9260 Miles From Home
by Beth K. Tucker
April 08, 2024
Beth standing in tunnel of greenery in Bali
Picturesque view of Bali

View of Bali

Neighbors, friends, and even the mailman ask me why I’m traveling 9,260 miles from home this winter, enduring at least, if lucky, a 22-hour flight followed by a grueling five-hour car ride to travel the last 100 miles to the village where I stay in Bali, Indonesia.

They tactfully don’t add “at your age” and “by yourself!”

My unspoken response to WHY is I’m going because of a motorcycle tour in 1974. This actual and pivotal event touring from San Francisco through South America “gifted” me 50 years of itchy feet as I continue to travel the world.

I didn’t grow up with a history or an urge to roam. I grew up in a factory town with a population of 11,000, with no public transportation nor a family car. I walked where I needed to go. My dad hitched rides to bowling tournaments. My nurse mom walked to and from the hospital, working the 3 to 11 afternoon shifts. Our big outing was twice a year when we took a 20-minute bus ride for Easter and Christmas shopping. The furthest I ever traveled was to visit relatives 90 minutes away because my uncle would drive us in his car.

Beth on scooter ride in Hanoi, Vietnam

Scooter Ride in Hanoi, Vietnam

After graduating from college in Ohio, I took my first big cross-country trip to move to California. When I stopped to visit a boyfriend in San Francisco, he invited me to hop on the back of his R60 BMW motorcycle, and off we went – camping and working our way across Latin and South America for a year.

It cemented my wandering ways.

After our return, I launched a 37-year career in home economics outreach education, driving 2,000 miles per month across Arizona to deliver programs. I would take my two daughters with me to community projects, believing children should see their parents at work and encouraging their love of travel.

Offers for short-term overseas assignments occasionally landed on my desk.

“I can do that,” I told myself, my family, and my boss, who would have to approve my absence from work to conduct university and volunteer projects. By the end of my career, I’d been a team and solo trainer in six developing countries, teaching community engagement and growing small businesses. My work treated my traveling itch but after I retired, the itch lingered. And I was bored.

I became an Airbnb host, partly to stay connected to foreign travelers. But when COVID hit, the number of guests shrunk and my world grew smaller.

Tea Ceremony

Tea Ceremony

Fortunately for me, my younger daughter’s work in International Humanitarian Action was sending her to exotic locations around the world. Her postings inspired and nudged me to explore unfamiliar countries, even independently.

2020 was my turning point.

After visiting her in Myanmar, I said goodbye to my daughter and husband and took a month to explore Vietnam solo. I took 11 in-country flights and buses to visit new areas I’d previously overlooked.

Because I was traveling alone, my initial strategy was staying at Airbnbs to meet local people. The first day after I arrived at a new place, I’d book an Airbnb “experience,” often offered by hosts or students who wanted to practice English. Experiences were varied and cheap.

One local tour took me to meet with a fortune teller, followed by an impromptu night-time scooter ride through his Vietnam war-damaged neighborhood. Later, I had a student-led walking tour and a market visit in Hanoi.

Another favorite event was a tea ceremony with a woman who later recruited a former student to be my tour guide. The teenager took me on a zippy and sometimes thrilling scooter tour to his favorite places. Each experience gave me an intimate glimpse of Vietnam from a local perspective about the culture and people. And I was satisfied that I’d found a safe and insightful way to travel alone. The cumulating effect of those positive experiences gave me the confidence to continue my solo journeys. And an unforeseen benefit was that hosts and guides became ongoing friends.

Children in Beth's English Class

English Class

This winter I’m on my third trip to Bali, another country introduced to me by my daughter who was living there and working remotely. It’s an island where Grey-haired people, a scarce age group, stand out among Bali’s youthful surfing south. So I jokingly refer to myself as “A Grey Hair,” making light of my age. And I keep count of the other aged ones, reassuring myself that my tribe does exist somewhere in Bali.

So why am I on an extended adventure at 72? It’s an age when we’re more easily dismissed, ignored, and labeled too old to travel alone. I have found an epic daily formula that works for me.

Each morning I wake up in northern Bali to view four volcanoes in the distance. If they’re cloud-covered, I drink another cup of coffee in bed and wait for them to clear. Each morning, I swim laps in a 30-meter pool that is steps from my landing. I’m benefiting from a renewed sense of purpose as I co-teach an after-school English class with a local villager, Gede, an untrained yet natural teacher, housekeeper, and friend.

And living here allows me to be inspired by Bali’s commitment to kindness, apparent in little acts, a lesson I’ve observed repeatedly. Drivers swerve and even stop to avoid nicking Bali dogs who lie like landlords in the road. Recently my local scooter driver surprised me by grabbing a packet of tissues off a store shelf to wipe dirt from the corner of my eye. He didn’t ask the storekeeper’s permission to open a packet of Kleenex, nor did she insist he pay. He didn’t alert me to the dirt. He just did an unexpected act, an act of kindness and connection.

How and why do I continue to roam? By applying what aging articles advise: exercise, find purpose, be inspired, and feel connected. It is an epic formula that makes me feel vital, content and light-hearted.

Beth standing in the rain "washing clothes"

Washing clothes

Beth K. Tucker
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Beth Knisely Tucker. Retired. A hula hooper when knees permit. I have been an Airbnb Superhost for 11 years at my listing, airbnbcomsheerwoods2193132. My hosting goal is for guests to add Flagstaff to their list of discoveries like I did 47 years ago. My enchantment with Arizona and traveling continues.

1 Comment

  1. Joan

    Thank you, Beth, for sharing your adventures and a clever way to meet the locals by using Air BnB.


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