On the Wild Side: Introducing Maria Naum
Maria Naum was born in a tiny village in the shadows of Romania’s Carpathian mountain range. The spine of the Carpathians runs west to east from Czechia (the Czech Republic) to Romania through seven countries including Hungary, Poland, Serbia and Slovakia. Amazingly, almost 66% of Romania’s territory is dominated by these mountains–and it’s not surprising that they’ve shaped Maria’s life too.
She came to the US as a political refugee many years ago and settled with her husband in Chicago–it’s where she’s been ever since. Well, that is, when she’s not halfway up Kilimanjaro or Everest! Maria’s energetic spirit lit up the remote offices of Wild Women Expeditions when we learned that she was joining the Trek to Everest Base Camp at age 74! Of course, we were all eager to hear how our Wild Women team did and Maria’s post-trip feedback left a remarkable glow.
“The hike was harder than I anticipated but with the help and encouragement of my wonderful fellow hikers and our AMAZING GUIDES I was able to achieve the unimaginable, to make it to EBC and back, and… I am almost 75? I will never forget everyone’s patience, kindness and TEAM WORK!!! I cannot get out of my mind the majestic, spectacular Himalayas, out-of-this-world experience!”
Last week, in a flower emoji-laced email of reflection, Maria expressed her love affair with the mountains of the world. “I love them and the splendid serenity and freedom they give me. There is no better feeling than to hike through mountain meadows in the spring when everything comes alive.”
Let’s Take Five with Maria!
1. Tell us, where have you travelled with Wild Women?
Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) in 2018, Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in 2021 and Everest Base Camp 2022!
2. What travel gear do you swear by?
Smartwool socks and silk sock liners–a must!
3. Where do you dream of now?
Don’t know yet, maybe Egypt?
4. Do you collect anything commemorative on your trips as souvenirs?
Yes, I bring rocks home and write the name of the places on them and keep them on my living room table. Just looking at them I am transported back and relive those magical moments.
5. If you could travel with another woman who would it be?
My grandmother–she was my mentor and inspiration. She taught me to NEVER GIVE UP! Work hard and dream big! I don’t think of myself as special, not at all, but I think that inheriting good genes does help, and taking care of yourself and staying active, both mentally and physically, is very important.
Maria’s Ripple Effect
Maria’s story created a predictably wide ripple in our Wild Women community. Jennifer Haddow, the owner of WWE, was immediately triggered and wrote a post squashing the notion of ever being “too old.” She said, “I did this trek 15 years ago, and have been thinking about how much I want to go back to those heavenly Himalayas, my happy place. Maybe when I’m 75!”
Our Wild community instantly rallied around Maria’s accomplishment, feeling the contagious fever of her achievement.
Stacey said, “You go, girl! I hope to be as active and adventurous when I reach your ‘level of life experience!’ I recently turned 50 and have been struggling with the idea of being ‘middle-aged.’ Maybe this is proof that adventure keeps you young.”
Karla added, “I didn’t really start hiking a lot until I was over 55. Since, I have done the John Muir Trail at 61 and 63 and this year I hiked the Inca Trail (at 63 as well). I will be hiking for the rest of my life, God willing. It is what heals my soul.”
Lynne chirped in, “love this, and thanks for sharing…I am very fit and strong, always have been, and, at almost 64 I do know my body has slowed, and I sometimes need more recovery time. The balance is in the honouring of my body and what it needs, and the adventurous spirit that still feels in its 20’s…!! Everest trek next September!”
Holly shared her fearless, ageless outlook–“Wonderful story. I turn 70 next week and will be finishing my scuba diving training in Cuba.”
At age 74, Joyce admitted that she hadn’t committed to any serious sports or fitness until her late forties, then climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Inca Trail, Mont Blanc, Mount Rainier and several smaller mountains. She had competed in triathlons “but nothing big in the past 15 years due to injuries. I will walk the Camino trail with our beloved WWE in May and still have the Everest Base Camp as my ultimate goal. I had given up on that goal until I saw your post. Thanks so much!”
Gregoria was equally sparked. “I was thinking about joining the EBC but I wasn’t sure. I did the Inca Trek and it was a challenge but after reading Maria’s story I am going next year. I am 67, will be 68 next year and I am ready!!!
We LOVE stories of Wild Women kicking down tradition, expectations and head-locking challenges together on historic pilgrimages and challenging summits (and sometimes those summits have no elevation!).
As Jennifer said best, “Here’s to all the foxy silver gals in our community. Keep showing us how it’s done, and inspiring us to defy the narratives that keep us in fear! Keep on lighting us up with your shine and showing us the way to live vibrantly at any age.”
If you dream of Everest but your left knee says otherwise, WWE has trips to suit all skill sets with moderately-paced itineraries in the Arctic, Antarctica, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan and the Galapagos (among others) for our community members who identify as Wild at Heart. This doesn’t mean you can’t go skinny dipping and it also doesn’t mean that you have to stop wearing deodorant and bang on a drum at the full moon. But, you’re welcome to do that as well.