Well­be­ing tips from 89-year-old

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

As our ice-strength­ened ship grinds though ice-clogged pas­sages em­bed­ded with po­lar bear prints, it is time for re­flec­tion. We are in the Rus­sian Arc­tic with Her­itage Ex­pe­di­tions do­ing the North­ern Sea route from Mur­mansk to Anadyr. As much as the land­scape and wildlife is re­mark­able on this trip, so are the pas­sen­gers – an eclec­tic bunch of ex­plor­ers who have achieved much in their lives. One Nor­we­gian has walked to both North and South Poles; three pas­sen­gers have been to all of the 196 coun­tries on Earth; and oth­ers have driven vin­tage cars from Pek­ing to Paris and Lon­don to Cape Town. All have cho­sen to do this 5000 nau­ti­cal mile voy­age through the Rus­sian Arc­tic to im­prove their well­be­ing. I spent the month voy­ag­ing with them and in­ter­view­ing them about their ex­tra­or­di­nary lives and what keeps them well. The old­est on the trip was a man called Clancy Herbst Jr, who is old for a ju­nior – he’s 89 years old. He was born in Chicago in 1928 at the time of pro­hi­bi­tion and Al Capone. His mind is as sharp as a tack and I was for­tu­nate to dine with him ev­ery night and hear his sto­ries of tri­umph and tragedy. A very suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man and phi­lan­thropist, he lost a daugh­ter to suicide who at the time had a 9-year-old son. As part of learn­ing to cope by look­ing for­ward and not back, Clancy took his young grand­son on nine ma­jor jour­neys in­clud­ing cy­cle trips through Pak­istan and Ethiopia. The pair have done the

This re­in­forces my be­lief that it's not what hap­pens to you in life, but how you deal with it that counts.

Trans-Siberian Rail­way and vis­ited is­lands in the White Sea as Clancy wanted to show his grand­son Stalin’s Gu­lag and what oth­ers also have had to en­dure in life.

Clancy en­hances his well­be­ing at age 89 by keep­ing his mind and body ac­tive, hav­ing a good wife, and think­ing about oth­ers. He al­ways had a book in his hand and had a wealth of sto­ries to tell, such as din­ing with Bush, Gor­bachev and Thatcher. A re­luc­tant user of tech­nol­ogy, he man­aged to snap the photo of the jour­ney on his iPhone when bran­dish­ing a stick at a po­lar bear ad­vanc­ing 10 me­tres away. When I showed him my iPad full of books, he com­mented that he was go­ing to get one of those when he got home to Colorado.

He walks the talk by be­ing very phil­an­thropic and sup­port­ing im­pov­er­ished kids and those with dis­abil­i­ties through col­lege. One of his other grand­sons re­cently be­came a para­plegic in a ski­ing ac­ci­dent so, in true Clancy style, he set off to Brazil to meet an ex­pert on spinal in­juries.

One of the five ma­jor ways of well­be­ing is giv­ing, and Clancy does that on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. As a former chair­man of the Univer­sity of Colorado foun­da­tion, he is still very ac­tive in that space. He also ex­ceeds on the other well­be­ing in­di­ca­tors such as learn­ing, be­ing ac­tive and be­ing con­nected with oth­ers.

The el­der states­man of the voy­age, with his wis­dom and ex­pe­ri­ence, con­nected with all of us. He val­ues self-es­teem, friends and fam­ily above all else in life at his age. This re­in­forces my be­lief that it’s not what hap­pens to you in life, but how you deal with it that counts. As Clancy said, you can’t learn with your mouth open so lis­ten­ing is a vi­tal skill to im­prove well­be­ing. It was a plea­sure and a priv­i­lege to lis­ten and learn from such a re­mark­able man.

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Con­nect­ing, whether it be with fam­ily mem­bers or oth­ers less for­tu­nate, is a corner­stone of well­be­ing.

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