Travel, Interrupted

Those of you who have followed my blog know that I’ve reached a stage in my life where travel feels paramount.  This is a longing that I feel in my gut, driven by a sense that there is much more time behind than in front of me.  I see my mother and my in-laws in their 80s and 90s, and I know that there is not an infinite amount of time left to me, and more places on my list than there is time to visit them.  After years of working and parenting, there also is a feeling of needing to bust out – to be free of demands, free to wake when I want, eat what I want and roam where I want.

So you must be as astonished as me to learn that we: (a) are not travelling and (b) have bought a house.

The reasons – like life itself — are complicated and contradictory.

It started with Lachie, our 16-year-old Cairn terrier.  Lachie is the emotional nexus of our family.  It’s not just that like all dogs he’s always happy to see us and never grumpy.  Look at that face.  You can see that he’s truly empathic and kind.  He always thanks me for his morning meal with a little lick to my bare toes.  And when he wants attention, or he thinks I need some, he prompts a cuddle with a gentle nudge to my shin.  Niall swears he understands English, but I think he just understands people.

Lachie also is old, and the problem with old dogs is that they don’t like change.  He is happiest at home, with his people around him, and his routine predictable.  We bought the Airstream because we believed (hoped) that he would be able to travel.  The trailer itself is fine, but he is now afraid of vehicles.  He pants and paces and his eyes are wild with fear.  He becomes acutely sensitive to any signs of stress in his people.  Like Julian trying to back a 27-foot trailer into a narrow camping spot… He is inconsolable.  He will consent to being held for a while, but after a couple of hours his panic wins.

Yes, we tried drugs.  They work a little bit, sometimes.

As rational beings, we considered putting him down.  Freaking out in a car must feel awful.  He’s mostly blind, and he has seniors’ moments where he walks into a room and has clearly forgotten why he’s there. Sometimes he seems depressed.  Then there are other days.  Like when it snowed for the first time this fall and he gamboled on his morning walk like a lamb.  He was born and raised in Ottawa, and he loves nothing more than to ram his snout into soft, new snow and fling it into the air so he can leap and catch the flakes in his mouth.

Niall said it best.  We made a family decision to get him and it’s not his fault that he can’t see or walk very far, and sleeps most of the time.  He’s just old.  It’s up to us to be as kind to him now as he’s been to us throughout his life.

(Kind of like parents.  So, for purely selfish reasons, we were relieved to hear this opinion.  I guess neither of us has to fear an ice floe in our future.)

We haven’t given up on travel completely.  But the Airstream’s out.  Our trips will have to be shorter, and supported by people willing to stay with and walk the dog (thanks to both Marianne and Michelle for offering!).  We won’t be able to travel as much or as often as we want until he is ready to leave us.

So what does Lachie have to do with buying a house?

Well, 3 adults sharing a 2 bedroom condo during ski season is one thing.  It’s quite another for months on end when one is studying at university, one is researching family history, and the third likes DIY projects that involve (for instance, just what he’s doing today) cutting holes in the drywall to move a light fixture 6 inches.  After 8 months of stepping over one another’s piles and trying to find hidey-holes to read a book or surf the web in peace, we conceded defeat.

The new house is wonderful.  It’s spacious, new and modern.  It’s in a neighbourhood filled with people who actually live in Whistler.  There’s a spare bedroom for those of you who’d like to visit, and each of us has a room of his/her own.  (Actually, mine is also the guest bedroom, but I promise neither to write nor to be surly because I can’t during your visit).

Most important, this house and Whistler feel like home.

My friend Dianne has a saying posted on her fridge: Go where you’re appreciated, not where you’re tolerated.  Whistler feels like a place where we can all be appreciated, where there are other square pegs with whom to share a laugh, a glorious run on a bluebird day, thoughts about a good book or coffee after yoga.

So while I am chafing that all of our friends seem to be on vacation right now – October being prime time for us wrinklies to travel – it also feels good to be home.

Oh, and I just booked a two-week holiday to Spain.


  1. David

    Hope we can walk to your new home! Glad to see Lachie is still hanging in there (was worried by opening photo of this post)!

    Just finished trek (gruelling; perhaps we are getting too old; but at least we’re thinner now…).

    See you soon for skiing, eating, drinks….

    David & Michelle
    (currently in Pokhara, Nepal)

    1. Post
      Valerie Whiffen

      Great to hear from you both! Glad to hear that the grueling trek hasn’t lessened your enthusiasm for good food and wine. Give us a call when you get back to Whistler. We’d love to hear all about Nepal.

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