While sitting atop Machu Picchu, a 15th-century world heritage site in Peru, Shari Tucker had a revelation that changed her life.
“I realized I had all of this stuff,” says the 37-year-old. “I had a house, I had a big SUV, I had everything. I was working so hard to have all of these things that I didn’t really want, that I didn’t value.”
“I realized that I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do with my life.”
Two years after that trip, Tucker sold almost everything she owned and switched from working at an office job to being footloose and self-employed.
Since then, she has travelled to 33 countries while working as a blogger, professional photographer and a travel agent for Travel Professionals International, a Canadian company of independent travel advisors.
“It has changed how I see myself, how I see other people, and how I see the world,” she says.
Tucker is part of an increasing trend of women who travel alone. According to a survey of 13,600 travellers over the age of 17 from 25 different countries, 2015 saw a rise in these “wander women.” Many, like Tucker, are finding ways to combine work and travel.
Chloe O’Brien, business development manager at international travel company Intrepid Group, has also done several solo trips abroad, including to Kenya, Morocco and The Bahamas.
“You gain a sense of independence that you don’t get if you travel with your friends,” she says. “It pushed me to know who I really was, in terms of what I really wanted out of life.”
O’Brien is also a photographer and, like Tucker, takes pictures while she travels. She studied photography at NSCAD University and now lives in Toronto.
As a “home-based” agent who helps people organize trips, Tucker has the freedom to work with her clients from anywhere.
“My office is actually Africa, it’s Portugal, it’s Panama. It’s wherever I am at the time.”
The work has allowed Tucker to combine her passions for photography and travel.
“It’s an opportunity to capture what I see while I’m out exploring the world,” she says.
Photographs from her latest adventures are on display at Gallery 1919, a new art gallery space tucked away beside Dean’s Flowers on Stanley Street in the city’s north end.
“For me, the travelling and photography go so well together,” says Tucker, who studied photography at Nova Scotia Community College in Halifax.
“A lot of it is just about sharing stories and memories.”
The exhibit shows photographs from 14 countries, depicting everything from hot air balloons in Cappadocia, Turkey, to a mother and child in Peru.
Tucker, who usually travels alone, says the blogging component to her work is also a great way to inspire others to travel.
“Originally it just started to keep my family and friends updated and for funny stories,” she says.“Now I think it’s more about inspiring young women to travel … even if it’s not on their own.”
Tucker started travelling in her early thirties and says many people were shocked to hear about what she was doing.
“Here in Halifax people think, ‘Woah, I can’t believe you’re doing that,’ but when you get out into the real world, outside these borders, you see so many people are doing it.”
Elaine Meredith, office administrator at Dean’s Flowers and Gallery 1919, says Tucker’s exhibit “would inspire anyone to travel, not just (the) young.”
Meredith, who is in her sixties, says travel for women has “changed enormously” since she was young. “People are more open to women travelling on their own, and being more independent,” she says.
Next on Tucker’s list of places to visit is Africa. She left last week for a seven-week trip that includes Botswana, Namibia and Cape Town.
Travel is exciting but can be exhausting, Tucker says, and she hopes to settle down in the near future.
“The problem is, I don’t know where.”