By Irene Butler
Every part of this beautiful big blue ball is within our reach, and us Butlers (my husband Rick and I) are on the move to prove it. Each year we travel through a number of countries to have tea with the locals, sample the flavourful fare of street vendors, dip our toes in famous rivers, climb mountains for spectacular visas, and become enriched in ways we never could have imagined.
We believe our wanderlust began at an early age. Being born in Saskatchewan, I grew up wondering what was beyond the big prairie sky; and as a young’un in Ontario, Rick honed a desire to visit the far-off ports of ships sailing into the Great Lakes.
Our passion for seeing new places spiralled while taking as many short trips as we could manage during our 35+ years of treading the work-wheel. My careers varied from teaching school (including setting up a student marks program onto a computer the size of a galley kitchen), and then leaping into real estate sales north of the 55th parallel in Thompson, Manitoba. After a move to Prince Edward Island I became owner/operator of Soapberry Shop (natural skin & body products). Rick spent his work years exclusively with Canadian Tire, working his way up from a stock boy to becoming a franchised Canadian Tire dealer (which accounts for us having the opportunity to live in many provinces across the country). The first thing we thought of after retiring in British Columbia at the ages of 56 for me, and a mere 50 for my young pup of a husband, was to fulfill a life-long dream and go off and see the world.
We did just that! – put our belongings in storage, planned a loose route, and with my husband’s budgeting challenge, we traveled for a full year for the same cost as if we had stayed at home. I began to journal on how we were touched by people along the way and how we succumbed to the inevitable inner changes that come from seeing the world from the perspective of other cultures. It was the most daring, rewarding and enlightening year in our lives.
After returning home I began to write travel articles, and with my only writing background being factual university assignments and dry business reports, I had to dig deep for the artistry of expressing such things as the euphoria of climbing higher than the highest Rocky Mountain to stand face-to-face with Mt. Everest, the roof of the world. At the same time, Rick was busy refining his photography in the esoteric techniques of “composition, aperture settings, shutter speeds and white balance”. No one was more surprised or thrilled than us when our articles and photos were accepted by newspapers and magazines. Travel writing courses and joining travel writing organizations gave me further insight into the travel writing industry.
From this first extended journey in 2002 our life has become travel, going off for five or six months annually to immerse ourselves in other cultures, continually refining our method of combining countries that are more expensive to travel in with those that are less expensive to meet my “finance minister’s” budget – while at the same time adhering to our older traveller’s motto, “we are not hear to suffer”. This translates for us to keeping within a certain standard in accommodations and eateries, and not being “chintzy” when it comes to seeing things we have come so far to see.
And it is never too late to expand in an area. At age 65, I wrote a book, “Trekking the Globe with Mostly Gentle Footsteps: Twelve Countries in Twelve Months,” inclusive of Rick’s budget and photos (published May 2010). We are now into the realm of book tours and radio/TV interviews, but continue to seek out new global adventures each year, as well as across Canada joyous visits with our five sons, their partners, and our seven grandchildren.
Our most current excursion began October 2010 in the Middle East, soaking up the atmosphere of cities and deserts of the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Syria, and Jordan. We celebrated the New Year by climbing Mt Sinai in Egypt, and then it was onto the holy sites of Israel. From there we made our way to colourful Vietnam, enjoyed the flavours of Malaysia, then bussed to Singapore for our flight home March 2011.
Fifties, sixties and beyond is the time to light a flame to your pipe dreams, to do the things you have always wanted to do, but never got around to doing. For Rick and I it is “ to see the world before we leave it” and feel fortunate to be living our dream.