Jennie Morris is not your typical Florida native. After being raised in one place her entire childhood, she went on to travel to 121 countries on 7 continents. Jennie doesn’t just go sightseeing on her trips. She spent a month skydiving every day in Namibia, swam with piranhas in the Amazon, and joined a cruise to Antarctica on a whim. Her philosophy of life is simple and inspiring: she wants to see and do everything because she understands how incredibly short life is.
“I have always loved adrenaline, accomplishment and adventure,” Jennie told me, “My family didn’t travel internationally when I was growing up, let alone like this.”
Skydiving – free fall
Out of Jennie’s many adrenaline-packed adventures, her two favorites are skydiving and mountain climbing. Like many before her, the experience of free fall was one of the most incredible feelings in her life, which she describes as pure freedom. Back in 2001, Jennie decided to take an Accelerated Free Fall Course with Ground Rush Adventures in Swakopmund, Namibia so that she could jump on her own. The course takes weeks of work as they begin by assessing how you handle yourself in the air.
“At first they jump with you in tandem with a second person jumping in front of you,” Jennie explains. “They look at the whites of your eyes and if it looks like you are scared, panicking or not in control, you do not progress. There is a ton of concentration on body movements, body control, body awareness, and mental state.”
There are many places and cultures to learn about during traveling
Tandem and static line skydiving
It is possible to enjoy skydiving without a certification. The two options are tandem and static line. Tandem skydiving is the most popular and includes a free fall of up to 45 seconds from 12,000 feet. However, you are strapped to the front of an instructor. The other option offered by some skydiving places is using a “static line” where you are completely on your own but the line is pulled for you and you don’t experience free fall.
“It is an awkward feeling being body to body with a stranger, to the point where you are basically sitting in their lap on the ride up,” Jennie says, describing tandem skydiving. “Static line is what paratroopers in the military do. You jump out and the line is pulled by the attachment immediately. But the free fall is the best part.”
Swakopmund, Namibia isn’t just a great place to skydive. Jennie refers to it as kind of an adventure oasis for travelers. It is a great place to enjoy four-wheel-driving over the sand dunes, going on a fat bike tour and enjoying a desert safari, just to mention a few. Namibia itself is known for its unique and incredible landscapes, Etosha National Park, the Namib and Kalahari Deserts, and a chance to see the San Bushmen.
“Mountain climbing is just pure effort and silent nature, like magic,” Jennie says. She got into climbing mountains by starting with smaller climbs on her travels. She loved climbing Mt. Kinabalu in Borneo and Mt. Fuji in Japan. This led her to climbing Mt. Rainier, Mt. Whitney, Mt. Shasta and the Grand Teton in the USA. But not all of Jennie’s adventures always go as planned, nor are they all positive.
“The first day of my Mt. Rainier climb we saw a helicopter overhead that was extracting bodies of dead climbers off Liberty Ridge,” Jennie said. “Travel never goes according to plan. The more I travel, the less plans and expectations I have. I would say the most crucial trait in adventure travel is flexibility.”
While traveling there are great opportunities to see the local fauna
Craziest travel experiences
Jennie’s advice on flexibility in travel came from her personal experiences. One time, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the border guard said it was okay for her and a friend to sneak over the border if they didn’t go far. Their hour-long walk turned into an entire village following them and offering camels in exchange for marriage. The police had to come pick them up and drive them back.
“I was kayaking on an Outward Bound program at Bocas del Toro in Panama and my friend flipped the kayak, which quickly filled with water,” Jennie said. “He got very seasick and we had to tread in the open water for hours before swimming after a local fishing boat, which rescued us and took us to the hospital.”
Take the bad with the good
Another time, she was biking in Hell’s Gate National Park in Kenya. The scenic ride quickly turned scary when they found out that two lions were loose in the area. Jennie said she had never ridden so fast in her life, knowing that she would have had zero chance of survival if the lions had caught up with her.
“I have been in some foreign hospitals for the usual travel sicknesses,” Jennie says, pointing out that her best foreign hospital experience was actually at a private hospital in Ethiopia. “I’ve also had many bumps and bruises on my travels, and also managed to split my face open wake surfing, which resulted in 12 stitches and the doctor telling me I was very lucky I hadn’t lost an eye.”
Despite many negative experiences, Jennie doesn’t regret anything that she has done. Her main tips to stay safe on trips are to use common sense and intuition, although she also has travel insurance as backup. Her tips include not leaving your accommodation alone after dark, not going out late at night with people you don’t know, trusting your intuition and not paying for anything in advance unless it’s online via a reputable tour operator. Other precautions include locking doors, using lockers, having padlocks on her bags and only carrying enough cash for a week at most.
“Take the bad with the good,” Jennie says regarding bad travel experiences. “I’ve had plenty of both. That’s life! You only get one life.”
Tips for Adventurers
“Just do it. You will be scared and nervous,” Jennie advises. “Learn as much as you can. Research, train and be physically ready for whatever you are attempting. Plus have the proper gear and know that you are responsible for yourself.”
She is also a big advocate of traveling now, instead of “some day.” Most people simply can’t travel the same way in their 80s as they can in their 20s. Many people study hard to get into the best school to get the best job only to spend 40 years working, in the process buying a house, cars and other possessions, only to find that their possessions really own them. Then at 65, they can hope to retire and begin traveling. But that doesn’t always work out, and the travel will most likely be much more expensive than it would be when they were younger.
“Why not skip the 40 years of work and live on the beach and travel right now?” Jennie says. “You can do it for way less than living in a Western country.”
Jennie definitely lives by this philosophy. She has lived in Florida, Boston, South Korea, London, Aspen, Jackson Hole, Napa, Lake Tahoe, Big Sky and Bozeman Montana. In the past she has worked every job in hospitality which let her travel. Today she works remotely and lives on the road, so she doesn’t have a “home” per se. Many travelers enjoy a more nomadic lifestyle to give them the flexibility they need to explore the world.
From Colombia to Panama
Traveling as often and as much and as far as you can
“There is so much still left on my bucket list,” Jennie says. “Travel to the remaining 76 countries for one. Hike the Tasmanian Overland Track and the entire Camino de Santiago. Climb 6 of the 7 summits, excluding the Everest summit. Work on a boat and island hop. Dive with Great Whites, swim with Whale Sharks, live in Dubai, Italy, France, run a marathon and run an NGO.”
She hopes to inspire others to live their best lives also, traveling as often and as much and as far as they can. She points out that it really is so much easier than people think and that the hardest part is taking the plunge.
“I found the best way is to tell everyone, then book the flights,” Jennie says. “Then you can’t back out! I do recommend tours to start: hiking, mountain climbing, biking, scuba diving. It is so much easier and more accessible to go to remote places and have these kinds of adventures today than it was 23 years ago when I started traveling.”
You can follow Jennie Morris’s blog and be inspired by her book “The World According to Jennie Morris: Adventures and mis-adventures of a single female traveler“.
Photos: From the Archive of Jennie Morris
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