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.”
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.”
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!
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!
Keep Reading … there are more adventures to be had!
Artists see the world differently. They travel differently too. Solo traveller Karen Gershowitz, who has been to more than 90 countries, uses art to connect with the people she meets (and herself) all around the world.
We want you to be safe when you travel again. Join us on January 7 as our panel of experts shares updates with you and answers questions to help you get Travel Ready.