Have you ever wondered what it would feel like if we all aged in reverse through the eyes of our Grandparents? Well, I'm here to tell you I am no Benjamin Button, but I did come close as I travelled through Hong Kong with my 85-year-old Grandfather. This is a story of nostalgia and realisation that time is one of the most important gifts we can give to someone. How could two people, in a new country, with very different views, religious beliefs and age, align to find a common ground?
This is our story.
When I was first told I was travelling to Hong Kong with my 85-year-old Grandfather, I was a little apprehensive. I’d just come off the back of 8 months of solo travel across South East Asia – as any normal granddaughter would – so really, I had no idea what to expect. I thought to myself, is he healthy enough? Am I capable of looking after him on my own and did I have the patience and tenacity to navigate through the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong with an OAP on my arm?
Throughout my childhood my Grandfather had always had a lot of energy, but realistically I knew he wasn’t the same man I’d grown up with ten or twenty years ago. I could see it in his slight slouch, ageing face, the manner he spoke, and his growing forgetfulness.
"Some people are old at 18 and young at 90. Time is a concept that humans created." - Yoko Ono
But you know what? Turns out Yoko Ono was right. Spending time with my grandfather confirmed her theory. Despite our 62-year age gap, my youthfulness (a number) was so similar to his spirit (a mind). Because the rumours really are true – we’re only as young as we feel.
One of his favourite hobbies is human interaction and conversation. 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 strike up a conversation with that person. Our most memorable moments in Hong Kong quickly became life-lessons for me along the way…
#1: No matter how old we are, we will always care about our physical appearance
I watched him shop till he dropped, buy endless tubs of hair gel, watches, jeans, and even splurge on a new set of teeth (priorities, right?!). Caring about our appearance is not age exclusive. As we get older, we actually care more about how we look. But it’s not just the products we buy that keeps us looking good, it’s all internal. Nourishing the spirit, mind, body, and soul is all part of what keeps us youthful.
#2: Don’t doubt one’s sanity based on their age
There was a moment in Hong Kong when we thought he had lost his wallet, and we just didn’t believe him. Instead, we said he’d probably just forgotten. But he did have another wallet and we did eventually find it. Lesson: don’t judge someone’s sanity just because they’re old, they are not as forgetful as they look.
#3: Wake up determined to get the most out of your day
Studies have shown that early-risers are inclined to be more successful and creative in their day-to-day by simply waking up earlier than the average Joe. Every morning my Grandfather woke up early ensuring he never missed the included breakfast. Even though at his age he couldn’t navigate as well or walk as fast, he was determined to use his time wisely and get the most out of his day. Maybe this, and making time for breakfast, is the key to success?
#4: Write it all down
From a young age, my Grandfather has always been a writer, and this trip was no different. He carried a notepad around and documented his day-to-day travels, emotions, and feelings. 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. Writing also has huge psychological effects, from improving mood, well-being, and general happiness. Lesson: who needs therapy, just write more!
#5: As we get older, we’ll relive the past more
This was one of the most endearing lessons for me as I noticed his conversation with others continually 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 the memories you’ve made along the way. You talk about where you’ve been, what you’ve done, and where you’re going. It’s human nature for someone in their 20’s, or 30’s or 50’s to reflect back to a place where they felt younger than they are now. Perhaps it was your first real career, overseas trip or relationship. There’s a term for this feeling, it’s called sweet, sweet nostalgia…
#6: Have an open-mind
Travellers will generally ask the standard questions: “Where are you from?”, “What do you do?” and “Where have you been?”. As I watched him communicate to complete strangers, a life lesson flashed before my eyes. We need to be more open-minded, stop rushing conversations and start asking the right questions. The greatest innovators of our time broke through the industry by doing this. And here I was watching him connect with strangers on a deep level with an open mind and genuine intrigue. That my friends is the key to longevity.
#7: Having a connection in real life is vital
The world of today is progressive and fast paced. We’re increasingly becoming more reliant on technology, social media and general interwebs to enable our day-to-day. Watching my Grandfather completely disregard the use of social media while I’m there trying to gram every moment was a learning. Digital connections (although very important in our world) still doesn’t trump the fact that IRL connections is where the magic starts.
#8: Work-life balance is the key to staying young
Understandably, to be a healthy man 85 years of age, you must be doing something right. So I asked him one of the most important questions during our time together, “What’s your secret to staying young?” To which 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’m not a religious person, but it sounds like we all need to believe in something to keep us hopeful and youthful. So I listened to him for hours. We discussed everything from politics, religion, things I shouldn’t be eating, family history and our travels. Lesson: Find your spiritual master, believe in something & just learn to juggle work & life. Easy peasy.
#9: Time is of the essence
If you think you’re too young or too old to travel, you’re mistaken. You’re only as old as you feel. The days feel long, but in retrospect the years are short. Life moves pretty quickly and in the blink of an eye, we’re married, with kids or one day if we’re lucky – we become grandparents. We’ll all get older – that’s life, and there’s no avoiding it. So why wait to start living the life you want to live, when the time is now? Stop wasting time on the trivial things. You will never get time back. It is a gift.
#10: Don’t be afraid to have fun with your money
Because a million dollars in savings will never buy back your youth or time.
Have you ever travelled with a parent or grandparent and had a similar experience? Let us know in the comments or email our team at firstname.lastname@example.org