Great Over 40 Travel: How our Boomer/Zoomer Brains Let Us Down

 

 

ZipI know. You don’t think of yourself as a Boomer.  And a Zoomer – what’s that? Moses Znaimer of ZoomerMedia explains: “Everybody wants to live long, but nobody wants to be ‘Old’. ‘Old’ is not a positive word…You take the word ‘Boomer’ in wide usage, add the concept of ‘Zip!’ and you get ‘Zoomer’.” The bottom line is that those of us who are over 40 have a fixed self-image that is quite a bit younger than our actual age. A Canadian online TV program called “define yourself.ca” offers interesting insights into boomer thinking.  I know my ‘age-gauge’ has stopped at about 38 years of age. Where does your ‘age-gauge’ stop?

Now you might think this sounds dreamy. Who needs to find the location of the fabled fountain of youth when our brains obligingly scrub 10 or more years from our age, unbidden?  Isn’t this just what millions of zoomers need?

Well, when it comes to travel, perhaps not.

I’ve been a dietitian and health coach for many years, and an avid traveler for even more. After a knee surgery several years ago (the ski slope won) followed by crazy amounts of work/desk time, I discovered to my chagrin that I wasn’t quite as ready for the unexpected or the spontaneous on our Cozumel and Rome trips as I’d have liked. Spending more than a few hours snorkeling the reef seemed more chore-like and less magical. VaticanThe (extremely) long tour of the Vatican and Vatican Museum began to resemble a death march in my mind – but I pushed that thought aside. How could that be? In my mind, I wasn’t 47, I was 30-something. Why, then, did the walking tour which ended with the Spanish steps seem interminable? Why did the Baths of Trajan seem so far away? How could the Roman Forum seem less a wonder and more a great expanse to cross on the way to the Pantheon?

It turns out our brains are to blame.

They’re really quite selective in what they notice, and what they toss to the curb. Imagine, if you will, that our brains are beset by a constant, immense amount of information, much like a Twitter stream. We can’t do anything with all that information, so we begin to filter it, just as you filter whom you follow on Twitter. If you don’t like the tweets you are getting on a regular basis from certain users, you unfollow them. And so does your brain when unpleasant information emerges. Information like ‘I’m stiff’. ‘I feel sluggish’. ‘My back hurts’… and so on. Our brains ignore this, and eventually ‘unfollow’. Why?

Several reasons. One is that they carry a torch for our younger selves… that 30-something, for example. Aches and pains and tiredness and health problems tend to be ignored because they aren’t consistent with our younger self-image.

Hiking

Our brains also cause problems if they’ve included “in shape, active” as part of our permanent identities, rather than a temporary description of ourselves at a certain point in time.  This won’t be true for everyone, but for those of use who were sufficiently sporting in our 20s and 30s, our brains may carry that active image well past its sell-by date. Once “in shape, active” is in, our brain uses it to auto-fill any time we think about ourselves – allowing us to miss the very real day to day feedback that our bodies could give us… that we’re lazy slobs who haven’t been mountain-biking in Moab or a regular visitor at the community pool or a hoops, volleyball, or soccer player in years if not decades!

Another way our brains trip us up is that they like to charge in and do everything, feeding us plans and to-do lists and making quick decisions about what we do or don’t have time for…and our bodies can’t get a word in edgewise. What our bodies need to thrive doesn’t appear as a blip on our brain’s radar – until things are so amiss that the signal belatedly gets through as a red alert. Imagine for just a moment if your body, rather than your brain, were planning your day. What kind of a day would your body plan for you? Would it include centering meditation, stretching, a light tasty breakfast high in calcium and plant phytochemicals and fiber (translation = berries with shredded wheat and low fat milk or yogurt)? Perhaps a lovely neighborhood walk or spin on the bike? A foot massage or relaxing bath?

You get the picture. Mostly things that we rarely do, because the brain quickly dismisses or doesn’t even hear the body’s plea for some “me” time.

So try this before your next trip:

Recognize your brain is built to fast-forward past the signs and signals your body is sending so listen more carefully.  If you think of yourself as “in shape, active”, prove it. Ask yourself what you’ve done this week, this month, this year to earn your active identity. If you come up short, don’t feel bad – many of us do. Start adding fun activities to be more active again.Enjoying the sunsetAnd finally, plan one day this week with your body rather than your brain. See what it’s like to spend time taking care of you, instead of taking care of business and others as your brain would have you do.

On your next trip, you’ll be glad you did.

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