Shape Your Life

Over three years, the British Royal Voluntary Service ran a project called “Shaping Our Age”.

The purpose of the project was to challenge the common perceptions of aging.

It  questioned the portrayal of older people, and the assumptions about what they can and cannot do.

The forward to the final report “Involving Older Age: The route to twenty-first century well-being” by the chief executive of the service, David McCullough, said:

One of the most resonant things I’ve heard in my time at the Royal Voluntary Service was from someone involved in Shaping our Age who simply told me: “Young man, I’ve spent too much time with people telling me what I need rather than listening to what I want”.

Too many people, tell us what to do, too much of the time. 

For their benefit…not ours.

There are too many limitations.

We accept them without reason because we are bombarded by others shaping our lives.

We need to each decide… who we are… how we should live… what we should do… at any age.

Take Harriette Line Thompson of  Charlotte who passed at the age of 94 years.

Sounds like she was a free spirit. Her obituary said: As a young woman, Harriette studied at Carlisle’s Dickinson College, where the Dean of Women’s admonition, “we don’t roller skate to class and we don’t wear ski pants” didn’t have much effect on her behavior. Neither did the intention of her attorney father, J. Harvey Line, to keep her close to home. Secretly, she sought and won a full piano scholarship to study music at Syracuse University, a fait accompli to which her father eventually acquiesced.

She did what she loved.


Always active in life, Harriette began running marathons at the age of 76. She ran the San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Marathon 16 times, raising over $115,000 for The Leukemia And Lymphoma Society.  In 2014, she broke the world marathon record for fastest female over 90 by 1 hour, 45 minutes and 26 seconds. In 2015, Harriette gained international fame by becoming the oldest female to complete a marathon at age 92. In 2017, she became the oldest female to complete a half marathon at age 94. Not particularly impressed with her running achievements, Harriette confided, “It is a lot harder to give a concert than to run a marathon.”

Start to run marathons at age 76?   Finish a half marathon at age 94!

Please, that’s crazy!

Says who?

When we feel a purpose, we should go for it.  As Admiral Farragut said: “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead”.

At any age.

Take  for example, this family.

wall street journal

According to Wall Street Journal, (1)Adam and Emily Harteau maintained a travel blog called “Our Open Road.”  They departed California in their Volkswagen van in October 2012 and with their young daughters have been roaming Latin America ever since, posting colorful photos of their journey on an Instagram account that has more than 118,000 followers.  Recently while in Brazil they escaped from armed thieves who police said boarded the barge on which the Harteaus were traveling and held passengers at gunpoint, stealing their personal belongings.

Emily’s father said he saw an online report suggesting that the couple  jumped into the river with their children and rode the currents to safety on their two surfboards.  They suffered only some scratches and bug bites.


Armed pirates?  Escaping on a surf board… with two little kids?

Many would say that’s just too dangerous.

Yet we have learned that not much of anything is safe… going to school… or a mall… riding a bike… taking in a music festival… or even going to church.

Maybe letting others dictate what’s safe and not is the really dangerous thing.

What an adventure that family is having.   That’s a real life statement to all….”Don’t live in fear”.

I recall adventures like that in 1970.  We took our two daughters from London to Rome and onto Lebanon… in a two seater MG Midget.


1970 MG Midget

We had no reservations, no detailed itinerary.  We drove  with the girls (one still in diapers) laying on the back shelf.   Often we slept in hostels… once when nothing showed up, we slept on the roadside in the tiny car.

Those adventures added a rich texture into our lives.

Plan life as an Intrepid Adventure. 

A reader (a retired lady) sent this note:  Hi Gary,  Just wanted to say thank you.  I’ll be taking your self-publishing online course and look forward to meeting you and your wife in person someday soon.  I plan to buy or build a small place in Ecuador and your mentoring figures big time in my life plan.

My strong independent streak caused me to leave DC to buy a $1100 fixer upper in Macon, GA and a 2-family in Detroit.  Creating passive income from real estate is a challenge.  Past and recent published writings of mine demonstrate my passion and abilities. (Every time I finish the final edit and hit that send key I jump up and do my happy dance!)  I also hosted my own live call-in talk radio show; interviewing authors and guests, giving social commentary, doing book reviews and covering controversial topics.  Loved it!

All this and still living hand to mouth – not profitable yet.  I am able to achieve a lot with very little.  I savour the simple pleasures and want to explore other cultures.  I have zero debt and receive $677 in social security benefits.  I’m a contrarian, see the big picture, love to learn and educate others and am ready for adventure.  I possess good health and energy and am practical and determined.  It’s just Fritz, my dog, Sam, my cat and me.  You and your wife are key in my unfolding life plan.  Many thanks to you both.

That reader is not letting others tell her how she should live because she is aged beyond 65.

Adventure lifestyles are sorely missed in the Western world.

Western lifestyles suffer numerous family problems.  Stress on mom and dad to work and lack of adventure.  Boring stressful, mind numbing routines!  Jobs far flung across the nation.  We are often forced in work to travel and be away.

Then there are the peer pressures and TV, cinema and song that separate family thinking, lead the youth astray in body, mind and spirit as it also demeans the advice of the elders, mom and dad. No adventure in the lifestyle here either.

Travel for adventure adds one more barrier.

One of the most common concerns I hear from readers who are thinking of moving for an adventure lifestyle is the problem of being away from the family.

I know the problem, having left home 50 years ago (this May) and being a compulsive adventurer.

I have managed to drag my kids and Merri to some pretty wild and weird places and was away from the kids a lot… in fact too much.

Because quality in the family relationship is what counts, we focused on the time we had together rather than apart.

We did (and continue to) so many crazy things and we named ourselves the “Intrepid Explorers Club”.

We choose to make any time together, a special holiday because we had learned in our travels that many ancient cultures place a great significance on celebration as a way to renew the spirit within. Our time together has always been a celebration to renew our family spirit.

Though we are now flung around the world…the kids and grandkids are in Oregon, Florida and UK  we stay in touch and continually plan our next adventure.

Our son, Jake, shared his thoughts about loving adventure with a quote from Lord Byron:

‘There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar;
I love not Man the less, but Nature more.’

I get it.  Times have changed security concerns.

Yet…99% of human events are good.  The media… and the fear mongers focus on the 1%.

Keep these words and Lord Byron’s poem in mind when someone else tells you how to shape your life.

Gary Brazilian authorities search for missing American family


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