The world’s oldest backpacker

world's oldest backpacker, john waite, travel for seniors, retired, hostels

The world’s oldest backpacker


John Waite

There is something that seems out of place about John Waite the first moment I see him. We’re in a youth hostel and the common area is full of backpackers – chatting, drinking, playing guitars and doing whatever else backpackers do on a sunny afternoon to pass their elastic view of time. John is hanging out with everyone but he’s not like the others. He doesn’t have the impetuous spirit you sometimes find, nor does he have the veiled insecurities of some of the other travellers. John is grounded. John is content. John is 89 years old.

When John’s wife died in 1982 he decided to leave his adopted home of Melbourne. He didn’t pack up his house or break ties with his children and grandchildren. He just decided to make the world his home – and almost 30 years later he is still on the road.

world's oldest backpacker, john waite, travel for seniors, retired, hostels

He travels on the cheap… the life of the backpacker suits him. Every night he stays in hostels, surrounded by young travellers who are separated by generations but brought together with a simple introduction and a chat.

“I went into a hostel in Dubai one time,” he remembers.

“The woman at the reception said ‘this is a hostel for young people and they make a lot of noise’ and I said ‘well if I can’t sleep when I go to bed then you’ll probably find me in the middle making the noise with them’.”

world's oldest backpacker, john waite, travel for seniors, retired, hostels

He chats with the other guests at our hostel as they wander in and out of the common areas and he brings a cheeky but innocent tone to the conversations. Those who have been here for a while know him well and they share stories about the day – and about the past. John says he enjoys the company and community of the backpacking life.

“I was in the army for long enough to get used to sleeping in dormitories,” he explains.

“I meet wonderful people. They’re all younger than me, ok, but everyone likes to talk.”

John prefers not to talk about the war, even though he mentions it quite often and uses it as a reference point for many of his characteristics and decisions. He just doesn’t go into detail because it’s still something that’s just too raw.

“Sure I have a nightmare or two,” he says.

“I think I was shouting out in my sleep last night and the two who were in the room must have thought ‘what the hell’.”

He pauses.

“But it’s more entertaining than snoring.”

We both laugh.

world's oldest backpacker, john waite, travel for seniors, retired, hostels

Originally from England, John moved to Australia decades ago when a pound could buy you a boat ticket to the other side of the world. He’s always had a sense of excitement and you can see the adventure in his eyes. During his travels he’s collected an anthology of stories that would leave any global nomad impressed. He’s trekked with monks in the snow of Pakistan, worked with the United Nations in Sudan and even parasailed in India. Oh, and he was 75 when he did that.

Whenever he returns home to Melbourne to see his family, he shares the stories. There’s always one thing the young ones notice, though.

“My grandsons go through my photos,” he says, “and they say they want to come away with me because I get better girls than they do!”

More laughter.

John travels light – really light – and his backpack normally weighs just 5 kilograms. He has one change of clothes on and one change in the wash. When he’s in colder climates he finds someone is usually happy to lend him a jacket or a jumper. He’s not one for creature comforts. One hostel he tells me about in China had a room where he slept with more than 40 other people.

Over the 30 years of travel he’s developed a few favourite countries. He loves the United States and has a lot of good friends across America. He also likes Denmark, Norway and, slightly ironically, Germany.

John is the one who uses the word ‘ironically’ when he mentions Germany. Many people assume he would dislike the country because of his past. He says it’s actually quite the opposite.

“The army never taught me to hate,” he says. “It taught me how to kill but not how to hate. I’m sure the Germans were the same, and I’ve got wonderful friends there.”

world's oldest backpacker, john waite, travel for seniors, retired, hostels

His travels have brought him into danger many times. Sometimes in places you wouldn’t expect but, more often than not, in regions that are embroiled in conflict. John doesn’t go looking for trouble but, at the same time, he wants to see the world. That’s why he’s on this journey. He’s had 89 good years on this planet and he’s spent the last 30 exploring it. He’s not prepared to compromise at this stage in his life.

“I don’t have a death wish but if you’re going where there’s troops and firing going on you’re going to get your collection as well somewhere down the line,” he says.

“But I want to live, I love it.”

