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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Nancy Pettine Interview

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As a couple, we are fortunate to share our love of travel together. But what if you are single or your spouse prefers the comforts of home to the challenge of adventure? Nancy Pettine has been journeying around the world on her own for decades, before and after she was married. An experienced traveler, she shares her insight and tips in our interview with her below.

Retire Early Lifestyle: Nancy, could you tell our Readers a little about yourself?

Nancy: Up until I started traveling in 1983, I lived a normal life – born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, school (but not college), working in hospitals mainly as a secretary. While living and working in Denver I discovered travel by going on Windjammer cruises and taking long weekend trips to Mexico, and a week in Jamaica. On a secretary's salary one couldn't do much more than that. So I luckily got a job in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and stayed 7-1/2 years, returned to the States and had major culture shock, so I went back to Saudi for another 2 years. Back and forth to the States and off to Brunei for 2-1/2 years. Those years of living, working and traveling abroad were the happiest times of my life. 

I settled in Florida, meeting Tony (my husband). Two years after his death I moved to New Mexico for 3-1/2 years, and then back to Florida. I also considered Arizona. I was searching for that “perfect” location to live. But then I came to Panajachel, Guatemala in March 2013 for the fifth time, and cried like a baby when I had to leave. I decided that this is the “perfect” place. My heart was always at Lake Atitlan. 

So here I am, loving it, and enjoying everything about the area and the people, both Gringo and local.

REL: How long have you been traveling as a single woman traveler?

Nancy: About 34 years. Actually the serious traveling started in 1983 when I moved to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to work. My goal was to see as much of the world as I could with my vacation time. 

Buying my hookah from the "junk man" on our houseboat in Kashmir

REL: As a single traveler, what sorts of places do you choose to visit and why? Can you tell us the names of some of the locations you have been? What was your most exotic destination?

Nancy: I prefer less developed countries. I'm a simple person, and like my destinations to be simple. I like spending my time seeing the sites and watching people; getting to talk to them. While in Morocco, I had dinner and then tea the next morning at my driver's sister's house. In Siberia I did home stays. In India (one of my six times there) I was on a 3-day camel safari for part of the trip and another time in India I volunteered with Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta and got to meet Mother Teresa at Adoration one evening at the Mother House.

 

My friend and I did a trip to Kashmir and Ladakh and got snowed in on the return in a town called Kargil for 5 days – a real experience!!!  No water or electricity, but we did find beer and great fried rice. And super nice people. We put rubber boots over our shoes and plastic bags to try to keep our feet dry. I was working in Riyadh during the first Gulf War, and I refused to leave. I didn't want to send my “treasures” home as I bought them to enjoy. I was not worried.

So many experiences, so little room to mention them all. Some of the other countries (which I consider all to be exotic) are Bhutan, Sikkim, Tibet, northern Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Oman, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Tanzania, Zaire (gorilla tracking), Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Mali (including Timbuctu), Birkina Faso, Tunisia, Seychelles, Greece, China, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Burma, Russia/Central Asia, Mongolia, Indonesia (including Suluwesi and a civil riot was happening while I was there and great festivities in Toraja Land), Malaysia, and others.

REL: How many countries have you visited?

Nancy: About 60.

Feeding M&Ms to the kids at a Yemeni wedding at Wadi Dhahr, Yemen

REL: How long a period of time do you tend to travel? How much do you budget for a trip, or does that amount vary depending on the location you choose?

Nancy: It varies – I travel anywhere from 4 days to 2-3 weeks. I don't budget, it just sort of varies on the location. I usually have an idea of what accommodation will be and I don't eat much, so don't usually need much per day. I shopped a lot while traveling when I was working in Saudi and Brunei, and I collected lots of “treasures.” Now that I've parted with the majority of those, I don't really collect material things that much. Maybe just one item from each country I have visited. 

REL: How do you pack efficiently? Can you give us your best packing tip? What item would you pack and never leave behind? What items do you consider to be necessary?

Nancy: I usually pack a lot of my older clothing that I don't mind leaving behind. That way I have room if I choose to shop, and and my older clothing goes to people in need. When flying I always go carry-on, so I guess I'd say travel lightly. Toiletry items are always in small sizes, and I can purchase at my destination if needed. I'm not sure what is absolutely necessary, except your money and passport. If you are taking any prescription medication, you would definitely bring those, along with a copy of the prescription.

I would never leave behind my ankh jewelry (necklaces, earrings) – as those have sentimental value. I purchased them in Cairo, Egypt but then these became even more important in my life when I met Tony and gave him one to wear on a silver chain which I also bought for him. The ankh was used on our wedding invitation and wedding cake. I believe in eternal life, before meeting Tony and now.

My camel and camel guide in Timbuktu, Mali

REL: Do you ever utilize a tour group? Do you prefer to travel alone? What about meeting up with fellow travelers on the road? Did you ever travel with your husband?

Nancy: I have gone on group tours. I occasionally went while in Saudi as it was difficult to get information on travel. This was before computers. Sometimes I use tours because I'm tired and I want to have someone take care of everything. It's also good for meeting people, which I do fine on my own, but I still enjoy having everything pre-arranged. I did a 16-day tour of China, and there were only 10 of us in the group, 6 being Chinese – and it was a low budget tour so we got the Yangtze River tour on a boat that had locals sleeping in the hallways, and chickens hanging from the ceilings. We used possibly two star hotels. I was picked to be group leader to take care of room assignments in each city. I try to avoid 5 star tours.

