Suitcase and World: The Indomitable Merle Ellis.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Indomitable Merle Ellis.

Up until this trip, I had been telling all my friends that I won't let up on travelling to remote countries until I'm 75 years old because I had set that as the bar for when I will have to retire my adventurous spirit.  I had even been joking with my friend Lei that that's when we'll go on a cruise together and that will be my first cruise....ever!

After having met Merle, I've been inspired to raise the bar on that age limit to 85 year.  Why?  Because if you were tell someone like Merle that she has to slow down just because of her age, she will tell you that's a crock of bullshit.  Just cause you're up in the years does not mean you have to live as if you have one foot in the grave!

Merle was one of my tour mates. She came with her niece Rhonda who I think is in her late 60's. Merle is from Australia and like many Australians I have met, an extremely warm and friendly person.

Merle came on a 3 week trip through India and Bhutan with the smallest suitcase/backpack of all of us. Some people I know would not be able to last a weekend with a suitcase the size of what Merle had. When I asked her why she brought such a teeny suitcase, she said it was because she wanted to be able to handle her luggage on her own....without any one's help and that she did!

Merle has two sons and a grandson and she lives above one of her sons and grandson. She still cooks for them.

Merle was an avid  traveller when she was married and has continued to roam the world since her husband passed away 10 years ago.  Nothing seems to stop her.  Her next destination?  Borneo!!

This trip was not an easy one in terms of the terrain. Everywhere we went, there were hills and unpaved paths. With the exception of our hike up to Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) Monastery, Merle managed to walk/hike all the hills with us!! No small feat for someone her age but she is fiercely independent and insisted that we not be held back by her. So, we may have made it up to the top of a hill before her but she always arrived on her a short wile later!

Merle will tell you that she has been blessed with excellent health.  At her age, she does not take any medication, she does not have dentures, she does not wear a hearing aid, she does not need help of a walker to make her way around.  She does have to wear glasses....but only for reading.

She exercises regularly - she loves to swim and she watches what she eats.

Aside from her incredible stamina and willpower, Merle has a wonderful zest for life.....showing kindness to everyone around her, always willing to share a laugh and enjoy a cocktail before dinner. The more time I spent with Merle, the more admiration I had for her.

I asked Merle what her secret to her long life was and here's her her own words. By the way, she doesn't look like someone who is 82 about to turn 83!  She's truly inspirational!

Update Dec 11, 2010
Today, I received the most wonderful present in the mail.  While we were on our trip, Merle came up with a project for herself.  Somehow, a conversation came up one day where we were the question of "what month were you born in?" came up.  As we each revealed our month, we quickly realized every month covered except for one or two so we jokingly said we ought to come up with a team calendar.  Well, Merle took that calendar idea and ran with it!!  She got everyone's email address + mailing address, compiled the photos, had the calendar made and shipped them out. 
I opened up the envelope and inside was the calendar.  The cover was the group photo that we took in front of the Punakha Dzong.

Back row from right to left:  The beautiful Merle Ellis, Libby, Rhonda, Paul, Tenzing, Liz, and Marc
Bottom row:  Mike, Megan, Ross, and me.

Of course, I was "Miss November" :-)  This picture was taken on the walk up to Chimi Lhakhang, otherwise known as the Temple of the Divine Madman.


Inside the back cover was a handwritten note from Merle.

What a special gift this is and from such an amazing woman.  I will cherish this calendar forever!