Last updated on January 1st, 2024
Featured image: Joyce in Antarctica with Emperor Penguins, including one that nibbled her boots | Photo credit Joyce Perrin
Perrin’s memoir “Ants in My Pants” shares her unconventional journeys
Introducing our “JourneyWoman Book Corner” a new series that profiles authors from the JourneyWoman community. Have a book to suggest? You can do that here.
by Carolyn Ray
Joyce Perrin says it’s never too late to follow your passion and move out of your comfort zone. At 86, she has travelled solo to 156 countries and 31 territories and recently published her memoir, called “Ants in My Pants”, to share her life lessons with others.
I met Perrin this summer in Toronto, when she made a mini-solo trip from her home in Pickering via the train, to join a JourneyWoman dinner in the Distillery. By the end of dinner, I was enthralled with her curiosity, energy and positivity. She told me she had thoroughly reviewed the JourneyWoman website and found it a fantastic resource for solo travellers. High praise from a woman who has been just about everywhere!
Follow your passion
Throughout her married life, Perrin says her dream of seeing more of the world was never too far from her mind. But it didn’t happen until she was in her 50s, after a lifelong career in healthcare, when her children were grown and married.
Perrin graduated from the University of Alberta in Nursing, University of Toronto- Hospital Administration and Harvard School of Public Health-Health Systems Management. From being a registered nurse to hospital CEO, Perrin also worked for the World Health Organization, touching (and changing) lives in healthcare settings in the Middle East, Africa, and South America, even cofounding a hospice program in Panama.
Her opportunity to travel solo came in 1993 when she was offered a healthcare role in an Arab country. She sold her condo and put her belongings in storage. She then crisscrossed the world for over 20 years until returning to Toronto in 2016.
“As my granddaughter said, ‘I was homeless for 23 years’,” she recalls. “This journey made me who I am today, and I am proud to say at 86, I have no regrets about how I spent my life. I have touched many lives one person at a time, whether it be the clients at the Panama Hospice and Respite Foundation I co-founded, the many healthcare professionals I taught for the World Health Organization and other programs, the students I spoke to at my grandchildren’s school and, of course, my family. Touching lives and making connections around the world is my legacy.”
Today, she helps other breast cancer survivors, and volunteers with the Durham Region Health Team on executive committees as a Patient, Family and Care Partner member.
It’s never too late to travel solo
“When opportunity knocks, take it as it is never too late to follow your passion and move out of your comfort zone,” Perrin says.
Some of Perrin’s unconventional trips off the beaten path (or any path) mentioned in her memoir include climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, travelling overland in a truck on the Silk Road, and scuba dive with sharks in the Galapagos. She has climbed Machu Picchu, shared coffee with the Arabs in the desert, and stayed with people in their homes in countries such as Zambia, Tanzania, Namibia , Lesotho and South Africa.
“Each experience touched my soul,” she writes. The only trip she missed was cruising through the Northwest Passage in the arctic because it was ice bound, and then due to COVID.
Her favourite place? Antarctica, which she made it to in 2001, on a small Russian research vessel. She writes: “Today was the day I had dreamed about for many years. Giving myself a tiny pinch… I disembarked.. I was standing on my seventh continent, Antarctica. Now I had visited all the world’s continents. I stood for a moment, took a deep breath, threw my hands up in the air in excitement, and let out a cheer, “I did it!”
Meet Joyce and other memoir authors including Ruth Malloy, 91, and Faye Day, 87, on our webinar on September 28, 8 pm ET. Hosted by Diana Eden, Our Women Over 80 writer. At Joyce’s request, we are donating proceeds to After Breast Cancer.
Words of wisdom for other women who think they’re too old to travel/travel solo?
How do you get started in solo travel?
Take time to write out a long-range plan to visit specific countries.Then indicate the locations to see over time, starting with the most physically demanding and difficult ones. Travelling solo means you make your decisions and plans and are responsible for your choices, right or wrong. You grow and develop over time. Start with groups to get your feet wet; then, you can travel alone when you feel comfortable.
What is your most memorable experience?
There are many, but one taught me that different cultures have many unique responsibilities for women. I lived with a Shona Family in Zimbabwe, where I undertook the manual labour and duties of the Shona women in the family. I washed the clothes in the river and cooked in a smoky hut on a wood fire circled by stones. I lived a Shona woman’s life, and it was hard manual labour. I experienced how these women are under a burden in this society.
Do you have any regrets?
I am proud to say at 86, I have no regrets about how I spent my life. I have touched many lives one person at a time, whether it be the clients at the Panama Hospice and Respite Foundation I co-founded, the many healthcare professionals I taught for the World Health Organization and other programs, the students I spoke to at my grandchildren’s school and, of course, my family. Touching lives and making connections around the world is my legacy.
Watch Joyce’s interview on Global News (Toronto)
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