Somebody recently asked me why I enjoy touring our country as a driver and guide, with the majority of my passengers being seniors (or pensioners). It got me thinking and took me back to 1998 when I had my first experience with senior travellers. That tour was to depart from Perth and travel through central Australia, and I was the roustabout. As we rounded the bend to the departure point, 48 senior passengers, most from Western Australia, were waiting eagerly to board the coach for the adventure of their lifetime. The tour was one that many had dreamt about doing for most of their younger years, but had never found or had the time to do, until later on. Most had retired, or hubby or wife have passed on and now they felt like they could embark on new adventures and make new friends.
All the senior passengers greeted each other, some like they had known each other for a lifetime, some a bit nervous and some a little hesitant. I don’t think I have ever seen a happier group of elderly passengers, which in turn made me very excited and happy, as this was also my first experience to the unknown outback. I have to admit, I was also a little worried about whether the passengers would like me as a staff member. As it turned out, I got on with everyone famously and loved the stories and the jokes and the company more than I had enjoyed the company of my own age group. I found that our wonderful seniors all had a story to tell about the trials and tribulations of their lives, some were funny, some were very sad, some had struggled all their lives, working as farmers and station owners. Some had experiences in their lives that they did not like to talk about and we all respected that. There were many stories about the war, not only from the men, but from the women, which made me think how lucky I was not to have had to go through the pain of war and the destructive aftermath of it.
One story I have to tell you is about two beautiful old souls, whose names shall stay secret. These two where like chalk and cheese – one rough and ready, and one a church going lady. They were aged 87 and 84, not a bad time in life to go camping out in the never- never. They had known each other since they were 7 and 4. Anyway, when we had our first bush camp out on the Great Central Road in the middle of nowhere, the two ladies where having a little disagreement, nothing big as it turned out, but it was over toilet arrangements. I thought I would amble over to find out what the problem was. One casually asked if we carried splatter boards! My face went blank – I had no idea what she was talking about, the older of the two cursing at the younger telling her to be quiet. She refused and asked the question again, “do you carry splatter boards”? I still had no idea, so I asked her what that was. Her reply left me in stitches for a good couple of minutes. Turns out a splatter board is a piece of flat wood that you pee on so the dirt doesn’t splash back at you when you are doing your business!
The tour was a wonderful triumph, with everyone loving the journey and the experiences we all shared together. The saddest part of the tour was the return to Perth, as we all said goodbye to each other. Some were crying, some made new friendships, some made new memories, but all had a fantastic time and said they would return on another tour. As for me, I survived the journey with a wonderful group of seniors and longed for more of their incredible stories and their company. And yes, I too shed a tear. I wasn’t sad, I was overcome with emotion and it was a feeling I shall never forget. I had made new friends, some I still enjoy today. After all had left I felt very empty and longed for more senior moments, with some of the most amazing people I have ever meet, but that’s another story!!!! The point is, my friends you are never too old to start a new chapter in your life! So get out there and enjoy!