MANCHESTER — A puma encounter, a roller coaster of high and low elevations and the final destination being Machu Picchu are things Retha Charette experienced in May and will share with the community on Sept. 7.
As part of the Manchester Community Library's Summer Wednesdays Series, Charette will tell stories with photos about her most recent trip to Peru. She decided to go for her 30th birthday and tagged along with a group called WHOA travel (Women High on Adventure). Charette discovered the group after hiking Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Charette is originally from New Bedford, Mass., but after college, quickly immersed herself into the southern Vermont community. She's a member of the Manchester Lions Club, worked at the One World Conservation Center this summer, serves as the director for United Counseling Service's Big Brothers Big Sisters program, skates twice a week with the Southshire Roller Derby and mentors junior skaters. In between all of that, she regularly camps, hikes and travels in and out of the country twice a year.
The biggest thing Charette said she takes away from her many travels is how different the world can be seen.
"I travel all the time. You can do it and it's a lot of fun. It's changed my life and every time I come home I have a new perspective on how lucky I am," she said.
She added that she's met and witnessed a lot of poverty, but that the less fortunate people were always happy.
"I'm privileged to have met them and even when you don't have anything, happiness is possible," she said.
Charette spent 10 days in Peru and four hiking the Salkantay Trek to the city of Aguas Calientes and experienced glaciers as well as forests. Her other trips include hanging out with elephants in India, visiting the Plant Walk in the Sky on Haushahn outside Xi'an in China and swimming through the Rio Secreto in Mexico.
She's traveled to 48 states, with the most recent being California, and landed on five continents. Next spring she hopes to make it to Hawaii or Egypt, with Australia in the fall.
Unlike most post-college students, Charette doesn't struggle with student loans and said she lives simply to afford her passion.
"I make traveling a priority and put money aside from each paycheck. You'd be surprised as to what you don't need in your life," she said, citing concert tickets, movie tickets, daily coffee trips and even having the heat up higher than necessary.
She said the most expensive part about traveling is the plane ticket; that's why she hasn't explore the western countries yet. She also doesn't stay in five-star hotels and tries to camp or stay in hostels as much as possible. During the summers, she manages to travel by road when staying in the country. It also helps to be a part of a 75,000-plus women's group on Facebook where people exchange ideas on where to travel, stay and eat. Charette owed manageable plane tickets to a smartphone app called Hopper that notifies the user of the best time to purchase.
"Living simply, I don't make a lot of money," she said. "Not buying tons of souvenirs. It's a lifestyle. If there's something you really want to do in your life you make it happen."
After visiting China a few years back is when Charette became hooked.
Hear about her Peru trip and more at the Manchester Community Library on Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. She'll repeat the presentation the following week at the One World Conservation Center.
Contact Makayla-Courtney McGeeney at 802-490-6471.