** Part 2: The adventures – John meets Mother Teresa, gets stoned in Islamabad, and is left for dead on a road in Mexico

  • The Travel Fool | Dec 5, 2011 at 9:37 am

    Great post. One of the best things about traveling is meeting interesting people and you definitely got one in John.
    The Travel Fool recently posted..Photo of the WeekMy Profile

    • Turtle | Dec 5, 2011 at 10:11 am

      Did I ever! We sat there for so long chatting about everything. And I think I could have sat there for days more and listened to his stories. Such an interesting guy!

      • Danielle | Dec 20, 2012 at 2:02 pm

        I met John at the India House in Nola & he just makes the place even more magical.
        Dani Ny

        • Michael Turtle | Jan 1, 2013 at 2:23 pm

          That’s where I met John too. He’s a great person to have around the hostel. And those stories – wow!

    • Charlie Davids | Jun 17, 2015 at 7:23 pm

      Agreed. I’m reading this piece 5 years later and it still inspires me to keep on the road. Great inspiration!
      Charlie Davids recently posted..U.S. Passport TriviaMy Profile

  • Nomadic Samuel | Dec 5, 2011 at 9:45 am

    What an amazing person! Travel has no age restrictions – I’ve realized this while meeting some great mature backpackers on the road.
    Nomadic Samuel recently posted..India Is | Video CompetitionMy Profile

    • Turtle | Dec 5, 2011 at 10:11 am

      I’ll tell you what – he was a lot more fun and active than many of the young backpackers at that hostel!!

      • joe gonzalez | Oct 1, 2012 at 4:16 am

        you have found a true gem. this man is amazing and i hope he can countinue for as long as he likes. life is a journey and you found one of the guides.

        • Michael Turtle | Oct 2, 2012 at 12:23 am

          What a lovely way to put it. Thanks for taking the time to read about John’s journey!

  • Fabio | Dec 5, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Fabulous article as always. Looking forward to the next issue!
    Fabio recently posted..Bike Rides: A Chain on The CoastMy Profile

    • Turtle | Dec 5, 2011 at 10:12 am

      Thanks Fabio. Just wait until tomorrow when John shares a few of the exciting things that have happened to him on the road.

  • Lisa | Dec 5, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Noooooooo. I want to read the second instalment now!!

    My dad is 78 and travels the world a couple of months at a time, staying in a mix of cheap hotels and hostels. He’s not quite like John though, more like Mr Bean. He returned from his latest adventure last month, recalling the time he ended up in a Belfast nightclub til 3am with two 24 year old nurses. He complained about not recognising any of the music so I asked him why he stayed out so late. He answered, “Because it was open.”

    With age I have realise that I am indeed my father’s daughter.

    Can’t wait to hear more about John. 🙂

    • Turtle | Dec 6, 2011 at 9:39 am

      Well, exciting news! The second part of the story is up now!
      And that’s cool about your dad – you’ve really got to admire people who keep on moving.

  • Candice Michelle | Dec 5, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    He is really an amazing person. I learned a lot from John, but I’m sure there are more valuable things to learn from him. He will serve as my inspiration. Such person is worth remembering. I salute you John.

    • Turtle | Dec 6, 2011 at 9:39 am

      The most important thing I learned from John was that nothing’s standing in your way – not even age!

  • Stephanie - The Travel Chica | Dec 6, 2011 at 2:31 am

    What an inspiring story! I hope I meet John in a hostel one day.

    • Turtle | Dec 6, 2011 at 9:38 am

      If you do ever meet him, make sure you take some time to sit down and have a good chat! You won’t believe half his stories!

  • Zablon | Dec 6, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    89 Years old and still travelling. that is my kind of hero
    Zablon recently posted..Volunteering abroad and UniversitiesMy Profile

    • Turtle | Dec 6, 2011 at 9:52 pm

      Yeah, exactly! If we could have even half the energy that John has, then we’d have some big lives ahead of us!

  • Sophie | Dec 6, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    Lovely story!
    Sophie recently posted..Travel Bloggers Give BackMy Profile

    • Turtle | Dec 7, 2011 at 7:04 am

      Thanks Sophie – glad you enjoyed it. I definitely enjoyed writing it!

  • Curt | Dec 7, 2011 at 12:16 am

    Great story. There is a guy I see on a regular basis here in Appleton who runs wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and tennis shoes. He’s in his early 90’s. He looks like he’s going to fall over dead any second, but he’s out there every day. Amazing!

