Susan French hadn’t been any further from Knoxville than Myrtle Beach before she met George Nichols. An airline pilot and her second husband, Nichols introduced her to international travel. After he died in 1994, French kept going. By the end of this year, she will have visited 75 countries.
Right now, her count is at 70. But before the year’s out, she will have seen Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Tunisia and Algiers. And she’s already booked trips to Italy, the Amazon, Iceland and the “Stans” — Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgystan, Kazakhstan — in 2024.
French isn’t a fan of crowded bus tours. “My first trip alone in 1995 was one of those, and it drove me nuts,” she said. “I don’t like to wait in line, and with 50 people on a bus, you do a lot of that, especially to go to the bathroom!” It wasn’t long before she found Overseas Adventure Travel, which arranges for small group travel. “I booked a trip with them and never looked back.”
Though she loves all her destinations, she admits favoring France most of all. And says if the climate was more temperate in Scandinavia, “I’d move there tomorrow.” Still on her bucket list is an around-the-world cruise.
Any advice for novice travelers? “Just do it. If there’s somewhere you want to visit, go. Don’t let vacation time pile up,” she said.
As far as seeing the sights in the U.S., French said “I’m going to keep doing my foreign trips before I get too wobbly. Then I’ll do trips through America.”
Everywhere she visits, her late husband is with her in spirit. “He taught me how to travel and not be afraid. He’s always in my heart.”