My mother wanted to spend her dark years traveling but left it too late – I won’t do the same

A 108-year-old shaman lives in a tiny village in the dark Amazonian forests of Peru. He is tired. He feels that his journey here on planet Earth is coming to an end. He wants to die.

When my mother was 68, she left this world plane. She wanted to spend her dark years traveling but he left it too late. She wasn’t old, she wasn’t tired and, unlike the jaded shaman, she didn’t want to die.

I remember being with her on her first ever flight. We were going to Malta. I was 17. She was 39. She was so excited, wide-eyed with exhilaration as we succeeded.

Due to her work – as a nurse in an NHS mental hospital – and having children at home she did not take her second flight out of the country until twenty years later.

She often told me how she planned to travel the world when she retired and, after going back to our first fun trip to Malta together, she hoped we could go on more foreign affairs when that time came.

Retirement time came but, just as she began to think about going abroad, cancer struck and within months, she was gone.

Halfway through my sixth decade, when the youngest of my four children had become adults, I became acutely aware of how quickly life moves.

As I entered my 60s, I began to wonder if my fate was destined to be the same as my mother’s and if I too would die before I hit 70 years of age.

'I was talking to my mum in my head every day': Jacqui Deevoy in Peru

‘I was talking to my mum in my head every day’: Jacqui Deevoy in Peru

It’s natural to become more aware of your own mortality as time goes by, even more so I believe when you see your children go from babies to adults in what feels like the blink of an eye.

Last year, I had an accident. It could be fatal. I was in a wheelchair for four months but I got better. The experience gave me the kick I needed.

No more waiting for opportunities to come knocking on my door. No later. It was time to take action and make my mother’s dreams come true. I was going to travel.

As a very spiritual person, my mother would have loved Machu Picchu, so I decided to make Peru my first stop. My eldest daughter, Ruby, wanted to go with me: together we would make a journey that neither my mother nor I could make.

She attached a ruby ​​locket that my mother had left to her mantra bead necklace. “That way, Grandma Marie can come with us,” she said. (The locket is very special: when it is opened, sometimes we can smell my mother’s perfume – but that’s another story.)

The trip included a five-day trip down the Amazon riverThe trip included a five-day trip down the Amazon river

The trip included a five-day trip down the Amazon river – Richard Mark Dobson

The trip – which included a two-night stay in Peru’s bustling capital Lima, a five-day cruise down the glorious Amazon river, two nights in Urubamba (the largest town in Peru’s Sacred Valley), a steep climb up Machu Picchu to the citadel known as “the lost city of the Incas” (built around 1450 AD and abandoned for unknown reasons around 120 years later) and 48 hours in Cusco – was thrilling, amazing (literally, in the high altitude of Machu Picchu and Cusco) and for -forget.

I talked to my mom in my head every day, especially when I saw or had something I knew she would appreciate: sightings of crocodiles, pink dolphins, monkeys, snakes and eagles; whizzing down the Amazon river through the jungle in tiny skiffs; amazing sunsets and sunrises; the vivid colors of flowers I didn’t know existed; and spend the morning with the friendly inhabitants of a tiny Amazonian village.

We did eight flights, two train journeys and several long car journeys over the course of 12 days, so it was a tough journey – but I know that wouldn’t bother my mum. Before she got sick, she had boundless energy and would see the journey as part of the experience.

She is traveling now, of course, but not in the way she expected. In her physical absence, I now feel that I am traveling for her, for her, in the way she wants, as often as I can.

The story of the 108-year-old shaman – told to my daughter and I by a guide named Alex, the grandson of another Amazon shaman, on our way to the cruise boat in Iquitos – was one that will stick in my heart. ‘mind forever.

Jacqui likes wildlife like this pink river dolphinJacqui likes wildlife like this pink river dolphin

Jacqui spied wildlife including pink river dolphins – Mark Carwardine/Getty

It is a privilege to reach your age and feel that age. It is a tragedy to cut your life short without doing what you planned to do. It is an honor to be able to fulfill someone else’s dream. I hope my mother, wherever her soul is, is happy that I’m doing what I’m doing. And I hope that one day, my children will achieve the dreams that I will not fail to fulfill.

As long as I live, I will try to visit places that my mom would have loved – with the joie de vivre I have an inheritance from her, and her spirit by my side.


Original Travel (020 3582 4990; has tours to Peru from £8,000 (based on two sharing), including return international and domestic flights, private transfers, private tours throughout and 11 nights’ accommodation ( six nights B&B, one night half board and four full nights on board the Aria Amazon).

Jacqui Devoy’s trip was facilitated by Berghaus (; Cotswold Outdoor Clothing (; Marriott Hotel Heathrow (; and Aqua Expeditions (

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