September 28, 2013

Walking the World with Marie Edwards

Some people are lucky and fortunate enough to turn a hobby into a business.  Today’s post features someone who did just that.  Fellow Roman, Marie Edwards, who loved to go “a-wandering” turned her walking hobby into a business venture in the summer of 1991.   Since that time, Marie has walked across England, hiked the Highlands of Scotland and Wales, trekked among the mountains of Ireland and the Swiss, French, and Italian Alps and left footprints in the sands of Brittany and Normandy.

As the former owner of Southern Treks, Marie put her 22 years of walking and traveling experience in Europe and Australia to work in helping others enjoy the land on foot.  While at the helm of Southern Treks, it was rated as one of the best close-knit tour groups in the country by Travel Holiday magazine as groups were limited to 16.  According to the magazine, Marie was the confidante, coach, tour manager, and self-styled “mother hen” of Southern Treks.  In 2009, the company received international recognition from the Frommer’s Iceland Guide Book which suggested the itinerary “Walking Adventures in Iceland: Land of Fire and Ice” was one of the best walking tours of Iceland.

While raising her children, Marie walked with them at their home in Highlands, North Carolina.    In 1987 at the age of 43, Marie got her long-distance legs going with a Coast to Coast Across England because this was the kind of travel she wanted to do. Marie went back to Europe for three years and joined European walking tours before she started Southern Treks in 1991.  Marie says walking “keeps you interested in life, transports you to another level, helps you forget about your problems, and makes you take the time to savor life."

Below is just a glimpse of the good life that Marie has been able to savor: 

  According to Marie, "when you're with a group, you don't notice how many miles you're doing."   "You will become more than just a tourist, you will feel that you are a part of the country." 

"I adore Iceland" says Marie.  She also says there is a difference between walking and hiking--you have to watch your feet when hiking.   

Shown here in Iceland, Marie was living her childhood dreams of traveling.   On the right, Reagan Lowrey Lozar,  has taken over the helm of Southern Treks as Marie retired from the business earlier this year.    

Pictured here on a coast to coast walk of England, Marie's tours took you through farms, small villages, and mountains.

New Zealand was her favorite destination.  "I would live there in a second." 

"You'll go through different parts of the country that you wouldn't necessarily see on a different kind of tour."  This photograph is of New Zealand. 

More of New Zealand.  "You will be seeing a country in the best way possible--on foot." 

Included in the Normandy trip was the 11th century monastery Le Mont-Saint-Michel.  At high tide, this island commune is surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean in the Bay of Mont St. Michel. 

Walking the 3.8 miles of sand at low tide to see the abbey included a professional guide who carried a rope just in case the tides shifted too fast. 

In August 2010, Marie set out on a 500-mile solo pilgrimage on the famous El Camino de Santiago de Compostela  ("The Way") starting in Saint Jean Pied de Port in southwestern France and ending at the cathedral in Santiago in northwestern Spain.   

Even though it was a solo pilgrimage, Marie was rarely alone as evidenced by this photograph.  Pilgrims walk the El Camino for many reasons--mostly spiritual, but if you have ever seen the movie "The Way" starring Martin Sheen, you will learn there are many other reasons to walk the El Camino. 

Meseta Central, great interior meseta (plateau) of the Iberian Peninsula, central Spain.  According to Marie, it is 140 miles of desolation, and  you can walk for 12 hours without finding any drinkable water.   

The journey's end at the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the Apostle Saint James are buried. 

The Pilgrim's Mass is held each day at noon. 

Welcomed home at the Atlanta airport by husband, Steve, and grandsons.   

In July 2013, Marie met up with a French group in Bordeaux to walk 200 miles of the Camino in France.  This group makes walking the Camino possible for both able bodied, those in wheelchairs, or blind.   Marie participated in all phases of the journey--whether slicing bread for the cook, assisting a disabled person, or pushing a wheelchair on the Camino.  

The walk was sponsored by Camino 2000.  According to Marie, this was her most rewarding and gratifying journey to date and would do it again in a heartbeat.  

Whether in the City of Lights, having an omelette and fries in Bordeaux, or on the walking trails of northwest Georgia, Marie Edwards is an inspiration to others and has shared her passion for the outdoors, walking, traveling, and physical fitness with countless others. 

To conclude, let's give credit where it's due.  Marie is one of the reasons I have developed my passion for hiking and the outdoors.  She welcomed me into a group training for the El Camino when she knew I was unable to go,  Because of this association and connection with others who love to walk or hike, I never have to hike alone.   I am grateful to Marie for introducing me to the world of walking and hiking, because I plan to "Keep on Hiking" as long as health permits and I hope you will too! 

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