    Unless styles are different in your region, I could see he has the typical out-of-style look of too short of shorts. I see a lot of older men wearing shorts that were in style 20 years ago. It always makes me smile!
    Curt recently posted..Tuna & Potato Chip CasseroleMy Profile

    • Turtle | Dec 7, 2011 at 7:05 am

      Ha ha – yeah, there’s something about fashion and old people that always makes you wonder when they stopped buying clothes 🙂 At least John’s shorts keep the weight in his backpack down…

  • Amanda | Dec 7, 2011 at 3:24 am

    This is such a great story! How nice it is to read about someone doing what he loves, even if he’s not your “average” backpacker!
    Amanda recently posted..Your Input Needed! – Help Shape the Future of A Dangerous BusinessMy Profile

    • Turtle | Dec 7, 2011 at 7:07 am

      He’s certainly not your average backpacker… although I tend to think that even if he was 30 he still wouldn’t be your average backpacker 🙂

  • Bret @ Green Global Travel | Dec 7, 2011 at 4:59 am

    Fascinating story, and John seems like a fascinating character. Reminds me of my favorite poem, Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” where he says “old age should burn and rave at close of day.” Hope i”m still as spry and spunky when I reach that age!
    Bret @ Green Global Travel recently posted..TRAVEL BLOGGERS GIVE BACK- To Write Love On Her Arms Helps Those Struggling With Depression, Self-Injury & SuicideMy Profile

    • Turtle | Dec 7, 2011 at 7:08 am

      Great quote! I’m going to look up that poem – sounds like it might come in handy in a few decades 🙂

  • beth | Dec 7, 2011 at 6:19 am

    Wow. What a great story. You were very lucky to have met him. He makes me feel like such a baby when I don’t want to sleep in a dorm room! Good for him – I hope he’s my roommate in Paris!
    beth recently posted..Riad vs. Resort: The Marrakech SmackdownMy Profile

    • Turtle | Dec 7, 2011 at 7:12 am

      I know exactly what you mean! Never again will I complain about a dorm room. If John can do it for 30 years then it’s about time I manned up a bit!! 🙂

  • Oscar | Dec 7, 2011 at 7:50 am

    “But I want to live, I love it.” i will remember this words.

    I am gonna stop worrying about everything and enjoy life, just like him.
    Oscar recently posted..Yucatan Cooking with Chef OscarMy Profile

    • Turtle | Dec 7, 2011 at 8:18 am

      Apparently if you live without worries you live until at least 89! 🙂

  • afcles | Dec 8, 2011 at 12:57 am

    keep on going mate well done you only live once enjoy so much more to see and learn

  • Kerri | Dec 8, 2011 at 3:39 am

    What a truly inspirational man to have met, fantastic! I would love to hear some of his stories. Good for him! 🙂

    • Turtle | Dec 8, 2011 at 6:55 am

      Who knows – maybe you will meet him one day. John’s hard to miss! 🙂

  • Parind | Dec 8, 2011 at 10:01 am

    This is so inspiring. Makes one wanna go travel the world. Thank you for this wonderful post.

    • Turtle | Dec 9, 2011 at 2:20 am

      Glad he inspired you! It’s never too late to start your travels!

  • Jade Johnston - | Dec 8, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    Thats amazing! Good for him!
    Jade Johnston – recently posted..The Bridge to Nowhere – Midweek Snapshot Feb 2011My Profile

    • Turtle | Dec 9, 2011 at 2:21 am

      Yeah, a really amazing story!

  • caz Makepeace | Dec 9, 2011 at 7:34 am

    What an amazing story!! I loved hearing about his life and his adventurous spirit. I hope I run into him somewhere, I would love to hear his stories
    caz Makepeace recently posted..Photo – First White Person on Nias Island in Sumatra, IndonesiaMy Profile

    • Turtle | Dec 9, 2011 at 11:53 am

      Thanks. It’s been fantastic to see so many people get behind him!

