In late November of 2011, while living in Costa Rica, I was contacted by a friend of a friend. Introducing herself, she said she was bicycling through Costa Rica, down to Panama, and our mutual friend had suggested she contact me. I, myself having been a traveler and receiving the hospitality of many friends of friends and total strangers , was quick to invite her to stop on by. Eleven years ago, she would have been 60 years old. Though I don’t know all the details of her life, I know she’s lived a simple life, house-sitting for some of the same folks each year, working half the year in a co-op in Corvallis, and, most pertinent to this story, going off to a foreign country where she would buy a bike upon arrival, and set off touring.
This is when I met her where that year’s adventure brought her to Costa Rica. She’d bought fairly simple 10- or 15-speed (definitely not the high-end bikes). With two small funky bags strapped to the back, she came and stayed at my house for a few days, participating in the English classes I taught my neighbor children, but eventually headed down to Panama for a month, through the Christmas and New Year’s season. She returned back to my place in Southern Costa Rica before heading up to Nicaragua. She had been doing this for several years before then, and she’s done it since then. Each time, after her four or six months of exploring a new country, she’d then donate her bike to an orphanage or similar place for others less advantaged to use.
I missed her in Bogota, Colombia, by a couple weeks in 2013, I think it was, when I’d gone down for a month-long CELTA course. I had the chance to meet with her in Taiwan as I was flying to Thailand for a month, but I chose not to get sidetracked from my goal. COVID kept her in the States these past two years, where she biked around Texas, she said. I’ve met with her once in Corvallis when I was driving down to visit my son in Humboldt County. But our meetings and correspondence are hit and miss.
But she recently contacted me and asked if I’d like to participate in what she called a “survey,” her instructions: “Hello my elder friends. In my exploration of how to age ‘gracefully’. I feel I’d like some other inspirations and perspectives. My idea is please send a pic and a few words that tell something positive about this time of your life,” adding, “I’m now 71, I want this to be successful seventies.”
She should know better than to ask ME to send “a few words.” This is my recipe for staying young or aging gracefully…