From paragliding in South Africa to snowmobiling in northern Norway, Pete Foley has traveled from one end of the world to the other seeking adventure.
Such action-packed trips “make life more interesting,” says the Greenville man, who describes himself as “well over 65.”
“I do like that expression that if you’re not living on the edge, you’re wasting space,” he says. “And … it gives me kind of an adrenaline rush.”
An adventurous marriage
Foley is an adventure seeker who breaks the myth about what a senior should be, says Andrea Smith, executive director of Senior Action.
“He doesn’t let his age stop him. He’s not one to sit by and watch life pass him by. He lives life to the fullest,” she says.
“And his wife, Suzie, who’s also over 55, hangs in with him pretty good,” she adds. “Every year they go on some grand adventure. It’s so fun to live vicariously through their pictures.”
Retired from chemical engineering, Foley and his wife, who is executive director of the Greenville Free Medical Clinic, have been married 30 years and have four grown sons between them.
As a younger family, their active travel ranged from skiing to boating to scuba diving, he says.
Then about 15 years ago, the couple decided to venture out into international travel to learn more about other peoples and cultures.
On their first trip, they spent two weeks sailing a chartered boat on the Aegean Sea between the Greek Isles, winding up in scenic Santorini.
The excursion whetted their appetite.
They’ve gone deep into the Amazon, ridden camels in the Sahara and jumped out over the Zambezi River on a 400-foot gorge swing.
All their trips have some special meaning, Foley says.
But a high point was going on a photo safari in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia. There, he says, they got close to some animals, including the big five — lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo.
A Lifetime of Adventure
“We were deep in the bush … and all of a sudden we came upon a family of rhinos,” he says. “I was sitting next to a mama rhino … and the horn on her head was about three feet from me.”
They also flew ultralights over the Zambezi, he says, and went paragliding from Signal Hill over Cape Town.
“We took a picture of (Suzie) in the cloud created by Victoria Falls with a 160-degree rainbow around her,” he says. “It was almost spiritual in a way. A number of places have touched me that way.”
Among them – landing on the ice fields near Denali in Alaska and climbing to Huayna Picchu in the Peruvian Andes.
In China, he says, they visited the Great Wall, Beijing and Shanghai. But their fondest memories are of locals inviting them to tango in the street and escorting them to the train station when they got lost.
“Interaction with people is an adventure in itself,” he says, “especially when you don’t know the language.”
In Norway, they sailed up the coast to Kirkenes, where they went snowmobiling across Lapland at dusk and ice fishing for king crab.
“We took a snowmobile ride up the fjord, we couldn’t get to this cabin any other way, and cooked them fresh. And that was the sweetest, the best king crab bar none,” he says. “It was wonderful.”
The Foleys are also adventurous when it comes to food, and other epicurean “bests” include the dumplings in Shanghai, fresh grilled octopus in Santorini and the ceviche in Lima, Peru.
To avoid crowds, the couple travels during shoulder season. And they prefer the less traveled road, once taking motorcycles with sidecars and other times riding bicycles.
“I like the countryside of Tuscany rather than Florence,” Foley says. “And I love to rent a car with a stick shift and do the back roads.”
Instead of collecting material goods, they collect memories, he says, noting that a black volcanic stone from Iceland is the type of memento they choose.
But the story of their travels is a story about them too.
“It would be no fun if I didn’t have a wonderful, loving partner like Suzie to travel with,” Foley says. “It brings us closer.”