What happens when you travel with your 85 year old Grandfather.

This is a story about my 85 year old Grandfather and I…
This is a story about two completely different generations…
This is a story of lesson, and nostalgia, and realisation that time is one of the most important gifts we can give to someone…
This IS the story of when two people, of completely different views, religion and age align and find a common ground…
This is OUR story…

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When I was first told I was going to Hong Kong with my 85 year old Grandfather, I was a little apprehensive.

Was he healthy?

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Still strong…

Am I fit enough to look after him?
Do I have the patience?
How would I go from being on my own for so long, to travelling with him?
Would he be able to keep up? Would I be able to keep up? …

From the moment we checked in, I could feel that his excitement was just as high as mine. He has always had a lot of energy in his life, but realistically I knew he wasn’t the same man that he was many years ago…I could see it in his slight slouch, and his aging face…in the manner he spoke, and the growing forgetfulness.

I’ve always believed that time is a concept that as humans we created, and spending time with my grandfather confirmed that even more. Why? “Because some people are young at 18 and some are old at 90” – Yoko Ono.

She was right. It is a concept, and my 85 year old grandfather showed me that.

 

Our backpacks.
Our backpacks.
Catching public transport like a boss.
Catching public transport like a boss.
Still loves a good old silly picture.
Still loves a good old silly picture.
Loves wearing a suit, regardless of extreme HEAT.
Loves wearing a suit, regardless of extreme HEAT.

Why is my youthfulness so similar to his, albeit the 62 year gap? Because we’re only as young as we feel. One of my Grandpa’s favourite hobbies, is to constantly speak to people. Regardless of age, race, background and status. He will always put himself out there. In these situations, I found myself mostly observing. What he said, what he spoke about, and why he wanted to speak to that person…

One of many people he begun conversations with.
One of many people he begun conversations with.
And another one...not as interested this time.
And another one…but not as interested this time.

 

My most memorable moments with my grandpa in Hong Kong

  • Watching him shop till he dropped for god knows what. Watches, jeans, battery chargers he already had…the list goes on.
  • Still caring about his appearance and buying tubs of hair gel, and getting new set of teeth.
    No matter what age, I think you still care about your appearance and especially more so when you’re older. It’s universal.
  • When he lost his wallet, and I didn’t believe him. He said “This is my life, I think I would know how many wallets I have”. He was right. He did have another wallet, AND we found it. Never doubt someone’s sanity based on their age. They are not as forgetful as they look.
  • Ensuring that he never missed free breakfast every morning, and always getting up before me. Even though he couldn’t navigate as well, or walk as fast, his determination to get the most out of his time amazes me.

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    Showing off his new teeth.
  • That he wrote everyday, just as I would about where he’s been, what he’s done etc. I think writing allows us to collectively gather our thoughts, so that we can go back to it and remember a special memory or time that we loved dearly.
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However, one of the most memorable things I noticed was his conversation to others that always came back to ‘reliving the past’.
When you’re older, you tend to think about the past a lot. You think about your achievements, your history, your children, and accomplishments. You talk about your history, where you’ve been, what you’ve done, and where you’re going.

It’s human nature to think of the past we once had. It’s human nature for someone in their 20’s, or 30’s and 50’s to go back to a place where you felt younger than you are now. Perhaps that day you graduated, and entered the real world..perhaps, that first time you moved to another country, lost or found love. I call it nostalgia…
There is always a past, and there are always memories. These are the things that nobody can take away from us, and that is why we treasure them so much.

Similar to the standard backpacker questions of ‘Where are you from?’, ‘what do you do back home?’…watching him communicate to complete strangers made me laugh, because regardless of age, here he was…an 85 year old man asking the very same questions as we all would now!

I think the past is spoken about a lot because it’s one way to keep the memories alive. One way to re-connect the past, present and future. A way to reconnect with the world of today, to allow yourself to feel significant, in this fast paced world.

At the peak of Hong Kong.
At the peak of Hong Kong.

To be a healthy man, of 85 years old….you must be doing something right. So I asked him one of the most important questions during our time together…

“What is your secret to staying young?”….

And he responded…

“Believe in God. Obey him and eat what he asks you to eat. Rest when you need to rest, and to separate day(work) and night(rest)”

Now I am not a religious person…but we all need to believe in something to keep us hopeful and youthful whatever it may be. So…I listened to him. For hours. Discussing politics, religion, things I shouldn’t be eating, family history and what not. It amazes me how much you can learn about your past/anything, if you just take the time to listen…

This experience itself made me realise a few important lessons….

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1. If you think you’re too young, or too old to travel. You’re wrong. You are only as old as you feel. This life moves quickly, and before you know it you’re not fit, healthy, or 18 anymore. So if you’re healthy, determined and hungry for life, you can go anywhere and get by!

2. Don’t be afraid to have fun with your money. A million dollars in savings will never buy back your youth or time.

3. Time is of the essence. Do what you can now. Live in the present, but appreciate your past as it’s gotten you where you are today. Don’t waste anymore time in things that don’t add value to your happiness. You will never get time back. It is a gift.

I can hear it in his speech, when every person he meets and encounters with ends up speaking to him for so long…stuck in conversation, with his eyes glazed over, somehow always bringing up his past.
His excitement to tell a story, about his life as a teacher, or a minister, or where his children are located around the world…
The twinkle in his eye as he manages to receive a business card.
The satisfaction he receives when a person guesses his age, and they mutter 60! or 65!…
Those little things you begin to notice because regardless of age,  generations, views and life experience there is a common idea, and that is our curiosity of the world out there.
We are constantly seeking to evolve, and see beauty in the world, so NEVER let anyone dull your sparkle and you will be forever young!

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