Ever since I retired six years ago, my wife, Meryl, and I have tried to check off the places on our international travel wish list. Luckily, we made it to most of them over the past ten years. During the three years before I stopped working, with an arrangement with my partners to work for two months and then take a month off, this reduced work schedule gave us an excellent opportunity to spend a month away from home in many different locations. It also gave me a head start in getting used to full retirement.
Since we live in Florida, my wife thinks that it is criminal to leave “paradise” during our beautiful winter season (from November to April). She reminds me that “people are paying big bucks to come down here” so it has always made sense for us to schedule our long trips in May-June and September-October. We have found that those are the best times to avoid large crowds and the extreme heat (or cold) in certain places. In addition, Florida in the summer, although hot and humid, is quieter and has less traffic. You just need to know how and when to plan your time outside when it gets up to the high 80s by 9 am.
During the Pandemic, friends and relatives who know that we like to travel have asked me often how we have been adjusting. After several months of self-imposed isolation, we have slowly been coming out of our cocoons. We still have very limited in-person contact, but we have recently returned to doing our own grocery shopping instead of using the delivery services. The social distancing and mask-wearing appears to be well-accepted so we are now comfortable in most supermarkets.
Going for even a 15-minute car ride now seems like an exciting field trip. We try to schedule our Costco runs for the early morning “senior hours” when the store is much less crowded. They have improved the flow so that you can get in and out in very short time.
For a real treat with an international flavor, we go to Whole Foods where spending some time in the cheese section makes us feel as if we are on a foreign trip. We have bought several Spanish and French varieties of sheep, goat and cow’s milk cheese. It reminded us of when we had an extended stay in Valencia and Madrid and used to make tapas every afternoon.
When we went to one of the local fruit and vegetable markets, Maria’s, we found that she had a large selection of Chinese and Thai greens. This reminded us of the trip a few years ago to China and Thailand. She also carries many Central and South American varieties of vegetables and fruits, making us nostalgic for the time we spent in Costa Rica, Ecuador and Peru.
It’s all comes down to your attitude! If you adjust your expectations, you find that you can satisfy your culinary interests by learning to cook many of the dishes you may have tasted during your travels. There has been such an explosion of food blogs during the last year that you can find the recipes for almost every type of cuisine. With some determination, along with the willingness to fail miserably, it has been an amazing experience to learn how to cook many foreign specialties.
Our trips to the Chinese grocer or the Indian/Pakistani store have yielded us with the ingredients that we had thought we would never find here in the United States. With some advice from our Chinese and Indian friends, we are now able to recreate some of the same meals that we enjoyed while traveling to those countries. A recent find has been the snow pea greens that we loved in China and which are very easy to sautee with just a little garlic and olive oil.
We have joked that our favorite restaurant is now our backyard waterfront café. Until the cold weather finally reached Florida in December, we had eaten every dinner for more than eight months on our patio overlooking the lake. It has been a lot of fun cooking together most of the time, and on some nights, we surprise each other with new recipes that we have found on the internet.
I hope that we will be able to resume our travel plans in the future. Who knows when that will be? Until then, we’re having a great time, trying to make the best of this very bizarre situation.