From the moment I started to read Sandra Reekie’s tale – From Yolo to Solo – of travelling the Silk Road as a woman over 60, I was laughing and I knew I was going to enjoy reading about her adventure.
After 56 years of marriage, two daughters and six grandchildren, and a diagnosis of cancer, Sandra decided she wanted to do more travelling and, when she didn’t die within the predicted year of her cancer diagnosis, she set off for India. This was her first solo trip and then ten years later, through an online travel club for single women, Sandra met up with ‘Joan’ (not her real name) and embarked on a journey along the Silk Road.
Her travelling companion, nicknamed Moany Joan, turned out to be everything that Sandra was not. She was negative, whiney, stubborn and with no sense of humour. I have no idea why Moany Joan decided to make this trip but Sandra was stuck with her and nothing was going to ruin Sandra’s trip of a lifetime.
As I read this book and with the terrible turbulence in the world right now I realised this is a journey that could not happen at the moment. Sandra’s journey takes her from Turkey, through Syria, back to Turkey, onto Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China and finally Pakistan.
However, we can enjoy Sandra’s journey through her book, From Yolo to Solo. It is the most honest and soul-lifting memoir I have ever read. The overriding theme of this book is to say yes to everything and Sandra is truly inspirational in doing this – she is one intrepid lady. She has to dig deep to find the strength and resilience to carry on at times, however, the kindness of strangers permeates through her whole journey.
Every town that she travels through comes alive in this book and whilst travel has been out of the question for us all for so long, this book makes you want to get up and go.
One of the most moving moments is when Sandra describes reaching Samarkand in Uzbekistan. She writes as follows: “Of all the cities along the Silk Road, surely Samarkand is the one a traveller’s heart most yearns to see. Alexander the Great and Marco Polo were moved by its beauty and Tamerlane made it the most important city in Central Asia. Poets had written about this place and unbelievably I was there! At the Registan I stood, I stared and many moments passed before I stopped holding my breath. Then tears of joy, thankfulness and feelings I had no words for rolled down my face.”
Finally, I end with Sandra’s own words:
Age is definitely no barrier to independent travelling or to travelling alone. All that is needed, apart from common sense, is a smile and an interest in everything and everyone.”Sandra Reekie
Thank you, Sandra, for sharing your journey with all of us. I am truly inspired and starting with small steps my husband and I have booked to visit Northern Greece and Macedonia, visiting the birth place of Alexander the Great. We are taking a truly backpacking trip – our first for many years.
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