A huge Silver Travel Book Club welcome to David & Helene Moore, whose first retirement project was, erm, unusual…
No comfy slippers and gardening shears for them. Instead, they travelled to 15 countries in 10 months, via 53 flights, 30 trains, 8 boats, 3 cruise ships, 1 light aircraft, 1 hot air balloon, a motorbike and sidecar, countless speedboats, taxis, tuk-tuks, cyclos, bicycles. And a disobedient horse.
Turning Left Around The World, about to be published by Mirador and also the Silver Travel Book Club Book of the Month for September, is an entertaining account of their journey – often intriguing, frequently funny and occasionally tragic.
Share their adventure, enjoy the surprises and meet some fascinating people with some unusual customs.
I am delighted that David and Helene have agreed to answer a few questions for Silver Travellers. And head over to the Silver Travel Book Club Forum thread for a chance to win one of five signed copies of Turning Left Around The World.
Q: What did you both do in your working lives before ‘retirement’….and have you always been inspired by travel?
Hi Andrew and thanks for the opportunity to chat about our travels.
I guess our retirement project was a bit unusual, but as a once-in-a-lifetime adventure it was wonderful. It may seem a bit daunting at first, but I would recommend it to all Silver Travellers or ‘grey gap-year globetrotters’ as Helene likes to call us.
My career in advertising and marketing couldn’t have been further from our recent experience. I ran a marketing agency in London for 15 years and then became a Consultant Marketing Director leading the re-launch of some national brands.
My travelling was pretty much limited to beaches in France and trips to Florida as the children grew up. It was Helene who persuaded me to look at more unusual and more adventurous destinations.
True, it was me. I love travel!
On Saturday afternoons while David watched sport, my own sport was to browse the internet for exciting destinations and amazing hotels to dream about visiting. I guess David’s retirement was the point I was waiting for to pounce, and to turn dreams into reality.
Unlike David though, I haven’t retired. In fact I gave myself a year out and took some time off from my work in pre-natal relationship education, helping mothers and babies to bond before birth.
Q: So come on, David & Helene, whose idea was it to travel around the world in just under a year, rather than pop over to Calais for the day?
Without doubt it was Helene’s idea! I had briefly mentioned that the wheels of industry may continue to turn if I was to put myself out to pasture in my sixtieth year.
Never one to procrastinate about these things Helene began planning how best to ease her occasionally stubborn and stuffy husband into engaging with a project she had often suggested, but which we had never progressed.
And what a wonderful time I had too, there really is as much fun in the planning…
Q: Robert Frost famously wrote about taking ‘the road less travelled’. How did you pick the 15 countries on your itinerary, and did you generally want to stay ‘mainstream’ or head ‘off the beaten track’?
This was a stroke of genius from Helene.
She presented me with a huge colourful map of the world, well over a metre and a half across, and two boxes of pins; blue for me and pink for her, with the instructions to start sticking pins in the places we had always wanted to go. There were two rules: no countries we had already visited and we were allowed one selection each that could not be challenged.
Two weeks later and we had our route.
It appeared we were to start in South America. Not the obvious Brazil and Argentina but the more challenging Peru, Ecuador and Chile. I cheated slightly with two pins on the Galapagos – I’m a sucker for Attenborough’s nature programmes and have always wanted to go – and there was also a pink pin virtually obscuring an island way out in the Pacific. On closer inspection that turned out to be Easter Island.
The route would take us via Hawaii and on to Fiji. New Zealand north and south islands were a unanimous selection and Australia was covered in pink pins around Sydney, where Helene’s old school friend now lives, and a blue one right in the centre, where I guessed Ayers Rock may be.
South East Asia had a variety of pins in countries that would have been impossible to visit only 30 years ago. Cambodia, Vietnam and Burma, to my surprise now called Myanmar, alongside Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
Hong Kong, China and Japan were all sitting comfortably with two coloured pins in each.
