The last line in my previous post about my recovery from pain and hip replacement surgery was: I have no idea what’s on the other side of recovery. That’s to be discovered. It will be a whole new era.

So here’s what’s on the other side of recovery:

I can’t say that I’m fully recovered, but I’m getting there. I’ve been working with a group of specialists at a pain clinic. The work has included trigger-point injections into frozen muscles, a new regime from an exercise specialist, and an eight-week course to understand the nature of pain and how to reverse chronic pain. I’m not back to where I was a few years ago, but I’m now confident I’ll get there, or at least close enough to be able to do all I want.

Here are some of the unconscious beliefs I’ve uncovered in the past few weeks:
Getting old means being in pain.
Getting old means being stiff.
Getting old means inflammation.
I wrecked my body and I’ll never be able to fix it.

Seriously? Seriously?

All of these things may or may not be true, but for sure if I believe them then that’s what I’ll experience.

As I’ve become conscious of these beliefs, and released them, things have improved. A lot. I can now walk over four kilometres with little pain and no inflammation. No inflammation! No recovery time! This is huge. I expect to be able to gradually increase that distance over the next couple of months. Considering that a year ago the best I could do was a slow painful 20-minute walk around the block, I’ve come a long way.

Yay for freedom to move again!

In May of last year Don and I reestablished a home in Vancouver. After nearly six years being nomadic it was an adjustment for me, and involved some grieving, but Don just settled right in. He was happy to have a home again and to stay there.

A few months ago we were out walking and I asked him if he’d want to travel again in the spring. His answer surprised me. It was an enthusiastic yes, let’s do it while we still can. So we decided that we would go to Japan and China in the spring, and Spain, Portugal and Morocco in the fall.

We started researching and planning for Japan and China. More than one experienced traveller has told us that China can be challenging due to difficulties communicating so we’d long ago decided that when we were ready to go to China we’d do a tour. We booked a three-week tour from Beijing to Hong Kong for May, with the idea it would be preceded by a couple of weeks in Japan. At the very last minute for confirming our China tour Don pulled out. He’s developed a medical condition that day to day is not problematic, and probably will eventually heal itself, or may require surgery, but it’s one of those things that could without warning become a medical emergency. He wasn’t prepared to take the risk and travel while it is unresolved.

And so I am going alone.

For the first time since Don and I got together twenty years ago, actually for the first time since I was thirty, thirty-seven years ago, I am travelling solo. It feels huge, and scary, and exciting, and it’s way outside my comfort zone.

It’s a whole new era for Don and me. We’ve been pretty much joined at the hip ever since we got together and now from April 26th I’ll be gone for nearly seven weeks. And to Japan, a country that has virtually no crime but where all written directions are in a symbol-salad that hurts my brain so I won’t be able to read street signs or a map, the language is incomprehensible, and few people speak English. How will I ever find my way around?

Since I realized about five weeks ago that I would be travelling alone I’ve been through a wide range of emotions ranging from elated to downright terrified. Terrified? I’m an experienced traveller, what’s there to be terrified about? None of this is rational; it’s deep basic primal survival stuff. I’ve always had a strong anchor next to me taking care of all the practical details and now I will have to deal with them all myself. The fears were about becoming lost: so lost I couldn’t find my way back to my hostel. Ever. I did say it wasn’t rational.

Another fear was about being alone: it’s so long since I’ve been alone that apparently on some primitive level my very survival felt threatened. I’ve addressed these fears, released the emotional charge around them and now begin to see a light that is all about excitement and a bubbling joy to be travelling and discovering new lands once again. The more I research Japan the more excited I am to be going there.

In China I’ll be travelling with Intrepid Travel on the China Experience tour. My big fear about China is that I won’t be able to keep up with the group. It’s a quite strenuous tour that requires a good level of fitness. There’s a slow 5 km walk on the Great Wall that no doubt will involve a lot of steps. There’s a three-hour hike at altitude that definitely involves plenty of steps and steep paths. And there’s a daylong cycling tour. I’m working on my fitness. Strength and stretching exercises every morning, hiking most days (though I still haven’t gotten much past an hour), and cycling at the gym and workouts in the pool a couple of times a week. I can only hope that when the time comes I’ll be good to go.

Finally at the age of 67 I have a smart phone! I’m slowly wending my way through all the relevant apps. That app that lets me write or speak English and have it translated immediately into Japanese? It is everything! Most of the fear fell away on discovering it. Of course I knew about it. Don has it on his phone but we’ve seldom used it. Suddenly it is real, and relevant, and as if it has arisen in my consciousness for the first time. I’ve been practicing! And there’s another app that lets me plan a journey on the monumentally confusing and intimidating Tokyo metro.

Bit by bit I’m gathering all the information I need to make it as easy as possible. Bit by bit it becomes more and more exciting.

My itinerary:
Tokyo 9 days, Shirakawago (a small village that is a Unesco World Heritage site) 2 days, and Kyoto 6 days. I then fly to Beijing where I have 3 days to regroup and explore a little by myself before joining the tour.

In Tokyo: a day trip to a huge annual flower festival at the foot of Mt Fuji, hopefully cherry blossoms (though I think I’ll be a bit late for that), a sumo stable to watch practice, the fish market, as many back alleys as I can find, Harajuku, and Fuchu for the big annual Kurayami Festival that involves many parades of lanterns, giant taiko drums, floats and dancers.

In Shirakawago: two days to unwind in the country and explore a small traditional village.

In Kyoto: most of the usual shrines and temples, a day trip to Nara, a day trip to Arashiyama, and a day trip to Ine, a small fishing village known as the Venice of Japan.

So it’s a whole new era. We have a home, and I’ll be travelling alone. I’ll keep you posted.

Last Fall in Vancouver.

Next post: My favourite wildlife photos, and the one after that will probably be from the airport.

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2018.