Life

Sunday 24 June 2018

'Marriage would have cramped my style' - Meet this incredible 74-year-old woman who travels solo around the world

Carmel Murray (74) from Dublin is returning to India for the fourth time in January.
Carmel Murray (74) from Dublin is returning to India for the fourth time in January.
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

“I like to get to know the people. I wouldn’t be bothered with five-star hotels.”

Carmel Murray (74) from Blackrock, Dublin is an intrepid solo traveller. She has been to 38 countries so far, and her wish list continues.  

She travels the world despite having a difficulty walking. The travel bug hit her so hard when she was 24 that she turned down a marriage proposal.

She told her suitor to come back when she was 30 but he went off and married someone else.

“I never married. I never had time I’d say.”

“I had loads of boyfriends but it never bothered me. I find it a little bit claustrophobic to be honest. You’d have to ask for permission, it would have cramped my style, it’s a grand institution for some people, so good luck to them,” she said.

Last year, the retired civil servant went to India for dental treatment. She loved the country so much that she has booked another trip there in January.

“I spent three weeks by the seaside in Fort Cochia having a well-earned holiday.”

“Cochia which is in the south of India is a very big city with a population of twenty million people. It has the maddest drivers that I ever encountered, no pedestrian crossings and no traffic lights only at a few major crossings so it was very difficult to cross the road.”

“Bus drivers, TucTuc drivers (a three-wheeled, small car), motor cyclists, all challenge each other for space on the road while travelling at high speed. They bully their way forward, skirting each other within inches and continuously beeping their horns.”

“In the beginning, I attempted to cross a road by myself but my heart stopped a beat in trying to do so. After a few days in the city, I accepted all this madness as normal and then began to think like the Indians themselves.”

Her 21-day trip in January will also take her to Beijing and Shanghai. Carmel organises her trips herself, and doesn’t go on package holidays.

Before her last trip, Carmel attended Age Action’s Getting Started Classes to get tuition on how to use her iPad so she could stay in touch with friends and family back home while away.  She Facetimed her sister every night while in India.

“I’ve been all over the world. I’ve been to North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. It’s the money that stops me,” she joked. “If I won the Lotto I’d never set foot in Ireland.”

“There are loads of places I want to go to really. I’d love to go across Siberia in the train. That’s for another time.”

Luckily, Carmel has never had a hairy moment as a solo female traveller, she says.

“I’d be careful. I’ve lived in Dublin all my life. I’d be street wise and wouldn’t be out late at night.”

“I get up early at 6am, shower, have my breakfast and I’m out by 9am. I’m home by 7pm in the evening before it’s dark. In any country, you need to be streetwise.”

“I find when you’re on your own you talk to a lot of people. If you’re with a friend you tend to stay with the friend.”

 “You have to listen to the locals as well. I was with a friend in Rio and Curitiba and I stayed with a family in Rio. The woman I stayed with wouldn’t let me let down my window, because she said they’d grab your handbag in an instant.”

“For this kind and length of holiday in India, all you need is a bit of self confidence and a tongue in your head.”

Carmel counts her trip to India as “one of the greatest” experiences of her life.

“Travel really broadens your mind.”

“Indians have a saying – to travel is to live – so as long as I am able, I intend to do that.”

Bank of Ireland Positive Ageing Week is taking place this week, September 25 – October 1. For more information, see https://www.ageaction.ie/events

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