For example, whenever I re-read one of my youth diaries, I find myself constantly questioning my younger self. Why all the fuss? Why didn’t I…? As soon as I emerge from the diary cave, I rub my eyes and stretch, relieved to be back in the daylight.
Through travel waiting and other websites where I publish my articles, I like to share anecdotes from my life. I don’t think long, sustained confrontation with my past is a healthy choice for me.
Of course there are still many things I want to do. To keep writing, reviving my dormant sketchbook practice, reading more in Spanish, trying new spiralizer recipes and exploring the beauty of the planet. In the second half of my life, instead of focusing on what I want more, my goal is to let go of what I don’t need and enjoy the joys I already have.
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