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The trip that changed her life

Traveling cross-country in an Airstream opened Nancy Ornsteen’s eyes and heart

Created date

July 20th, 2016
Nancy Ornsteen and her friend Bobby McNamara traveled from the East Coast to Santa Fe, N.M., along the Turquoise Trail.

Nancy Ornsteen and her friend Bobby McNamara traveled from the East Coast to Santa Fe, N.M., along the Turquoise Trail.

There are some summer vacations that simply help you relax and unwind. Then there are those that open your eyes to new things, help you learn more about yourself, and possibly change your entire outlook on life. 

Last summer, Linden Ponds resident Nancy Ornsteen reluctantly accepted a friend’s invitation to spend three months traveling across the country in an Airstream trailer. The trip ended up being what she calls an “awakening.”

There’s a first for everything

Nancy and her friend Bobby McNamara began their adventure in Maine, where they saw the sun rise. That was a pivotal moment for Nancy. As she felt her mind beginning to open, she started pondering questions she’d never really thought about, like how does the sun come up right on time every morning? 

From there, they drove to Tanglewood, in western Massachusetts, where they saw famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma perform along with seven other cellists. 

Nancy and Bobby then traveled down the East Coast, making stops in Savannah, Ga.; Charleston, S.C.; New Orleans, La.; and several islands off of the Florida coast. 

In each city she visited, Nancy found herself having new experiences—she ate oysters for the first time, saw an oil rig, learned how to kayak, got up close and personal with cows, and admired the artwork of Georgia O’Keefe and Salvador Dali.

“It just blew our minds open,” Nancy says. 

On the next leg of their trip, Nancy and Bobby headed west on the so-called “Turquoise Trail,” which leads to Santa Fe. They saw the Rio Grande River, which Nancy says is very narrow and muddy; stayed at Big Bend National Park in Texas; and, of course, picked up some turquoise souvenirs along the way.

Later-in-life adventure

Before this trip, Nancy wasn’t sure whether she could share such a small space with a friend. But she discovered that she really enjoyed the freedom of traveling by Airstream, which can be parked in regular spots. 

She says that unlike staying at hotels, you never have to pack and unpack, don’t need to get taxis to get to different attractions, and can cook in the trailer’s full kitchen. Plus, all of that time on the open road gives you plenty of time for reflection. 

Nancy had previously traveled to places like Europe with her late husband Dick, but she had never taken a trip like this before. Inspired by her Airstream experience, she is now planning to take a cruise down the Mississippi River.

“I learned all kinds of things about myself that I never knew,” Nancy says. 

About two years ago, Nancy moved from Wellesley, Mass., to Linden Ponds, the Erickson Living community in Hingham. After her husband passed away, she says maintaining the house was becoming a burden for her.

“I looked into many places, and I chose Linden Ponds because it’s light and bright and airy, it’s near water, and it has an active Jewish community,” Nancy says.

Now that she has literally spent months traveling, Nancy’s also grateful she never has to worry about her apartment home being safe and secure while she’s away, thanks to Linden Ponds’ security and maintenance teams. 

A perfect fit

She chose a Georgetown-style apartment, which is an efficient one-bedroom home with a den. While it’s smaller than her house, Nancy says it’s just the right amount of space for this stage of her life.

“My husband and I used to say we could live in a Marriott suite, and my apartment is almost a replica of that suite,” she says. “It’s absolutely perfect for me.”

Living at Linden Ponds, Nancy’s days and evenings are filled with social activities and new friends. She plays cribbage, canasta, and mah-jongg and is a member of the book club. She gets exercise with the walking group and also works out in the on-site fitness center. 

As an art lover, Nancy naturally gravitated toward Linden Ponds’ art council, which organizes rotating exhibits in the on-site gallery.

Nancy is also a member of Linden Ponds’ “Nancy Group,” a club of 19 neighbors named Nancy who get together once a month for dinner in the private dining room. Nancy says one of the other Nancys called her before she even moved in and invited her to one of the dinners.

“Then when I came, I already had 19 friends,” she says.