Neither of us back-packed before or after university and at 60 years of age I was not going to start now, but we did consider ourselves to be intrepid explorers when we spent time in the Ecuador Rainforest and Amazon Jungle. There were specific ‘mainstream’ sights we wanted to see; Machu Picchu, Ayers Rock, the Great Barrier Reef, Easter Island, The Great Wall of China, the Terracotta Army, Mount Fuji…I could go on, but equally we spent time in the Atacama Desert and an island on Lake Titicaca, pretty much off the beaten track.
Yes, experiencing so many sites and cities as well as different countries meant we needed to sometimes combine mainstream with off the beaten track. I’ve always wanted to see The Petronas Towers for example, so Kuala Lumpur was the perfect but more mainstream gateway, into more off the beaten track parts of Asia.
Q: And how on earth do you plan for such a mammoth adventure? I have trouble deciding what to take for 5 days in Naples…where do you start when you have all those different climates, currencies and cultures to think about?
It’s one of the three most often asked questions; how we packed for climates ranging from 15 below to well over 30 degrees. I’ll defer to Helene on this one. The other two common questions are ‘how did you plan it’ and ‘were you still talking to each other at the end of it’!
Aha – it’s how in part the book of the adventure ‘Turning Left Around The World’ got its name!
Turning left on the plane, as David will explain, and turning left to chase the sun, starting in South America in their Spring, getting hotter and hotter until we ended in China and Japan in their Spring 10 months later, entirely missing winter anywhere. Whilst the plan was robust, accurate it was not; we simply couldn’t predict changing weather!
So while it was a general rule, clothes for cold weather were required in small quantities and were either left in storage or sent home once they were done with.
It was a fun feat of colour coordinated and culturally appropriate separates with small and lightweight accessories to transform every outfit. Rather reminded me of my Fashion School days. I could bore you for hours with my best packing hacks – perhaps a completely different interview!
Yes, so let me explain. The international flights were booked using the extremely cost effective OneWorldExplorer ticket, in fact so cost effective we were able to upgrade to Business Class tickets and ‘turn left around the world’.
Q: You spent a lot of time in China, south-east Asia, Australia, New Zealand and South America. Which people and culture surprised you most?
New Zealand is a beautiful country; we drove north to south and seemed to travel through the Highlands of Scotland, the Vineyards of France, then Canada and Switzerland. And the people, particularly the indigenous Maori, are quick to help, very friendly and quite rightly proud of their culture and country.
But for me it was the people of wonderful Myanmar who surprised me the most. I suppose I wasn’t sure what to expect from a country I only knew as Burma and that has the world’s longest running civil war having been under military rule off and on from 1962, and classified as one of the UN’s “Least Developed Nations” in 1987.
They are poor, yet proud and happy people, with some quite extraordinary customs and rituals from a culture that has seen little change for centuries. It was my favourite place to write about in the book because of the extraordinary temples and stupas we visited, the fascinating people we met (including Mr Bong the astrologer and Wyn in the Ghost Market) and their traditions most of us would find extremely odd.
I second Myanmar, but I also loved Ecuador and the Ecuadorians – gentle, dignified and smiley people.
Q: What was the single, most vivid memory of the whole trip for each of you? Was it a person, an experience, a meal, a culture….or a country? Or something much less obvious?
It is almost impossible to select one memory…there were so many highlights, both planned and unexpected. The Great Wall and the Terracotta Army in China were magnificent, Ayers Rock and Mount Fuji were breathtakingly beautiful, while the Galapagos Islands and Amazon Jungle exceeded our expectations in being up close and personal with the wildlife.
But it is the stories behind the scenes that I treasure just as much; the genius of the Inca king Pachacutec and the tragedy of his Machu Picchu, the incredible walking Moai of Easter Island and the personal account of Phnom Penh Prison told to me by one of only seven survivors from the 20,000 who died. It was these and others that inspired me to write the book.
If pushed, I would say the first view of Machu Picchu after the long hike up was the most vivid memory, certainly the most emotional.
Mine was without doubt a moment in time and so unexpected. David referred earlier to our agreement that one country each couldn’t be challenged, his was Galapagos.
I wasn’t so sure, being on water for six nights, how would it feel so close to wildlife?
