Last updated on February 1st, 2022
Feature Image: Seasoned solo travellers might retire from their careers, but they don’t retire from travel. / Photo credit: anatolily_gleb on Adobe Stock
Never Let Age Stop You From Trying Something New
Seasoned JourneyWomen solo travellers might retire from their careers, but they don’t retire from life. They don’t retire from travel, even if health issues might eventually bench them. What do they do instead? Prove that you’re only as old as you feel and act.
We asked JourneyWomen 65+ to share the most age-defying things they’ve ever done while travelling, and what flooded in looks a lot like the bucket list adventures of women decades younger. Read on for a smorgasbord of inspiring stories from 11 pioneering JourneyWomen who show us all that age ain’t nothing but a number.
Overcoming injury and fear in Peru to make new wooly friends
Marti S. was over 70 she travelled to Peru with Overseas Adventure Travel. She was recovering from a bi-lateral broken ankle, compounded by other foot and knee issues.
“A few years earlier, I had barely made it to the roof of the Potala Palace in Tibet, even before the injury and arthritis had caught up with me. But Peru was a bucket list trip since I was 12. I knew it was ‘now or never.’ Between the altitude and the steep and rocky climbs at Machu Pichu, it had some pretty scary moments. But I made it,” she says. “The guide couldn’t believe it when he overheard me telling someone about my pinned together ankle and lower leg. A proud moment. Made a new friend, too – Esmerelda the Llama. And now I have to reboot my bucket list, having been to all the priority places on it.”
Esmerelda the Llama, one of Marti’s new Peruvian friends / Photo provided by Marti S
A walk to honour family in Oregon
At 78, Kay T. walked six miles – consider that for a moment: a six-mile bridge! – across the Astoria Bridge that spans the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon to honour her parents. She did the walk at her son’s suggestion and with him as her companion. And she surpassed even her own expectations.
“My father was the construction engineer for the bridge. I did the walk to honour him and the memory of my daughter who died of breast cancer. She and I had planned to walk it in 2016, but weather cancelled the walk for the first time,” she says. “There is a very steep incline in the bridge to make it possible for cruise and cargo ships to pass under. Didn’t think I’d make it but just kept telling myself why I was doing it and persevered. People are still astounded at my accomplishment. (Me too!) It was a wonderful thing to do with my loving son, and I treasure the experience and the time we shared together.”
The Astoria Bridge spans the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon / Photo credit: jkraft5 on Adobe Stock
Finding new perspectives among and above the clouds in Sydney
In 2019, Anne R-B. climbed 1,621 steps to the summit of Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia at age 68. She was on an Overseas Adventure Travel trip and her guide, Tracy, encouraged her to do it.
“It was fabulous! I was so excited that I was physically able to do it and the view is amazing. Older friends couldn’t believe it while younger ones were excited,” she says. “I love being up in the air and seeing the world from that viewpoint. A few days later, I was in co-pilot seat of small plane flying over the Southern Alps. None of us know how long we will be on this planet, so try something! Those two experiences are two of my favorite memories.”
Anne R-B on the Sydney Harbour Bridge / Photo provided by Anne R-B
Heeding her own voice en route to ageless adventures in Costa Rica
Marilyn T. has been a solo traveller since she was 52. She’s now 67. She says she’s had countless people comment that she is so much more adventurous than they can imagine, but if it’s not adrenaline-pumping, it’s not for her.
“I’ve ziplined in Costa Rica. Camped in a tent through sub-Saharan Africa. Been shipwrecked on Lake Titicaca. Went sand-sliding in Namibia and in Peru. So many adventures,” she says. “My mom used to give me all kinds of grief about travelling. She suggested I would see more by just watching TV. I have many people comment on some of my adventures. Mostly from people my age. They don’t understand why I do these things. I don’t think I would climb Kilimanjaro now. Altitude sickness isn’t fun. However, I’m still hoping to go to Tibet. I don’t worry too much about the physical stuff, but I do worry about getting caught up in political demonstrations in foreign countries. I’ve not personally been robbed while travelling but have met people who have. I’ve been a martial artist and perhaps it gives me a bit more confidence.”
Intrepid editor Amanda demonstrates the joy of ziplining in Costa Rica / Photo provided by Amanda Burgess
A grandma who is retired-living goals for her adult granddaughter in Toronto
Julie. A’s grandma celebrated her 80th birthday by taking a six-week tour of India. For her 90th, she celebrated by braving Toronto’s CN Tower EdgeWalk – the world’s highest full circle hands-free walk on a five-foot wide ledge encircling the top of the tower’s main pod 1,168 feet (116 storeys) above the ground (Now even I, your uber-adventurous Editor, won’t do that, so I bow to this woman!)
