Sunday, December 27, 2009



Perhaps you’ve never really accepted being less than completely fit. Maybe your mental image of yourself is from an earlier time, when you felt ten feet tall and bulletproof.

My self-image is of the day in my mid-30s when I walked to Peace Arch Park with my mother and my youngest brother, Rob. It was a beautiful day for a walk. It was also a beautiful day for a run, and I suddenly found myself shouting, “Race you to the arch, Robbie!” It felt wonderful, moving as fast as I could. In my mind’s eye, I still see an idealized mini-movie featuring soft green grass below me, blue sky above me, the Canada-US border in front of us, and Mom laughing behind us.

Alright, I know, my brother was only 13 at the time, and my legs were still longer than his. Okay, maybe Rob wasn’t trying very hard because he really didn’t think I could beat him. Nevertheless, I got there first.

Laughing and perspiring, I panted, “I won!”

“That was pretty good,” he said, with a grin.

Of course it never happened again. A year later, when Rob and I were traveling with a friend in Queensland, Australia, I tried to run, tripped over a tree root, fell flat on my face, and decided enough was enough. But I’ve carried the image of my one victory in my head for years, pushing aside the embarrassing memory of eating Australian dirt, ignoring the pain slowly overtaking me, and trying to ignore the years overtaking me as well.

So don’t think I titled this section “just accept it” because I’m good at acceptance. I’m not. I’m here to say don’t do what I did. Don’t do what I still do from time to time – don’t refuse to accept your limitations.

This may sound contrary to the moral “it’s better to go than not go” but it isn’t. Acceptance is key to enjoying adventurous travel. Accept your limitations by learning to deal with them effectively; accept being unable to do everything your traveling companions can do and, above all, accept help.

Accept help?

Become a little old lady escorted across streets by boy scouts? Oh no, your inner voice screams, I can’t, I won’t, and I never will, so there!

I know, I know. My inner voice screamed the same things, but there were times when I had to accept help from the most unlikely sources... for instance, from my mother.

Good grief.

I’d rather have had a boy scout help me.

Or a girl scout.

So how did I get from there to the Galapagos Islands?


Chapter 4 of An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel (coming soon to a blog near you) tells of the key ingredient the author unearthed while reviewing her past and then attempting to reconcile an unfittie's reluctance to move out of a chair, with a basketball referee's desire to swing through jungles on a rope.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Photos by Richard Schear and Kay Davies, Costa Rica, 2007

The moral of this story should be immediately clear, but in case you’re having one of those days when the obvious doesn’t jump out at you (I have lots of those days), let me state the moral right up front.
It is better to go than not to go.
Enlarging upon that unpretty little sentence: If someone offers you a travel opportunity, you may regret it if you don’t go, but you aren’t likely to regret it if you do go. It still doesn’t roll trippingly off the tongue, does it? So you might want to make it easier for yourself by borrowing a well-known phrase from The Bard: “To be or not to be?”
Because, really, that is the question.
When my husband, flush from his successful exploration (within the boundaries set for tourists) of Charles Darwin’s eye-opening Galapagos Islands, suddenly announced he wanted to go on a wilderness adventure trip to Costa Rica, I suggested he go without me.
“You’ll have more fun if I’m not there to slow you down,” I reasoned. “Go ahead,” I insisted, “I don’t mind.”
“I don’t want to go without you,” he replied.

Aww, that’s sweet. Many a husband would agree, then promptly make a reservation for himself, or decide to take his son instead. My husband only has daughters, and he didn’t immediately suggest taking one of them. Neither did I (more on this subject in another chapter).
“I really don’t want to go if you don’t,” he repeated, “but, you know, they have monkeys.” (Pause while that sinks in.)
“And they have sloths.”
Well, now, sloths I can relate to. Big time.
So I had my own answer. I knew I would regret staying home and never seeing sloths.
This, then, is part of the moral of the story. If you’d regret missing the Louvre when you had the chance; if you’d hate yourself forever for saying no to the Northern Lights; if you’d cry because you never saw dolphins – then don’t miss the opportunity when it is offered.
If the opportunity doesn't arise, it’s different. If I never get a chance to go to Olduvai Gorge to see where the Leakeys found the bones of some of the oldest known hominids, I know I can live with reading about it in books. But if I'm offered a camera safari, and I know there’s a way for me to make the trip, yet I still simper and say, “I don’t want to slow you down,” then I may regret it.
Regret is something we all want to live without, isn’t it? Disappointment we can handle; pain and sorrow await us all; but regret is something we can avoid by the way we respond to life’s opportunities.
Right. Good questions. I asked myself those same questions many times, and learned the answers through experience, both good and bad.
So, like the man (okay, person) who says he (or she) has found a way to make four million dollars in one year without resorting to pyramid schemes, I want to share my hard-won knowledge with you. Not because my way will be perfect for all unfitties of all genders, but because it worked for me – sometimes well, and sometimes, well, not so well.
And it’s been fun.
As Dick likes to point out to me every time he finds a new adventure on which to embark: By the time I get home I’m always glad I went. Ask me at 30,000 feet over one of the major oceans if I’m happy I squeezed my portly self into an uncomfortable airplane seat for nine hours and I’m apt to snarl in reply; but get me home, fed, rested, and within hobbling distance of my very own bathroom, and I’ll admit I’m glad I went.
Give me six months, then I’ll be acting as if the whole thing were my idea to begin with. I’ll be giving slide shows for my church group, explaining the history and geography of faraway places, and I’ll have completely forgotten I didn’t want to go in the first place. True fact.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Living Rivers books, by Gordon Davies