  • Spencer | Dec 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    What an inspiration! Good on him. Hope he keeps going.
    Spencer recently posted..Today’s Super Hot Hotel Deals for the Dominican Republic!My Profile

  • Cherina | Dec 9, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    What a wonderful story! I hope that I am at the same hostel as John someday – would love to have a chat over a cup of tea with him. Looking forward to the next installment!!
    Cherina recently posted..Arctic Dreams: The Polar Bears of Churchill. PART IIMy Profile

  • Monica | Gap Daemon | Dec 10, 2011 at 3:06 am

    What an amazing guy. I love the fact that he doesn’t let his age stand in the way of anything. A lovely post 🙂

  • Abby | Dec 11, 2011 at 6:16 am

    Wow — what an inspiring and entertaining read. It’s been a long time since I read a long post like that all the way through. (Am I allowed to admit that?) Bravo!
    Abby recently posted..Holiday contest: win travel funds here!My Profile

    • Turtle | Dec 18, 2011 at 7:06 am

      Ha – I think that’s a fair admission. I know the long posts can be a bit intimidating but for ones like this, I think it’s worth it! 🙂

  • Trans-Americas Journey | Dec 11, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    We can only hope that we bump into this guy at some point on our Trans-Americas Journey. What an inspiration!
    Trans-Americas Journey recently posted..Tikal Basecamp #2 – Flores, GuatemalaMy Profile

    • Turtle | Dec 18, 2011 at 7:07 am

      Hopefully you do get to bump into him. If only John had facebook and we could keep track of where he was!

  • Maria D. | Dec 11, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    this is really incredible and inspiring!
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    • Turtle | Dec 18, 2011 at 7:07 am

      Thanks Maria!

  • Raymond @ Man On The Lam | Dec 12, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    This was a splendid read on this stuffy Monday for me. Thanks for highlighting John — the world needs more folks like him!
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..Travel from Point A to Point ZMy Profile

    • Turtle | Dec 18, 2011 at 7:08 am

      Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the comment!

  • Fida | Dec 13, 2011 at 3:42 am

    Great article. John is a great example, inspiration and my kind of guy 🙂 I hope I still will be able to be on the road at that age! I wish him many more travel years!
    Fida recently posted..Travel In Kerala On A BudgetMy Profile

    • Turtle | Dec 18, 2011 at 7:09 am

      Hopefully there’s no reason why you can’t still be on the road then!

  • Kirsten | Dec 19, 2011 at 9:09 am

    I wonder if he was the gentleman in Brooks-Silva Braga’s backpacking documentary?! There was a very old backpacker in that film who I so admired and his story was not unlike this one.
    Kirsten recently posted..B is for “Take me Back to Barbados”My Profile

    • Turtle | Dec 20, 2011 at 1:32 am

      Oh, I hadn’t heard of the doco. I’ll check it out – thanks!

  • Tiffany | Dec 31, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    This is a great post! I can just imagine meeting this guy – wow! To have been a traveler for the last 30 years… Just think of the changes he’s seen, countries that have come and gone…. Amazing. I’ve been gone for just over two years now, and can only hope to aspire to this!
    Tiffany recently posted..It’s the smell!My Profile

    • Turtle | Jan 1, 2012 at 4:27 am

      Only 28 more years for you! Easy!! 🙂

  • Laura | Jan 3, 2012 at 10:10 am

    When I get at his age I hope to be still traveling …
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    • Turtle | Jan 5, 2012 at 8:58 am

      No reason why you can’t be! (Well, to be honest, there are probably lots. But good luck anyway!!) 🙂

  • Anji | Jan 5, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    This must have been absolutely inspiring! It’s lovely to see people living the philosophy of “Forever Young”.

    • Turtle | Jan 5, 2012 at 11:43 pm

      You’re right – it’s a great philosophy!

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  • Katie | Jan 13, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Love these blog posts – John is my hero! I hope I am still backpacking at 89! This backs up my belief that age is all in the mind. If we decide to get old, we do .. if we decide not to, we don’t. Way to go, John .. I wish you a good many years of backpacking and you have a place to stay if you ever come to Vancouver (BC, not Washington).

    • Turtle | Jan 14, 2012 at 9:54 am

      If only John had facebook or email. I’m sure he would now have invites for places to stay all over the world!