“She is currently making plans to celebrate her upcoming 95th birthday with something exciting. I might be able to talk her into sharing some details of that with us,” says Julie. “She’s a badass. I hope it’s a genetic trait passed down to me.”
Grandma A. celebrating her 90th birthday at CN Tower’s EdgeWalk in Toronto. You know, no big deal. / Photo provided by Julie A.
Pushing herself to new heights with each solo journey around the world
Marillee C. has suitcases full of hair-raising travel memories. If you’re not yet familiar with this JourneyWoman Advisory Council Member and adventuress, you can read her memoir here.
“Paragliding in Jackson Hole, hiking to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan, climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge – all took me majorly outside my comfort zone as I don’t favor heights. I’ve slid down the sand dunes of Namibia. Climbed to Lion Rock in Sri Lanka. Scaled a mountain to finally see my gorillas in Rwanda – magical. You’re only as old as you feel!” She says.
Marillee once make the treacherous hike up to Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan / Photo provided by Marillee C.
When you’ll try almost anything once, adventures abound everywhere
Crystal P. is almost 70, and shows no signs of slowing down. There’s not much she hasn’t done, and even if she isn’t a fan of one experience, it doesn’t stop her from chasing the next adventure.
“I had a massage in Thailand…by an elephant! Probably not a good idea. I climbed to the top of Huayna Pichu (the higher peak next to Machu Pichu) at sunrise. Could barely walk the next day. I laid next to a calcified skeleton in Actun Tunichil Muknal, an ancient Mayan burial cave in Belize. I swam with sharks in Fakarava in the South Pacific – I didn’t like that too much! I surfed on my rear down the dunes in the Sahara Desert. I walked with lions and petted some cheetahs in South Africa,” she says. “I’ll do most anything during the day, but I have to have a comfy bed and a hot shower at night.”
A bucket list trip to surf down the sand dunes of the Sahara? Yes, please! / Photo credit: Vladimir Wrangle on Adobe Stock
Showing the younger generation how it’s done in Yucatan
Leslie L. may be a solo traveller, but she’s shown her granddaughter a thing or two about embracing the spirit of adventure on family trips.
“I’ve gone ziplining through multiple stages in the Yucatan jungle – letting go and dropping into a deep freshwater cenote – with my granddaughter at age 68,” she says. “I did it again with her in Costa Rica at age 70. I also made the Huanya Picchu solo hike at 68.”
Now that’s a grandma who won’t be relegated to the rocking chair anytime soon!
Pretty and pristine, a cenote in the middle of the jungle might just take your breath away / Photo credit: Martin M303 on Adobe Stock
Decades of solo travel offer round-the-world adventures
Karen G. has been travelling solo since she left for Europe at age 18 and ended up living there for three years. Now, as she nears 70, she reflects on her decades of adrenaline-pumping adventures.
“I explored Indonesia for six weeks by myself. I climbed Kilimanjaro, swam in the Great Barrier Reef – only to find out once I was out of the water there were sharks nearby. I attended a music festival in Fes, Morocco,” she says. “I have worked in a dozen countries and traveled to 90, plus all US states and Canadian provinces. I’m nearing 70 and see a lot more adventures in my future (post-pandemic).”
A woman who listened to the mustn’ts – then followed her own wandering heart
At 85, Joy F. thinks the adventures she’s embarked on outside of her comfort zone seem tame in comparison to those of other JourneyWomen. But she’s wrong. Anytime you step outside of your comfort zone is a BIG deal and a bigger adventure.
“Always tentative in water, I did swim and snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef in Oz. Felt very proud that I overcame fear to do it – I was 69 at the time. On the same trip, but in the Cook Islands, I swam with the fish in Muni Lagoon. I hated it when they touched me – had no idea what they were,” she says. “One thing I have heard continually over the years of solo travel is ‘Aren’t you scared?’ or “My husband wouldn’t let me’ (well, I didn’t ask him) or ‘You’re a bit old to do that’ or ‘You’re so brave to go alone.’ Those who do it only say: ‘Good for you.’ I always wanted to walk across England but may never do it now. Back surgery a couple of years ago gave me a respect to listen to my body, but that to me would be a big adventure.”
We’re rooting for you, Joy – and bet you could gather up a group of JourneyWomen to join you!
Getting ready to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef / Photo provided by Joy F.
Finding personal power in solo travel
Jody B. is an accomplished solo traveller who feels the pride of accomplishment in her adventures. With good reason.
