Living Out Loud in Retirement

Living Out Loud in Retirement

Three friends fulfill dreams to travel the world.

Septuagenarians and longtime friends Fran Murphy, Liz Molloy and Colleen Walsh traveled Italy last summer. This year they’re going to Switzerland.

Three women, all retired, single and in their mid-70s, meet at Starbucks in Old Town Alexandria for coffee each Sunday morning. On a sunny day in mid-March, the ladies met to work out plans for a trip to Switzerland that they’re scheduled to take this August. Each woman plays a distinct role in their relationship that, when put together, creates a harmonious dynamic. Fran Murphy is the dreamer, Liz Molloy is the planner, and Colleen Walsh is the doer. The women were friends in high school, lost touch over the years, but have reconnected in retirement.

“Some people might think being a single woman who no longer works full time means that we’re lonely and sitting in the small apartment with 30 cats to keep us company,” said Molloy, whose shoulder length platinum blonde bob, family crest signet ring and Hermes bracelets that cover her left wrist, create an image that defies that stereotype. “It’s certainly not the case with us, and I really don’t think it has to be the case of anyone in our stage in life.”

While life in retirement varies from person to person based on circumstance, Molloy, Murphy and Walsh say that they are fortunate to be healthy and have the financial stability to see the world. They have traveled to Italy, Greece, and Japan, immersing themselves in local culture. Their goal is to partake in the fulfilling activities that they’ve always wanted to explore, but could not because of family obligations and financial constraints.

“I had four children and a limited budget when I was raising my children,” said Murphy, a retired nurse who lives in Mount Vernon. She was married for 27 years before getting divorced. “I never had the time or money to do anything for myself. Now I want to live fearlessly traveling and trying things that have always interested me.”

Molloy, who is now widowed, was a stay-at-home mom for many years. Much of her adult life was spent raising her three children and then caring for her aging parents until their passing. “Now that my children have now grown and moved away, I have a sense of freedom,” said the Old Town resident. “For once no one is depending on me to take care of them. I have no one waiting for me to come home. I’m not lonely. I actually have a sense of freedom.”

Walsh, also a widow, lives in McLean where she’s resided for 32 years. She worked as an elementary school principal and her husband Tom was an engineer. The couple never had children, but she has a close-knit group of friends who have become like a family to her.

On this particular Sunday, Molloy is giving the group a rundown of the hotels, tours and restaurants for their Swiss adventure. She is the group’s de facto social activities director and travel agent. She peruses the trendiest travel blogs, lifestyle magazines, and other media outlets scouting out the hotels and restaurants that are in vogue each season.

“I still have a bit more to plan, but the highlight of our August trip is Hotel d'Angleterre in Geneva. We’re staying in a suite with a beautiful lake view. I enjoy staying current. It keeps me connected.“

While the women trust Molloy to make most of the travel decisions, they depend on Walsh to bring those plans to fruition. “I’m the most organized,” Molloy says. She created a spreadsheet and a list of the tasks that must be accomplished. She assigns tasks to her friends and gives each a deadline. The most important item on the list is passport renewal.

With adventures that have run the gamut from attending lectures at the Smithsonian to bear watching in Alaska, Molloy, Walsh and Murphy say that they are committed to checking off items on their bucket lists.

“We’re going to keep planning and doing for as long as we can,” Walsh. “It’s like we’re making up for lost time.”