Updated on May 11th, 2023
Have you ever felt stuck in life? Like there are more experiences that you need to have or places you have never been but feel drawn to?
Or do you just miss yourself? Feel like somewhere along the way, you lost touch with who you were and want to find your way back?
Maybe, you are facing some of the challenges of mid-life: loss of a loved one, the breakdown of a relationship, health scares, an empty nest or just discovering that you have different priorities to those around you.
Or perhaps you have just reached this point in life where you feel you want something different. Maybe you don’t yet know what it is but want the chance to explore another path, start a new chapter, make a change, or just give yourself space to breathe and think.
In 2014, I tragically lost my husband, and my world was shattered. As a way of coping, I turned to something I was passionate about:
I believe travel has the power to create that change, to give direction, to allow space to explore yourself, while discovering the wonders of this world.
My passion for travel has allowed me to find myself…twice. If you’re interested to learn more, here’s my story…
As a child I didn’t come from an affluent, adventurous travelling family. My parents worked hard to save up for our annual two week holiday each year. Initially these were all close to home in the UK, mainly in static caravans, usually with outside toilets, always the highlight of our year! As their financial situation improved, we progressed these overseas to France.
But studying Geography at school made me believe that there was more out there. I developed a desire to explore further, to see more, to experience new things, to go on an adventure.
At university I had my first experience of independent travel when I went island hopping on the ferries in Greece with my friends. Then I spent a summer working on a kid’s camp in Maine, USA, buying a car and camping down the East Coast with friends I met along the way.
I was hooked.
So, after graduation I worked two jobs with the sole goal of earning enough money to go on an adventure.
For some reason, I chose Africa, much to the distress of my poor terrified mother! (You can read the full story of why HERE).
And what an adventure it was!
I went alone, meeting up with thirteen strangers and an overland truck for a three-month camping trip across Central and Eastern Africa. We started in Nairobi, Kenya and finished in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Between the two we got attacked by lions, sat with mountain gorillas, got manhandled by chimpanzees, made friends with the Maasai and went on more safaris than most people could only dream about. It was a truly epic experience.
I came back with a newfound determination to travel. I got a “proper job” working in sales for a pharmaceutical company. I was on a mission to get my qualifications and gain a better chance in a future career. Then take off around the world.
So, that’s exactly what I did!
I worked, saved, and studied for 18 months to earn the funds and experience.
Back then, my plan was that one of my friends would want to join me. I never imagined I would be going on my own. At every step of life so far, I had been surrounded by friends or family. I had no idea whether being alone would be something that suited me.
But when it came to going, it turned out that I was on my own. My friends either had other commitments, or concerned parents who were not comfortable with their daughters travelling. It’s not as if my parents embraced the idea either, they just never told me not to!
So, I headed off on my first solo travel adventure. I spent a month on a train around Europe, then a year in Australia and New Zealand. I worked along the way to keep my funds topped up and stayed with my sister in Sydney when I could, to save money. I camped and slept in hostel dormitories to keep the costs down. On the way home from Australia, I spent two months alone travelling across Indonesia. The cheapest night I ever had, was a bed for £1.20. I then went next door and ordered a beer for £1.50. That messes with your head and makes you rethink your priorities!
When I was travelling in my 20s, I had no fear. I met a lot of people my age, with the same attitude as me. Instant connections and many fun memories were made! Despite travelling solo, I found I was rarely alone. However, by being on my own, I faced challenges that I was able to overcome relying on nothing but my ability to handle obstacles. I put myself into situations where I had no choice but to interact with strangers and show my vulnerability. And somehow, I got myself out of every situation I found myself in. Travelling alone I faced challenges every single day and with every single decision I made.
That gave me the confidence that I could do anything!
By the time I returned home, I wanted a job for just long enough to have the money saved up to leave again.
But life doesn’t always follow the plan.
I got the job, met the love of my life, and settled down very happily for the next 18 years!
Terry wasn’t just my husband, he was my best friend, my biggest cheerleader, my partner in crime and my very faithful travelling companion. We continued to explore the world but this time by maximising our 25 days annual leave a year. After each trip, we had the next one planned, so we always had something to work towards. We had a lot of fun, and walked around the world holding hands.
I thought I had life sussed with a great job, an amazing partner, and the financial security to go wherever I wanted, when I wanted to go there.
And life certainly punched me in the face.
A few days before Christmas in 2014, after 18 years together, I lost Terry. He went in for heart surgery and never made it back to me.
My world was thrust into disarray. Imagine everything you know about life and expect to happen in your future.
To make sense of my new life, I turned to my passion for travel and went on a journey of self-discovery.
Who was I now I was fast approaching 50 and on my own again? To read more about this part of my journey see my Postcards From Tragedy To Hope.
I requested a sabbatical from work while I came to terms with what had just happened. I had built up a strong reputation through the years and they were incredibly supportive. Then, just before it started, I was offered redundancy.
I bit their hands off and took it without a moments hesitation.
In the first year, I had lots of invites from friends and family offering me travelling experiences alongside them. It created a distraction for me and blocks of time where I could have company and support while I came to terms with my new life. It also gave me a break from the deafening silence and solitude that being at home had become.
I will never be more grateful for every one of those opportunities. However, at the end of the year I recognised that there would come a time when the invites would dry up and I would not be top of peoples minds anymore.
I also had travel ambitions. Places I wanted to go, that weren’t on others agendas.
I had to face the reality that I was alone again. But I had a choice on how I dealt with the situation. I am eternally grateful for that.
I started my Life List of all the things I wanted to achieve. It was basically a Bucket List, but “things to do before you die” was a little too close to home for me. Unsurprisingly it was very travel focussed. I began to prioritise the list and work my way through it. My Life List gave me a roadmap for the next few years and a distraction which allowed me to use travel to grieve, heal and find out who I was again.
When you embark on the adventure later in life, you bring with you the battle scars of the life you’ve led. There are far fewer people who can relate to how and why you are on your journey. I am lucky having the confidence I gained in my twenties, but I know many for whom it would be an even more daunting prospect.
Over the next few years, I learned to sail in the Caribbean, speak Spanish in the Dominican Republic and salsa in Cuba.
I have hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru and climbed to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
I have had my fortune told in Bolivia, swam between tectonic plates in Iceland and stayed in an Ice Hotel in Canada.
I have even been bitten by a meerkat in Nambia and bumped into by a penguin in the Galápagos Islands.
But most importantly, I have made a lot of friends around the world who have helped me to find my smile again.
Maybe, like me you feel a little lost? Like life has led you to a crossroads and you’re not sure which path to take next? Maybe you need space to rediscover who you are and what you want now?
Whatever has brought you to this point, I believe I can help you. Travel has helped me find a way back to myself. I believe it has the power to do the same for you. That’s why I started this blog, to inspire others to take the plunge. You can’t choose your circumstances but you can choose your response to them.
Travel helped me to rediscover myself after tragedy. Now I aim to inspire other women to harness the power of travel through my work as a Transformative Travel Coach, solo female travel expert, speaker, blogger and through my YouTube and social media channels.
Take your pick of how you would like to connect and join me on a journey of inspiration, exploration, empowerment, and self-discovery.
Thank you for your interest in being nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award! The piece posted today (https://www.thefearlessforeigner.com/blog/sunshine-blogger-award/)
I look forward to reading your post and finding out who you nominate. Please let me know when you post your blog and let me know if you have any questions 🙂
Thank you so much Elizabeth for the nomination! I am really honoured & will be in touch once I have completed my post. Thank you so much again! Regards Sue x
I am 83 and a male. I am in pretty good physical condition. I yearn to experience different cultures first hand. Not just 2 hours in a welcoming family home, in an exotic country, but spending several days where I don’t rush to see all the tourist traps, but where I can go and eat where the locals go i.e. in an Scottish pub, drink beer with everyone glued to the tv to watch the favorite football team, or in a village along the Amazon, etc). Can you advise me?
Wow Bob! I’m happy to advise in any way I can & that’s just the way I like to travel. Slow. Less about the sites & more about the experiences & the people. There’s a big difference between a Scottish pub & the Amazon though so I guess it’s about deciding where you would like to start & building from there.