A blog about writing, reading, travelling and great characters I meet in life. I love these things more than cheese-on-toast times trampolines times monkeys.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Nothing’s going to stop 81 year old Arnold

‘I’m going to carry on travelling until I run out of breath or I run out of money – I don’t know which will come first.’

Those are the words of 81 year old backpacker, writer and journalist Arnold de Wease who I met in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia in July 2011. It's like a perfect English summer in the Cameron Highlands - with sunshine, scones, strawberries and cups of tea to pass away the afternoons.

I’m fascinated by Arnold’s story and experience as soon as I meet him. He’s staying in the same guest house as me, amongst backpackers who are primarily in their twenties and thirties.

‘I’m going from Malaysia to Bangkok to China,' Arnold says. 'I'll go up the Mekong River which I did once before. Then on to Tibet and Nepal by train. Nothing’s going to keep me from travelling.

'I’m tough and stubborn,’ Arnold laughs. ‘And anyway, what better place to die than the Himalayas?’

So what’s it like to be an octogenarian backpacker?

‘Backpacking at 81 is no different to when I was 16. It’s all in your mind whether you can travel or not. It’s in my blood to travel. I first ran away from home when I was too young to remember.’

‘I went to China at 16. I lived there for three years right before the revolution – 1946 to 1949 – before Chiang Kai-Shek was ordered to leave and all the foreigners were ordered out. I remember all the armoured cars patrolling the streets of Peking, now Beijing.’

A life of writing

Whilst on the road, Arnold is writing his travel memoirs after a lifetime of travelling. He was a journalist for many years with United Press International in New York.

‘Writing is an education as is travel. I’ve had more education travelling than I ever got at school. You come to grips with what I consider real challenges when you’re travelling.'

Since meeting Arnold, I have had updates from him from Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Hong Kong and China - good luck Arnold on your quest for the Himalayas!

Highlights of the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia

Tea at the Boh plantation

Trekking through jungle to see the world’s largest flower – the rafflesia

Drinking bamboo water straight from the tree

Flower farms

Insect farms

Nearby villages


  1. Interesting jottings Charlotte, and great photos too. Brings back memories. Was it really only the middle of this year?

  2. Can you believe it Cherie? Seems ages ago doesn't it? Still one of my highlights of Malaysia, staying in CH. Although, I must say, I'm loving all of it. Can't wait to get to New Zealand to see you :-)

  3. That sounds amazing, travelling until your last breath. I want so badly to read his stories, I'm sure he told you some of the places he's been. What about his family????

  4. he's been all over Ally - amazing guy. I'll send him an email and ask him to make further comment on what you've asked x