The very first afternoon, having boarded and enjoyed a fantastic lunch on the ship, we had our first Island excursion. Having just experienced our first wet landing we could hear a half yelping, half crying sound. I turned around just in time to see a Sea Lion give birth to her pup, almost at my feet. I then had the privilege to witness the beginning of the bonding process between mother and child; until I felt I had to turn away and give them their privacy. Given my work, words can’t describe what an unbelievably special and once in a life time moment that was for me.
Q: Did you always plan to write a book about your adventure? And which authors do you like, and who may have influenced your own literary style?
Absolutely not, I accidentally became an author. I was writing for friends and family at home so that they could experience our travels more than simply following us on social media. The ‘Moore Ramblings’ as I called them seemed popular and things began to escalate.
One of the reviewers said the book is “A great journey, full of laughter, a few tears and lots of heart. It’s romantic and adventurous, amusing and understanding, a story to enjoy” which I think sums it up well.
I would never put myself alongside Bill Bryson or Chris Stewart’s hilarious ‘Driving over Lemons’ (highly recommended by the way) but I love their work, so no doubt their style influenced me.
Q: If this isn’t too personal, what did you learn about each other during this long, fun – but no doubt at times also challenging – adventure?
You’re right, Andrew. Sometimes it was challenging because we deliberately pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone; Helene’s first time on a horse, feeding breakfast to sharks in Fiji, the Amazon jungle canopy walk on rope bridges 80 metres above the ground and staying in a POW camp tested our mettle, but my goodness I’m so glad we did them.
At the end of each day we would swap our ‘bestest bits’ – a family tradition going back to when we holidayed with the children – and discuss our experiences. They were always intriguing, frequently funny and occasionally tragic so there was a lot of laughter, and sometimes a few tears.
But we learned that although we will never be the intrepid explorers we sometimes thought we were, we can actually take on a lot more together than we thought we could.
Yes, it was a gift to be able to experience, witness and participate in our adventure together. We went with a ‘have a go’ attitude of try everything once, we always tried to be in the moment and above all we looked out for each other always. Those have all been brought home with us: but the biggest thing I learned about my husband – he can write!
Q: And if you’re still talking to each other, what new travel adventures are in the Moore pipeline?
Yes, we are still talking to each other; after all we have a lot to talk about, particularly as Helene appears to have bought another huge map!
There were some locations on our big map that didn’t make the cut so I would like to try India, Nepal, Russia – it’s not a ‘global village’, it’s a big and diverse world out there and there’s still a lot more for us to discover.
Not surprisingly we agree on all of the places we’d like to go next. In addition I’d love to spend time exploring the great outdoors of North America, and Canada, I’d love to see more glaciers, and we never did see a bear!
Q: And finally, what would you say to Silver Travellers about to retire? And should they think about visiting Calais or Myanmar?
Leave Calais to the pre-Christmas run to stock up on wine.
At the front of ‘Turning Left Around The World’ is a quotation that inspired me, I hope it will inspire others to take the adventure of a lifetime:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
If any of our fellow Silver Travellers would like to ask a specific question about the planning of their adventure I would be happy to help if I can. Go to my website www.davidcmoore-author.com and ask a question off the About the Author page.
Thanks Andrew, that was fun!
Thanks so much to David & Helene for taking the time to answer these questions so thoughtfully for the Silver Travel Book Club. Follow the September Book Club Forum comments thread for Silver Travellers’ own travel experiences around the world, and interact with David and Helene yourselves.
Don’t forget that they are kindly offering 5 – yes, 5 – signed copies of the book for the most entertaining comments from Silver Travel Book Club members during September. Just tell us on theSilver Travel Book Club Forum thread about your own travels since retirement, or where you are planning to visit when you do retire. Or did you plan a single, exciting trip to celebrate retirement? And keep your eyes peeled around the Silver Travel Advisor website and newsletter for some other great prizes available to tie in with Turning Left Around The World.
You can read the prologue to Turning Left Around The World – and see David & Helene’s incredible itinerary – here.
Check out David’s website for more information about the trip and the book, and for some of the brilliant photos taken along the way.
And if you don’t want to wait, you can pre-order the book on Amazon.