Maggie Counihan is an inspiration – not only to older people but to anyone who is allowing fear or uncertainty to prevent them from pursuing their dream.
At the age of 60 Maggie, a divorcee, left her home, her family and friends and comfortable life and backpacked solo around the world for the next ten years. Her book Backpacking to Freedom: Solo at Sixty chronicled her adventures and her personal growth and has been a great success.
Upon her return to Australia, her adopted country, (she’s a Kiwi) she met and fell in love with Rollo and together they have continued travelling. Maggie, who is now 75, has just released the sequel to Backpacking to Freedom, called Bring on the Birthdays: Ageing with Adventures.
I asked Maggie about her book.
What inspired you to write Bring on the Birthdays?
I always scribble when I travel – travelling sets off my writing button. And in my travels doing promotional talks for Backpacking to Freedom I’ve been surprised at how many desperately unhappy people I’ve met. We (Rollo and I) meet lots of people who aren’t fit and healthy and we want to be an example.
What’s the main theme?
We have two mantras – Age is no barrier and Try new things. So there’s a bit of everything in it –travel, relationships and keeping active and healthy so you can enjoy getting older instead of finding it a burden. Rollo and I started our life together teaching in Vietnam – we’d only known each other for a few months. One thing I say is never take a relationship for granted, when you’ve been through bad relationships you treasure the good ones.
What’s your advice for living a fulfilling life in your senior years?
Health is the number one tip, if you don’t have good health everything else becomes very difficult. So this comes down to good food, fitness and regular exercise. I’m amazed at how many people think they eat well, but they don’t. Find a form of exercise you enjoy – there’s such a range of activities available.
A positive attitude is also very important. As I always say in my author talks, I don’t do ‘what ifs’. People always ask me about travel disasters, but I don’t expect things to go wrong and they rarely do.
Good relationships, family, friends, partner. Love, friendship and support are all vital.
How much input did Rollo have in your book?
He’s my first line of defence. I write by hand, then transfer it to computer. Rollo looks at my rough draft and does the first edit. Then I have it professionally assessed and edited. Rollo also organises all my publicity and promotion, picks me up and brings me down to earth. I couldn’t do it without him.
What sort of feedback have you had from Backpacking to Freedom?
I’ve had lots of letters and emails from people who’ve been inspired by reading my book or hearing me talk. For example, I received an email from a woman who was 68 and giving up work. She said, ‘I wondered what I was going to do with my life.’ So, after reading my book, she decided to go travelling. My advice to people planning to travel is:
It’s a good feeling to make such a positive impact on people’s lives.
What do you hope readers will get out of Bring on the Birthdays?
I hope that they will look at their life and do something interesting. I’m amazed at how many older people live their lives through their grandchildren. I keep a file of people I read about who are in their seventies and doing amazing things. It’s your time now, so make the most of it.
What’s next on the agenda?
We’re going to revamp and re-publish one of our earlier books ‘101 Ways to Look Younger and Feel Better.’
We’ll also keep travelling – hopefully a trip soon to Cambodia to see the two young boys I sponsor in an orphanage in Siem Riep.
My review of Bring on the Birthdays: Ageing with Adventures
This book is an account of Maggie and Rollo’s travels in Asia, Europe, New Zealand and North Queensland, interspersed with inspirational chapters such as ‘The joy of relationships, ‘I don’t do what ifs’ and ‘Do new things.’ Rollo also contributes a few paragraphs of his impressions of India as a first time traveller there.
Maggie’s style is conversational and easy to read. She writes with a light yet evocative touch, so you really feel as if you’re there, in the places she describes. Armchair and ‘real’ travellers alike will find her travel stories entertaining. And I defy anyone not to feel positive and uplifted after reading her advice on living life to the fullest – advice that she and Rollo follow to the letter.
At present it’s only available in print version. To buy this book, or Backpacking to Freedom, email Maggie at email@example.com or visit Maggie and Rollo’s website www.maggie-rollo.com.
Robin Storey is an Australian author from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. She is a certified book nerd and has no weird hobbies or unusual pets.