Can travel dreams wait?

I want it all.

I want it all right now.

That attitude is a characteristic of my generation. It’s a trait that’s worsening with those younger than me, but all the same, it seems we’re always in a hurry. Especially when it comes to seeing the world.

When I pore over a map, I get overwhelmed at the places I want to see. It feels as if there will never be enough time or opportunity to fit them all in. So many countries, so little time.

Except there is plenty of time.

A couple of months ago I took part in a travel discussion on Twitter. One of the questions went along the lines of: if you could travel for only a week once a year, but have unlimited funds to travel after you turned 60, would you?

I answered yes.

I think I was the only person to give that answer. The other replies were variations of “hell no”. So why would I be willing to limit my travel for the next 32 years?

To answer that, I need to introduce two people.

Enjoying the sun in Turkey.

My parents.

I know them as Mum and Dad, but you can call them Ricki and David.

When they met in their late 20s and 30s, both had seen their fair share of Australia, but only a couple of other countries. They married in the early 1980s and settled into life on the farm I grew up on in Tasmania.  Holidays were rare and usually spent visiting grandparents. An international holiday was not on the cards. Fast forward a couple of decades to 2006. I was out of home and in my final year of university. My sister was doing, well, I don’t know. We weren’t that close then. Anyway… Dad had retired. Mum was making moves in the same direction. The question of “who’s going to feed the cows while we’re gone” had become “who will feed the last three pets standing?”

So aged 51 and 60, my parents went backpacking.

Yep, proper backpacking. With backpacks. On their backs. Three months through America and Canada. The only difference between the way they travelled and the way I would have was that Mum got to ride Canadian trains for free because she was accompanying “a senior”. (That went down really well with the old boy.)

Dad in Vietnam. Unlike most “pose with a local” photos, this wasn’t set up. Dad just got chatting to the guy and ended up holding the straw.

They stayed in hostels – often in separate dorms because mixed dorms aren’t common in America. They cooked noodles in their rooms and split main meals at restaurants to save money. They travelled by train west to east across the States, up to Toronto and across Canada, rode the ferry up Alaska’s inside passage and headed back down to LA to fly home.

Awesome trip huh?

Dad takes charge on a sunset boat ride in Nepal.

The next year they started in Vietnam and flew home from Paris, ticking off China and the Trans-Mongolian Railway along the way. A year later it was back to China and onto Tibet, Nepal, India, Egypt and Turkey. Then it was South America, Morocco and two months driving through the UK and Ireland before meeting my sister and me in France for a month. That particular trip kept them busy for five months.

Last year, by then aged 58 and 66, I met them in Milan. They were fresh from a two- month tour in Africa where they slept in tents most of the time.

Mum on a motorbike in Vietnam. Not something I would have expected to see.

Now, in case you have visions of my parents as super-fit, adventure enthusiasts, I’m sorry to disappoint you (and them) and tell you there is nothing particularly remarkable about their health or fitness.

They are just everyday ordinary parents.

They are also not millionaires. They don’t stay in luxury hotels or travel in the first-class sleepers. They travel cheap. They travel smart. Mum once told me she wanted to travel the world while she was healthy enough to walk from the station to their hostel without requring a taxi. “We can see Australia in a wheelchair,” she said.

Dad and Mum in Turkey.

In the last seven years, my parents have seen more of the world than I will for a long time. Conversations about my travel plans usually earn the response “well, when we went there…”

I’m at an age where travelling so extensively comes with some sacrifices (career, financial stability etc). Mum and Dad are at ages where they can do whatever they want. Sounds nice doesn’t it?

Dad smoking shisha in Turkey. Can you believe Mum volunteered this photo for me to use?

A little while ago I was on the phone to Mum while I flicked through a tour company brochure. I got that giddy feeling again, overwhelmed by all the places I wanted to go. With a tone of annoying wisdom that only a mum can master, she said “you’ve got plenty of time”.

15 comments

  1. Amy

    Fantastic article, your parents are a true inspiration. Not in the least because of their incredible travel journals, but their commitment to working hard, bringing up their family then having and ambitions and energy to see as much of the world as possible.
    I am at least 30 years younger than them and can’t imagine ever having the bottle or energy to do all that they have.
    Great article Pegs.

  2. Tahlei

    What an inspiring story! Your parents are awesome. It’s a great reminder that life doesn’t end at 30 like I sometimes feel is the case!

    I had dinner last night with my great uncle who travels every year. He’s just about to head over to Europe for a few months and is planning on getting to South America for the first time next year, just before he turns 80! I want to be just like him 🙂

    • Megan
      Author

      Thanks Tahlei. Your uncle sounds equally as awesome! I hope I’m healthy enough to travel like that when I’m 80.

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  4. I think you’re absolutely right when stating that:
    – more and more people are in a hurry to get everything they want to do done as quickly as possible
    – it isn’t because you’ve reached a certain age, that you can’t travel anymore.
    However, as much as I love the story of your parents (by the way, mine are in their fifties and traveling a lot as well), there are two things i’d like to remark:
    1. although you might be able to visit the same places when you’re 50 as when you’re 25, I don’t think you will visit them the same way. You might do other activities, you most probably will look at things differently.
    So the best thing to do is go while you’re young and go back:p
    2. Sometimes, you don’t have enough time. A friend of mine was full of life, had big plans, started to get famous with his band… And then he got hit by a car and died.
    So I get it when people say: “Why wait if you can do it now”.

    • Megan
      Author

      Hi Sofie, thanks for your comments. I’m not saying people should wait to travel, but rather that the world doesn’t have to be conquered before we’re 30. I don’t think many people would pass up the opportunity to travel when they’re young, I know I certainly wouldn’t. But some people don’t have that chance (my parents didn’t), so it’s nice to know you can still explore when you’re older and that it doesn’t have to be on some over-50s coach tour.
      I totally agree we’d all travel differently at 50 then we would at 25 – but that’s not always a bad thing either. I debated taking a gap year when I was 18, but I’m glad I waited until I was older (26). I don’t think I would have appreciated it all back then as much as I do now. I’ve travelled with my parents for a few months in the last few years and there’s rarely something we disagree on seeing or experiencing. Mostly, we’ve wanted to do and see the same things in the same way. Although visiting a sex machine museum in Prague with them was odd!
      Either way, travel at any age can only ever be a good thing.

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  6. Kathy Gabriel

    Thoroughly enjoyed this sharing of your parents’ travels.
    No need to rush through it; enjoy the trip, savor it.
    They look great! Love the last pic! 🙂

  7. Your parents are so awesome! I think they have shown the fact that travelling doesn’t stop when you get older. That it’s still possible, even travelling on the cheap! Great post, great parents!

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