These Malaysians are spending the next chapter of their lives travelling

As a retired geography teacher, Hui Ying enjoys visiting destinations with interesting natural landscapes like the Konpira Crater in Hokaido. — LEE HUI YING

Many people think that once you are retired, you would be living an idle life with nothing much to do – at least, nothing too exciting. However, the assumption is far from the truth, especially in the context of travel.

In fact, most tour companies will tell you that many of their clients are in the older demographic, travellers who prefer to let someone else plan and organise their holidays instead of doing everything by themselves. One reason for this is that older travellers just don’t like the hassle of doing the research and making all the bookings – for flights, accommodation, transportation, activities and others – themselves.

Seniors and retirees also tend to have a bigger budget when they travel and can afford to pay for certain luxuries. You won’t normally find seniors staying at hostels and backpacker lodgings, for example, unless those are the only options available to everyone at the destination.

We spoke to some Malaysians who are enjoying their retired life by travelling the world.

Colonel (Rtd) Dr Paleswaran Rajah, 69

The best thing about travelling after you retire is that you get to experience life all over again, says 69-year-old Colonel (Rtd) Dr Paleswaran Rajah, who travels abroad at least twice a year.

Some of the countries he has visited so far include Germany, France, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Egypt and Greece.

Dr Paleswaran (or Dr Pales, as he prefers to be known) served in the armed forces as a dentist for almost 30 years. Throughout his career, he had the opportunity to travel overseas numerous times to attend medical conferences and other work-related events. This then spurred him on to travel more and to learn new cultures and try new things, something that he continues to do today.

“The great unknown has plenty to offer if you are willing to step out of your comfort zone,” said Dr Pales.

These days, his travels are more meaningful as he gets to bring his wife along with him, and they experience all the new things together. The couple has travelled to many countries over the past few years for holidays as well as to visit family and friends. They have also attended several weddings of relatives abroad.

Dr Pales shared that travelling has taught him valuable lessons, including giving him the chance to view life through a different lens.

These days, Dr Pales travels to new places, like the bamboo forest in Arashiyama, Kyoto, with his wife. — PALESWARAN RAJAHThese days, Dr Pales travels to new places, like the bamboo forest in Arashiyama, Kyoto, with his wife. — PALESWARAN RAJAH

He and his wife always prefer to “do as the locals do” whenever they are in a foreign place so that they can understand the local culture better.

The retiree and his wife enjoy going on group tours, although sometimes he likes travelling on his own too. He said that group tours “... are convenient, because you have a fixed schedule and a guide who will lead the group”. He added that knowing you do not have to worry about running out of ideas on what to do while on holiday is a good thing, too.

“Also, it is great to travel with strangers as you get to make new friends,” he said.

On the contrary, Dr Pales said that travelling independently gives him the freedom to wander off and explore places on his own. “I get to see more, do more and even eat more!” he shared.

In 2016, the avid traveller went on a month-long backpacking holiday with his friends, touring nine countries in Europe, including Germany and Sweden. He has some advice for folks visiting these two countries: For those who can, try German beer; you should also try your best to visit the Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm, Sweden.

“I got to try various different beers with my friends. To our surprise, beer was cheaper than bottled water in Germany,” he said.

When Dr Pales and his wife are not travelling, they spend their days in the garden tending to their plants – he has a green thumb, he revealed. “Gardening usually takes place in the evenings. Before I retire for the day, I would usually have a book with me as I like to read whenever I have the time,” he said.

Dr Pales also enjoys being in nature and loves to hike. He has climbed a few mountains around the world including, of course, Mount Kinabalu in Sabah.

Dr Pales and his daughter, Thangeswary, during his visit to Kamakura, Japan last year. — Dr PALESWARAN RAJAHDr Pales and his daughter, Thangeswary, during his visit to Kamakura, Japan last year. — Dr PALESWARAN RAJAH

A few months ago, Dr Pales and his wife went to Kamakura in Kanagawa, Japan to visit their daughter Thangeswary, who works there. During that time Dr Pales and Thangeswary spent some precious time together by going on the Daibutsu Hiking Trail.

“We spent hours hiking the trail. Along the journey, we were treated to some beautiful scenery in the forest,” said Dr Pales, who also climbed Mount Takao, located in the city of Hachioji, near Tokyo.

