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Senior Moment | Happy trails to you!

Senior Grice Connect Reporter, Michele LeBlanc, recaps her solo travels to Canada as she spent the holidays with family. She learned some lessons about traveling as a senior adult and encourages others to take a 'leap of faith' in getting back on the road or up in the air!
Grice Connect's Michele LeBlanc enjoying coffee while solo traveling.

Senior Adults traveling solo face many challenges. Being in that position, for one reason or another, we have to make the big decision. Torn between wanting to go and facing the ideas of the hassles of traveling has curbed many Seniors’ desires. It is easier to enjoy the comfort of our cozy surroundings or drive to a familiar place, than venture outside our comfort zone! But alas, sometimes we must...

Stepping Out!

Celebrating birthdays in our family is HUGE. It is a mandatory occasion that must be attended and celebrated. Let me blame this ‘Tradition’ on my Mother or her Mother (smiling). Sometimes, it is ludicrous to be reluctant to do the things we were so familiar with in the past. ‘Breaking out’ and accepting the challenges can be the ‘challenge’.

My brother recently celebrated his birthday -- all the way up in Canada. Call me ‘Brave,’ but I'm on my way!!

As many know, I was a corporate recruiter and traveled all over the US and Canada at ‘the drop of a dime' in my former life. I became very familiar with many airports, cities, limousines, taxis, and hotels alone. Now, having made a new life in Statesboro, I have not budged, only traveling on occasion to familiar spots or when necessary.

Adventure Begins!

Packed, confirmed, early pickup, and onward to my newest adventure. Upon walking into the airport, initially everything looked the same. Then it was time to check-in. WOW! Suddenly everything was different. (I found multiple kiosks and very few humans.) I knew I was a ‘duck out of water’ (and an old duck, at that). Thankfully, a gracious Georgia Southern grad student asked if she could help. My immediate answer was YES! No time for pride.

Fortunately, I was asked by an airline attendant if I needed or wanted travel assistance getting to the gates. I immediately said YES!! This was truly beneficial since I ran into a few stumbling blocks like flight time changes, picking up the wrong suitcase (my error), not checking the baggage claim number to my checked bag, and grabbing a cab that wasn't inline. A definite NO NO in a busy airport. That ‘assistance’ helped tremendously.

Senior travelers, take note! The airlines offer benefits of assistance to your gate, with a wheelchair or attendant. FREE. (Suggest tipping). Valuable to avoid the lineup crowds, early seating, and a breeze through customs. No time for pride or injuries when you're traveling.

Hilton Head Airport Sign. Photo by Michele LeBlanc.

Great Times in the Great White North!

Toronto, Canada, is a huge metropolitan city, and has a population of 2.8 million. It's the capital and largest, most populated city of the province of Ontario. The city is known for its diverse dining, outstanding museums, and nightlife including World Class theaters and a massive transportation system of subways/buses. Trip Advisor says, “Toronto is described as New York City run by the Swiss, and it's true you, shopping and restaurants there but the sidewalks are clean and the people are friendly.”

Fun, laughter, meeting the newest family members, celebrating my brother's birthday, and being back in my old homeland where people say ‘EH and Hello’ were just a few highlights. The weather was brutally cold (40 degrees with wind chill of 25 or lower), but the good ol' Canucks are prepared.

Homes there were toasty, with temperatures of 78-80+°. Underground parking and instant snow removal are all a way of life. My brother's building has 2 pools (indoor and outdoor) and workout facilities and has converted the indoor tennis courts (climate controlled) to pickleball courts. Great, EH?

Being with my immediate family, all baby boomers, we realized while chattin’ that we all had similar stories and issues. Just living in a different locale. They continuously asked the question, “What's the temperature in Georgia today?” Hoping my answer would be “it's like Florida -- 80 degrees."

Family Tradition - Old and New!

As I said earlier, the purpose for my trip was my brother Michael's birthday. This has always been a celebratory occasion. Bring out the banners, enjoy great food, and invite all to celebrate this auspicious occasion. Generous gifts, beautiful testimonies, and an amazing fresh strawberry shortcake cake by a baker extraordinaire made the day outstanding. Seeing the expression on Michael's face, like a 5 year old, made this trip all worthwhile.

Michael's Birthday Cake. Photo by Michele LeBlanc.
Michael's Birthday Celebration. Left to Right: Michele LeBlanc, Michael Budovitch (brother), Barbara Budovitch (Michael's wife). Photo by Michele LeBlanc. 

Highlights and Adventures!

These highlights of my trip made traveling outside of my comfort zone, literally and figuratively, all worth it. 

Surfing through old picture albums, listening to everyone's story and their version about our descendants, their hardships, and successes.

Visiting favorite eateries beginning with Tim Horton's coffee and tidbits (tasty donut holes), Swiss Chalet Chicken (only a Canadian can enjoy), delicatessens, bagel and luscious European pastry shops, fish & chips, ‘Old English Style,’ delicious Chinese food and finally authentic Greek cuisine -- What calories!! So worth it!!

Matzah Ball Soup with Noodles. Photo by Michele LeBlanc.

Shopping in huge malls, fully decorated for the Holidays with an array of lights, tinsel, reindeer and sleighs measuring 12-15 feet high. Everyone wishing a ‘Happy Holiday.’ Meeting 3 very unique Santas (mobile mannequin Santa, human Santa and Santa Lucy puppy in her own decorated sleigh). Every store you can imagine x2.

Santa and Michele. Photo by Michele LeBlanc. 

Other Amusing Tidbits!

Oh yes, my brother drives a two-seater Mercedes convertible. Guess who got in the back seat ALL the time. No pictures, sorry!

Shopping at WALMART, my sister-in-law said, “It's amazing! They have everything at great prices!’

Toronto’s cost of living is much higher than Statesboro. They have their own currency, predominantly coins and paper. The exchange rate on the American $1.00 US dollar = $1.32 Canadian. Taxes are 13% (5% Federal and 8% provincial sales tax on all goods/services). Definitely an 'eye opener’ especially in a restaurant when tipping. Another ‘WOW' moment!

NO bags in any stores after purchasing. Bring your own, carry out without, or purchase (for 5-50 cents/bag) and all shopping carts you pay $1.00/loonie (Canadian coin) refundable.

With all that said, it was sad to leave but GREAT to be back in the BORO!! Learning one thing from this getaway, I must do this again to remain current in this century! Seniors take a ‘leap of faith’ and challenge yourself!

Enjoy old Traditions and make new ‘Memories’ for your best Senior Moment!