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Life well traveled

Nursing career leads Baltimore woman to 56 countries around the world

Created date

August 20th, 2013

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience. These are the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, but they capture the essence of how Evelyn McGreal a retired nurse with an insatiable appetite for adventure lives her life. As a young girl, I would pack my clothes into a suitcase and tell my mother I was leaving, says Evelyn, who lives at Oak Crest, an Erickson Living community in Parkville, Md. She would always say that I started running away as soon as I could walk. Now living at Oak Crest, Evelyn continues to slip on her traveling shoes whenever the mood strikes.

A traveler is born

At the age of eight, Evelyn set out on her first solo trip from Penn Station, in Baltimore, to New York City to visit her cousins, a routine she would repeat each year, gaining more freedom. That s really how my love of traveling got started, says Evelyn. My parents would take me to the train station in Baltimore, and my aunt would meet me in New Jersey. Then we would take the ferry ride over to New York City. By age 12, Evelyn was making the entire trip by herself. I remember riding the subway from Times Square to 4th Avenue and then walking uphill to 7th Avenue dragging my suitcase behind me, she says. In the eighth grade, Evelyn enrolled in a nurse s aide program at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore. Upon earning her degree, she headed north to Boston Lying-in Hospital, where she pursued post-graduate courses and later landed a job in New York City. I was working at Mt. Sinai Hospital and saw a newspaper ad by the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco), says Evelyn. They were hiring nurses to work in Saudi Arabia. I had no idea where Saudi Arabia was, but you know how it is when you re young. I was eager to travel and try something new. And so a lifelong journey that would lead her to more than 50 countries around the world ensued. Evelyn boarded a plane headed to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, where she would spend the next three years as a staff nurse for Aramco. During my free time, I wanted to see as many places as I could, says Evelyn. So I would use the money I earned to travel during my leave time. Whether on an African safari or an excursion in Cambodia (including an elephant ride) with three women she met on a plane ride from Phnom Penh to Angkor Wat, Evelyn approached each adventure with as much enthusiasm as she did those trips to New York as a child. I traveled through most of Europe while I was on leave, says Evelyn. I had a friend who was living in London, and she met me in Madrid. We flew to Nice and traveled by bus to Geneva, where we rented a car and drove through Italy, she says. Another time I went to Zurich and traveled through Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. Instead of a direct route back to the United States to pursue her bachelor s and master s degrees, at the end of her three-year contract, Evelyn opted for a three-month detour through the Pacific visiting India, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Hong Kong, and Japan. Unlike some of her travel companions, Evelyn says she embraced each new experience with an open mind. While we were in Nepal, a woman staying at the same place came running out of the bathroom holding a towel in her hand, says Evelyn. She yelled, Look at this dirty towel they gave me. I joked and said, How do you know it s dirty? They all look like that! After earning her master of science degree in nursing, Evelyn returned to Saudi Arabia in 1975 as an infection control nurse at King Faisal Specialist Research Hospital in Riyadh for three years. En route home, she spent time in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Bora-Bora, Australia, and New Zealand before returning to the United States where she worked as a neonatal intensive care nurse in Utah for two years.

Next on deck

Since moving to Oak Crest in 2000, Evelyn has embarked on a Caribbean cruise and a barge trip along the Danube River. This fall she plans to travel back to where it all started: New York City. When asked if there is anyplace she hasn t been, she replies, I never got to mainland China, and I would have liked to see more of Australia, but I really always wanted to go back and try roughing it camping in New Zealand!