“I solo walked/trekked/crawled 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago, starting in France and continuing through Spain. I felt powerful to have accomplished it,” she says. “Since then, I have crawled through pyramids in Egypt, floated down the Nile, hiked (with the help of a donkey) the back route to Petra, Jordan, overnighted in a desert camp in Wadi Rum, and had a love affair with a handsome foreign man. All beautiful memories now, and I am reminded how grateful I am just by recalling them.”
Are you an adventure-loving JourneyWoman 65+? Are you an active octogenarian?
Share your story in the comments below – we may contact you for an interview towards a feature article!
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After retiring at age 71, I walked the last 100 kilometers of the Camino in Spain. My favorite memory was upon running into a group of men from Padua, I was asked my age and upon replying honestly was asked if I thought I would make it to Santiago. Of course I replied affirmatively and with each subsequent encounter of the Camino, we greeted each other enthusiastically.
Perhaps more significantly, at age 75 I came to Rome and enrolled in John Cabot University to study art history. I will be here another 2 years and am having a marvelous time. Being with 20 year old classmates has been wonderful and I am awed by their intelligence. One of the best decisions of my life!
I have followed Journey Woman for several years; I would be proud to wear a Journey Woman t-shirt sporting a small logo; what do you think? At 76, I work out twice a week and take long walks (15k or 10 flat miles)on the in-between days. In the past, I hiked with our HOT (Herd of Turtles) hiking group of 5 seniors and one 50 year old youngster, my daughter, across England, the West Highland Way in Scotland, 10 days in Provence, the Cotswolds and the Kerry Way Rambler in Ireland.
In 2014, at age 82 and 7 months after replacement hip surgery, I walked the 800 km of the Camino in France and Spain. My daughters walked with me and it took me 6 weeks. One of the most wonderful experiences of my life.
At 75, I am currently preparing for my next adventure. (I was scheduled to do it exactly one year ago but… Covid.) I am going to walk the length of the Netherlands on the Pieterpad, a path down the eastern side of the country from Pieterburen in the north to Sint Pietersburg in the south, a total distance is ~300 miles/500km. It will take me approx. 33-35 days.
At 72, I ziplined across Mexico’s Cooper Canyon on what was then the longest zipline in the world.
I have done indoor skydiving, but the real deal, from a plane, is still high on my list.
I’m always open for another adventure.
Hi Donna, I’m sure you know about ‘Vrienden op de Fiets/Wandelers’. If not, look them up. A wonderful organization. Happy trails, Terri
I am 71, a published novelist and retired professor. For years I traveled the world as a cruise lecturer for high-end ships. With that curtailed by Covid, I discovered that I had crossed some invisible psychological line at some point and simply could not settle into life in one place anymore. In August 2020, I sold my condo, furniture, and all possessions that wouldn’t fit into my car. Now that I don’t pay mortgage and other costs of a home, I can spend that money living wherever I feel like being, staying in Air B&Bs and other short-term digs so as to be able to move freely. Right now I am living in (city), but have plans to do several long, rather structureless road trips, and go elsewhere in the world for several months at a time as soon as travel restrictions are lifted.
Aged 66 I flew to NZ to stay with friends who I had been in the RAF with. We walked the Alpine Way and did a tandem parachute jump – a long held ambition since doing a parachute course in my 20s, (before tandem jumps,)but bad weather prevented jumping and the question ‘would I have jumped? has needed answering. From NZ I flew to Hong Kong where I joined a French container ship still outbound to Shanghai before turning homewards. Crew of 29, French and Filipino, 2 other pax both French. I was the only Brit and the only woman, we visited 3ports in China, one each in Vietnam, Malaya, sailed through the Suez Canal, visited ports in France, the Netherlands and Germany before I ‘signed off’ in the UK.
Two years later I walked the 500 miles of the Camino Frances and am now, aged 71 training again in the hope that covid will permit me to walk the 1000k Camino from Seville to Santiago. The stories from all these wonderful senior journeywomen are so inspiring and encouraging.
I love reading about the “older ladies” and their travels. I have just turned 85 and would love to connect with some of these women for travel.
Walking/hiking/ etc. not so much. Look forward to reading more and connecting with other single travelers in the future.
I love these stories. They are so inspiring! Unfortunately I started traveling late in life and COVID has ceased my travel plans completely. After losing two years of traveling I lost my confidence to travel again because of my age. But these stories give me hope! Keep them coming!
I started travelling solo fairly late in life as my husband no longer travels. Pre Covid I had an absolute ball travelling around many fascinating countries on my own but Covid and a cancer diagnosis a year ago have definitely knocked my confidence. However, at 66 years of age I’ve decided to take a deep breath and commence travelling again in November, so Patagonia & Easter Island, here I come!
Wonderful! Can’t wait to hear about your travels!