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I travelled the world alone at 50 – here's what I learned

At a crossroads in her life after a frightening health scare, Kim Rix overhauled her whole life.

Lady holding a gem stone
November 1, 2023
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At 47 years old, I was at a crossroads in my life. I'd recently been told I had heart disease, and it made me appreciate how fragile life can be.

I felt pressure to achieve something meaningful before I reached age 50, and in the end, it was a horrible experience that pushed me in a new direction.

I was travelling in Egypt when I fell in love with a beautiful red gemstone. I was told it was a genuine, natural Burmese ruby. Initially, I ;was delighted with my purchase but when I showed it to my local jeweller in London, I was told it was made of glass.

Woman headshot
Kim Rix changed her whole life in her fifties

I felt foolish and cheated. That humiliation gave me the impetus to take a seven-month break from my wedding photography business to study gemmology so that I would never be fooled again.

I decided to put my wedding photography business on the back burner, opting instead to travel the world researching the gem trade in different countries and taking the photographs that are in the books I published on the topic.

Building up my wedding photography business took time and passion and I put my heart and soul into it. My business was my baby. So, I was apprehensive about the change in direction: it was a huge decision to keep my photography business on hold for a while.

My solo travel experience

Up until that time in my life, I had always considered myself to be well-travelled. But travelling for the books was a whole new experience.

I went solo to each country, hiring cars, staying in budget hotels and from the moment my feet hit the ground, talking to as many people as possible (both in the gem trade and tourists on holiday). Their experiences of gem-hunting were invaluable to my research and the books.

Woman with a little axe in a cave
Kim Rix stepped out of her comfort zone to travel the world solo

Travelling alone was frightening and exhilarating at the same time. In Australia, I hired a mini campervan called a Jucy Crib and drove 4444 kms around the Outback, visiting shops, mines and several famous opal shows including Lightning Ridge.

In the USA, the unfamiliarity of hiring enormous cars with snow wheels and tinted windows took me well out of my comfort zone – as did the eight-lane motorways! My book research took me from Las Vegas to Tucson and all the way around New Mexico.

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Closer to home, during the UK lockdowns of 2020, frustration set in and my stress levels rose.

Airbnb and hotels were closed, but I had to get out there and continue writing the book series. So, after releasing some equity by remortgaging my flat, I bought a campervan. My trusty van equipped me to travel around Great Britain, without having to worry about where I would sleep at night.

Why did I leave my comfort zone?

Some people might see making such a radical change as a midlife crisis. Either way, I had a fantastic time travelling the world, enjoying experiences that I would otherwise never have had. I feel enriched, more confident and generally much happier within myself. It was the right decision to make at that time in my life.

I’m a great believer in creating one’s own destiny. It’s just a matter of having the courage to step outside your comfort zone and find your own path.

I believe that any lifestyle change should be viewed as an adventure and an opportunity to learn more about oneself.

If the timing feels right and your heart is pushing you to embark on the next phase of your life, approach it with a positive attitude and enjoy the ride.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson, a 19th-century American philosopher, wisely said, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey”.

 Kim Rix is a gemmologist and author of The Gemstone Detective

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