This boomer chose travel over family and career

We like this piece by Carol A. Boe of Henderson, Nevada. Henderson is not exactly a fast-moving place, but that hasn’t kept Carol back. She has been a busy baby boomer, traveling the world — and living in parts of it — for much of her life. This is her story.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about boomers finally being able to travel the world. The way the narrative goes is, now that they’re retired and their kids are grown, it’s their turn.

But that’s not how it worked for me. This boomer started her global travels after her first year in college in July 1972. I was 19 years old.

Carol Boe in Ecuador on a rainy day.

I never really wanted to be a wife and mother. My passion was exploring the world and different cultures. Other people told me it wasn’t “normal” to not settle down with a family.

Since I was the odd woman out, I usually traveled alone and unafraid. I discovered that the world is full of good and helpful people. All they expect in return is kindness, respect for their cultures, and a smile.

Now, at 65, I’ve already traveled to 29 countries and lived in four of them. In September this year, I’m going to visit Spain again. Then, I’ll go see Portugal and Morocco for the first time. As long as I’m still healthy and can afford it, why not continue enjoying the world.

My first overseas trip in 1972 was to visit my long-time pen-pal, Eileen Jones, in Birmingham, England. Eileen’s family “adopted” me for a week. Then, I traveled by myself for another three weeks in England, Scotland, and Wales on a student Brit Rail Pass— long discontinued.

Carol in Turkey

From September 1973 to July 1974, I completed my junior year at the American Schiller College in Heidelberg, (West) Germany. Our professors took us to places and introduced us to people that most tourists never experience. I also hitchhiked with female classmates around Europe.

For years after, I spent every school and work vacation that I could afford traveling abroad.

In 1995, at age 42, I left a great job in marketing communications in Atlanta, sold my house, and moved to South Korea to teach English. I had wanted to see Asia for years. Because I had a Master’s degree, I could teach at Korean universities. Korean students are delightful to teach and know. When I wasn’t teaching, I was traveling alone to other Asian countries.

A family death in 1999 brought me back from Korea to my hometown of Syracuse, New York. I went back to work. But by 2003, I left my good staff writer-editor position and returned to South Korea to teach at another university. I was 50 years old.

In August, 2006, I finally came home to America. Unfortunately, in 2009, I joined millions of other boomers who were laid off in the Great Recession. I never found another full-time job in America.

In September, 2012, I was hired to teach English full-time at a university in Turkey. I was 59. My Turkish students and colleagues were as warm and hospitable as the Koreans. I continued teaching and exploring fascinating Turkey until August, 2015.

I wasn’t ready to come back to the U.S. though. That September, I flew to Cuenca, Ecuador on a one-year teaching contract. I was 62.

I still wouldn’t trade the life I’ve lived for anything in the world. And I’m not done yet.

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8 Comments

  1. Two of my nieces chose this way of life, much to their enjoyment, and their families’ chagrin! Recently, they have returned to stay, and fortunately, were able to step back into their teaching careers. Having a job with flexibility and ample rate of pay was helpful to them. I can’t imagine how they would have managed in any other career!

    1. Thank you for your response. I’m happy that your nieces had the experience and that they are able to continue their teaching careers in the U.S. I never taught before I went to Korea, either time. Nor did I make a lot of money. I found that if we’re resourceful and have the will, we’ll find a way to do the things you love.

  2. Great article, Carol. As you know our lives have had some parallels and I plan to continue exploring the world after finishing my MA. It was great getting to know you in Cuenca! Keep me posted about the next trip!

    1. Thank you, Brandon. It was great getting to know you, as well, in Cuenca. I wish you all the best in your studies and future global teachings. We both know that heart and compassion are what carries us/people beyond our own borders.

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