  • Jesse | Jan 17, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    This reminds me of a man that was staying at my hostel in the Atacama Desert in Chile, although John seems much more spry. This man had to have been at least 90 and I never saw him do anything but sleep or shuffle back and forth from the bathroom. He must have been doing something out there in the desert though, and I was just impressed that he was there at all. I hope I’m still travelling at that age!
    Jesse recently posted..On Board for the FutureMy Profile

    • Turtle | Jan 18, 2012 at 5:27 am

      Ha ha. To be honest, if I was out in the Atacama Desert and was 90 years old, I wouldn’t be doing much either! Good on him for still giving it a go, though!

  • flipnomad | Jan 19, 2012 at 12:49 am

    one of the best interviews i’ve ever read, John is quite a fascinating man…

    • Turtle | Jan 19, 2012 at 11:28 am

      Thanks. He was a great person to chat to!

  • Nate Robert Yomadic | Jan 25, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Often I think that people believe there is an “age-limit” on this type of nomadic, independent, budget travel. John is an inspiration, and shows us all that the limits exist inside our own minds. It’s a priceless lesson, thanks for bringing it to the world.

    • Turtle | Feb 2, 2012 at 2:28 am

      You’re right – absolutely no age limit at all!

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  • Ekua | Feb 13, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    I LOVE meeting people like this when I’m on the road. In Mexico, I met a Vietnam Vet who was in his 60s. He had terminal cancer and was making the most of the last days of his life. I wrote about him here:

    We were at the same hostel for a couple weeks, and I have so many great memories of sitting on the roof listening to his fascinating life stories. I’ve met quite a few backpackers who think backpacking is for the 18-25 set (which I’m a few years beyond now so I’m old in their eyes, haha), but really some of the greatest people I’ve met on the road have been in their late 50s and beyond.
    Ekua recently posted..A First Time Solo Traveler’s Guide to HostelsMy Profile

    • Turtle | Feb 14, 2012 at 6:24 am

      That would have been so nice to have heard the stories from that guy. There is a lot to be said from making the most of the time you have – however long that may be! Your post about Jim is beautiful!

  • Alexa Meisler | Feb 25, 2012 at 6:29 am

    This guy is definitely one of a kind. Traveling proves to be good for his health because he looks really good. His sense of humor is uncanny, these types of people are definitely worth writing about. Thank you for sharing!
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    • Turtle | Feb 25, 2012 at 1:27 pm

      Yeah, I loved his sense of humour. Such a funny guy!

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  • Chris Ciolli (@ChrisCiolli) | Sep 3, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    I don’t often stay in hostels while traveling, but I might have to consider doing it more often, if it means meeting the world’s oldest backpacker.
    Chris Ciolli (@ChrisCiolli) recently posted..Burano, Italy: Beaded Peacocks and the Crone Among Rainbow HousesMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Sep 4, 2012 at 6:37 am

      Ha ha… but once you’re hooked, you might end up doing it for as long as John! 🙂

  • Melissa - The Mellyboo Project | Sep 10, 2012 at 6:40 am

    Wow! This is so inspirational! Thank you for sharing John with the world! 🙂 I love his attitude towards travel and I giggled at his response to the Dubai hostel that warned him of the young people.

    Great post.
    Melissa – The Mellyboo Project recently posted..Nomad Adventure Tours: Day 18My Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Sep 14, 2012 at 8:14 pm

      Ha ha – yeah, I loved that answer that he gave to them. Just proves what a great guy he is!

  • Gerard ~ GQ trippin | Sep 10, 2012 at 6:45 am

    Inspirational… You’re never too old to get out there!
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    • Michael Turtle | Sep 14, 2012 at 8:14 pm

      I hope his story inspires many others. Not to travel, necessarily, but just to not let old age stand in the way of what you want to be doing!

  • Aggy | Sep 24, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    What a lovely post highlighting that age is no reason to go out there and travel! If I meet John one day, I’ll be sure to sit down and have a long chat with him 🙂
    Aggy recently posted..Obssesion on WindowsMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Oct 1, 2012 at 3:36 am

      I hope you do get a chance to meet him one day. He’s a very inspiring man!

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  • Lindon | Sep 28, 2012 at 2:45 am

    Thanks so much for the story; I’m sixty-two; I just returned from hiking trip in Utah with my oldest son and a couple of his friends; he sent me the link to your article about John. I’m enjoying my newly started retirement: again what an inspiration and great story!!!

