Mature Travellers

Just met another amazing retired couple. This couple is German. I am starting to see more and more of these amazing older couples that I cant help but admire. There are some couples that buy their “white plastic” for part-time fun and keep their “bricks and mortar” to come back to. There is this complete other breed, however, that demands respect.

One of the first couples I met recently that I would put into this category would be a couple I met in the South of England. He came up to our truck at a “Camping and Caravanning Club” Site at an old Nursery. He knocked on my door, introduced himself and said

“We are terminal”.

“Excuse me? What was that?”

“I have terminal cancer. I am travelling with an old friend from school. She has emphysema. She is terminal too. We were told to wait around in some old home. Wait to die. We thought this would be better. We cant leave UK because of insurance. We need electricity for the oxygen. I pull a small van behind the motorhome that holds our 2 mobility scooters. We thought this was a better way to live out our last days. We have been travelling like this for 3 years now.”

You just gotta respect this couple.


I met another German overland couple yesterday. There is something very amazing about this couple. They have been traveling their whole lives. In Germany they say it was with them in the cradle of their birth. I like that. However, Peter is now retired so they have enough money to go where they want. They have been traveling full-time for 7 years now. They have just come back from Morocco and will go to Asia this summer. OK a little math. That would make him at least 72 right? This couple is strong. I would not consider anything about them frail.

They travel the world in their Mercedes, ex-military, self-build overlander. It is an honour to spend time with them. It is worth learning German just to learn from them. There is this thing that they carry too. They are strong, self-assured, confident. They dont brag – they dont need to. In the last 7 years they have put on 400,000 km and been all over the world with her. Literally, in our short time together she talked to me about their trips to Africa, India, Alaska, United States and talked to me about their 3 weeks in a freighter bringing their truck back from South America. Not really bragging. Talking about it as if it was the most natural thing in the world to do.

I couldn’t imagine them fading away in an old folks home. They will probably die parachuting off some cliff or something. Yeah.

They are not the first German couple we have met like this. Ooooh they are their own breed. They are…. wow I have run out of good adjectives – I think you get the idea.

This reminds me of an old man I met in Orkney. He was there in his motorhome. He was living in it full-time. He told me, “I’ve only been living in my motorhome a few years. I was in a Narrow boat for about 20 years but then it got too difficult moving it around everyday.”

“How old were you when you moved into the narrow boat?”

“Oh, 63 or so.”

That means this man of 83+ is travelling the world solo.

I mean why are we not hearing more about these really amazing older people? Their mere existence screams out “I WILL NOT GO QUIETLY INTO THE NIGHT”. They aren’t waiting. They are LIVING.

I havent completely figured out this group of people. I probably never will. You see, I have seen a lot of hedonists travelling too. Travelling for the pleasure of it. Expecting the world to deliver every pleasure they desire. That is not what these people are about. It is the heart and soul of the adventurer they possess. It is more about witnessing the beauty and diversity of the world. Of standing up in their big, functional, well worn hiking boots or their mobility scooter and saying “I am a witness”. As a people that stand up high and are worthy of heaps of respect and saying “I respect that”. I want to hover in their shadows and look at where their fingers are pointing and learn from them.

Our world is too infatuated with youth. It is really quite ridiculous. First, we have make-up and hair dye. Now, we have moved on with all our heroes getting surgery to make them look younger. Am I the only one seeing this as sorta weird. Yeah, yeah, I know I’m no spring chicken myself but I have been thinking about this for a while now.

We shove our old people aside like garbage. Sure we look after them. Kinda. We help their bodies live that little bit longer but what about their souls. What about listening to them. Learning from them. They have so much to give.

With this couple I met yesterday I didn’t even know what to ask. I must have sat there, staring with my mouth gaping open looking like an idiot. They had so much to teach me. Being wise they gave out precious morsels from time to time. I think that the most I learned from them though was not so much in what they said or did but who they are. What they have been becoming. Just being in the same space with them taught my soul volumes. Does that make any sense? Am I getting weird now? I am just not sure how to word it. Like being in the room with ripe fruit – true maturity. I feel empowered, like I can see better.

I feel my spirit soar.

Yeah, that’s it.


  • Krzysiek on January 27, 2010

    Thank you. It makes me dream about future to come and to talk with my perents while they are still here.

  • Joanna on January 26, 2010

    I agree with Damien, a great post, very inspiring. I have grey hair now and I don’t care, it is supposed to be a sign of wisdom so why do we all have to go around covering it up? Fine if you want to but it shouldn’t be expected.

    I love it when older folks take the time to pass on their wisdom, but like you hate the hedonistic side of some older folks. They think they live exciting lives and I really feel like telling them that they are actually very boring. Loved your examples though of the older generation, good for them!

  • Damien Tougas on January 26, 2010

    What a great post! I agree wholeheartedly, we are a very youth obsessed culture. It’s probably because we don’t get to see a lot of examples of what it means to age well. So instead, we collectively decide not to look at older folk because we don’t like what we see (and what we think we will become).

    Thank you so much for sharing!

    Someone who is very inspirational to us are our friends Rodney and Cindy. Rather than settle down when they retired, they sold everything and moved to Costa Rica to minister to the poor. They have been great role models to us for aging well: