In 2006, I traveled to South America with a backpack and a video camera and collected stories of people who chose not to get sucked into the typical cycle of get a job, buy things, stack up bills, get trapped into a job in a cubicle to pay off the bills and eventually die. It takes courage to eschew the expectations from family and society to lead a life outside the box. Meet Valerie, who began living on the road in her middle years.
“I was made redundant from my job in 2003. I spent 2004 traveling and had money left over at the end, worked some more and now I am traveling again. I started in Rio.
On my last world travel I ended up in Peru and fell deeply and passionately in love but had to return to the UK for my nephew’s wedding. When I made enough money to travel again I started in South America.
I am spending my misspent middle years traveling the world because I can afford to. World travel has not really increased in price in the last 15 or so years and I now can afford to do what I always wanted to do when I was 20 which is to see the world. Unfortunately, the options open to me then were hitchhiking the hippie trail to Afghanistan and India which I didn’t do but I’m now seeing all the places I’ve ever wanted to see. I have a list in my head and I’m crossing them off one by one. I just love traveling. I am homeless and living out of a backpack and I love it.
When I was staying in Bariloche (Argentina), I met a 22 year old Israeli girl at the bus station. We pretended I was her mother so she didn’t get hit on by boys in our dormitory. Being of my age, I am the invisible woman. I’ve noticed this in other countries as well. This sort of matronly motherly figure – so I don’t get the the attention that somebody half my age would which is fine.
I wouldn’t be doing this if I had children because they’d want all my money to finance their own lifestyle. I don’t think I ever had a maternal impulse in my body. I’m glad I don’t have children because I couldn’t be doing this if I did.
It’s so important to do this because there is more to life than working and let me get this right, I work to live rather than live to work. I feel that the world is changing all the time and I want to see as much of it while I’m still able to get around under my own steam, not mind sleeping on the top bunk of a dorm and that kind of thing. I want to see life in countries, meet other people, and not from the inside of a 5 star hotel, air con coach transport everywhere or from the deck of a cruise ship.
This is my third round the world trip. The previous one was in 2004 when I got my first severance pay and before that in 1993, when I got made redundant from a previous job. I spent five months traveling around the world. I flew to New York and booked 4 days in a hostel in Harlem and I didn’t know what was going to happen until I got to Australia. The night before I left, one my friend’s girlfriends said if you’re going to Boston, give my friends a ring. I rang the people in Boston, they said yes, come visit. Much the same happened when I got to Aussie and I met up with friends that I knew from England and it was “Where are you going next? Give so and so a ring and you can stay with them.”
It wasn’t until I got to Bali that I was out there on my own and knowing no one and that’s when I really first felt homesick. I burst into tears in the bath. But you know, that’s all part of life’s rich tapestry. After that, I picked up the art of meeting people and chatting with them and traveling with them as far as we were going together and then meeting someone else and traveling onto the next place.
My friends think I am incredibly adventurous and brave to travel on my own. My opinion is it’s so much easier traveling on your own than traveling with someone else. I don’t have to compromise and if I make a stupid decision, I can kick my own self and don’t have someone beating up on me saying “Why did you choose to get that bus that broke down in the middle of wherever.” My mistakes are my own, I live with them. They’re not necessarily mistakes. They might lead me to meet somebody who I might travel with or tell me something to do or not to do.”