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South Surrey 83-year-old pens ‘nomad retirement’

Margaret Herle’s ‘Dragonfly’ among many successes out of Surrey Shares program

For decades, Margaret Herle wanted to write about the travels she and her late husband John undertook in the ’90s, after they traded their home in Burnaby for life in a converted greyhound-style bus.

At 83, it’s finally happened – the first copies of Dragonfly were delivered to her South Surrey door last month, and Herle credits Surrey Shares, a program created in part to help seniors identify and achieve personal goals, with helping it come to life.

“For so many years, I wanted to tell this story,” Herle said Tuesday (March 19).

Surrey Shares “opened up my world to writing again.”

Dragonfly details the couple’s seven-year adventure across North America as “nomads in retirement.”

The pair, in their 50s and 60s at the time, gave up everything to embark on the journey, Herle said.

“That was the adventure – just give up your home and go, no strings attached. Just go, see as much as we could see for as far as we could go, for as long as we could do it.”

The book has been “in my head,” she said, since health concerns brought the adventure to a close in 1998.

Initially imagining the project as more of a diary to leave behind for her family, Herle said she was encouraged by Surrey Shares coaches Noel Bentley and Jessika Houston to broaden her manuscript to appeal to a wider audience, “because of the current interest in tiny homes and a mobile work life.”

Meeting author Grant Lawrence during a book reading and signing event cemented the idea.

Gleaned from newsletters Herle wrote and sent to friends and family over the seven years, as well as notes she made of John’s observations along the way, Dragonfly condenses the journey into 236 pages that Herle says she is “so pleased with.”

Copies may be ordered directly from her; by email to Cost is $25; $30 if a mailed copy is requested.

She will also have books available during a signing set for 11a.m. to 1 p.m. on April 19, at Nomad Gallery (1377 Johnston Rd.) in White Rock.

Her accomplishment was one of many Surrey Shares success stories celebrated earlier this month during an event held at Semiahmoo House Society’s tree-house building.

There, Houston explained that Surrey Shares began in March 2020 – shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared – as an initiative of the Surrey Intercultural Seniors Social Inclusion Partnership Network.

Originally, it was a 16-week program offered to Surrey seniors aged 55 and older. Over the years, it shortened in length, but was expanded to include some younger participants.

Highlights from the different cohorts include videos of participants sharing stories, and creation of a fundraising pinup calendar featuring many of the seniors.

Houston named participants returning to school, opening businesses, finding employment, “and many adults and seniors that increased their confidence, made connections and found purpose again in their lives” as among achievements of the program.

An anthology of stories crafted by more than two dozen participants is another. Surrey Shares Stories: Connecting Community Through Storytelling launched on Amazon last November.

READ MORE: Surrey Shares anthology ‘reminds of shared values, lessons’

“We were so excited… to see each person who laboured over their story watch it come to life,” Houston told event attendees.

The book has been accepted into the Surrey Libraries’ system as well as the Authors Among Us program, she added.

Funding for the Surrey Shares program ends this month, but Houston said she and others involved with it would be happy to discuss ideas if another organization is interested in taking over hosting or providing funding that would enable it to continue. For more information, or to receive updates on any future activities, workshops or events, email

Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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