A Traveler's Guide to Marriage

How a late marriage can lead to a world of unexpected adventures.

When Sylvie Nickels met her late husband George Spenceley in the 60s, she didn’t quite expect what was about to come... 38 adventurous years of marriage.

With hindsight, she should have seen the signs, for her partner was an adventurer and climber who has an Antarctic glacier on the Island of South Georgia named after him.

'George lived by the motto "A tent is only a tent if you have to crawl into it!" I definitely took for granted how privileged I was to travel in style before I met him!' says Sylvie, homeowner of Foxhall Court in Banbury.

'My Swiss mother and British father met on a ship travelling to New Zealand, so you could say my interest in travel was predestined. We spent my childhood summers in Switzerland and later as a travel writer, I travelled widely including to Finland. It was there I crossed paths with George.'

George introduced Sylvie to her "wild side" which included long distance canoeing and venturing along the Danube, Europe’s longest river, followed by the Mississippi, North America's longest.

Sylvie adds: 'I am extremely lucky to have met my husband. Without marrying late in life, I would never have had quite such big adventures. At an age when you’re supposed to be thinking of slowing down, I went on to do many things I never imagined.'

She was 54 when she embarked on her adventure with George along the Mississippi. Filled with both disarming and comical experiences, it was one of the most memorable periods of her life – from dining with the "River Rats", the Mississippi-side inhabitants, to sharing the waterway with push boats and barges, and surviving canoe-stopping head-on gales.

As a writer by trade, Sylvie went on to publish a book about this U.S canoeing adventure. Entitled The Big Muddy, it joined her growing collection of novels, anthologies and short stories which follow themes of travel, war and the modern world.

'I first started writing when I was a child during the Second World War. It was a very different world back then with no digital technology, and I spent most of my time reading and writing.'

Her first stories, which she refers to as "scribbles", reflected the air raids in suburban London during the 1940s. Back then, along with her grandfather who was a forester and poet, BBC’s top war correspondent Richard Dimbleby was one of her biggest inspirations.

'At the age of 12, I wrote to him for advice of how to become a journalist. Amazingly he answered in his own fair hand. Having followed his suggestions of learning shorthand and to type, I got my first job at a small agricultural magazine.'

Later she became a freelance travel writer for the Saturday supplement in the Financial Times. Working for the publication for 15 years, she had the opportunity to travel worldwide and write about many

Retiring to Foxhall Court in 2016, Sylvie is now the proud author of 10 books and mountains of memories. Keen to continue learning, she is a member of the University of the Third Age (U3A), in particular a philosophy group whom she meets every month.

'Membership of the U3A is excellent for keeping the mind active, and I highly recommend it to other McCarthy Stone homeowners. Since moving to Foxhall Court four years ago, I have made many friends who I enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles with over my morning coffee, when in the past I would have just sat at my computer.'

For more information about Sylvie’s books and to read her world-wide adventures, visit www.sylvienickelsbooks.com.

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