We may be entering a new phase in our travel life.
We've always based travel destinations on our interest in people, their history, and the way they look at the world we share.
That won't change. But until now, we've probably sashayed in on a cruise ship, car, bullet train, or jet, taken in whatever sights were in the way, treated ourselves to a zipline afternoon or a hike, talked to locals we've run into, and left feeling somewhat cheated.
As we get older, though, we find we want to slow down a little, to travel rather than tour, to experience rather than just see.
And the more we talk with other senior travelers, we find there are lots of us who would like to take a little more time to get better acquainted with a place and its people.
So on our next big trip, to Paris, we've vowed to savor the sights, drink in the culture, try to get beyond Bonjour with a few Parisians.
You may be thinking of another place in which you'd like to linger awhile; our tips for planning this trip will work for any destination.
We don't plan to go until the fall, but it's not too early to figure out how we'll get there and how long and where we'll stay. We'll work out the details - what to see, what to do - later.
We're pretty much retired, so getting several weeks blocked out on our calendars was no problem. Lodging was not so simple.
Paris, we figured, deserves at least two weeks - three would be better. We plan to avoid the midsummer sizzle and swarms by going in mid- to late September.
An expensive hotel is not an option for us for that length of time. Besides, we want to get a taste of Paris, not some cookie-cutter American version of it.
B&Bs have served us well on many trips. And we have made unforgettable connections through brief homestays in Wales and Italy.
Our landlords in Cardiff served us tea and cakes in the afternoon and regaled us with stories of the Gaelic language the Welsh people have worked hard to revive. Our landlords in Rome walked with us along the Tiber River in their in-city neighborhood and drove us one afternoon to the catacombs on the outskirts of town.
But among our all-time favorite homes-away-from-home was the apartment we rented for a brief stay in Prague. Our place was the lower floor of a three-story building; the owner lived on the top two floors.
The place was large, with high ceilings, and had recently been renovated after the nearby river flooded. It was near a bus route that fed into the subway system, which, in turn, took us to the old city.
Our landlady, a chemist, had stocked the refrigerator with fruit, milk, and the silkiest, most delectable yogurt we'd ever tasted. She and her husband took us to lunch one day and drove us up to the top of a hill to view the concrete-box apartment buildings thrown up by the Soviets before the Czechs rebelled in the Velvet Revolution of 1989. We loved hearing their stories of the bad old days of Soviet occupation and their hopes for the future.
So we decided this time, we'd try to find an apartment in some close-in Parisian neighborhood. To locate one, we phoned friends who know more about the City of Light (and Love) than we do, and scoured the Internet, where we found a nice studio apartment (at least the online photos look good) a few blocks from the Seine.
It will be much less expensive than staying in a hotel. Plus, we'll have the freedom to come and go without disturbing B&B hosts. And there's a kitchen for morning breakfasts and the option to fix a meal or two for ourselves.
Our pretrip planning always includes a lot of reading to try to get a feel for the place.
In this case, John wanted to know more about the Napoleonic era and the French Revolution before we get to the Louvre and Versailles. Sally wanted to know about those haute French vixens, Louis' Marie Antoinette and Napoleon's Josephine, and something about the cuisine France is so noted for.
But both of us are curious about what makes Paris tick, what makes Parisians different from, say, folks in Philadelphia.
You can find dozens of good travel articles on the Internet about almost any place in the world.
A troll through the Internet and a trip to our favorite secondhand book store bagged us a tote full of French histories and memoirs, a list of movies to watch, and a ream of online travel articles starring Paris. We also found three books on French culture and what makes the French so, well, French.
We'll get to all that in the months between now and our D (for departure) Day.
In the meantime, we're also looking for ways to better connect with the people and decide what to do once we get there:
Most European cities have an online English-language newspaper; beginning to read one now likely will help in our planning.
Our Paris landlord has promised to e-mail us suggestions for meeting the neighbors.
We've found some English-language churches whose websites list Sunday-service times and midweek cultural programs.
Sally looked up the alumni association at her alma mater and found it has international groups in several cities.
And we've discovered that several Parisians hold periodic dinners catering to visiting Americans.
That's a start.
By the time we get to Paris, we should be ready to soak up the city and all it has to offer.
Who knows whether this slower-paced version of travel will be the way we'll want to see more of the world from now on?
Stay tuned, and we'll let you know.