Dad's two books,
The Living Rivers of British Columbia;
The Living Rivers of
British Columbia and Yukon,
are still available from

Gordon Davies was the friend of every river he ever met.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kay visits Giant Pandas in San Diego

Dick and I went to San Diego for the finals of the first World Baseball Championship, which we both enjoyed. We even met people who recognized our Medicine Hat Blue Jays baseball caps. I insisted we also have "Kay's Day at the Zoo" because I'd fallen in love with the San Diego Zoo's Giant Pandas via their panda cam. We saw Su Lin (my second panda cam cub) 'way up in a tree, and her mother, Bai Yun, down below with her back to the crowd. However, daddy Gao Gao is a real ham, and he put on quite an act for us, rolling on his back and flirting upside down with the lady tourists.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


This is a true story. It more or less has a beginning and an end, but it isn’t a novel and it doesn’t have a plot. It happened to me. The ‘I’ in the book is me, Kay Davies, a former workaholic and now a government-registered unfittie; the ‘he’ in the book is my husband Richard Schear, a senior who can still run fast enough to referee high school basketball and football.
Being away from home isn’t a new idea to me. My parents spent some 25 winters in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, as well as many summers traveling and camping while my father gathered material and took thousands of 35mm color transparencies for his books about the rivers of British Columbia.
So travel isn’t new to me, either. When I was younger, I thought nothing of flying from the west coast of Canada to the east coast of the US for a long weekend, or catching a flight to southern California to rent a car and pop down the Baja to visit my parents for a week. I once took a year off to play rather than work, and during that year I took my brother to Australia for a month.
But the time came when it all stopped. Not just running foot races with my youngest brother. That went first, of course, because he got faster as I got slower. But my pick-up-and-take-off lifestyle eventually stopped, too.
I didn’t relinquish my wanderlust willingly, but relinquish it I finally did, because I could no longer work. I could no longer guarantee I’d show up on the job every day, or produce any significant amount of work once I got there. When I was thoroughly beaten down, the government ended up giving me money every month to make up for my general uselessness and lack of reliability.

For a while (for too long, in fact) I fought my fate. I denied it even as I railed against it, and refused to apply for a pension until several different pains and problems in various parts of my body had me pretty much licked. I tried to work, but couldn’t, so I had to sell my house and live on the proceeds. Then I gave up, applied to the feds, and had to wait for my application to be approved. I moved myself and my two cats to a drier climate, but the medication prescribed for one illness had caused more damage to my already beleaguered body. My eyes developed cataracts, my blood sugar went wonky, my bones got terrifyingly thin, and I got fat. I swelled up like a balloon, and I’ve never lost that steroid weight.
I did, however, lose my looks. Sometimes I still wonder which I miss most, a successful career in the newspaper and printing industry, or a pretty face and a slim body.
It’s a tough call.
Newspaper compositors are being replaced by computers every day, and on the other hand, it doesn’t much matter if old ladies aren’t pretty. Dick thinks I’m cute, which is probably why I married him. However, it is a compliment about which I’m ambivalent. Most of the time, I am glad he thinks so, until I remember I’m a cute old lady, not a cute young thing. Sigh.
So, where was I? Ah, yes, I relinquished my lifestyle, moved away from the wet west coast, and some years later settled into semi-domesticity (I’m no one’s idea of a housewife) out here on the prairie, where the deer and the antelope play. I could book a seat-sale flight, or Dick would drive me out to BC to check on my elderly parents a couple of times a year. I’d see other members of the family, visit a few old friends, get some good fish and chips, and it was enough. I was content.
“There are penguins in the Galapagos Islands,” said Dick.
We’ve been traveling ever since.

Playa del Sol, San Felipe, Baja Norte, Mexico


If you've read Chapter One, To the Reader (archived, November) you are almost sure to enjoy Chapter Two, From the Author. It explains how at least one person became an unfittie despite all efforts to the contrary. No amount of ranting and raving, and no amount of denial, could stop the downhill progress from Ordinary Person to government-registered unfittie.