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The Solo Traveler Blog

Should I Stay or Should I Go

white, vw pop up camper with father and son standing in front

This VW Pop-up was our home for most of the 10 months we were on the road.

How does one balance the importance of living in the present with the need to prepare for the future?

Some people don’t contemplate this issue. They simply do what comes naturally – sometimes suffering the consequences of favoring one over the other.

But, if you are one who does consider how to balance the two, where does the answer lie. And, what is the question?  If you love travel, the question is: should I stay or should I go.

Choosing travel.

Late in 2000 my husband and I decided to go.

We could finally see our way clear to living our dream of long-term travel. Having sold our business and with two sons out the door, one entering his last year of high school and the youngest going into grade six, it all seemed possible.

To others, it may have made more sense to wait, at least a year, but we planned and went. We bet on the present over the future and, as you’ll see, we won.

Colisseum in Arles behind 3 people

Ron, me and Dylan at the Colosseum in Arles

Our trip of a Lifetime

My husband had traveled for a year through South America when I was just entering high school. (He had seven years on me.) I had taken many short trips since I was 15 – a few weeks here, a month there. Together, as we blended our families, started and built a business – we lived a very busy life – we also planned to travel. In 1995, we managed six weeks with kids in France, Scotland and Ireland. But that wasn’t enough. We had bigger plans in mind.

Then in 2000 it seemed right. Our number three son could do his last year of high school at Neuchatel Junior College, a Canadian school in Switzerland, and I would home-school our youngest. We could rent our house for income (we made $25,000 in ten months) and rent a VW Pop-up camper for transportation and accommodation. Yes, it could all work. We fit the pieces together and left at the end of August 2001.

Over the next 10 months we covered a lot of ground. My mother joined us for a few weeks. The older sons each came over for a time. It was a free-flowing trip of a lifetime. When we needed to feel settled, we stayed. When we’d had enough of a location, we simply moved on.

Two of my sons at La Alhambra in Granada, Spain

Life Without Regrets

We came home in June of 2002 which is a perfect time to return. The summer is slower than most times of the year and it gave us two months to prepare for the real new year, September.

However, while the kids and I settled back into our home life, my husband became less settled. Was it the culture shock of re-entry? We couldn’t tell at first but his life, our life, got very complicated. And it became even more so over the next few years.

In 2006, my husband was finally diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), a very rare neurological disease that first shows itself in personality changes and later with debilitating physical changes.  He passed away later that year on December 9th.

While our choice to take an extended trip at that particular time of life may have seemed odd to some, it made sense to us. At least, we made it make sense. We put our present and our future on a scale and chose to live in the present for that year. And, at the time, we had no idea that it was our last chance to do so.

Should you stay or should you go?

Go.

For those still dreaming about long term travel, Meet Plan Go is an opportunity to MEET inspirational speakers and like-minded travelers; get motivation, contacts and resources to PLAN the trip of a lifetime; and start taking concrete steps forward to GO on that global adventure.


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  • http://adventurerstacey.com Stacey

    I’m sorry to hear about your husband. I guess you were right to go when you did! This serves as a real reminder that life is short and that waiting until tomorrow might not be an option. I hope your family remember these times fondly. :)

  • Travelwellflysafe.com

    Thanks for writing this. It is such an important life lesson that you pass on. Im fighting something weird also. I don’t talk about it, But i just keep going for as long as I can and bring more “stuff” with each trip. I agree -go.

  • Www.pamelatravelblog.com

    I am reading this blog again, after I wrote one this morning. It might be helpful to see if from the person planning their last years…. http://Www.pamelatravelblog.com

    If I had one trip left ….

    Good morning. I have been so inspired by a woman who has shared with me that she is dying. She wants to go on a last cruise, in her weakened physical state, before she can’t leave home. Illness has taken her body. Her spirit is alive and well.

    A few years ago somehow she entered my life, she and her sister. They knew their cousins and siblings, all women in advanced years, were wanting an experience together before they started to pass on. What an honour. I called it the Cruising Cousins and enjoyed helping these women from around this country get their plans together for their reunion vacation of a lifetime. It was magic and they all made it.

    Since then I have introduced some of these women to other vacations and have been struck, in the heart, when they call to get flights to attend to an ailing “cousin”. And then to attend the funerals.

    This past month or so I came to know that one of the women I am most close with, when I called to check on her travel plans for the year, is nearing her end. She is very ill, can’t eat and is failing in her health. I was hosting a special wine and appetizer evening this past week locally in a lovely hotel and featuring a luxury cruiseline that I had introduced to some of the cousins over the years. She accepted. Let me call her “Grace”.

    Grace arrived at the event, asked for me and found me. We embraced. Does everyone have such a great and close relationship with their travel consultant? Would we say we have become friends?

    I looked in to her eyes and felt indeed gratitude for the invitation to keep living. To step out and enjoy what there is left of her life. To grab every precious moment, dress up, don the wig, and purple outfit and step into life. Say yes to the days that are left. No whine, no apology. What a gracious woman indeed. I wonder if I could grow into graciousness like her.

    And I did not expect her to book another vacation. I was warmed to my very heart that she placed her name and credit card commitment to sail one last time. She placed her deposit on living and embracing the dream.

    As I write this I am streaming love for this woman and her strength of character and her love for life and my deep gratitude for knowing her.

    I ask her what is on her list of places she has always wanted to go? She tells me and says her doctor has approved her to travel. I get the sense the wise physician has said, “go, and live your life to its fullest”. I want that doctor to speak to me in my last years of my life. Maybe she is speaking to me now?

    International Womens day was yesterday. I was busy connecting women with their dreams, all day. I feel like I am in the river of bliss and doing what comes as natural to me. I too have imagined what my life would be like. This is part of it, an expression of a small part of inspiring women everywhere to take centre stage of their own lives, be their own leading lady of their unique story.

    To inspire women to travel in love and luxury, with grace and style to see places and wonders of the world. To help women literally and in every sense, hold hands around this world in peace, by celebrating our authenticity and showing up in all our brilliance.

    This woman, Grace, may never know how her single life has impacted me, and I expect if you are reading this, you also are impacted.

    Help me in thanking her, from all of our hearts, to live the dream that still stirs in her heart. To make choices to put family first, and to honour our dreams until our last breath.

    Today I honour all women, and am grateful for Grace showing up and staying in my life, leading the way.

    Peace be with you today.

  • Judy Patton

    Wonderful story. I too know that life doesn’t make promises and we never know when our time is over. Live now. I became a widow at 50, after selling our house and traveling in an rv for 3 years. Well, that was 8 years ago and I’m still traveling. Here is my journal and my story. http://WWW.ladynomad2005.blogspot.com

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    Hi Kacy,
    Such an exciting plan. Here’s a link to The Career Break Traveler’s Handbook. it’s probably worth a read for you. Also check out the author’s site http://careerbreaksecrets.com.

  • Kacy Dalton

    This is a really great article and a touching story….and to do that all with children?! Wow! I salute you!
    I am at the age right now where I am battling the option of building an amazing career and stable life, but itching to leave and explore the world.
    Like your article states, sometimes you just have to do it. I have a 10 month plan to save as much money as I possibly can, and then I will be off for a year and a half of spontaneous world travel. If the career is meant to be, it will still be when I return to the states. Its a battle of head vs. heart, but Its a leap of faith you just have to take!

  • missmemex

    2Ki Lately i used to be REALLY down on $$ and debits were killing me from all angles! that was UNTIL i learned to generate money on the Internet! I visited surveymoneymaker d.o.t net, and started filling in surveys for straight cash, and doing so I’ve been greatly more able to get around financialy!! I’m very glad that I did this.. With all the financial stress these years, I really hope all of you will give it a chance. – 6pOP

  • Liane

    Excellent post! I’ve been struggling with the same question. I’m in my early thirties, single, no children, and tired of waiting for travel companions to start seeing the world and living my life. I’m going to go! Thanks Janice, you truly are an inspiration. :)

  • Teresa Vincent

    LOVE this story and THANK YOU so much for sharing your very personal journey. As a happily married that travels solo a LOT (as much as I can), most people, including family, just don’t get it. My husband still works full time (by choice) and I am fully retired. He doesn’t want me to work anymore and I am happy and blessed to be retired. What I am not though, is content to just stay home all day and all week while he works. I LOVE and am incredibly PASSIONATE about travel (the actual journey, not so much the destination). He hates travel, tolerates it only to get to his “vacation” destination and prefers staying home. Why should I give up my passion and dreams of traveling just because other people think it isn’t “normal” for a married person to want to travel by herself. When my Mom was alive, she lived with us and was my travel buddy. No one thought it odd that WE went on trips all the time that did not include my working hubby. When she passed away (unexpectedly) a few years ago, I started traveling solo. My PASSION for travel did not go away because my primary travel companion did. It actually got stronger and solo travel is something I want ALL women to try at least once. I know that once I did, I was HOOKED and it is my FAVORITE way to travel now. I started my website and blog http://www.TTsTrippin.com as a way to inspire other people to get off their couches and into the world. It doesn’t matter if it is a simple afternoon outing, a weekend, 2 week trip or longer——JUST GO!!!! Thanks again for your website and support of us “Gypsys” out here! :-)

  • Sarah

    I am really happy to have found your website. At 30, I am pretty new to traveling. Traveled a lot across Canada, spent my 30th birthday in Italy on a guided tour, and now I am about to embark on Istanbul for a week, solo. I spent my twenties struggling to get my education without debt and I did get my masters with only a pittance of debt. What kept me afloat was dreaming of one day working abroad and traveling as I saw fit. Alas, responsibility won out and I am on the pension track and owning my own home in a small town, single, no kids, with limited desire to change those circumstances. I do have this almost ennui that comes over me that only goes away when I plan trips- fortunately I have friends scattered across the country so weekend trips are doable. I have been waffling on looking at the wage deferral plan with my work that would allow me a 6 month to 1 year sabbatical. Reading this article, I am definitely doing it now. It may mean cheaper travel in the meantime, but I am very happy that I have read this article! Thank you very much for sharing your bittersweet story!

  • Clo

    I needed to read this.. my answer to my many questions and debates about should I go or not.. is GO.. Thanks for sharing.. even if you posted this 3 years ago.

  • http://twitter.com/boostbiz Susan Ward

    “Balance the importance of living in the present with the need to prepare for the future.” Thanks for sharing this Janice. You so eloquently captured the prime reason most don’t. Regrets have a great cost that is usually not paid until it is too late. I look forward to joining you at Meet Plan Go this time – with more motivation to take the ‘bull by the horns’.

  • Elizabeth Verwey

    If not now….when? I plan to be at this event!

  • PhilippinA_41

    Hmmn, and so I had 2years planning of going to Bali and India solo, but until now still couldn’t. Safety concerns. But the desire is there, so much.

  • Travel_and_Escape_Community

    Life is too short to say you’ll do what you really love ‘another day.’ What an inspiring story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  • hopscotchtheglobe

    Great story Janice. I’m so glad you got to share all of that with your husband. That’s why I really love the quote “Live each day as if it was your last.” You have to follow your dreams an aspirations NOW, and stop saying I’ll do it later. Live your life NOW! Thank you so much for sharing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sheilah.redekop Sheilah Redekop

    Thanks again Janice, for sharing this story.

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  • http://www.knok.com/fr/knoleskine/ Florine Foulon

    This post just leaves me speechless… I have been through your blog lately without knowing your history, it all makes sense now…

  • Solecurious

    This is not just a great story but a great lesson about life. What a legacy your husband left behind… the togetherness, fun, bonding and experiences for the family to cherish forever. Thank you for the post.

  • http://traveldestinationbucketlist.com/ AnitaMac

    What an amazing story – so glad your family had that wonderful time together!  I think you are so right – you have to live in the present – life is too short and precious, and you never know what is on the other side!  I am sure your son also learned so much about life on his year on the road and his life will be further enriched by the experience.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/indrac Indra Chopra

    Inspiring Post. makes you realize that there is much more to life than immediate circle.

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  • OurPassportStamps ~ Karen

    My heart aches for your kids as they were close to the same age that I was when I lost my father to cancer. It was  the most pivotal moment in my life. How I thought, felt and planned for my future as a young adult shifted significantly.  I realized at that moment that time is a priceless currency and I needed to spend it wisely on people and experiences that would make me and and my inner circle feel our souls sing with happiness DAILY.  I hope by sharing your life in such a personal manner that you have inspired not only solo travelers, but all travelers to realize that procrastination just isn’t an option.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeff.titelius Jeff Titelius

    Truly a wonderfully inspiring story that commands us to put life into perspective and savor each passing moment as if it were our last.  This article move me immensely and has forced me to take a step back and rethink where it is I want to do and where to go.  Thank you Janice! 

