The question is often asked ”Where are Adrienne and Mal now?” This globe-trotting couple in their 60’s have embraced a grey nomad existence and overseas travel with a passion. I met Adrienne a few years ago and I was immediately welcomed into the warm and friendly space she creates around her. She’s smart, genuinely interested in people, invites conversation and is tuned into the world around her. She also has the energy of a mountain goat and is the centrifuge of a family of 4 daughters, 4 grandchildren, and also supports her 90 year old mother. I sat down with Adrienne the other day to find out more about this lovely woman- her story, dreams and her recipe for living a good life as we age.
Adrienne is about to turn 64. As a child she grew up in a middle-class family in the idyllic area of Oyster Bay about 26 kilometers South of Sydney and yes, as kids they did wander the rocks along the beach and eat oysters! (And I thought school milk was a treat!) Childhood was contented, free of worry and a safe and happy place where Adrienne could explore her vivid imagination. She loved art and drawing and school generally.
“The film Puberty Blues sums up my teenage years” says Adrienne, with a smile and we both remember the surfing, beach culture, volatility of teenage friendships, sneaking alcohol in school bags and generally being adolescents exploring the world and our boundaries.
She excelled at school, had planned to do Architecture at university but Adrienne decided to defer, taking a job designing wallpaper in a company where wall paper was still screen printed and hand designed. Other job roles, marriage and children followed. Like so many of us, Adrienne has experienced the highs and lows of life and the transitions we make. The death of a parent, divorce and re-marriage, health problems and the birth of her 4 beautiful, talented daughters are part of Adrienne’s life experience.
Celebrating her 64th year, Adrienne has lived in Queensland with her husband Mal, a retired dentist for 31 years now
What do you like about life at this age?
Adrienne says “Family and friends are number one. The freedom to travel and not having to work. I’m calmer and more measured, less judgmental and at peace. I really don’t sweat the small stuff.”
What are the challenges older age brings?
“Physical ailments. Not having the strength to keep going. I need to limit myself or I pay the next day. I took up hiking 10 years ago and that keeps me fit but again, I pace myself.”
Adrienne then talks about caring for her mother and the range of feelings that come with a carer role. She articulates the complexity of this task beautifully.
I find it hard looking after mum at times. It’s all about her now and I have to find the place in my heart and my head where I can care for her. I have to give myself over to the role of caring for her. I don’t have expectations of her anymore. We take each day as it comes.
What are the things that are still on your bucket list?
“Travel..lots more Travel!” she says “and spending time with my family and seeing the grandchildren grow into the people they will become.”
And so we touch on the TRAVEL issue. Where have these inveterate travellers already been?
India, Kenya, Israel, France, Italy, Jordan, Spain, Portugal, Papua- New Guinea, Fiji and much of Asia. When it comes to hiking their boots have crossed coast to coast across the north of England (Adrienne’s favourite) and the West Highland way in Scotland. Hikes have also taken them to beautiful Nepal, New Zealand, Utah and New Hampshire.
In Australia, Adrienne also has walked the wonderful Cooloola wilderness trail, a 5 day hike, with one of her daughters. Oh and there are the hikes she’s done in WA and the Hans Heyson trail in South Australia. Don’t worry Tasmania, Adrienne and Mal have also walked the Cradle mountain track and some of the South West Track. Back in the Northern Territory they hiked the Larapinta trail and the Hume and Hovell trail in NSW.
Driving and camping along the Gibb River track in the Kimberley was on their bucket list but the stunning photos Adrienne has taken shows clearly that this too has been conquered! For our readers unfamiliar with this area……
“The Kimberley is Western Australia’s sparsely settled northern region. It’s known for large swaths of wilderness defined by rugged ranges, dramatic gorges, semi-arid savanna and a largely isolated coastline. The mostly unsealed Gibb River Road runs 660km through the region’s heart, passing by Windjana Gorge National Park, which has towering limestone cliffs and pools where freshwater crocodiles gather.” (WA Travel Guide)
Snuggling back into my arm chair with thoughts of hiking to the local shops I ask Adrienne, ”Where would you like to travel next?”
“Alaska, Canada and more of Australia” she calmly replies.
What advice would you give others about ageing well?
Adrienne pauses and then the wisdom flows.
Eat well. Sleep well, Love well.
Be authentic and kind
Cultivate good friendships. Have your own hobbies and interests apart from the marriage and doing things together
Build a relationship based on respect, honesty, being loving and sharing time together
Focus on the big issues.. let the small ones go.
Treat people like you want to be treated
I feel the tension of needing to close down the conversation but also wanting to explore further and peel away more layers in this story. Our 30 minutes has spun out into 3 times that and yet the richness of Adrienne’s experience, her determination and vitality intrigue me. She’s practical and matter of fact and artistic and creative. She’s living with rheumatoid arthritis and yet has hiked hundreds of miles on different continents. She has a strong sense of self and her own interests and yet has a successful, enduring marriage. Thank you Adrienne for gifting the richness of this story and the wonderful photographs.