When Annie Allen’s 25-year marriage ended, she looked at the life-altering event as an opportunity.
“I’m going to do everything I always wanted to do. I have nothing to lose,” she said of her feelings from 10 years ago.
With both daughters off to college, the 21-year Concord resident took a “no fear” approach to the next phase of her life – including adventures to all seven continents.
She ascended to 19,340 feet at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro and, at the other extreme, descended 400 feet below ground level in the largest cave on the planet.
“I’ve slept in everything from a pig pen in Peru to the Ritz in Egypt, where I had a pillow concierge and the walls were lined with suede,” Allen said.
Her latest adventure took her to Vietnam. where she became one of only 3,500 people to have entered the largest cave in the world, Hang Son Doong. She prepared for the 15-mile trek through the jungle with strength and endurance training. She had to overcome her fear of heights as she was required to rappel into the cave through a crevice.
The trip, organized by Oxalis Adventures, has only been available to the public since 2014.
“It was glorious,” said Allen. “I swam in an underground river, saw bats and albino spiders as well as leftover fragments from a Vietnam War-era bomb and 400 million-year-old fossils.”
Allen started traveling as a child, visiting her mother’s family in Norway. As a teen, she saved her money not for clothes or a car, but for traveling. At 22, she joined the Navy so she could see the world. She was stationed in the Philippines as a parachute rigger.
But the travel bug really hit about 10 years ago. “When my last daughter left for college, I went to India to find myself,” Allen said.
Allen, who still co-owns a business with her ex, booked her first adventure to New Zealand after the marriage ended. Since then, Allen has kayaked in Antarctica, climbed Machu Picchu and visited the Galápagos Islands. She’s been across Europe, dog sledded at the North Pole and hiked to Mt. Everest Base Camp. She completed a nine-day solo hike through Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada, overcoming her fear of traveling alone.
In all, she has visited 63 countries. And her only injury: a fall and broken arm on Mt. Diablo, just a few miles from home.
Now, she is waiting for Virgin Galactic’s tourism flights into space. “I want to see that little blue marble we live on from as far away as possible.”
There seems to be no limit to what Allen is willing to conquer.
Allen posts her adventures on Instagram under the handle @travelannie.