Time waits for no woman. Meet Janice, who together with her beloved late husband husband Keith, took the plunge and quit her well paying managerial job to travel the world. Any woman who does this, we got time for…
Tell us more about the moment you and your husband decided to travel around the world?
We always loved traveling to unusual places, but deciding to leave our jobs and go round the world was not a ‘light bulb’ moment, it just evolved. It initially came about because I sat next to a girl at work who had recently returned from such a trip with her boyfriend. We became friends and I was inspired. They invited us over one evening to see the pictures, and the seed was planted. Keith and I talked about doing it endlessly, but the opportunity finally came about when Keith was made redundant from his management role and we decided to use the money to fund the trip.
What have you taken away from travelling the world, has it influenced your outlook on life?
Wonderful memories made even more poignant because Keith is now dead. We were proud of ourselves that we achieved an ambition. Sharing that experience strengthened our already strong relationship even further.
As we’d always traveled extensively, we already had an appreciation that we were very fortunate to live in the UK and that a lot of people throughout the world have much tougher lives. However, the poverty in Myanmar touched us greatly, as did witnessing the repression people suffered 20 years ago under military rule. Most of the hotels were run by the army, so our tour company tried to book us into small privately run hotels. Our guide pointed out a prison camp for dissidents where the inmates were breaking rocks. We were due to attend a rally given by (the soon to be imprisoned leader of the opposition) Aung San Suu Kyi, where foreigners were arrested, but we got stuck on a train and didn’t make it.
In China, our local guide in Bejing had to come to the back of the coach in order to whisper to us about what had happened in Tiananmen Square in case the driver was a government spy.
We witnessed incredible natural beauty, staggering manmade sites and we met some incredible people. We saw some of nature’s deadliest predators in close proximity. Even through the events are all written down in the diary I kept, it’s all seared in my memory like it was only yesterday. Quite simply, it was the best year of our lives.
What challenges have you faced as a woman on your travels?
I don’t know if I’ve been very fortunate, or whether it’s a testament to attitudes other cultures have to women, but I can’t recall having had many problems. Muslim countries in particular seem to respect woman very highly. I do remember once when we were close to the Grand Place in Bangkok being shouted at for not being dressed modestly enough for the location (I was wearing a strappy dress). But I’m older and wiser now and I made an effort to dress modestly when appropriate.
I try and overcome any challenges (I’m always getting lost – I’ve been lost in Lebanon, Damascus, Belize and Havana) by using my charm, but ultimately it’s all about treating people with respect.
Is there any advice you’d give to fellow women travelers?
Read the dangers and annoyance’s section of your guide book before you go, and respect the culture. Don’t walk around lonely areas you don’t know in the dark. Trust your instincts – you don’t want to be so wary of trying things that you limit your experience, but one does need to stay vigilant.
Did people ever tell you that you couldn’t quit your job and travel the world?
No. But I did tell myself I couldn’t because it entailed my resigning from a good job. Thankfully Keith persuaded me!
Are there any particular women who inspire you to travel?
Princess Diana traveled extensively due to her role in public life and she used her position to support good causes, I particularly remember the landmine campaign.