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Who can I hire to go on a trip?

[An example of one solution to that question]

Who will be there to help older people travel when they can’t drive anymore?

It takes a confident, well-adjusted person to accept responsibility for others. Executing a plan for safe passage on a trip also requires flexibility and good critical thinking skills.  With the growing number of elderly in the United States, helping the ones that don’t drive anymore  was a problem I was trying to solve with the creation of a network of reliable Travel Assistants across the USA, called TripTrustees

“I need to hire you as a Travel Assistant to help my brother and his wife make it to our family reunion in Mt Dora, FL next month,” Bill said.  On a nice Spring day in May of 2017, my friend Bill called me in Tallahassee, FL from Orlando.   Bill’s brother Tony, had just completed rehab and had just stopped using a walker.  

“But Bill, Trip Trustees (the company I’d been working on since 2016) isn’t even open yet,” I said, “the website is still under construction.”  One thing about Bill, he had a way of making me feel vitally  important to the cause and super appreciated, so I ended up committing to the trip.

I cleared my schedule for 6 days in June, and promised I’d get his family members there & back safely.  Bill was very grateful that I accepted.  I’d do a favor for him any day.  As it turned out, I got more out of the trip than anyone.  To this day, I’m grateful to Bill for letting me do this “favor” for him.

I rented a spacious minivan where I live in Tallahassee, FL and drove across the Florida/Georgia border to pick up his brother & sister-in-law, Tony & Edna in Thomaston, Georgia, a quaint town with all the charm that only a South Georgian town could have.

What Kind of Things Make Someone a Good Travel Companion?
travel companions for seniors Tallahassee Florida
travel companions for seniors Tallahassee Florida

In a nutshell, travel partners need to be compatible.  It’s the number one way to make a trip go smoothly.  Knowing that your travel partner can be flexible and adventurous is a great peace of mind.  It pays off to make sure your travel partner is someone you communicate well with. (Unless, of course you are dropping someone you don’t like off, far away, and coming back without them. Then the benefits of traveling with someone you don’t like might outweigh the consequences.)

An older couple who is more in love today than they were decades ago, Tony & Edna were a joy to meet.   Their ability to play off of each other’s humor almost guaranteed that the vacation would go smoothly from the very start. As long as they were together, nothing else mattered.  This held true for 6 days.  

 “It’s great having a neighbor like Bob,”  Edna told me, “we never have to worry about our dog getting enough attention.” We finished packing the luggage, inventoried the fishing tackle & dropped the dog  off with Bob, who was all smiles, eager to doggy-sit for the week.

Call TripTrustees
What kind of things can we do on a road trip in a car?

Here’s a list of some popular things to do in a car.

  1. Everybody’s favorite part of a road trip has to be those silly iconic tourist photos we take of ourselves standing in front of:  

the world’s largest butter cow,” 

 “oldest chicken,”

“smallest Bible…,” the more bizarre the better!   

  1. Some people adore squealing away at songs on the radio, made even more enjoyable if friends and family members protest to your “beautiful” voice.
  2. Headphones with music & binge-watching shows on tablets have become the norm for teenagers
  3. Reading on a tablet is a perfect way to finally finish that book. (even in the dark)

Check out this list of games you can play with smaller kids (https://mommypoppins.com/los-angeles-kids/boredom-busters/10-cool-car-games-for-road-trips-other-boring-backseat-moments

A road trip has attractions you just can’t do from 32,000 feet in the air; and it seemed like we had to do all of them.  Tony & Edna loved to go antique hunting, so looking at my watch as I was driving, I tried to distract their attention from the “Largest Antique Store in Florida,” heck maybe the largest in the world… but, of course, they spotted it. The inside of the store was ¼ mile around.
Eventually, we made it to Mt Dora, FL that evening and checked in at the historic Lakeside Inn.  The excitement of the day led us all to exhaustion, so watching the sunset over the water was our last official duty as we collapsed into a peaceful sleep for the night.

What if everyone needs to arrive on different days for a vacation?

If different members of a vacation party show up at different times, that can be a great thing!  Of course, they’ll be missed until they arrive.  But as a group grows, connectivity between individuals  gets diluted. “The more the merrier,” may be true for group interaction at events but meaningful interpersonal communication suffers.  It may soon become a matter of quantity over quality, So, take advantage of what smaller groups might offer, specifically a higher quality of personal interaction.  Planning things to do by yourself or with just a few others could be the best parts of your trip.

