Age is no reason to check out of travel adventures

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Sally Macdonald overcame a fear of heights for a zip-lining adventure.

We have a saying that’s come in handy in our travels: "We’ll never see these people again."

It often ends with "So go for it!"

It’s a pep talk we’ve used when we’ve stretched ourselves beyond what some people our age might consider doing. Like strapping up for a zip-lining adventure even though you really don’t like heights. Or ignoring your senior-citizen body to join the bikini crowd for snorkeling. Or eating a crispy fried bug in some exotic setting even though the thought of doing so back home would make you slightly nauseated.

Sometimes we seniors are intimidated by foreign customs, youthful exuberance, or a few well-earned wrinkles. But a vacation is no time to give in to self-bullying. Just because we’re a little older doesn’t mean we have to forego the siren call of travel adventure.

We are still pretty healthy, so we haven’t had to scale back on our travel schedules in a major way yet. We were the last two to make it to the top of the ridge on a mountain hike with a bunch of fellow travelers in New Zealand not long ago. But we made it in time for tea and cookies at the summit before the trek downhill.

One of the leaders of the group dropped back for a little while to hike with Sally — the kind of encouragement that keeps us older travelers coming back for more.

There are lots of ways to stretch your love of travel beyond what may be the limitations of your years.

It’s sometimes just a matter of adjustment.

Years ago, when we were joggers, we marveled at the details we noticed on morning runs through strange cities. We’d stop to examine ancient doorways that opened into mysterious courtyards or watch the outcome of an impromptu soccer match in the street. You can’t do that from a rental car or tour bus.

We decided some time ago it was time to save our knees from so much punishment. So now we walk. And we see as much as we did as joggers.

Once we set aside time to learn to speak a little Spanish, thinking it would enhance travels to lots of places on our bucket list. Language doesn’t come easily to either of us, and we found ourselves spending hours each week memorizing vocabulary.

But our Spanish came in handy last year when we decided to take a short traveler’s course in Italian before a trip to Italy. The two languages are so similar that we didn’t have to study nearly as much to get a good feel for buying rail passes and ordering pastas.

Sometimes the definition of adventure is personal, a matter of individual comfort level, not necessarily age.

Take bungee jumping, parasailing and zip-lining. Neither of us would jump off a cliff or bridge attached by the ankles to a bungee cord — probably too old for that, anyway.

But John once went parasailing in Mexico and he still talks about how much fun it was. Parasailing scares the heck out of Sally, who watched his great adventure from the beach. She has a slight fear of heights and worried that she’d become paralyzed in the air and forget how to pull the right cord to return to terra firma.

But she didn’t hesitate to zip-line a few years ago in Jamaica. Go figure.

Food is an adventure all travelers can dig into, as a group of our friends on Facebook have been discussing — several have enjoyed eating the occasional bug while on vacation.

We once found ourselves in China over Thanksgiving, and, figuring there would be no turkey and dressing within a thousand miles, we hired a guide to help us order a fine luncheon of braised and gravied snake in a restaurant that looked like it was decorated by Ronald McDonald — all orange and yellow with plastic tables and booths.

We got to choose our snake (we hadn’t a clue as to which of several of the slithery critters in a huge terrarium would be tasty and tender). But we chose one and the poor guy was murdered in front of us and whisked back to the kitchen to be turned into lunch.

He was pretty good. Tasted, as they say, just like chicken.

That’s not an adventure we’d choose to have at home in America. And we certainly ate lightly and a little hesitantly. But we’d do it again in a minute.

By all means, consider your own health and abilities (to say nothing of whether you can stomach a well-cooked bug) when you’re on the go, and don’t take unnecessary or scary chances. But don’t sell yourself short by considering only your years when it comes to travel.

We’d have to agree with Bruce Willis, who was quoted recently on the subject of aging gracefully by an Internet entertainment site, Filmcritic. com:

"There’s only one thing to do, and that’s start living it up. Right now."

John and Sally Macdonald are freelance writers who live on a houseboat in Seattle.