‘50 years married and my kids sent us to Vegas. It was fantastic’
Getting older is no barrier to travel, as Mai and Frank Quaid have discovered
Mai and Frank Quaid from Baltinglass, Co Wicklow. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Immediately after retirement Mai and Frank Quaid found themselves staring out over Lake Kariba, the world’s largest manmade reservoir, in Zambia.
The couple had done some travelling in earlier life, mainly package trips to Spain and Portugal. Six weeks in Africa, visiting family in Zimbabwe and scaling Table Mountain over Cape Town, gave them a “taste” to see more of the world.
“It’s a hell of a jump from playing golf in Spain to riding an elephant in Botswana,” Mai says from her home in Co Wicklow.
Today, the couple are both 76 and while the latter winces at the former’s desire to take on Australia, their travel bug only seems to intensify with age.
Frank retired in 2000. “We had the freedom to travel. After Africa we went on holidays with friends of ours who bought a house out in the US and we went out for six weeks every January,” says Mai.
“We were 50 years married and my kids sent us to Vegas. It was fantastic, I loved Vegas. We went out to the old town because that was where the people who worked there went.
“We didn’t want possessions. We have enough possessions in this house; we could start a shop. So it was trips.”
The pair travelled up to Napa and San Francisco. Was it tiring? “Not at all.”
They visited two of their children in the US; saw February snowfall in San Antonio. More recently, they watched Ireland thwart the All Blacks in Chicago.
“So I can die happy now,” Mai says. “I was in a corporate box, I hated it. I would have loved to have been down with the fans. The Americans just don’t get it.”
They have taken in Egypt – 10 days in Cairo and on the Dead Sea – and have been to Budapest on several occasions.
Mai’s last decade reads like a travel brochure. As a former president of Active Retirement Ireland, it is possibly not surprising.
She went zip-lining in Austria at age 71. “I didn’t know what zip lining was,” she says of the activity which involves harnessing yourself to a wire suspended high above ground. “So I said yes, of course I will do it. I nearly died of shock. I zip-lined over 80 metres of river.”
She went hot air ballooning in Turkey (“I wouldn’t do that again, I didn’t like it”) and to the European Parliament in Brussels.
Statistics on rising holiday patterns among her generation do not surprise Mai, particularly in an era of affordable travel.
“When you get older you get full of aches and pains and it’s the weather here. People have arthritis and a lot of people are widows and widowers and they want to get away for the companionship,” she says.
“When I worked in Heathrow in 1962 it was £200 to fly home, think about that (over £4,000 sterling today). I got one free flight home and I used that at Christmas. You couldn’t afford to go anywhere and people didn’t. You got the boat and that was a horrific experience.”
Attitudes toward age and ability can be sorely underestimated too. Ask Mai: “People think we don’t know how to operate the TV,” she scoffs, “we are the rock and roll generation. People forget that.”