Most of us think that backpacking is the preserve of the young, but grandmother-of-four Geraldine Forster has been on a solo global backpacking adventure for the past seven years, and there is no sign of the 72-year-old stopping any time soon.
Originally from Essex in England, Geraldine has already visited 50 countries. It began when she retired at 65 after running a hair salon for over 30 years, and felt the time had come to satisfy her wanderlust. Her website’s tagline proclaims. “I will not sit at home and gather dust,” and indeed there is no fear of that in the adventurous Englishwoman’s case.
Were her family anxious when she embarked on a one-way trip to Bangkok to begin her epic trip, and did she have any fears herself? “No, my family have always known that I’m a strong lady, and yes, I did have a few fears,” she tells Lonely Planet. “I have always been on the same page as Susan Jeffers though, the incredible author of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.”
As the mother-of-three is travelling on a pension, she stays in hostels and says she has learned to be open-minded. Travelling takes its toll on everyone, never mind the more mature person, but Geraldine says that it keeps her young and alive. Even so, how does she keep her energy and fitness levels up?
“I’m firmly convinced that fitness is in the mind,” she says. “I always tell my body that it can do it! I have a very healthy diet with lots of delicious veg, salad and tropical fruits. I hardly ever drink alcohol because I don’t like it, and I gave up smoking a thousand years ago.”
While she still has 101 places to visit on her wish list, including Bhutan, the Northern Lights in Alaska and the Rainbow Mountains of Zhangye Danxia, China, which of the 50 countries she has visited so far has impressed Geraldine the most?
“Japan made an incredible impression on me for several reasons,” she says. “I honestly have never seen such a clean country, and the people were so polite, respectful and kind. The food is just delicious, and I’m not only referring to sushi, as everything edible, even down to a simple potato, is a banquet.”
Geraldine’s other recommendations include Myanmar (Burma), which she says is a ‘must-see’ because it is still unspoiled, rather like Thailand over thirty years ago. “Also India, because it will bring the traveller face-to-face with the hardcore poverty some of these people live in,” she says. “They will learn to appreciate how lucky they are to have been born in another world. And finally Australia for the Australian sense of humour and Fraser Island.”
Geraldine speaks to her family regularly via Facebook and WhatsApp, and they follow her blog. She says that what she misses about England is London, true English gentlemen and English pomp and tradition. What has she learned about herself since she started travelling? “That I have sensitivity, that I care about my fellow men and that I love and respect every form of life and nature,” she replies.
Finally, what is Geraldine’s advice for other mature people who might love the idea of doing what she’s doing but are afraid to take off themselves? “Very simple,” she says, quoting author Stacy London. “Don’t let fear or insecurity stop you from trying new things. Believe in yourself. Do what you love, and more importantly, be kind to others even if you don’t like them.”
Follow Geraldine’s travel adventures here.
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