Adventure of a lifetime

Retired nurse takes 115-day trip around the world

Meghan Streit
February 24, 2020

Most of us have some places on our travel bucket list, and if we're lucky, we get to cross off a few of them. Last year, Linden Ponds resident Fran Charles made some major progress on her travel bucket list when she took a 115-day trip around the world.

"I chose this trip because there were so many places, I could visit that were on my bucket list," Fran says. "I considered this the adventure of a lifetime."

The Rhodes Scholar Grand World Voyage cruise took Fran and other adventurous passengers to 29 countries and 46 ports of call over the course of about five months. The ship departed from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and set sail for South America, making stops in Colombia, Panama, Peru, and Chile. Then, the cruise visited several islands in French Polynesia before going to New Zealand and Australia. Next up were visits to Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and India. From there, the ship traveled to the Middle East, and stopped in Oman and Jordan. 

The last leg of the of the voyage was in Europe, and passengers visited Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. By the time passengers cruised back to Florida, they had logged 40,000 sea miles.

As a Rhodes Scholar trip, the cruise included an educational element. Fran says there were guest lectures on board the ship, and shore excursions were led by guides with local expertise. 

"It was like taking a college course or like the Great Decisions program on steroids," Fran says.

For example, as the group sailed across the Pacific Ocean, a geophysicist gave talks about the Earth's crust, tectonic plates, and volcanic activity. Another guest lecturer who had attended graduate school in Egypt talked to the group about the tribes and indigenous populations in the Middle East.

"The opportunities for learning and experiencing were pretty phenomenal," Fran says.

Highlights at every port

There were many highlights on Fran's round-the-world voyage. She says crossing the Panama Canal left a big impression on her because of all of the anchored container ships awaiting passage.

"It gave me the first visualization of the movement of goods by container ships," she says. "At other ports, it became impossible to ignore the huge number of ships. One ship had 21,000 containers on it—this struck me and stayed with me."

Crossing the South Pacific Ocean was another high point of the cruise. Fran marveled at the vastness and the depth of the ocean, noting that at many times there were no other ships within view.

"The other thing that was important to me was to learn about the sky in the southern hemisphere," Fran says. "We would go up on the deck at night and observe with other people on the trip. Even though it's been a year since this trip, that passage across the Pacific will stay with me as a memory I will treasure."

Among many other memorable moments on her trip around the world, Fran climbed to the top of the oldest Buddhist temple in existence, attended an opera at the Sydney Opera House, and went snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. Visiting the Middle East was also a high point for Fran. She says she was struck by the great beauty of the austere landscape. 

"It was humbling to see how huge that other side of the world is," Fran says. "We think the world pivots around us. It was interesting to learn and experience the history and some of the current events in that part of the world. The perspective of the people who live there is very different from what we hear about in the U.S. media."

On the European leg of the voyage, Fran particularly enjoyed seeing the ancient ruins at Pompei and Gaudi's architecture in Barcelona. She also visited Copenhagen for the first time and enjoyed seeing Porto, the Portuguese city where port wine originated.

"The most exciting highlight in Amsterdam was a major anniversary for the Rhodes Scholar cruise line, so they set up a special gala at the Rembrandt Museum," Fran says. "They had an incredible party for us and gave us exclusive access to all the galleries filled with Rembrandt's masterpieces. That was an unexpected and special pleasure."

Now that she's circled the globe by sea, Fran still has some territory she'd like to explore a little closer to home. She plans to visit more of the U.S. national parks and travel to Alaska. She also spends the summers at her second home in Maine. Being away is easy with Linden Ponds' 24-7 security. Fran can simply lock her front door and know that everything will be safe and secure while she's traveling.

Pursuits at home 

When Fran is at home at Linden Ponds, she finds plenty of rewarding ways to spend her time. She is a member of the resident-run arts council, which puts on a new art show each month. She served as the council's exhibits coordinator for five years. Since retiring from her career as a nurse, Fran has dedicated more time to creating her own artwork, including drawings, paintings, and sculptures. 

Fran also volunteers as an ambassador to introduce new and prospective residents to everything Linden Ponds has to offer. 

She stays in shape by exercising at the community's on-site fitness center. "There are wonderful instructors here," she says. "I do a program called essentrics, which focuses on gentle movements, and I do free weights and walking."

In addition to the many leisure activities and social events available to residents, Fran says Linden Ponds appealed to her because it offers continuum of care with both an on-site medical center and a continuing care neighborhood. She never has to move again. 

Fran came to Linden Ponds in 2012 from Cambridge, Mass., but had previously lived in Hingham, so it was familiar to her. 

"I also like the setting here; it's beautifully landscaped. I found it to be a very welcoming environment, and I continue to feel that way, so it was the right choice for me," Fran says. "I think the management here does an excellent job, and they work hard to create a supportive environment—it works well for me."