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 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