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Global Grannies Don't Sweat Travel Headaches


Over the past year we've brought you many adventure stories - the world's most traveled man, a journey by cargo ship and an octogenarian sailing to Antarctica.


MARTIN: On this week's Winging It, we introduce you to three adventurers who have dubbed themselves the Global Grannies. They're a group of women in their 50s and well into their 80s, who have started second lives as world travelers.

JODY NUNLEY: I'm Jody Nunley from Billings.

TANA: I'm Tana.

JO LOU KNOLL: And I'm Jo Lou Knoll.

MARY LOU WAGNER: And I'm Mary Lou Wagner from Billings.

MARTIN: How did this whole thing get started? The Global Grannies, how did it come into being? Whose idea was it?

NUNLEY: Well, I think it was the three of us because in the beginning in 1995, we found ourselves alone after many years of marriage. And we decided that we had to take control of our lives and have the courage to begin in different directions on our own. Our first big travel was to the Macy's Day Parade in New York City and when we returned from that, our friends would say - gosh, that sounds like fun, could we come? And little by little it began to grow that way. So that's how it started.

MARTIN: What were some of your apprehensions about going to places that you'd only seen in books or on television?

WAGNER: I think that first trip to New York was a little scary because we always had traveled just with our husbands, but when we did it we found out, well yeah, we can do it. I think we just became braver as women and found our voice.

KNOLL: We also learned to travel with a suitcase that had wheels. I remember the first time...

MARTIN: Very important.

KNOLL: ...We carried a few of them but we decided that was not a good idea.

MARTIN: One of your mottos is we leave our complaints, aches and pains at home. How has that worked out? That's not always easy, even for younger people.

WAGNER: Well, our ladies are so, so loyal and so sweet. They tell each other that. If one of them is starting to complain, they say just a minute. You know what our motto is. We don't do that.

NUNLEY: And we always think, if you want things to be the same as they are at home, then stay at home because we're there to travel and to experience and to enjoy and be ambassadors in the countries in which we travel.

MARTIN: The group has grown quite a bit since you started. You now have members from 13 states around the country. How did you realize that this was something that could benefit not just you - your small group of friends - but there was bigger demand for this that you could tap into?

KNOLL: I think just through the word-of-mouth and people kept joining us in Billings. You know, now we have 260 members in these different states.

WAGNER: And many are widows and there's safety and fun in traveling together. Although not all are widows. We do have some whose husbands don't care to travel and that way then they can send their husbands off fishing and not feel guilty about it.

MARTIN: So you go fishing. I'm going to Paris.

WAGNER: That's right.

MARTIN: Is this a women's only affair or do you ever let grandpas join?

WAGNER: Oh, go ahead Jody.

NUNLEY: This was so funny because when we were on our millennium trip, we were in Fiji, New Zealand, Australia and some other trips. And we were approached at that time to see if we would start a Global Grandpas group. And we said no. We have enough to do with our club of grannies, but we've been approached that question many times.

MARTIN: Something you might consider down the road or not so much?

NUNLEY: No, no, no. If they want - if they want a group they can start their own and do the work involved. Yeah.

MARTIN: Before I let you go can I have each of you tell me what your personal favorite has been? Your favorite destination and just one sentence that describes it?

WAGNER: Boy, is that ever hard. Probably the safari in Kenya. I took a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti while all the wildebeests were traveling.

KNOLL: I guess I'd say my favorite was traveling to Switzerland, which is my heritage, and visiting the small village of Splugen, where I could sit in the church where my grandmother was baptized before she came to America at 9 years old.

NUNLEY: It's very difficult to say which is your favorite place, but one of our first trips in 2002 - I think it's one of the largest number of people that went on a trip with us. We had 38 of us that took a Greek yacht and we had to check-in with our - one of our Global Grannies had been in the service - so we had to check-in with our captain up on top of the deck and give her salute early in the morning. We had a wonderful time.

MARTIN: Mary Lou Wagner, Jody Nunley, and Jo Lou Knoll. They are the founders of Global Grannies and they joined me from studios in Billings, Montana. Thank you so much for talking with us, ladies.

KNOLL: Thank you.

NUNLEY: Thank you so much for the privilege.

WAGNER: Thank you.


MARTIN: Our theme music was written by BJ Leiderman. You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.