By Guinn Sweet
Robert Louis Stevenson (“Travels With a Donkey,” 1879) said it for me when he wrote, “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
Alas, after my several months-long incapacitation earlier this year, I had assessed my condition, saw that it was not up to my usual pre-80 year old body, and confessed to myself and my family that I could no longer travel. Along comes my birthday, and my great-grandson from Iowa and daughter, Elaine, defied my assessment and TOLD me that I was accompanying her and Kyle to Cozumel for a week’s getaway.
You probably have already guessed that I couldn’t disappoint my children by refusing, so I gave in to their wishes.
The first day out saw me go across the street from the hotel to the beach, dodging traffic and holding my 13-year old grandson’s hand. I had my puzzle book in the other, to make sure that I could properly entertain myself while Elaine and Kyle snorkeled. The whole purpose of our going, I found out, was to expose Kyle to diving and to secure his SCUBA certification.
I had barely finished the first crypto-puzzle when they returned and said that Kyle’s ear was hurting after going deep for a shell he admired on the bottom of the dive area. He had not had experience with rising quickly from depths, so he created some pain for himself. That was it for that first day as far as sand and sun were concerned. I was not unhappy about that, because intermittent rain had begun to fall.
The next day we were scheduled to take Kyle down to Papa Hog’s for his first certification effort. It was cool, and Elaine set a very slow pace in the half-mile walk, for my benefit. I hurt less when I walk the treadmill if I keep up a brisk pace, to prevent hip pain. By the time we reached Papa Hog’s, I was in great pain and sure that I had made a bad mistake in traveling. On the way back to the hotel, I suggested that I set the pace, which I did. The kids went back to the beach and I went to the room for a rest. They returned soon, with Kyle again complaining that his ear hurt.
On the third day, his pain was so bad, and his open water testing was planned for that session of diving, the dive master took him to see a doctor, brought him back to us and presented a diagnosis – a ruptured tympanic membrane, a bill for $60 and two prescriptions. In addition, he had instructions to stay out of the water for two weeks. That’s like telling a fat lady to avoid chocolate for the next two weeks. We had a very mopey young man on our hands, and the holiday was only half over.
In trying to decide what to do for the remainder of the vacation, we came up with the idea of a trip to Wal-Mart (yeah, they are everywhere) and get him some earplugs. I was leery about the smartness of such a decision, but I was out-voted. The program changed regarding his diving certification, and it was decided that in two weeks we would send him to an uncle in Florida, and he would then be healed enough to finish his open water testing requirement.
It was also decided that we needed something to cheer the boy up, since our only recourse for the rest of the trip was to see that he got to eat as much of everything as he wanted, regardless of the expense. His own decision was a trip down the west coast to an un-pronounceable and un-spellable water park for a swim with the dolphins. We couldn’t have made a better decision. That day was the highlight and delight of the entire trip. Kyle and his earplugs visited with the dolphins, taking a picture of him, kissing one and hugging another. He had no earache and only mildly objected to stopping long enough to take his ear medicine.
But the pleasure was not all his. I had suffered greatly from lying prone and sitting erectly on beach seats made to look like resting areas, but which were in reality torture instruments from which I had to literally extricate my backside from the spaces left open on the seating areas. On this blessed day, I ignored the dolphins, spread my towel on the sandy beach, chiseled out large and small depressions in the sand to accommodate the various curves and bulges of my body, and went to blissful sleep.
The next few days we just bummed around, taking a taxi drive around the island, getting acquainted with Jorge, our driver, and visiting some of the beaches along the east coast to see the huge surf.
We also visited the Mayan ruins of San Gervasio and saw the havoc that Hurricane Wilma had wreaked on the island in 2005. All in all, a good result to a potentially unhappy situation. And I CAN travel, still, and will continue to do so – just to travel, as Robert Louis Stevenson tells us.
By Guinn Sweet