Belinda Lee, 65

Belinda at one of the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan. —  BELINDA LEEBelinda at one of the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan. — BELINDA LEE

Travelling has been a long-time passion for city-dweller Belinda Lee, 65. However, when Lee was younger, she had to put her travel plans on hold as she had to focus on other priorities like taking care of her family and developing her career.

Now that her kids have all grown up, the mother-of-four can finally fulfil her dream to see the world.

She retired about seven years ago and has since travelled to many places ... you can even say that she’s now a globe-trotting happy wanderer.

Lee enjoys travelling to lesser-known places. “Every country has a story to tell and when you are there, you can see how the story starts to unfold, much like a puzzle,” she said.

She usually goes on her adventures with her husband and older children, as she feels like this is a good way for them to bond as adults. On many occasions, she and her kids plan their holidays together.

As someone who has been actively travelling, Lee says there’s no way to “stop it” once you are hit with wanderlust. When the pandemic began, Lee started becoming restless as many travel bans were put in place. She also had to undergo a kneecap replacement surgery a couple of years ago, which made her worry about all her travel plans.

Fortunately, she recovered well.

“I travel quite frequently now that my health has returned to its peak and the borders are all open,” said Lee.

Some of the countries she has visited include Australia, the United States (Hawaii), Japan, Spain, Slovakia and Germany. She plans to go to Shanghai, China next and wants to spend more time exploring the country.

Belinda and her husband, Jimmi Tan, at Alcazaba in Malaga, Spain. — BELINDA LEEBelinda and her husband, Jimmi Tan, at Alcazaba in Malaga, Spain. — BELINDA LEE

Lee has been on two guided tours but feels like they are not for her. “Group tours are great for travellers who prefer sticking to a schedule. People who love flexible travel may find it inconvenient, as guided tours take away your freedom of changing your plans at the last minute,” she shared.

When travelling in a group, you have to bear with the whims and fancies of other people, she said. “Meeting people who are not on the same page as you will also make the experience less enjoyable.”

Lee Hui Ying, 60

Lee Hui Ying, 60, is always in the mood to travel and goes on holiday at least three times a year. As a retired geography teacher, Lee loves exploring new places, especially destinations with beautiful natural landscapes.

Hui Ying and her husband, Ong Keng Chye, at Phu Quoc island in Vietnam. —  LEE HUI YINGHui Ying and her husband, Ong Keng Chye, at Phu Quoc island in Vietnam. — LEE HUI YING

She believes that everyone should travel more as exposure supplements one’s knowledge. “Travelling has helped me a lot in my teaching career. Reading a book (about a place) and actually seeing it are two completely different experiences. It is very enriching,” she said.

Besides that, Hui Ying also has a tradition of visiting China every year and would even extend her stay there. She makes the annual trip with her husband, and sometimes, a few of their friends will tag along, too.

“We go to different parts of the country and we will usually get a travel agency to organise and plan it for us,” she said, adding that while joining a group tour is convenient, there are certain aspects of it that Hui Ying does not enjoy.

For starters, she is not a fan of the early morning calls, where members of the tour are required to assemble at a certain time and place to start the day’s itinerary. If you join a tour, you can forget about sleeping in!

Hui Ying also does not like returning too late to the hotel as she would prefer to take her time to wind down for the night before going to bed.

But, travelling around China can get complicated so it makes more sense to hire a professional guide. If she’s travelling to other “less finicky” destinations, she would just make all the plans herself, with some help from her friends and regular travel companions.

For Hui Ying, no trip is ever complete without checking out the local markets. She also recommends checking out Hong Kong’s famous food scene.

Hui Ying and her husband, Ong Keng Chye, during their visit to Noburibetsu in Hokkaido, Japan in 2019. — LEE HUI YINGHui Ying and her husband, Ong Keng Chye, during their visit to Noburibetsu in Hokkaido, Japan in 2019. — LEE HUI YING

She and her husband Ong Keng Chye are currently in Alaska, the United States visiting their daughter and her husband. The retired couple plan to stay a few months there so that they can spend as much time exploring the place and bond with their daughter.

At the same time, Hui Ying is also planning for her next adventure after Alaska – a second visit to Hong Kong!

>> The print version of this story, which was published on March 25, 2023 in StarLifestyle, mistakenly identified a few individuals. We apologise for the mistakes and have made the corrections in this digital copy.

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