  • http://www.thetravelhack.com The Travel Hack

    A wonderful, sad, inspiring post. Thank you for sharing. 

  • http://www.insidethetravellab.com/ Abi

    Janice, reading this sent chills down my spine. And I knew where it was heading. I think you’ve written something here that will always stay with me.

  • solotraveler

    Congratulations on making the jump.

  • Eyetravelsolo

    Great story Janice, I have come up with excuse after excuse not to make the big jump and Go for the big one.  I then realized I had out myself in an endless cycle.  I would never do it if i didn’t break this cycle of excuses not to.  As you know my jump was to Go for 60 days to S.E. Asia, that has now turned into a complete liquidation of my assets and life in the U.S. to reside on the other side of the Globe. Talk about a 180! Besides the desire to make such a drastic change it allows me to travel to destinations I have yet to encounter. Yes, I leave a lot behind, but I gain so much also, not to mention happiness at the top of the list.

  • solotraveler

    Oprah certainly has had her good lines too. Thanks!

  • BJ Snyder

    This morning I had a vision/dream for my future while reading the first 2 pages of The Traveler’s Gift, and now, after reading your post on FB, I am inspired to move forward - I must act on it! Signs from above? I think so. :)
     

    “That whisper you keep hearing is the universe trying to get your
    attention.” ~Oprah Winfrey

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=719351501 Chuck Kuhn

    In 2006, my husband was finally diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear
    Palsy (PSP), a very rare neurological disease that first shows itself in
    personality changes and later with debilitating physical changes.  He
    passed away later that year on December 9th.
    Life is Short and as you said “GO”

  • http://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com Spinster

    Heartwarming story.  Bless.  :-)

  • solotraveler

    It certainly has caused me to think about life’s priorities differently. Thanks for commenting.

  • http://www.goseewrite.com/ Michael Hodson

    very inspirational and moving — glad you got to share all that with him, before his untimely passing. Makes you think about life’s priorities in a whole different way.

  • solotraveler

    Hi Barbara, I’m sorry for your loss. I know how difficult it is to mourn. For me, it was just over two years of mourning and then I started Solo Traveler. It has been a great part of my returning to life. I hope you find your path back to happiness.

  • Barbara Bunce Desmeules

    Thank-you for sharing your story. The loss must be so hard; I know, my husband passed away this past September. I wonder now if I can become a solo traveller. I will try.

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  • solotraveler

    Thank you Barabara, for your thoughtful and kind words. I enjoy following your blog, your world view and living your travels vicariously.

  • http://holeinthedonut.com Barbara Weibel

    Janice, thank you for being brave enough to share this story. I too, when staring mortality in the face, made a decision to go. Four years later, now with recovered health, I am still on the road and have finally found a way to live joyfully. I always tell people to go their own way, not to bow to the pressure from family or society to live they life “they” think is acceptable. I’m sure you are thankful every day that you made that very decision; although it must be lonely for you since the loss of your husband, you also don’t have to struggle with the regret of not pursuing your dream while you had the chance. Sending you wishes for a lovely New Year, filled with joy and happiness.

  • http://www.takeyourbigtrip.com Kristin

    Lovely story, thank you for sharing and thank you for this great web site. I’m a solo traveler and find strength in your articles and blog!

  • http://www.boostbusiness.ca Susan

    Fantastic Janice – so inspirational.
    The penny dropped – just beginning to think about a long term trip when or youngest is old enough to appreciate it.

  • solotraveler

    My goodness, thank you. I so appreciate the support.

  • http://odysseusdrifts.blogspot.com Melanie

    What a beautiful, moving story. I’ve only just now discovered your blog and this is only the 2nd post I’ve read, but I think you are fabulous!

    Cheers from South Korea!

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  • http://www.wanderlass.com Lilliane

    wow! this sent shiver all over me!! it was early this year that i decided i will follow this dream–the trip of a lifetime. i hope to begin beginning of 2011.