I do like traveling alone as it seems easier to meet people. When traveling with a companion sometimes you tend to keep to yourselves, and I love meeting people along the road. While in southern India I ran into a couple twice, and we talked about how we're travelers, not tourists.

I met Tony in 1998, two months after his wife passed away. He never traveled much. But being with me we went to Peru, Alaska, Costa Rica, a couple of short cruises through his work, and around the US. Unfortunately he passed away five years after I met him, but he still travels vicariously through me.

REL: What is your goal on the types of trips you take? What is it that you are seeking? Experience? Adventure? Are you pursuing a Spiritual Quest? Are you looking for insight into humanity?

Nancy: Pretty much all you just mentioned. I just love an adventure. I have a quote I keep on my refrigerator “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” I also have one, author unknown: “Although I do follow my own rules, I have no fear of dying while I'm traveling.” she writes. “Living is dangerous. Not to live is death.”

REL: Tell us about your lodging choices. Do you stay in hotels? Hostels? Do you book ahead or take your chances upon arrival?

Nancy: I prefer Bed & Breakfasts, but will stay in hotels but not 5 star, maybe 2 or 3, it depends on where I'm going. If I'm on a tight schedule I tend to book ahead and other times I just take my chances. Like when I traveled around southern India, I just went from Brunei (where I was living/working) to Sri Lanka for a night, then on to India. 

Me and my "fiancé" (ha) in the Baliem Valley, Irian Jaya

REL: Nancy, have you ever gotten ill while traveling? Or found that you needed medical assistance due to something unforeseen? Have you had to see a dentist? Do you pack a small emergency kit? What kind of advice could you give others who find they need medical attention while on the road?

Nancy: I was ill one night on the Nile Cruise, but I was determined to be fine the next morning for the Valley of Kings and Queens, and I was! I did get sick at the end of a Mexico trip, but that was because I wasn't eating much and I think I caught it from others. I have never needed medical assistance, nor a dentist. I don't really pack an emergency kit, except some band-aids and ointment. Not sure what advice I could give since I have not needed it myself. I just tell myself that I'll be fine. Positive thinking helps!!!

REL: What is your best money-saving tip for travel?

Nancy: That's a tough one for me to answer, as I don't spend a lot when traveling anymore. I am not a big eater, so I save a lot on food!  People would ask me after a trip what I thought about the food, but that's not what I'd go for. I go somewhere to see the sights and enjoy watching and talking with the local people. I guess maybe you could say I walk as much as I can rather than spending money on transportation, even simple transport like tuk-tuks and chicken buses.

REL: Do you have any advice for single women considering traveling alone? How do you ensure your safety? What is your best safety tip?

Nancy: Just use common sense and leave your valuables at home. Just enjoy the adventure!!!  My best safety tip – hmmm – carry as little as possible with you. And keep what valuables you carry close to you and tucked away. I can usually judge when an area is not safe to walk in, or a person looks a bit suspicious.

REL: Do you write about your travels?

Nancy: I generally keep notes of my daily activities during a trip. Before digital cameras I would then keep the notes with my photos. I still usually print out at least a few pictures of each trip and file away with my notes. Several friends said I should write a book, but the older I get the less inspiration I have to write. I have lately met so many people that are like me as far as traveling goes, so I'll leave the writing to them – ha!

 

REL: How do you choose your travel destinations?

Nancy: I tend to look for places that are out of the way, third world, small rather than big city (except when getting from point a to b and have to fly into a big city (then I spend as little time as possible there). While in Saudi I and a friend would learn of destinations through the airline magazines (for example, Bhutan, Sikkim, Kashmir and Ladakh).

At Lake Atitlan in Panajachel - now my home

REL: What would you say to a woman who is considering traveling alone but has some trepidation about the adventure?

Nancy: Just tell yourself you can do it, and be a better person for it. Tell yourself you're going to see new places, meet new people, have an adventure to remember forever, and become a better person for having done it. If you decide not to do it, you might regret it. Just follow your heart. And remember the quotes I mentioned earlier in this interview.

REL: How often do you get back to the states?

Nancy: I just moved to Panajachel, Guatemala at the beginning of November. But I am hoping to not get back to the States for at least a couple of years. And then it'll be mostly to shop, and of course spend a little time with friends and eventually family. My plan is to make Guatemala my home and travel around Central America, Mexico and possibly South America when I want to get away. I've seen a lot of the rest of the world while working overseas, spending my salary as I earned it instead of saving for retirement.

REL: Where are you going next?

Nancy: I'm not sure. My 90-day entry stamp is due for renewal towards the end of April, so may just go to Comitan in Mexico for about 4-5 days. I really am enjoying the Lake Atitlan area and am not in need of a “real” vacation just yet.  Except maybe to go to El Tunco, El Salvador with some friends here in Pana. That is, when they decide to return to Pana as they're leaving very soon for not sure how long.  But they will be back (Billy and Akaisha – you know who I'm referring to :))

Life is an adventure – enjoy every day!!!

La paz y la felicidad a todos!

We would like to thank Nancy for sharing her life and travel adventures with us. What an inspiration she is! Thanks Nancy!

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.

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