A mountain stream sparkles over its rocky bed near the pine bungalow where Blanche Caspar has lived for 23 years. She bought the small house in Four Mile Canyon, outside Boulder, not long after her husband passed on, when she was 60. Since then it has served as the focal point for her changed life.
Mrs. Caspar usually
Spends the summer and fall months at home, growing vegetables in her garden, hiking in the nearby foothills, reading, writing, and sewing. When the weather turns cold, she takes off for warmer climes, carrying only a knapsack on her back, a purse, a lined raincoat, and a small handbag.
Her journeys have taken her around the world four times, including two stints in the Peace Corps. She learned to drive at 62 and found a job at 82. Yet she denies that she is unique.
"What I'm doing anyone can do," she maintains. Two factors have contributed to her success: her love of people and her ability to make the most of a fixed income. The first has provided the motive for her travels; the second, the means.
"My specialty is people. That is why I travel. The world is full of good people. If you behave to your fellow man as you want him to behave to you, you can always get along," Mrs. Caspar says.
Her approach to people is as varied as the places she has visited. In the African port of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where the only word she knew was "jumbo" (hello), she had a wonderful time walking along the shore shouting "jumbo" to the fishermen and seeing them wave back. From a 2,000-mile trip up the Amazon River in a primitive craft, she recalls her many quiet talks with the seven young people who traveled with her.
He unorthodox style of travel has brought her many young friends. "I feel very humble to have learned the art of human communications," she says. "If another person who has touched your life has found something there, you haven't lived for nothing."
Born in Switzerland, Blanche Caspar was brought up in France, England, and Canada, so a love of travel was instilled in her early. After she married an American biochemist, she settled down to a life in academic and scientific circles in the Eastern United States. She had a career as a concert singer, but considers her most important job to be the raising of three sons and a daughter.
"A child well educated and cared for is more important than applause," she says.
With an income that was fixed in the '50s, plus social security, Mrs. Caspar has been forced to learn to stretch her resources.
"Cooking is a matter of imagination. I can make a salad of practically anything and a delicious stew with a little meat and fresh vegetables," she says. With her garden supplying vegetables, greens, and strawberries, and no frozen or manufactured items on her menus, she manages to get along on $6 to $7 a week for groceries.
On her journeys, even though she could afford more luxurious transportation, she has traveled by freighter, cargo plane, truck, and bus. She had driven 200, 000 miles by car, using her Volkswagen "as a hotel," with food, luggage, typewriter, and even some embroidery materials tucked in.
The well-seasoned traveler usually stays in simple hostel accommodations. In 1977 she hitchhiked in Australia and stayed at youth hostels, ending up with her picture in a Melbourne newspaper.
"When I travel, I don't want to be a tourist," Mrs. Caspar emphasizes. By traveling light, staying off the beaten path, and eating native foods, she sticks to an all-inclusive budget of $20 a day for transportation and living expenses.
Her philosophy leans heavily on self-discipline. "You have to get along with your environment -- and especially with yourself. You have to make a friend of yourself." She adds: "But once in a while you have to give yourself a kick! Making it tough for yourself builds character."
As a Peace Corps volunteer from 1965 to 1967 in Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, Mrs. Caspar was a matron in charge of the feeding and health of 200 school-children, with three cooks, Malayan, Chinese, and Hinddu, working under her direction. From '67 to '69 she was a social worker for the Peace Corps in Senegal, West Africa.
In the fall of '78, she changed her annual routine. Instead of taking off on a trip, she took a part-time job in a Boulder travel agency.
She is not ready to relegate her traveling days to memories. This month she will join a small group of travelers who will sail for 10 months from the Bahamas, around the Cape of Good Hope, and on to the Pacific in a yacth that has been converted from its original use as a nautical research vessel. "So it will not be fancy," Blanche says with satisfaction.