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  • http://blogs.eciad.ca/elizabethmackenzie/ Elizabeth

    So wonderful to read this moving and inspiring recollection of that important journey. As your sister-in-law I knew about the trip but appreciate how you’ve been able to place it within a larger life context. It’s so easy to have regrets about what we haven’t done… how much better it is to look back and say, I’m so glad I did it!

  • http://amazingjourney.us Amazing Journey

    nice post, such a wonderful life I thought.

    Should you stay or should you go? its only you that can answer. what is the best for you then? stay or go?

  • http://globetrooper.com Globetrooper Lauren

    It’s so inspirational that you and your husband were able to go against the norm 10 years ago. I don’t know why it still seems to be unusual when someone decides on long-term travel, it shouldn’t be like that at all.

    Thanks for confirming my thoughts that I’m doing the right thing – not because it’s ‘right’ but because it’s what I want to do.

  • http://nycitymama.com Carol | NYCityMama

    Wow. What a beautiful post. I feel the passing of my mother and the list of dream unfulfilled she left behind were what have prompted me (us) to change our lives as well. I am so thrilled that you and your husband and your family really lived it before he passed. We, here in our home, are at a crossroads as well, trying to figure out when to go on extended leave. For now we go, come back and go again…but yes, always go. Thank you. This really hit home.

  • solotraveler

    Raquel, that’s fantastic. Do what you can given your circumstances.

    Cheers!
    Janice

  • http://aireslibretravel.com Raquel

    Inspiring story…. I’ve always dreamed of embarking on an adventure like that. However, I can’t take off because I’m divorced and share custody of my children and their dad would not allow it.

    But I am traveling all summer long next year while the kids spend time with their dad. It will be my first trip over 30 days!

  • Danieljandrews

    Like everyone else has already said, what an inspirational insight. Too many of us put our dreams on hold incase it causes problems with our future. But as your piece shows we should seize every moment and not hold out. My answer: GO

  • http://thisismyhappiness.com Jenna

    This post is such an inspiration. I have been thinking of ways to integrate travel into my life again since having my son 3 years ago. I want him and his brother or sister, who will arrive early next year, to have opportunities to see the world that I didn’t have as a child. Your story is inspiring me to be more proactive. :-)

  • http://www.sharingtravelexperiences.com/ Andy Hayes | Sharing Travel Experiences

    Thanks for sharing such a personal story – I learned something new about you I didn’t know. I feel awfully sad reading this, but I also so thankful that you have such a wonderful memory to take away.

    If you want to travel, or take a class, or whatever it is you want to do… DO IT.

    Life waits for no one.

  • solotraveler

    Yes, whether it’s crossing the street or traveling the world, I find that kids are always ahead of their parents in terms of what they’re ready for . I’d love to receive a followup on your plans. I hope you make it to a Meet Plan Go event. You’ll get lots of inspiration there.

    Thanks for commenting. It’s always appreciated.

  • http://www.kaleidoscopicwandering.com JoAnna

    Thanks for sharing this story Janice. I agree, we have to live for today because tomorrow is so uncertain.

  • http://indietravelpodcast.com Craig

    You’re preaching to the converted here :P We started out with an extended OE and ended up with a lifestyle.

    Making choices that help balance the present and future are really important. I wonder what it is that keeps people afraid of a future after travel?

  • http://www.twitter.com/rbsadie Sadie

    You remind me of why I was so moved by the story of Carl and Ellie Fredricksen in the movie UP. Some expense always seemed to come up and prevent them from taking off on an adventure. Then it was too late. We’ve been waiting until our child was old enough. After our recent two week road trip up the East Coast of the US, we realized that she’s ready. No matter where we went, she was unfazed, never homesick. It made us realize that she always felt “at home” because she was with the two of us. :)

  • http://www.SandyWheelerTravel.com Sandy Wheeler

    Enjoyed the article and your posts on Twitter! Intrigued by the Meet and Go meet ups, I see one in Atlanta. Since travel is my passion and my livelihood I should probably go, don’t you think? And I totally agree with earlier post–don’t put off using the “good stuff” be it china, experiences–life is too short–and we are not promised tomorrow. Live the full life today. Thanks for the reminder!
    Sandy, @thedivacruiser

  • http://www.explorerdad.com ExplorerDad

    great sentiment – is great to be able to go. life is for living

  • solotraveler

    From those who are commenting, it feels like I’m preaching to the converted. I love the comments but how about those of you who read this and are in a quandary about whether to go or not? Do you have comments as well. What’s holding you back from taking a long term trip? What’s inspiring you to go? I’d love your comments as well. And please, check to see if there’s a Meet Plan Go event in your city.

