Have you ever heard someone talk about all the things they wish they had done?
My husband and I knew that his parents were eager to see Europe. At 77, they were convinced that they would never be able to go.
I, however, was deteremined that they would see the world. So, last Mother’s Day when we spotted round-trip tickets for a ridiculously low price on Norwegian Air to Shannon, Ireland, we scooped up a set of tickets for my mother-in-law. She had dreamed of visiting Ireland for quite some time and being interested in her genealogy, she had uncovered that a large part of her family lineage had come from County Claire.
I had once heard Linda say the words that make me sad as a traveler;
“I’ll probably never be able to go there.” We called her and my father-in-law up on the phone.
“Guess what!” my husband began, “You’re going to Ireland!”
To say that they were beyond shocked and touched would be an understatement. Possibly the understatement of the year. This epic adventure of a lifetime was my in-laws first trip abroad, and they had to do it with just a carry-on bag (true Nessie Out of Water style!). I sat down with Linda today to find out more about her adventure abroad.
Q. Okay, so to start with, why don’t you tell everyone a bit about you?
A. I’m Linda Yeager. I’m 77 years old, born in 1941. I’ve been married to my husband, Alan, for 55 years.
Q. Last year, you both took your first adventure to Ireland, Scotland, and England. You were gone for one month’s time. What place meant the most to you?
A. County Claire, Ireland, because it has the Knappogue Castle, which is a part of my family heritage (the McNamara clan.). My great-great grandfather grew up in Knappogue Castle, so it was fun to see where he played. He came to America at the age of 12.
Knappogue Castle is now a site you can visit for a Medieval Banquet. Check it out here.
Q. How was the pace of your trip? Would you have arranged it differently if you were to go back?
A. I wouldn’t arrange it differently. It was just right for us. We spent about 2 weeks in some places, two to four days in other places, depending. I don’t think I’d ever see all that I wanted to see, though. I think the best decision we made was for us to alternate picking what we saw every other day, so we say a variety of different things.
We wanted to visit the north of Scotland, and didn’t get to do that. We could plan two or three more trips and still not have seen enough. But for us to have been able to go and enjoy it at our pace, and to enjoy the people we met along the way was so important to us.
Q. Where did you stay while traveling?
A. We found that staying at AirBNB was very beneficial to us. The hosts of the houses we stayed at were so kind and helpful to us! Different AirBNB’s were special for different reasons, but my favorite AirBNB was in Windermere, England; It was very cozy, very clean, they provided us with brochures and provided guidance for us on our travels. She really just went out of her way and rescued us when we were lost on our way.
Q. You and Alan rented a car while you were abroad. How was driving on the other side of the road? I know a lot of people who are afraid to do this, myself included! What advice do you have for us?
A. It worked out well for us because Alan is a very good driver. He didn’t have any trouble driving on the other side of the road. But if it had been me driving, it wouldn’t have happened. He did practice ahead of time, and we never did get used to the roundabouts. It is scary, but we just kept to a comfortable pace while we drove. It wasn’t the same as getting around in America, but when you learn their rules, you can manage it pretty well.
Q. What advice do you have for everyone over 65 who is wanting to see the world still?
A. Don’t be afraid to go! Plan carefully. Have a daughter-in-law who knows how to help you plan. That was tremendously helpful! If you feel like you may need a wheelchair or any type of help for mobility, go ahead and take it with you because it will make your trip that much easier.
Just plan carefully. Look ahead to where you are going to be sure you would have medical care if you needed it.
Walking around was difficult because I had hurt my knee on the first day, but there was always someone to help, a place to rest if I needed to, and people who were caring.
You have to consider your own situation and make up your own mind with what you’re comfortable with. Don’t push yourself to do more than you’re comfortable with. It’s alright if you only see one thing a day. That’s what we did, and it was still plenty!
Q. Were you scared to go abroad?
A. Nervous, but not scared. We had never traveled abroad, never gone on a trans-Atlantic flight. Never really flown much, to begin with. We were greenhorns!
