Bit­ten by the travel bug

Tan Beng Theam and his wife opted for early re­tire­ment so they could travel around the world to­gether.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - SENIOR - Sto­ries by CHRISTINA CHIN

WHILE many se­nior cit­i­zens their age are con­tent to sit back with a cup of tea and watch the world go by, Tan Beng Theam and his wife An­nie Cheah Suan Nee, are de­ter­mined to be part of the ac­tion.

The Tans, who have been mar­ried for 53 years, have been around the world more than once.

The re­tired se­nior math­e­mat­ics lec­turer and text­book writer was bit­ten by the travel bug way back when he was a fresh-faced teen back­pack­ing through Bri­tain.

He was study­ing in Eng­land on a schol­ar­ship and hitch­hiked around Ire­land – alone.

“Look­ing back, I was re­ally brave then. Later, I hitch­hiked through Europe with a friend and since then, I knew I wanted to travel for the rest of my life,” he says.

Cheah’s eyes sparkle when she talks of their ad­ven­tures to­gether. Iron­i­cally, she says she is not the “trav­el­ling type”.

“To be hon­est, I just fol­lowed him be­cause he loved to travel. But, of course, I en­joyed all our trips,” she quips.

The proud grand­par­ents of eight rem­i­nisce about their first trip around the world.

“In 1975, we went on a govern­ment-spon­sored trip. Back then, civil ser­vants with the rank­ing of Di­vi­sion One of­fi­cers were en­ti­tled to a RM10,000 travel al­lowance.

“The sum was a lot back then; it was enough for both of us to make our first trip around the world.

“Since then, we go on (at least) one big tour or cruise yearly – of course, there are many other smaller trips in be­tween,” says Tan, 79.

Both opted for early re­tire­ment so that they could do more trav­el­ling.

Cheah, 77, a re­tired school teacher, says leav­ing the civil ser­vice early was the only way for her to join her hus­band on his trav­els.

“I couldn’t keep tak­ing leave so at 42, I opted out,” she says.

Tan points to more than 40 huge photo al­bums, filled with sto­ries that would put Gul­liver to shame.

“I think we have seen more of the world than our four chil­dren put to­gether. I have been to most coun­tries twice. I’m keen to dis­cover some­thing new now.

He be­lieves that age shouldn’t be a stum­bling block for se­nior cit­i­zens to do what they love.

The cou­ple usu­ally travel with a group of

close friends; the old­est is 85. “Our friends are just as ac­tive but over the years, the travel group has got­ten smaller. Some are no longer with us, while oth­ers suf­fer from ail­ments. Nonethe­less, we have seven close friends whom we travel with. It’s more fun.

“Trav­el­ling gives us some­thing to look for­ward to in life. That’s im­por­tant for se­nior cit­i­zens be­cause ev­ery­day is a bonus. If you have not seen the world, don’t let age de­ter you,” he adds.

Tan Beng Theam and An­nie Cheah Suan Nee en­joy go­ing through pho­tos of their trav­els. (Inset) The cou­ple on a river cruise in London.

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