06/08/2015 02:47 pm ET Updated Jun 08, 2016

A Change of Plans

I had received luggage tags to wrap on to my suitcases for the river cruise in France. Of an organized nature, I'd worked up a long list of what to pack--even things like packages of Kleenex and extra shoe laces. I'd paid for the cruise months before, taken trip insurance, and of course secured airline tickets (though the beginning trip to Europe involved an unappealing series of three different flights to reach the start of the cruise). A couple of old friends were coming thousands of miles from South America to stay in my apartment, enjoy the city, and take care of my cat for 12 days.

Everything in order, the way I like it.

And then I hit the fact that this was a trip not well thought out beforehand. My doctor, to whom I had gone for a general check-up and a look at my blood pressure, said, "I'm not worried about your blood pressure. Older people can have higher blood pressure than younger people. You're not going to have a stroke." (Welcome news.)

Then he glanced nearby at my walker, for me now an indispensable adjunct, and said, "What I am worried about is your maybe getting off a boat and falling and breaking an elbow or a knee. Not something to do when you're in France." He paused and gave me an earnest look. "I think that's a trip you ought to forget." (Less welcome news.)

Over many years I have made trips alone, often overseas, trips I've enjoyed and written about. This was going to be one more time traveling solo, in that way not so different from earlier ones, except that years produce changes, and my walking has become, regrettably, lousy. While I meander around my neighborhood with the use of the walker, loading it even onto taxis or city buses, going onshore and strolling around small towns in a foreign country, even with the walker, is another story. My doctor, an old friend, ushered me to the door. "Stay home," he said.

I left his office bearing his advice: a lovely trip was not going to be mine. Though disappointed, I had to admit to a sense of relief, as I had become anxious about the trip.

Then I needed to do something not easy for me, change plans. I'm better if I can plot a line between one point and another, and have it stay. Leaving well enough alone is what I like.

But I set out to untangle what I had organized. I called the cruise line to cancel the trip. What I learned was that any reimbursement would have to come through trip insurance. "Did you have any?" I was asked.

"Yes, thank goodness."

Those forms are in the mail to the insurance company who I hope find my paperwork in order.

The airline (once I got them on the phone) cancelled those tickets and said, after I paid a cancellation fee, that they would reinstate the frequent flyer miles I'd used to purchase the tickets.

My most difficult task was to notify the friends planning to come and stay in my apartment. They had scheduled their trip as far back as when I booked the cruise, and are presently in Canada on a pre-USA jaunt. I composed a profusely apologetic message in Spanish to explain why I had decided to forgo the trip (although I assured them there was nothing really wrong with me).

I don't like going back on my word; my apology was sincere. Lucky for me, my friends are good travelers, more easy-going than I, and they cheerily replied that they would fill in some newly free days in Miami.

We will still have a date for dinner on the night originally planned. I've shopped for a couple of especially nice ties as compensation for taking away their lodging for a few days--and hope I learned from them that plans do change, and often are none the worse for it. Maybe flexibility is the better part of valor!

Stanley Ely writes at length about travel and friends in his book, "Life Up Close, a Memoir" in paperback and ebook.