Q. What was the most special moment you had on your trip?
A. The most special moment… I don’t know if I could just pinpoint one, because they were all special! I think one thing I would say is the kindness of the people on our journey was amazing. The people were helpful, kind, and went out of their way to help us. There was a little lady in Scotland out in the country-side at her tea shop. She served us tea in her bone-china cups and lunch after she had planned to close already. She gave us hot soup, which was delicious, and a hot sandwich, and just went out of her way to make it special for us.
There were just so many moments, I don’t know how I would tell them all.
We found ourselves at a pub for dinner one night. It was Thanksgiving and they greeted us at the door, showed us all the food options, and I didn’t know you could make potatoes so many ways!
Q. And you were able to be witnesses at a wedding, as well, right?
A. We were witnesses at a wedding! In Gretna Green. We started at the museum and someone came up to us and asked if we wanted to witness a wedding. We had already met the couple outside, so it felt very special to us! They mailed us a picture after and sent us a lovely Christmas card as well.
Q. You packed in just a carry-on bag. How difficult was this?
A. I found it very, very hard! And I packed too much. The less you pack, the less you have to worry about and the easier it is to travel. All the fabric you take should be comfortable and have some stretch to them and be wrinkle-resistant. I took four tops and they all were able to dry quickly. Get a fabric which absorbs moisture, and take a light jacket. If you are going in the fall or early spring, I’d take a jacket which is waterproof and can fit over your layers if needed. We did pack an umbrella and ended up never using it!
The best thing I did for my footwear was to buy a pair of Kuru boots which were great for my arch and my heels. They were a hiking boot but also looked nice in the city.
I also took a fanny pack, and that worked for me because it allowed my hands to be free. I wouldn’t take a hair dryer or rollers; don’t take any extra supplies like that, just get it when you get there if you need!
Q. What was the most amazing thing you saw?
A. I think Alan and I would both agree that it was Hadrian’s Wall. We didn’t get to see it as long as we wanted because it was raining, but we saw and were able to enjoy the archaeological digs and visited the museum.
Other than that, it was the amazing scenery. Ireland is truly green all year round; the quaint little roads, the beauty of the scenery. Scotland was ever more beautiful its the fall colors.
Q. Do you think you will go back to Europe?
A. We would love to! If my surgery is successful (hip replacement next month), we would love to do that! We would visit Northern Ireland, which we didn’t get to see. There were a lot of historical things around Dublin we would have loved to see. Northern Scotland as well, we would love to see that. There’s just a lot! You can’t see all of a country in two weeks, two months, even in a year probably!
The family who watched over Knappogue Castle was the sweetest family, and we would love to back and see them. They suggested we bring our entire family and stay in the castle for a few weeks. It would be a sweet and historical thing for the family to do. We would love to show the family the area, Quinn Abbey where our ancestors were married, and share that with them.
Q. Would you visit a non-English speaking country?
A. Yes, but I would do a lot more planning and research because I think it would be scary not knowing the language. I would love to go to France, and most of the French speak English, but still getting around with their signs being in French is scary to me. You can use your smartphones now to translate the signs, but I would need to practice.
Q. Is there anything you regret about the trip?
A. Not learning how to drive the roundabouts better, but it was funny! We never stopped laughing about it. We would get very very frustrated and then just start laughing at ourselves.
Also, I started down the stairs from a tower in a castle we were visiting and twisted my leg. I wish that hadn’t happened. If you are our age, I would be very careful about going up and down the old stairs. They are very uneven and you have to be very careful.
It was the trip of a lifetime for us, for sure!
Are you a slightly less youthful traveler wanting to venture out into the world, but with a bit of worry?
Be sure to check out this amazing article called “Senior Singles Travel and Leisure for Single Women” then! According to aging.com, “One of the ways to enhance the quality of your life is to stay purposeful. Travel is a way to do this, whether you are fulfilling a childhood dream to go to Italy on a food and wine trip or whether you are helping women in Africa learn to be economically independent, it is deeply fulfilling and liberating.”
Go read the full article and you will be packing your bags before you know it!
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