Fiona Griffin recently retired at the age of 66 and decided to follow dreams she’s had since she was a teen.
The Kerry woman has always wanted to travel, but as a dedicated mother and grandmother who has spent her life helping others through teaching, mental health outreach and domestic violence work, she never found the time.
However, she decided this summer was the time for her as she jetted off to the US earlier this month on a J1.
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Speaking to RSVP Live, Fiona said: “I’ve always had a dream to live and work abroad. I fell in love young, got married and had four children, so raising four children put all of that on hold.
“I was 66 in April and I had to retire from work. Then a few things happened – my mum went into a nursing home, she’s 90. Then a family member was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, which was very difficult for them and the rest of the extended family.
“So I thought, if I don’t do something now, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.”
This spurred Fiona on to begin looking at options to spend a summer abroad, and she settled on the US. She was very amused when she realized it was a J1 visa she’d be applying for – one that’s typically given to students to work in America for the summer.
“No one got a bigger kick out of standing in a queue of teenagers in the American Embassy than me!” Fiona laughed. “I was like something buzzing and chatting away to all the young ones.”
After filling out all the paperwork and sorting out all the official side, Fiona began her plans to travel to Wisconsin. In a stroke of luck, her brother, who is a tour bus driver, came across a couple from a nearby area to where Fiona was going and offered to meet and chat with her.
“Sylvia and Keith have been absolutely amazing,” said Fiona. “They gave me their phone number and email and wanted me to contact them.”
Sylvia and Keith were kind enough to give Fiona a lift from the airport to the camp where she’s working for the summer, and will meet her again for a week at the end of the summer.
As for the camp itself, Fiona is delighted and gets on like a house on fire with the other camp workers despite the age difference.
“They’re very inclusive of me,” said Fiona. “They’re certainly aware that I’m older, but have no problem sitting and chatting with me.”
You can follow Fiona’s journey as a retiree on her J1 on her Instagram here.
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