By Peg Lopata, Contributing Writer
Cambridge – Tina Olton, 77, of Cambridge has traveled the world. Along her American travels she earned a degree in librarianship and an MBA.
“My short version of this part of my life is this: After graduating from high school, I started a trek across the country, picking up and discarding husbands, degrees, jobs and careers, until retirement when my husband, Stephen, and I decided to sail around the world,” said Olton.
“I said to myself, ‘Why not?’”
The couple, both avid sailors, sold their house to buy a boat and sailed some 45,000 miles visiting 61 countries. Her 10-year trip was chronicled in her first book, “Always Another Horizon: A Journey Around the World.”
The most memorable things she learned while sailing, she said, was the need for patience and to maintain control of her emotions. There are also never-to-be-forgotten moments from the trip itself, such as the day they returned home.
“We sailed under the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco on a gorgeous day with beautiful wind. When we pulled up to the Berkeley Yacht Club, a mob of friends and a couple of reporters were waiting for us!’ recalled Olton.
They also met unforgettable people.
Olton related, “In the Sudan a young man paddled out to sell us some eggs. He said, ‘Everyone hates my country.’ I said, ‘That’s governments. It’s people who are important and we can be friends.’”
Olton took a photo of him with a Polaroid camera. He was wowed.
“The encounter made clear the differences between our life and his life,” she said.
Olton also learned that there are many, many ways to live a life. And while in the East African country of Eritrea, a very poor country, she learned how connected we all are to one another. “When we entered Eritrea we saw a young man who looked like an American,” she said. “He was from a small town outside Minneapolis where we had had a family vacation at a fishing resort. The resort owner was this young man’s high school math teacher. Here we are in the middle of nowhere—-nowhere—-and we had a connection.”
Not the type to avoid challenges, a few years ago Olton wrote a second book, a novel, “Until the Iris Bloom.” She read up on how to write fiction, took an online course, and hired an editor for advice. Though she considers writing this book a major life accomplishment, there have been other achievements equally important to her, such as when as a professional violinist she played backup for Aretha Franklin.
Olton has also been committed to volunteering. She volunteered in northern California as a counselor for elders, especially those involved in the judicial system.
“I threw myself into this program,” said Olton, “taking on hundreds of clients over 13 years.”
Most recently she volunteers for Cambridge Neighbors (CN), an organization of elders helping elders, serving as both president of the board and a board member.
“Talking with the members of CN about their lives, health, hardships and more; then talking about what they should look for in CN that might interest them is very rewarding,” said Olton.
So whether sailing the high seas, at home writing or in the community helping others, Olton knows there’s countless ways to live a life, both adventuresome and less so. She’s glad to have said, “Why not?” when life offered an adventure, but is also grateful to enjoy simple fun with her grandchildren.