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Real Retirement: This retiree traveled solo to Bali, Iceland and Patagonia — ‘Women can live vibrant, full lives after 50’

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Monique Andre is having a midlife retirement, she hasn’t worked in two years and is exploring the world as a solo traveler and social media influencer on Instagram and TikTok.

With the handle @neveraroadmap, Andre, 54, offers a view into to her explorations to Bali, Iceland, Patagonia and other exotic locales, as well as trips around the U.S. She’s using savings to finance her exploration and contemplating her next step.

If she moves to Bali, she said she won’t have to work again. If she stays in the U.S., she’ll need to make a plan to bring in income.

But for now, she’s enjoying helping give middle-aged women the courage to travel and explore, boldly and independently.

How did you get into this world of being an influencer?

I got into the world of influencing by happenstance. I decided to start a TikTok page of my travels and received so much wonderful and not-so-wonderful feedback that I felt my voice was needed. 

Why do you do this?

I do this to lead by example. I want to show that the world is safe for a solo woman traveling and that we can live vibrant full lives after the age of 50. It seems young women don’t have many examples of older women living adventurous lives on social media and I hope to fill the gap. 

I feel so many women, especially in America, have been led to believe that if they venture out alone bad things will happen. I can’t guarantee anyone’s safety, but I can show myself being happy, healthy, and living life to the fullest all the while being treated with kindness throughout the world. 

When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Funny you ask that question of me, because I believe that’s exactly when we are led astray from who we truly are. Isn’t just “be”-ing enough? We are human “be”-ings not “do”-ings. In theory that’s the question that I believe leaves us potentially unfulfilled. The concept that we aren’t something already and we have to “be” something/someone else when we grow up. 

But to answer your question more simply: National Geographic photographer.

What age did you used to think was ‘old?’ What do you think now?

I’m not really sure I ever had a concept of old age. My German grandmother was old in age and looks, yet she was still topless at the beach in the Canary Islands in her 80s playing Bocce Ball while I was a teenager visiting. My mother at 70 moved back into NYC, slept on a friend’s couch, and got herself another job because she was bored with retirement in Florida. I don’t ever remember thinking of someone as old. I remember thinking I can wait to live. I’ve always wanted to be older. I don’t think my spirit and my age combined until I was 40. I don’t feel I was ever supposed to be young. 

Do you have a bucket list? What’s on it? 

I finished my bucket list at age 40. I worried about the amount of terminal diseases around. I felt I never wanted to be on my deathbed saying “I wish I had.” The only thing at that time I would have been sad never having seen was Africa. I went that year for two months and to five countries. 

Now, I would say I’d like to visit Mongolia and go off-road motorcycle riding while tent camping, but I’d be fine if that doesn’t happen. I feel quite fulfilled in life. I’ve raised a wonderful son, had great loves, a wonderful career, and I feel I’ve just been in a bonus round since I finished my bucket list. Everyone in my immediate circle knows that if I die tomorrow I lived a full life and have done everything I ever wanted to do. 

Who was your role model(s) growing up?

I don’t know that I had any specific role models, but I did have a feminist world of empowered women making their way. They were depicted in the media. I was born in 1968 and the 70’s-80’s seemed filled with women doing their thing. I had Leakey’s Angels – Jane Goodall, Diane Fossey and Birute Galdikas. I had Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes. I had Charlie’s Angels, Wonder Woman, Laverne & Shirley and Mary Tyler Moore on TV. It just seems those years were filled with a celebration of strong capable women. 

What’s the best thing about middle age?

The not giving a f*** attitude. I honestly don’t care what people think and I feel so in control of my life. I feel beautiful, happy, sexy, smart, powerful and I’m not shy about saying that and feeling it. When I was younger I allowed others, my relationships and my jobs, to somehow make me smaller. They demanded of me to be someone that wasn’t truly who I was inside. Now I feel empowered to chart my own path and not accept anything other than the full extension of myself. 

What’s the worst?

I’d say the worst thing about aging is the physical body breaking down. I have ailments and they irritate me, but the good news about that is I care for my body with a tender touch and I am more in tune with my limits. 

What’s the biggest misconception people have about midlife?

That midlife is not vibrant and happy. I find this to be my most authentic time period. I found my 20 to be a bit lost. My 30s to be about child raising. My 40s about career and family, and now my 50s I feel is all about me. I’m in a very selfish phase and I love every minute of it! 

How do you want to die? In your sleep or cliff-diving or ….?

I’m not sure. Just content! Sleep is good. I’d rather not splat so probably not cliff diving, but if I die in an accident while doing something that fills my soul, I’m good. 

What’s your biggest vice or bad habit?

I start every morning with one big mug of coffee and because this is so important to me I even travel with my own collapsible tea kettle and instant coffee so I don’t have to wait for restaurants to be open. 

Where’s your happy place in the world?

I don’t have a specific place, but I am the happiest among kind people, places with beautiful energy, and gorgeous vistas. 

Places seem to correlate with what I need at different times in my life. Tanzania with its people and wild animals was one of my happiest places. Colombia dancing with abandon with the youngsters was also amazing. Iceland connecting with myself and the breathtaking scenery. Bali for its spiritual energy. 

Sometimes the hardest places, like Patagonia, bring a different type of happiness. The type that I am happy I survived. When the gale force winds and rain hit me on a trail hours away from a shelter and I keep trodding on, I get such a rush of belief in my fortitude that I can’t be anything but happy about my personal resilience inside of my suffering. 

Best advice you’ve ever received—and who gave it to you?

I’d say it was my father and it wasn’t so much advice, but a thought he placed in my head when I was 18. We were on a beach walk in Miami and I asked him what his favorite age was. He said if he could stay one age forever it would be 50. That was mind blowing to me at the time. He felt he was still physically fit, had money, learned enough lessons of life, and just couldn’t think of a better moment. Because of that one innocent question I’ve been looking forward to my 50s my whole life. 

What’s the best and worst thing you’ve ever done with money?

The best thing I’ve ever done with money is invest it. When I was 23, I put $10,000 in an annuity and with all the ups and downs of the market it grew to over $100,000. I have other investments in the market and a home, so without much effort I’ve been able to find financial freedom even though I’ve never made six figures. 

I’ve always come from a mentality that money is easy to come by, so even if I’ve been in hard financial times or went into debt I never worried about it. I spent my money as I saw fit and I can’t think of anything I regret. 

(This interview was edited for space and style.)

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