Leaping into later life: ‘We prove you’re never too old to achieve your dreams’

never to old to achieve dreams

by take-a-break |
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They say it’s never too late to pursue your dreams, and these inspirational women are proving just that

realised dream later in life

Live and let fly

As the aeroplane zoomed down the runway, butterflies filled my stomach.

It was a feeling like nothing I’d ever experienced, and the idea of jetting away to a new, unknown place overwhelmed me with excitement.

I was eight and flying to Oslo, the capital of Norway, with my parents.

Now, turning to my mum Dorothy, I said: ‘When I’m older, I want to be a pilot.’

As the years passed, I vowed to stay true to my dream.

At 18, I moved to Old Windsor, close to Heathrow Airport, and seeing the constant stream of aeroplanes flying overhead reignited something inside of me.

How can I do this? I thought.

But I quickly discovered it was near impossible for a woman to be accepted to train as a pilot.

Instead, I signed up to be a cabin crew member for Iran Air.

Although it wasn’t exactly what I’d dreamt, it felt about as close as I could get.

For the next 15 years, I continued to work in the skies for various airlines. But as years went by, my dream seemed to slip further and further away.

Not only was I getting older, but airlines were cutting back on pilots too.

Then, at 31, I had my daughter Rosanna, and she became my priority.

Before I knew it, I’d turned 60.

Realised dreams later in life

Then one day, I was at a café located on a little airfield with my father Eric.

‘You know I’ve just got to do it,’ I said. ‘I’ve just got to learn how to fly.’

‘Well go on then, just do it!’ he replied.

Wasting no more time, I signed up to start training for my private pilot’s license at the flying club.

On my first lesson, I was a bag of nervous excitement as my instructor Harry and I ascended into the air.

It was a perfect day for flying and, looking down over the countryside below, I couldn’t help but smile.

Over the months, I started clocking up my hours in the cockpit.

I’d managed to log 35 hours of training when I ended up going to France, where my husband Simon was working, for six months.

There, I discovered a local gliding club, and I completely fell in love with glider planes.

Six months on, I’m now training for my glider’s licence, and I feel so proud.

It just goes to show, you’re never too old to reach your dreams!

From Andrea Van Poeteren, 65, of Devizes, Wiltshire

Realised dream later in life

Taking the plunge

Helping my husband Atherton inside the front door, I felt heartbroken.

At 60, he’d been diagnosed with early onset dementia.

Over the years, Atherton and I had been lucky enough to visit many exotic places around the world together. He was my steadfast travel companion.

But now, my once exhilarating life diminished alongside my husband, as I went from his partner to his carer.

It left me feeling deeply lonely and, as time went on, I slowly began to lose myself too.

I was only 53, and desperately needed something to engage my brain.

Then one day, while browsing online, I came across a degree course on travel and nature writing at Bath Spa University.

As I read everything the course had to offer, I felt a spark light inside.

I’ll give that a try, I thought.

I signed up to the part-time, low-contact course. But sadly, a term and a half in, the hardest day came when I had to put Atherton into a home.

Yet despite everything, I knew I couldn’t just let life pass me by. I knew Atherton wouldn’t want that for me either.

So, I decided to go on a trip. Although it wouldn’t be the same without Atherton, I had to find the confidence to do it.

Realised dream later in life

I travelled to Mexico, and tried scuba diving for the first time — something I never thought I’d do.

Deep under the ocean, I watched in wonder as fish of every colour of the rainbow darted in and out of the coral.

Back home, I sat down at my desk and tried to put my incredible new experience into words.

There is nothing like slipping into a wetsuit, I began to type.

It was the first of many travel stories I wrote.

Eventually, I passed my writing course with flying colours, and I knew Atherton would be so proud.

I began writing for national publications and went on all kinds of amazing adventures.

Following one trip, I wrote about some cheesemongers.

One thing led to another, and next thing, I found myself a judge at the World Cheese Awards. It was the best gig ever!

Sadly, Atherton passed away last year. It will always make me sad that I’m not sharing these adventures with him.

But while life will never be the same, I firmly believe we all have a choice whether to sink or swim.

From Deborah Gray, 64, of Malmesbury, Wilts

Realised dream later in life

Wild wanderer

Scrolling through Facebook, an advert suddenly caught my attention.

‘Mark, what about this campsite in Hungary?’ I said.

As we’d reached our 50s, my husband Mark and I had been looking for a new adventure.

We were keen campers and at first we’d considered travelling the world in a campervan.

But we realised it wouldn’t truly fulfil us.

However, as I showed Mark pictures of a rundown, remote campsite, I felt a buzz of excitement.

I wasn’t sure Mark was convinced, until later that day when he rang me and said: ‘Shall we go and have a look at that campsite then?’

Wasting no time, we booked our flights, and a few weeks later we found ourselves driving through the sleepy Hungarian countryside.

When we arrived at the campsite, it certainly wasn’t love at first sight. But the more I saw of it, the more I realised its potential.

Later that day as we stood at the top of the site overlooking the vast valley below, I smiled, listening to the buzz of bees swirl around me.

‘I could live here,’ said Mark.

‘So could I,’ I replied.

And after a reassuring visit to the local pub, which was run by a fellow Brit, we knew it was the right decision.

So, without being able to speak a word of Hungarian, and far from the hustle and bustle of a city, we bought the campsite and named it Koppány Pines.

realised dreams later in life

It needed work, but a year later, we were ready to open to paying guests.

People flooded to use the campsite to get away from everything and enjoy the amazing setting.

Now, it’s been three years and business is booming.

It’s proved such a hit, we’ve even had repeat guests.

Mark and I now split our time between Hungary and the UK — going out there for the peak summer season.

Even though there’s been plenty of blood, sweat and tears, I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved and have never felt freer.

Buying a campsite abroad was a giant leap of faith, but we’d do it again in a heartbeat.

From Debs Tetlow, 54, of Broughton Astley, Leics

•Read more about these women’s inspirational stories in Juicy Crones: Free for the Strangest Adventures — Inspirational Stories of Women Embracing Later Life by Jay Courtney, published by Bradt Guides, £9.99.

Realised dreams later in life
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