Red & Purple Hiking Boots

An Older Woman’s Trek to It’s Never too Late


Donna R. Billings, MBE, CPPC, PCC

I recently met Donna after knowing her book coach, Bonnie Budzowski of Incredible Messages–she’s responsible for bringing my travel journals to life–for years.

Red & Purple Hiking Books is the extraordinary story of a woman who at age 62 decides to hike Machu Picchu with relatively little hiking or trekking experience.

The book relates her hikes with the Wild Women group and the challenges faced by having adventures with a less than supportive older husband who was chronically ill.

The end of each chapter has exercises to tie that message in with your own unique life experiences, whether or not they involve hiking. I choose to read the book through first and am now going back and answering the questions. Because of the introspection required to answer with honesty and soul-searching, this approach works better for my how my brain functions.

As always with books of the self-examination genre, my copy is full of margin notes and highlighted passages, here are a few:

Chapter 6, “I left her presence [an elderly woman she met while on a retreat in Scotland] believing that age is not a constrictor. Rather, age is enlightening and the pathway to ever increasing new experiences.”

Being born in 1959, as the years pass, I can attest to this—both by witnessing a change in attitude of woman friends and in myself. Age refines who we are and with the passing days, we become more clearly ourselves.

Chapter 10, “The Wild Women simply expected me to be present and be my authentic self. They valued me as a person, not an achiever. In short, they loved me.”

Is this not the greatest gift we can provide to our friends? To accept them with warts and flaws and generosity and kindness—just as they give to us.

Chapter 11, “Reflecting on the day [kayaking alone on a new river], I saw the experience as another metaphor for my life and for the woman I was becoming. Although I might be frightened when faced with a difficult and potentially scary new adventure, I no longer held back or gave in to my fear. And one hundred percent of the time, I passed through that fear just fine, wishing I had moved forward earlier. I liked this new person.”

More things that become easier as we progress in life: overcoming fear. Time and again, I’ve heard a particular friend ask, “What’s the worst that can happen if I ___?” Take some wisdom from those older than you and start asking that question today.

Chapter 14, “We consider some of our relationships life giving and others toxic. Most, however, are a mixed bag. Only our value, our sense of ethics, and the commitments we make to others and ourselves can guide us in these relationships.”

Working to deal with certain negativities in life, we each learn to rely on our beliefs to overcome the people and situations we come up against.

In our ageist society, especially with our attitude toward women and the expectations imposed on my gender, this book will make you re-think what you think about us!

When my sister Jackie turned fifty, we went to Italy and hiked the Cinque Terre National Park on Italy’s coast. This year, for my fifty-ninth, we’ll be hiking for the third time on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path in Wales. We pray we can make trips like this to places both familiar and new until we are little old ladies walking these trails and sidewalks with canes.

Life is meant to be lived large—don’t let preconceived notions of expected behavior hold you in place. Read this book and think about what new adventures you want to have this year.