PARAMUS, N.J. — Last year Andrea Holmes traveled to the Dominican Republic, Paris, Brazil, Cuba, Iceland, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England.
She is 74 years old.
"I do whatever feels right to me at the minute. I am a free spirit," said the Paramus grandmother, who also dabbles in writing, painting and photography and goes to the gym daily.
Holmes estimates that she has visited 81 different countries on all seven continents, and has also visited "nearly every" state in the US.
She refers to herself as the "eclectic unusual old lady."
"I've always had a thirst for travel, for knowledge, and culture,' Holmes said.
The Maywood native graduated from Bogota High School and worked as a legal secretary in Manhattan for 15 years. When her son was born she stayed home to care for him, but said leaving the workforce didn't suit her.
She later became Superintendent of River Dell Regional School District, and also had stints working at Neiman Marcus and a mental institution.
At the age of 50, Holmes decided to get her degree: first a business degree from Bergen County Community College, then a Psychology degree from Ramapo College. Next, she went to Oxford in England and studied journalism and creative writing. When she came back, she got her masters in liberal arts from Ramapo, at the age of 72.
Holmes began traveling with her husband while in school. When he passed in 2011, Holmes started traveling even more.
"I decided to live the rest of my life the way I wanted to live it," she said.
While traveling Holmes takes pictures, writes stories, and posts stickers that say "Mad to Live."
Holmes said the stickers are an homage to her late nephew, who traveled like his aunt, but died unexpectedly two years ago.
"His mantra was that he was mad to live and he wanted to experience life," Holmes said.
Her message to the world is the same.
"If you want to travel just do it. Be mad to live."
"Life is scary and if you don’t take a chance you will never learn and you will never get any experience," Holmes added.
In March, Holmes is taking her next trip to Lapland in the northernmost region of Finland, where she will stay in an igloo.
"You have to leave your comfort zone and take chances," Holmes said of the trip.
"Or you can die at the Bergen mall."
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