When Joanne Barnes retired in 2009, she knew she wanted to see the world. The problem was finding others to travel with – most of her friends were still working, others chose to travel only with their spouses or families.
While she would have opted to travel by herself to westernized, traditional tourist locales, she longed to visit more unfamiliar parts of the world, but was hesitant to attempt such a trip solo.
After a bit of research, the 53-year-old Vancouverite discovered a unique travel club called Ladies on the Go, offering group excursions to a variety of unique places around the globe.
Barnes decided to give it a shot, and booked a 18-day tour of Egypt in 2009.
“It was delightful,” Barnes recalled of the trip, which included five other women. “I remember just thinking, ‘wow, I’m in Egypt.’ There were so many highlights.”
The club was founded by White Rock resident Sharleen Dickson, who after several years working as a travel agent, began to notice a real demand from women wanting to get out and explore the world on their own.
“Whether their husband was a workaholic or just didn’t want to travel, or they were recently divorced, there seemed to be a lot of women looking to travel,” Dickson explained. “So I thought, ‘let’s have a meeting and see if anybody’s interested.’ And we put an ad in the paper and 35 people came out.”
Shortly after the initial meeting in 2006, Dickson and her daughter, Alice, began putting together escorted tours for groups of women to a variety of places around the world, and the travel club quickly took off.
“We’ve actually grown across Canada — Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary – we have ladies from everywhere who will travel with us.”
With an emphasis on safety, Dickson said travellers – who range in age from about 40 to 80 – can rest assured that there’s always someone looking out for them and taking care of the little details.
She also notes the group atmosphere is a good option for exploring places many women wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to visit.
“It’s a great way to encourage people to travel and experience all these amazing places,” she said. “There’s more to life than a few beaches.”
At 80 years old, White Rock’s Jean Trueman may be one of the more senior Ladies on the Go, but her age certainly hasn’t slowed down her desire to experience what the world has to offer.
Born in Saskatchewan, her late husband’s work as a civil engineer took their family to places all over the world, including east Pakistan, the gulf of Mexico and the Canadian Prairies.
“It gave me a wanderlust,” Trueman says of her jet-setting younger years. “And now I’m 80 and still doing it.”
Her first trip with Dickson’s group was to Turkey, and since then she has been to New York and Russia. This year she will be embarking on a safari in Kenya, followed by a visit to South Africa and a nine-day jaunt to New Orleans.
“I’ve always wanted to go to South Africa, and I made up my mind a long time ago that I was going to do a Kenyan safari,” Trueman says, noting that her ‘bucket list’ is still quite long. “They’re all places I want to see.”
In addition to the peace of mind that comes with knowing every detail is looked after, Trueman said she enjoys the group atmosphere, which allows travellers the option of tagging along on outings or staying back to relax.
“I think that travelling with one other person for two weeks, that person doesn’t always want to do exactly what you want to do,” she said. “But if you’re with a group and somebody doesn’t want to do something, you still have all these other people with you.”
Barnes will be joining Trueman in Africa for the Kenyan safari later this year, and has also booked a cruise of the Danube River – with stops in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovania and more. She says that after her great experiences the past few years, the appeal of traveling in a group setting extends beyond mere safety.
“It’s nice meeting other women who are like-minded and want to travel with similar backgrounds and similar interests,” she says. “I think women can be a little bit more nurturing too, taking care of each other. There’s always someone to make sure you’re OK, but nobody bugs you.”
When asked what future travels she has planned, Barnes is quick to list nearly a dozen places, including Russia, Vietnam, Australia and Antarctica.
“I just want to travel until I can’t travel anymore.”