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