    • Michael Turtle | Oct 2, 2012 at 12:37 am

      Thanks Lindon! That’s great to hear you’re making the most of retirement. People like John show that you’re never too old to do anything you want. So pleased to hear you got some inspiration from his story! Ps. I’m very jealous about the hiking in Utah. I would love to go there and do that sometime!!

  • sanjeewa-padmal travel blogger | Oct 19, 2012 at 11:45 am

    This gentleman show the age is immaterial for traveling. Some people think, they need to be rested and taking long flights, adventures etc.. are not suitable, when you grow older. But I think, we should not allow our age to restrict us?
    sanjeewa-padmal travel blogger recently posted..Sri Lanka secured 22nd place in the Happy Plant IndexMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Oct 23, 2012 at 2:53 pm

      Exactly! There’s no reason to ever be restricted if it’s just in your mind!

  • dana | Nov 2, 2012 at 3:38 am

    what hostel did you find him in?

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 2, 2012 at 5:26 pm

      Hey Dana. I met John at the India House hostel in New Orleans. He had settled there for a few weeks to have a bit of a break.

  • Lyndsay/ Discount Travel Blogger | Dec 10, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Amazing person! Such a positive and fearless person who reminds me of my father. Well, John is more adventurous than my dad, but he left a legacy to prove that he has adventure in his blood. ;D
    Lyndsay/ Discount Travel Blogger recently posted..Boat Ride at Thale Noi’s Waterbird ParkMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Dec 11, 2012 at 1:20 am

      Dear John is definitely fearless. I’m so pleased he’s been such an inspiration to people. It sounds like you had an inspirational guy in your life too! You should feel really lucky.

  • Carmen | Jan 3, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Wow, what an inspiring guy! Would love to meet him. I hope I’m like him when I’m older!

    • Michael Turtle | Jan 14, 2013 at 3:01 pm

      If everyone was like that when they were older, this would be a fun world to live in!

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  • Catherine | Mar 18, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Hi I am Catherine Aik John Waite is my Pop. I have sent all of this to my Pop so he can have a look at all the post up on here thank you

    • Michael Turtle | Mar 26, 2013 at 3:58 am

      Thanks so much Catherine! I would love to hear from him if he ever gets the chance to write an email or leave a comment on the post!

  • Anthony The Travel Tart | Mar 19, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Good on him – I hope to still be cruising around the world at his age!
    Anthony The Travel Tart recently posted..Australian Souvenirs and Gift Ideas – Kangaroo Scrotum!My Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Mar 26, 2013 at 4:00 am

      I hope to be doing anything at his age! 🙂

  • Ken | Apr 8, 2013 at 6:41 am

    I have had the privilage of living across the road from this inspirational and amazing man for the past 20 plus years we have shared many a whiskey and a beer or 2 in that time he has always been there for me in many ways and i have the utmost admiration and respect for him as they say “you cant keep a good man down”, and “age is a state of mind” he is living proof of both !!!!!!

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 16, 2013 at 10:36 pm

      Wow – you’re a lucky man, Ken. I would love to have spent a bit more time with John and heard more of his stories (especially over a whiskey or a beer). He was such a nice man and it doesn’t surprise me at all to hear that he helps out his neighbours. Please give him my regards when you next see him!

  • Lucy | gapyeardotcom | May 23, 2013 at 2:04 am

    This is so inspiring – I bet he has lots of stories to share.

    • Michael Turtle | May 25, 2013 at 5:51 am

      He has years worth of stories. John is a fascinating guy and I bet he could talk for days if you had the time!! 🙂

  • Charles Rahm (@DWJustTravel) | Jul 9, 2013 at 4:33 am

    What an inspiring article. This certainly made my day. Good on you John. When I saw your photograph I thought that you were in your fifties and not 89! backpacking definitely keeps you young 🙂

  • Ruch | Aug 3, 2013 at 6:58 am

    This is such an inspiration I wish when I am at that age even I could be this adventurous and fit to back pack. Hats off!
    Ruch recently posted..Palaces of India: A walk through the most beautiful palaces in IndiaMy Profile

  • Andy | Oct 15, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    Amazing tale, that is a man who has lived life. He reminds me of my grandfather, only much more adventurous. Thanks for sharing his story.
    Andy recently posted..Workout in MadridMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Oct 29, 2013 at 12:33 am

      I’m so pleased to be able to share it. Sounds like your grandfather is quite a guy too! I’m always so impressed with people who find or continue their passions when many others their age just slow down.

  • Wayne | Dec 8, 2013 at 7:12 am

    Wow, so inspiring! 30 years on the road. I love the comment about the war teaching hope to kill, not how to hate others. This is one traveller that I’d love to meet on my travels. Keep writing Micheal – really enjoyed this piece.

    • Michael Turtle | Jan 19, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      Fingers crossed you do get to meet John one day. As you can see from the comments above, a few people have bumped into him along the way. I guess that’s inevitable when he’s always on the road, staying in backpacker hostels!

  • Steve | Feb 27, 2014 at 10:02 am

    wow the oldest guy i ever met in a hostel was a mere 76!
    Steve recently posted..Thru the Lens: Drakensberg National Park, South AfricaMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 4, 2014 at 7:30 am

      He’s got a few more years to go to take over John’s title!! 🙂

  • Adam @ Travel Inspired | Mar 30, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    An excellent and interesting article! It’s really quite inspiring to read John’s story and I cannot wait for the next installment. Great stuff.

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 4, 2014 at 4:42 am

      Thanks, Adam. You can check out the link at the end of the article for the second part of the story. Hopefully I can see John again one day and do a real follow-up story, though!!

  • Echo Santos | Apr 21, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    Wow! One of a kind. Backpacking really has become a way of life for him.

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 23, 2014 at 11:45 pm

      Yeah, ‘one of a kind’ is a great way to describe it. He’s a very special man!

  • Janice Stringer | Sep 4, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Hi Michael,
    I really enjoyed reading this post- I am (for the first time in my life) traveling abroad without my family and husband – Yes. Alone. Easy for some. not so simple for me! As I’m listening to you being interviewed on ‘How to Become a World Famous Travel Blogger.’ This has led me to thinking about hostels differently and reminds me of who we met when we travelled long term as a family at different places.
    Janice Stringer recently posted..Skin Diving- A Great Family Alternative to ScubaMy Profile

  • Chuck Kuhn | Oct 19, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    Perfect timing, reading about this amazing man. I’m 69 (it’s only a number) and just completed 8 weeks in Vietnam (3rd trip) and Cambodia. Although I’ve never stayed in a Hostel this article opens my eyes for further travel. I’ve travel a lot with others and solo now, with photography as one of my passions. My photography has opened the door to many friends, who frankly take me into their world. I just love it. Back in California now for 2 weeks I’m interested in John’s way of life. Budget minded, I can see the opportunity of expanding my horizons rooming hostels. I’m just going to do it. Thanks for sharing this.

  • A Pilot's Daughter | Dec 11, 2014 at 5:21 am

    Oh, the things this man must have witnessed! Wonderful that someone (a.k.a. you) is documenting his admirable existence.
    Wonderful piece, Turtle. Always love reading your stuff. x

  • mohd yusuff bin sharif | Jan 19, 2015 at 7:45 am

    the articles really inspires me to think positively towards travel and life ahead. wish you every single day is nice day….

    • Michael Turtle | Jan 30, 2015 at 2:37 am

      You’re so right. John is such an inspiration and helps put your own life in perspective sometimes.

  • Anna | Feb 5, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    WOW! This is so impressive and inspiring! Meeting interesting people around the world is indeed the best thing you can do all your life!

    Anna recently posted..The Sleeping Dragon – Dalai Lama, Salzburg, and MeMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Feb 21, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      Thanks, Anna. Yeah – I love all the people I meet as I travel around. John is still a favourite, clearly! 🙂

  • mohd yusuff bin sharif | Feb 28, 2015 at 4:19 am

    keep on… grandpa

    • Michael Turtle | Mar 16, 2015 at 5:43 pm

      I sure hope he is keeping on! Not much would slow John down 🙂

  • Katie Featherstone | Mar 12, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    This is great! I’ve met a few elderly travellers and they usually have the best stories to tell. Every now and again there is someone who is actually crazy, but even then it’s usually entertaining if they are friendly. I’m glad he’s still travelling- encouraging for all of us!

