Adventure People Biking Philosophy Why Adventure?

Challenge Yourself: At Any Age

Challenge Yourself on the Isles of Scilly
Written by Stuart Wickes

Challenge Yourself: Age is No Barrier to Adventure

I’ve always said to my kids that when I retire I want to be active, out and about, exploring, on an electric golf cart if necessary.

“How’s that going to be any different to now Dad?” they ask.

They have a point. I did get some golf cart practice in the Isles of Scilly recently.

Scilly Cart Company Electric Golf Buggy in Hugh Town, Isles of S

Electric golf carts are widely used to get around  the Isles of Scilly. But there’s nothing silly about staying active and exploring at any age, however you do it.

But even if the kids don’t see the change coming, I do. Year on year their growing capabilities cast lengthening shadows on my own. It’s not that I’m old or even think of myself as old (in my head I’m still 36) but when I watch them run or ride I can’t help but acknowledge that I am getting older. And slower. And I can no longer guarantee I’ll beat them in a race, even if I don’t yet need a head start.

There was an old lady…

In the vigour of my youth, while cycling in Patagonia, I met an old German lady cycling solo down the length of the Carreterra Austral. Back then it was a dusty, pot-holed ripio road to nowhere, not exactly a place to retire to. We stopped to chat, as is the norm when strangers meet in the middle of nowhere, and as she leant on her sunny yellow bar bag and told stories of her itinerant retirement touring South America on a bicycle, I knew I wanted to be like her when I was 67 years strong. Before we parted I took a photo of her and when I look at it I still imagine her cycling on.

Pensioner on a bicycle tour

Retirement on a bike. Why not?

My own family retirement role models are not quite so inspiring. My Dad volunteered twice weekly at the local Oxfam Shop before developing Alzheimer’s and disappearing into an unfathomable reality. Meanwhile, Mum sits in a green velour armchair watching Jeremy Kyle thrice daily, making only reluctant forays into the drama of the real world beyond her front door.

Neither are futures I want for me. It’s not that I’m averse to sitting in an armchair, watching TV or even dribbling into my dinner, it’s just that I think I’m hard-wired to explore. Routine bores me, new experiences bring me to life, and I’m pretty sure a regular retirement would kill me quicker than my plan to circumnavigate the globe on a mobility scooter.

There was an “old” man

It was inspiring in so many ways to watch Sir Ranulph Fiennes take on the Marathon Des Sables recently. Not just because of the spirit he showed in challenging himself to tackle something that hard-core at the age of 71 (and having had a couple of heart bypass operations), but also for the way he did it in service of others, raising money for Marie Curie UK. [You can still check out his desert diaries and donate to Marie Curie UK to support his efforts: In the UK Text RUN to 7007 to donate £5]

I think I’d be happy to do the London Marathon age 71. He’s done an ultramarathon, billed as “the toughest footrace on earth”, 156 miles, the equivalent of six marathons, in six days, in the Sahara Desert, in temperatures of up to 50 degrees. Is it a case of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Or just madness?

To me Sir Ranulph’s effort is an inspiring model of retirement, although I expect the word doesn’t figure in his vocabulary; stay active, get out, explore, do new things, keep challenging yourself and do some good for others.

Of course I’m not suggesting all pensioners should have to complete the Marathon Des Sables before drawing retirement funds, but I do think a bit of personal challenge is good for you, whatever your age and may even help extend your retirement. Certainly research suggests that staying physically and mentally active helps improve health, well-being and performance and while not a route to eternal life, may help offset the effects of ageing. I figure it’s probably the way to go for a more fulfilling end of life.

Challenge isn’t just for oldies

It’s not just Sir Ranulph’s attitude that touched me though, I was equally inspired watching the support, camaraderie and companionship offered by his coach, Rory Coleman as they journeyed together. Rory is a veteran of the Marathon Des Sables and has run it many times but this time was been different; he’s didn’t run it for himself, he did it for and with Sir Ranulph and Marie Curie.

Rory is years younger than Sir Ranulph but neither of them saw age as a barrier to challenge or their relationship, rather something to be acknowledged and taken into account. Anyone can do a challenge. Choosing the right one is part of the game as is having the right attitude, training and support around you and striking the right relationship.

If age is not a barrier, then what about the kids? Is challenge good for them? Rory’s role reminds me of a role I think we have as parents – to help kids develop a positive attitude towards choosing, facing and dealing with challenges. If we know life can be full of challenge, isn’t it right that we work to help our kids develop the skills to cope positively with it. Personal challenges can help with that. And we should play a role as supporters, encouragers, coaches.

Challenge Yourself

Go on. Challenge Yourself. You’re never too old.

Choose challenge

It doesn’t have be the Marathon Des Sables (although age 16 you can participate with special approval and parental consent), what I’m talking about is helping kids develop the habit of choosing challenge. And then supporting them in following that through.

As Sir Ranulph prepared for the Marathon Des Sables, we were on holiday in the Isles of Scilly. You might think there’s not much to challenge you there, but Hannah managed to find one. It was a Scilly challenge. A silly challenge too, but with a serious point.

Choose challenge. It’s good for you.

Go on, challenge yourself

And leave a comment to let us know what you plan to do.

About the author

Stuart Wickes

Stuart's the adventure addict half of the team, always trying to persuade the family to get out, do more, go further. As co-founder and co-director he handles the business, creative, design, technical and publishing aspects of the project. He is our chief photographer and videographer. With training as a professional learning and development consultant. an engineer and musician, his contribution is eclectic and unpredictable!


  • I really liked this article. We’re fulltime RVers so have lots of retirements being modeled for us that we don’t like. We’ve started leaving notes to our future selves to hopefully prevent them from ever thinking doing laps around the RV park in the golf cart is a good idea for entertainment.

    • I like the idea of leaving notes for your future self. I hope you remember to leave them somewhere you’ll find them. I’m not entirely averse to the idea of doing doughnuts in a golf cart though! Thanks for stopping by to comment.

  • […] Playing to your strengths, doing what you do well is great for the ego and of course there’s many an adventure to be had polishing hard won skills, taking them to the next level or into new and unfamiliar environments. But there’s also fun to be had looking the other way, doing what you know you’re not good at, exploring undeveloped skills, trying something completely new. Learning is always an adventure into the personal unknown, an everyday opportunity to try and not know if you will succeed. And, if at first you don’t succeed, well think of it as a chance to try and try again. And then when you do succeed, go try something else. And don’t let age be an excuse, you’re never too old to give something new a go. […]

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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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