Lesson 12: You are never too old

At my hostel in Buenos Aires, I met Mr Cho. Mr Cho was eighty-seven years old when I met him in 2017. He looked young for an eighty-seven-year-old, and he enthusiastically engaged the younger generation in the hostel. He was very fit and joined a few of us exploring Buenos Aires on foot. During these walks and at the hostel, we talked a lot about our backgrounds and roots.

Mr Cho and his family fled China during the Communist Revolution after the authorities killed his sister and took away their possessions. He had to start all over again, in a new country, Indonesia. Mr Cho put aside his passions and personal needs to take care of his family. He enjoyed exploring and learning about the world, but he couldn’t afford the time and resources to travel. Mr Cho worked hard over the years to build his life, and in his seventies, he started travelling. He shared that he spends three months on the road in his eighties before retiring back to his house in Bali.

His determination and his spirit are reflective of many older people I have met in my journey. Murray and Dan, introduced earlier in the book, are examples of that determination. Hisako San, a seventy-something Japanese woman, is another example of that spirit.

I met Hisako San briefly on the last day of the pilgrimage in Santiago. I had finished the thirty-day walk and was at the local office to get my credential. Hisako San too was there to get her credential. She intended to go one step further. She was determined to continue walking to Finesterria to complete her journey at the shore by the Atlantic Ocean. She had made her journey to Spain without informing her family, who she felt would have stopped her from coming. She wanted to walk the Camino, and she did not want her family to be worried. It wasn’t her first pilgrimage. She informed me that she had also completed the Shikoku pilgrimage in Japan. The Shikoku pilgrimage is a 1,400 km walk connecting 88 temples on the island of Shikoku. Hisako San completed the journey in forty days.

In Madagascar, I also met a British lady Louise, who also wanted her travels to be impactful and meaningful. Louise introduced me to an organization called Traveleyes. She buddies up with a visually impaired person, who is also a fellow traveller. She then guides her buddy and helps that person enjoy his travels. It is a fantastic relationship. You travel to a new place to explore, and while you explore, you also help a fellow traveller do the same.

Throughout my journey, I have met older people who are inspirational: Gunnar, Murray, Louise, Dan, Mr Cho and many more. They are living examples of the lesson “You are never too old”.

You are never too old to start anything you ever wanted.

You are never too old to travel, dance, start a new job, start a hobby, follow your dreams, etc.

I am guilty of thinking, at times, that my life and my choices are quite limited. I am sure many in the world feel the same. There are too many people in this world who struggle to accept that their lives are not stagnant forever or that they cannot do more. But Mr Cho has proven me wrong. He has had a tough life. However, at eighty-seven, he was travelling and exploring the world. It was a lesson for us to accept that while life is hard, it doesn’t stop us from looking forward and doing whatever possible within our capacity. It is a potent reminder that you are never too old to start all over again.

It may work in your favour.

It may not.

What is true is that you can always start. Age is not a barrier to a different life or to following your heart and your dreams. The older people I have met in my travels are living testimonials of the philosophical principle that you are never too old for anything.

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