    • Michael Turtle | Mar 19, 2015 at 2:42 pm

      Oh yeah – I know just what you means. The stories are always so fascinating! Although perhaps it’s just because they’ve had so many years to practice telling them! 🙂

  • Sally | Mar 13, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    Ahhh I love thing. What a cool guy!
    Sally recently posted..A guide to Bangkok’s shopping Malls and markets. Yes there are that many of themMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Mar 19, 2015 at 2:43 pm

      A really cool guy. And bringing such happiness to everyone with his story.

  • Shobha | Mar 13, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    Great post! I love that he doesn’t let his age stop him or dictate what he ‘should’ be doing. Wish more people had his youthful attitude. I want to be like him when I grow up.
    Shobha recently posted..Exploring Dublin’s Viking and Medieval Past at DubliniaMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Mar 19, 2015 at 2:44 pm

      Me too! Perhaps we’ll bump into each other when we’re both travelling around in our 90s!! 🙂

  • David Longstreath | Mar 16, 2015 at 4:43 am

    I am retired and traveling out of Thailand. I do much the same, travel alone, stay in cheap places and enjoy both young and old on the adventure. As a photojournalist for 30 years for a major wire service I now shoot for me, all those things and places I said I would comeback to one day.
    David Longstreath recently posted..“There has to be a Reason”My Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Mar 19, 2015 at 2:47 pm

      I bet you are loving your time being able to photograph for your own enjoyment and not for an assignment. I can understand that a little. Sometimes I travel just to collect photos and stories and it’s never quite the same as going slowly with no agenda at all. Great to hear you’re loving it!

  • Mark Lanigan | Mar 27, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    I met John in 2004 in a hostel in London and I’ve never forgotten this wonderful and intriguing man. We shared tea together and chatted for days on end and his enthusiasm for life was inspiring. I thought of him recently and found this article and all the memories came back. Anyone who’s met him has been better for it. I’d love to know if he is still with us? Thanks Mark

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 12, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      Thanks, Mark. It’s interesting how nobody ever has a bad word to say about John. I’m not sure where he is these days. I hope he’s still backpacking around somewhere…

  • Ric | Apr 8, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    Wow, inspiring to say the least!

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 12, 2015 at 1:56 pm

      He sure is! I think John’s story has inspired many people on their travels.

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    […] the Best Travel Blog award for 2014. Among his readers’ favourites is his post about meeting The World’s Oldest Backpacker, which has given inspiration to those who want to take on the world one country at a time. Follow […]

  • Rachel Davey | Feb 5, 2016 at 12:34 am

    Oh, we just love this story! John seems like a very interesting man and it just goes to show that you are never too old to travel!

  • northierthanthou | Feb 5, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    Interesting character. I’ll warrant what he has to say about his military experience would be a lot more valuable than what comes from those who do.
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  • Kathryn | May 17, 2016 at 6:35 am

    John is living the dream. My Uncle who has since passed away was Backpacking well into his 80’s. I once asked him why and he said because the accommodation is cheap or words to that effect. I believe he only stopped travelling when he couldn’t get travel insurance anymore

  • Vandrestøvler | Jul 15, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    Interesting people and their stories are always great to listen to. Impressive that he keeps going. Hope to be able to do the same at his age…

    • Michael Turtle | Aug 7, 2016 at 12:09 am

      Oh, yes, you could listen to John’s stories for days. He’s such an inspiration!

  • Jaspreet Singh | Sep 17, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    You sir are an inspiration!

  • Webjet Contact | Sep 29, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    Wow! Great story. Thank you very much for sharing 🙂
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  • AlicevstheWorld | Dec 16, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    What an amazing man!

  • George O | Feb 24, 2017 at 2:45 am

    Even 6 years later this is a great story.

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 2, 2017 at 2:29 pm

      Timeless, isn’t it? So fitting for someone like John.

  • Leo Tat | Jun 20, 2017 at 6:43 am

    Such an amazing story. We don’t have to live the ‘mainstream’ accepted idea of an elderly life. We shouldn’t be held back by age. I feel he is healthy at 89 years old because of his content in traveling and living the life he wants.
    Leo Tat recently posted..40 Foods High in Polyphenols Antioxidants With Net CarbsMy Profile

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