Edith, who is in her 70s and still working full-time, recently returned from traveling across the Canadian Rockies alone for 37 days. Originally booked in early 2020 – Edith was inspired by a friend who said that if “heli hiking” (where a helicopter drops hikers off at remote locations to hike and then picks them back up at the end of the day) wasn’t on her bucket list already- it had to be added.
Years of travel restrictions and personal loss delayed the trip – but this year Edith finally made it to Canada for what she now calls her “gratitude trip.”
We spoke with her about what it is like to travel abroad solo while tent camping, crashing in hostels and treating herself to the occasional lodge stay; and the treasures she stumbled upon along the way.
What is your experience traveling solo?
I have done this before in the past – I went to the Grand Canyon by myself and Iceland by myself.
When you’re by yourself – you’re like a sponge in the ocean. You have to constantly reach out and be absorbing around you
When you’re traveling with your family, you’re in a bubble. You know – is everyone having a good time? What do we want to do next?
When you’re by yourself – you’re like a sponge in the ocean. You have to constantly reach out and be absorbing around you. And you don’t need to compromise. That’s a really empowering, especially for women because we’re so used to pleasing and catering. But all of a sudden – I don’t have to think about anyone else. Just – how can I get the most out of this day?
How did you go about planning this trip?
I planned my trip, but I always had options. I had a rental car and a tent which gave me flexibility. There were lots of places I planned to go that I couldn’t make it to because of the late snow melt.
But I would listen to what locals said and recommended. So I did a lot of unexpected activities– like rapelling hundreds of meters down a cliff at via ferrata in Telluride, viewing fossils at Burgess Shale and learning about Canadian goldrush in Barkerville.
One other thing I did was work with a Senior Planet Verizon Volunteer before I left. I had had a smartphone for over two years but never really used it other than to pick it up and make a call. Because of the coaching, I used my smartphone instead of bringing a computer on the trip!
Do you have any advice for people who might be scared to travel alone?
Plan as much as you can but always have options. Know your limitations – your physical limitations, your emotional limitations and your financial limitations. Stay curious, stay wanting to be involved and stay humble.
Some of my friends think I’m crazy – but hey.
In regards to safety – I was not concerned at all about safety. They warned you about bears and to not leave any food at your campsite. And yes, I saw bears on the campground but they’re mostly just curious and if there’s nothing there to eat they move on. Some of my friends think I’m crazy – but hey.
Why did you call this your “gratitude trip?”
I put the deposit down in 2020 when the world was my oyster – then the border got shut down. In September 2021, my family had a joint memorial service for my mother and my brother. After that I was just at loose ends. I knew where I did not want to be and I knew what I did not want to do – but I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
When 2022 came, this trip was my 37 days of “I don’t want any news from my family. I don’t want to hear anything that I have to make a decision about. I just want to be in the moment.” My mother is gone, my brother is gone and I had a very severe case of COVID so I need to be thankful that I can still do these things and still enjoy this world.
So what was it like to heli hike after all?
It was an amazing experience – but it’s certainly not for everybody. Riding in a helicopter was like “oh my goodness.” But you have this amazing vista of valleys and mountains and glaciers. It was just fabulous.
What does aging with attitude mean to you?
Be positive, be curious and be grateful that you’re alive!
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Pam Hugi is Senior Planet’s Community and Advocacy Manager. Based in Brooklyn, she runs Senior Planet’s Supporter program in addition to being a contributing writer for this site. She can be reached at email@example.com.