5K runs & a funeral as reminders: Life is Now

Ellen walked 10,000 steps daily in Europe & Turkey, then ran a 5k in India. A setback sidelines her, as a funeral reminds her: Life is Now.

New year, new budget slow travel challenges in early retirement. Challenges we wholeheartedly accept and enjoy trying to solve, such as where to go, how to get there, how long to stay. But also other challenges – like aging.

Spouse Tedly and I always tell people we quit working and started full-time traveling while we were young enough and healthy enough to actually do it. Now 8.5 years into this budget slow travel lifestyle, I have to say: I am feeling … older.

Life is Now

When younger, I met sloth and gluttony. They keep coming to visit me over the years, and in recent years, they’ve disguised themselves as excuses on why I became out of shape — excuses like my prescription made me gain weight, exercise is too hard for me in the heat and humidity of Southeast Asia, and my cookie cravings were non-negotiable.

Well, I stopped taking tamoxifen several months ago (evil drug, but it prevents breast cancer recurrence), we finally left Asia for much of 2023, and I traded sugar for more vegetarian protein. It was time to break up with sloth and gluttony.

5K runs

Back in Bucharest (July 2023), I began counting my steps. I kept walking until I hit least 10,000 steps a day. By the time we got to Bulgaria (August 2023), I hit 15,000 steps most days, and flirted with 20,000 on good days. I threw out my back in Varna, and that put me on hold about a week. But I picked up where I left off.

The step counts continued in Turkiye (September, October, and into November 2023), where I added purposeful stair climbs in Beyoğlu, Istanbul. The Cats of Istanbul watched me huff and puff up and down while they relaxed. In Cappadocia, I added canyons and valleys on many amazing hiking trails.

By the time we got to Kochi, India, in late November, I added body weight exercises. By early December, for the first time in many years I started to jog again. I also used our apartment building’s staircase (12 floors top to basement) in addition to walks outside. I was doing 100 flights of stairs by the time we left.

In December I ran my first 5k route in 5.5 years. Amazing! Of course, my time was barely beginner status, but I was happy I did it at all as a 52.5 year-old-woman in average-ish shape. I kept practicing and by January 2, 2024, I reached ‘novice’ time for my age group with a few seconds to spare. Woohoo!!

Here’s the rub. Barely an hour after that great personal victory, I pulled a back muscle — again! It happened from doing something lame — I moved a chair and didn’t bend at the knees. Ugh.

I could lay down or stand up, but sitting was a nightmare. To complicate things, we had two of trains over 36 hours ahead of us to get from Goa to Puducherry.

We hired a private car to take us to the train station in Goa so I could lay down in the back seat, instead of bouncing along in a local bus. Thankfully, the trains were overnight, so the trips were mostly lay down in the berths. During our day-long layover in Bangalore, we paid for lounge chairs so I could continue to rest. Tedly carried nearly every bag of mine – in addition to his own.

I haven’t run since this latest setback. No pushups, no squats, nada. Only yesterday did I get in 10,000 steps on an initial walk around our new ‘home’ in Puducherry.

I ask you: how will a 67-year-old average American retiree easily handle the physical challenges of a budget slow travel lifestyle? Thank God I’m still young, have someone to carry my bags, and in OK health.

The funeral

As I write this, I’m in an Indian community with temples, churches, and mosques. It is raining and someone has been playing the drums since 7:00 a.m. to announce a death in the neighborhood.

A 70-year-old Hindu man died of a heart attack overnight. We saw the procession to honor his life from our front deck.

His Hindu sect does not practice cremation, as the majority does. Instead, he will be buried within 24 hours of his death. Cremation also happens within one day of death.

In all Hindu karmic traditions, a rapid release of the deceased within 24 hours will help the soul leave the body and head for its next life. Too much grieving will ground a soul. A release is a happy occasion – the soul gets to move on, go forward, morph into the next life challenge with an amended scorecard.

Perhaps I know more than most that aging is a gift, thanks to my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment abroad. But also, perhaps the aches and pains and slowed down my gratitude a bit.

When I’m fully healed, I’ll get out there for more slow jogs and body weight exercises, one day at a time.

If you are on the fence about retiring early to travel, do it now. The clock stops for no one.

Life is Now.

Thanks for reading, “5K runs & a funeral as reminders: Life is Now.”

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2 thoughts on “5K runs & a funeral as reminders: Life is Now”

  1. I really enjoy reading this article, actually pretty much everything you both write. I discovered your site during pandemic when you were stuck in my home country Philippines. I very much appreciate how you genuinely care and willing to help my fellow Filipinos. Again, i thank you!!! We are also in the process of retiring early, we do take inspirations from both of you. We wish you well and take care!

    1. Wow, thanks so much, Annie. It makes us happy to know we inspire good people like you. And we *hope to get back to the Philippines in 2024 — stay tuned! Best wishes, always!

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