Cadiz, Spain hangs out into the Atlantic Ocean like a mitten on a string. Its narrow and winding cobblestone streets force all the cars to its edges leaving the old town as it has been for centuries – a pedestrian haven. So much so, that the occasional driver holds a look of embarrassment and apology as he disrupts the easiness of street life.
This week we wandered east of the old town center, each day taking a new path to a small Spanish school on playa Victoria, a beach reaching for miles all the way to the mainland. Our Spanish conversation class was a real melting pot; we came from Poland, the Czech Republic, Finland and the USA. All of us were over 55 and I was struck by the courage and fortitude of we elders as we tripped on new words and phrases, forging ahead, over and over, in spite of ourselves.
Aging is definitely not for the faint of heart. Between the aching body, softening mind, and impending death there is no shortage of inconvenient changes to challenge us in our later years. Still, amidst these signs of decline, I think, are the seeds of opportunity. Ram Dass coined the term ‘conscious aging’ to describe the art of embracing the third act of life.
For me, travel is a way to age with mindful intention. I love the unexpected delights of each city as I wander, coming across ancient churches, quaint squares and bustling markets. I love the challenge of using new vocabulary words with shopkeepers and waiters. As I walk with Daniel after Spanish class on an ancient beach where long ago the Phoenicians meandered, I know that my time on planet earth is limited. But looking out at the turquoise water, I say, “Si, gracias” to each new moment.