The rest of the family wasn’t going to arrive at Mt Dora for 2 more days,  but that was all part of Bill’s plan.  He prearranged a bass fishing trip for Tony, and a trip to the spa for Edna.  The trick was getting Tony & Edna apart from each other, even for just a few hours.  But Tony did catch a Bass & Enda did get her nails done…and they couldn’t wait to tell each other about their days at dinner.

Day 2 featured a guided boat tour of the preserve near the resort, followed by a relaxing afternoon poolside.  Tony loved swimming, but this was his first time back in the water in over a year, a real confidence builder after his recent rehab.  Tony had been a swimming instructor, in addition to his day job as a lawyer.  
Have you ever seen a live Elvis impersonator?  At an “Elvis Convention,” you’re surrounded by Elvis’s, on-stage, in the audience, in the men’s room…just everywhere.  It’s a hoot.  What a treat that the convention was being held in Mt Dora that week. Talk about our good luck!

The Gang’s all here. Show off!

Skillfully landing his floatplane on the lake at the resort, Bill arrived in style on the 3rd day, making it look easy (it’s not). Flying  made for a very short trip from Orlando to Mt. Dora.  The brothers caught up all day while exploring the tiny town of Mt. Dora. For a town that ends quickly in just a few blocks, the food, shopping and music never seemed to end.  That evening Bill “beat the storm” and flew back to Orlando, where we would drive up and meet him the next day. Orlando is  just a short drive from Mt. Dora but, if you have a plane, “why not arrive in style!”

Orlando has no shortage of attractions. So, after brunch at Bill’s beautiful lakeside home, some quality time with the nephews (both canine), and one-upping each other with embarrassing stories (who doesn’t love to do that), we set out to see the newest Wonder Woman movie, eat shrimp & grits at Bubba Gump’s and take in the Blue Man Group show at Universal Studios.

Let’s blow this popsicle stand! [Why is going back home so hard?]

What we feel when a vacation ends can be bitter sweet.  We feel joy (or anger) from our thoughts of how the trip went but, at the same time, we are also processing thoughts of our future, anticipating how much we’ll miss someone (or not miss them).  When past and present thoughts collude in our minds at that moment of departure, emotions vary from tearful sobbing to jumping for joy.  Both are perfectly normal and perfectly human. 

The last day came too fast. “I feel like this has been my vacation, not a work trip” I told Bill as he congratulated me, handing me the first $1 bill that Trip Trustees ever made.  “Gino,” he said, “you just don’t understand.  I can make all the plans in the world & have all the good intentions in the world, but my schedule is so busy, this all would have been  impossible without your service as a Trip Trustee Travel Assistant, I was able to give a great gift to my brother because of you.  Thank you for executing the plan and taking such good care of my brother.  I know it doesn’t feel like it, Gino, but your part was really the most important part of all!”

Back in Thomaston, GA, eyes glistening, emotions held close, I bid Tony & Edna goodbye and grinned ear-to-ear the entire drive back to Tallahassee.  That trip was just as much a gift to me as it was to them.

So what’s the point of Traveling when I have an IPhone?

To quote a few observations from Tony & Enda:

* “Hearing my brother’s contagious laughter in person is worth a million phone calls.”

*“It’s like taking a picture from the top of a mountain.  Pictures never do it justice later when you’re trying to explain how you felt by being up there.”

*[Favorite part?] “Belongingness that can only be felt by actually being there in person.” 

* At the end or our lives, we don’t look back at the things we’ve owned.  We look back at the experiences we’ve had.

*To people who don’t drive anymore, or who are intimidated by the hassles of travel, a “change of scenery” or a family trip means more than ever.  

*Connectivity, belongingness, presence with family & friends and feeling accepted are what make humans thrive. 

*TripTrustees, “Because Some Occasions are Just too Important to Miss.”

Gino Fina, RN/ATP
Trip Trustees
(850) 391-8040
[email protected]

Gino Fina is a RN at TMH, an airline pilot  and founder of Trip Trustees, helping older Americans travel by hiring off-duty & 

retired civic-duty personnel as Travel Assistants.


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