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Down under for the holidays

Newfound hobby takes Sheila Eberhardt across the globe

Created date

November 23rd, 2009

This Christmas, while the rest of us are lacing up our snow boots, Sheila Eberhardt, a 77-year-old grandmother of 13, will be slipping on her sandals and enjoying shrimp on the barbie. Eberhardt is spending the holidays down under in Brisbane, Australia. The trip, a gift from Eberhardt s oldest daughter who teaches at the University of Queensland in Toowoomba, came as a surprise. She offered to fly me down with her frequent flier miles to stay for the month of December, says Eberhardt. It s summertime in Australia, so my grandkids and my daughter will be off from school, which will give us plenty of time together and to take in the sights.

Off the beaten track

A devoted mother of seven and former kindergarten teacher, Eberhardt always had a busy schedule that didn t allow much time for traveling. Then three years ago, she sold her Annapolis home and moved to Charlestown in Catonsville, where she discovered a whole new world. The first year I moved to Charlestown, I signed up for a cruise I saw advertised on the bulletin board, says Eberhardt. We went to Bar Harbor, Maine; Halifax, Nova Scotia; St. John; New Brunswick; Portland, Maine; and Boston, Mass. It was a wonderful trip and something I would have never done had I still been living in my house. That cruise ignited a newfound interest for Eberhardt that would soon take her across the globe. After the cruise, I began going on day trips offered through Charlestown to places like the National Museum of the Marine Corps [in Triangle, Va.]; the White House [in Washington, D.C.]; the Walters Art Museum [in Baltimore]; and Mt. Vernon [in Mt. Vernon, Va.], says Eberhardt. Next on her itinerary: the Emerald Isle. Eberhardt whose grandparents were from Ireland had always wanted to go but could never afford it. Charlestown offered a travel package where I was able to pay over a period of time, which made it easy for me to afford, she says. In the months leading up to her trip, Eberhardt attended an art show at Charlestown where she met a fellow resident who was an artist. That s when the idea hit her to forgo a camera and sketch her way through Ireland. I had never done any artwork in my life, but I really wanted to learn, says Eberhardt. So I asked her to teach me. And since I was going to Ireland, I thought it would be fun to do everything in green, so I brought along 20 shades of green pencils. After just a few lessons, I returned from my trip with 100 pages of sketches: faces, lambs, landscapes, food, statues, villages all in shades of green. And it wasn t long before Eberhardt was taking off again. This summer she flew to Hawaii, where she enjoyed a ten-day retreat on the island of Oahu to visit her middle daughter, a captain in the Navy. It was wonderful! I spent a lot of time at the beach and just relaxing, says Eberhardt. My daughter and her husband have mango trees in their yard, so we had fresh mango gazpacho, mango chutney, mango pie, and mango bread. I also learned how to make traditional Hawaiian lays with the plumeria blooms.

Time of her life

Eberhardt says living at Charlestown has given her a new lease on life. They make it so easy to live and travel globally, she says. I m someone who became an artist, a world traveler all of these wonderful things after I moved here. I always say, I didn t just move to Catonsville when I came to Charlestown I moved into the world. She has already planned her next trip, to Maine. Had I not gone on the cruise to Nova Scotia and had I not traveled there s a possibility that my kids wouldn t have bothered to ask me to travel to Hawaii or Australia, says Eberhardt. I think those trips awakened both me and my kids to the idea that I really enjoy traveling.