  • http://solofriendly.com Gray

    Terrific story, Janice. You’re speaking my language when you talk about the need to prepare for the future vs. living in the present. It’s a tough balancing act.

  • http://www.wanderingeducators.com/marketplace/apparel/do-mbt-shoes-really-work.html jessiev

    what an incredible and moving story, janice. it is SO true – sometimes we get that internal PUSH. i am so glad you WENT. there’s no time like the present – what a gift you all got, that last bit together, doing something so very cool.

  • Michael Schuermann

    Your post reminded of one of those ever-forwarded inspirational emails my wife once sent me unintentionally. It’s about a woman who always puts her lovely things aside to use for “a special occassion”. And those pretty things were indeed used for a very special occassion – to bury her in. When a wonderful opportunity is there for the taking,go for it. You and your husband were wise and lucky that you did.

  • Michele Peterson

    An inspiring post Janice and a real testimonial to the importance of living life to its fullest.

  • The girl who went

    Thank you for sharing this story. I’m two months in on my year long journey around the world. You are such an inspiration, I have loved and learned from your writing.

    Though sometimes I feel guilty for being the one who gets to go, leaving loved ones behind to worry.

    Leaving was the hardest part, leaving alone- a close second. But everyday I wake up feeling free and a little more fearless.

    Cheers from Indonesia,
    T.

  • Pamm at OnlyACarryon

    What a lovely story. And how fortunate you were to share that experience.

    I too, have traveled for up to a year at a time and don’t regret it for a moment. In spite of 19 broken bones, ten surgeries and three types of cancer.

    Without hesitation – go…go…GO!! It is worth every moment, if you allow it to be.

  • http://www.theqfamilyadventures.com Amy @ The Q Family

    What an inspiration story, Janice! Thank you for sharing your story. It’s so true. Live life to the fullest so there will be no regret.

  • http://www.travelyourself.ca Cailin

    this story makes me want to travel even more and more. Thanks for sharing with with us Janice! :)

  • http://www.briefcasetobackpack.com Sherry Ott

    Janice, thanks for sharing such a touching, personal story. We are so lucky to have you as part of Meet Plan Go as you are truly an inspiration.

  • http://www.theplanetd.com Dave and Deb

    Such a moving post Janice. Thank you for sharing this story with us all. It is an inspiration and you answered the question for all of us. If you want to do something in life, you should do it. If you want to go somewhere…Go.

  • http://velvetescape.com/blog Keith Jenkins

    Gorgeous post Janice, straight from the heart and a powerful message to all who are faces with the same questions. I’m with you on this (when aren’t I? ;-) … Simply GO! :-)

    Thanks for sharing this lovely, inspiring story.

    Hugs,
    Keith

  • http://www.itchyfeetblog.com Joanna Itchy Feet Blog

    What a heartfelt story – a real inspiration. I’m truly glad for you that you went and experienced such a wonderful time back then! And also that you continue to share your adventures now as a result. The moral of the story is a profound one: not putting off your plans for tomorrow, and starting the ball rolling as soon as you can, no matter how daunting those first steps my seem.

    Keep up the great work here, Janice! :)

  • http://www.sarahleetravelsblog.com Sarah Lee

    What a thought provoking post Janice. You really are an inspiration.
    All too often we get bogged down with the pressures of every day life. But I heartily believe in living for the moment as you never know what lies around the corner and your story is proof of that.
    It must be wonderful to have memories of a life lived and the great experiences you and your husband shared on your trip. Keep travelling and sharing your tales!

About Janice Waugh and Tracey Nesbitt

I'm an author, blogger, speaker and traveler. I became a widow and empty-nester at about the same time. And then, I became Solo Traveler... Here's the full story. >>

Tracey Nesbitt I’m a writer, editor, food and wine fanatic, and traveler. On my very first trip abroad I learned that solo travel was for me. Here's the full story. >>

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