Mr Hermann’s travels took him across the globe, including the Central American nation of Guatemala. (Supplied: Chris Herrmann)
At the age of 64, grandfather Chris Herrmann has a few years on the average backpacker.
His solo round-the-world trip saw him visit 23 countries in 12 months — a “senior gap year” that was prompted by the death of his wife of 40 years.
She had lived with cancer for some time, but in 2016 her condition began to deteriorate rapidly and she died a week later.
“It all happened quite suddenly,” Mr Herrmann said.
“She kept saying, as she lay there in her final hours, ‘I can’t believe this is happening’.
“That just really struck me how life can be snatched away at a moment.”
Finding himself back in the same position he was in decades earlier — single with no dependents — Mr Herrmann made a radical decision to set his life on a different course.
Mr Herrmann visited Rainbow Mountain in Peru during his adventure. (Supplied: Chris Herrmann)
He sold his apartment and car, put all his belongings into storage and booked a round-the-world ticket.
“Some people said, ‘are you doing it to find yourself?’,” Mr Herrmann said.
“[But] I just felt that chapter of my life had come to an end. There was another door there I had to open.”
Embracing the backpacker experience
His adult children were apprehensive at first and Mr Herrmann had doubts of his own.
“The voice inside my head was coming up with a hundred different reasons not to do it,” he said.
“‘You’re too old. What if you got sick?’ All those things that keep you up at night.
“But my gut feeling would just say, ‘shut up, get on with it, get going’.”
He first landed in Spain, with no understanding of the language, no accommodation booked and no plans.
“There were a few days there I thought, ‘what have I done?'” he said.
“But I had this thought that if something made me feel uncomfortable, then I pushed myself to do it.”
Mr Hermann said it took him some time to adjust to his travelling lifestyle. (Supplied: Chris Herrmann)
Mr Hermann travelled through parts of Europe, North Africa, Central America and South-East Asia.
He visited volcanoes in Nicaragua, drank beers on the beach in Costa Rica, went sandboarding in Peru and trekked through the rainforest in Colombia.
Determined to immerse himself in the backpacker lifestyle, he stayed in hostels with other, much younger, travellers.
“The rooms would be full of all these people younger than my own kids,” he said.
“They’d come away for a bit of freedom and here was this old man.
“You’d take a bit of a gulp and climb up to the top bunk.
“But once I got to engage with them and told my story they’d say, ‘you’re a legend’. That came up a few times.”
Mr Herrmann wants older people to embrace travel in the same way younger people do. (Supplied: Chris Herrmann)
Travel not just for younger generations
Now back in Perth, Mr Herrmann wants to encourage other older people to consider a senior gap year like his, because he believes there is no reason why younger people should have all the fun.
“There’s an inspiring, adventurous and confident generation out there,” he said.
“We didn’t have the same opportunity when we were that age but we’ve got it now and we’re missing out.
“If travel is a passion or something you aspire to, just do it.”
He said his wife would have been cheering him on the entire way.
“She would have been saying, ‘look, just get on with life’. We’d had that great chapter and she would have been right behind it.”
Mr Herrmann said he wants other older people to consider a ‘senior gap year’. (ABC News: Charlotte Hamlyn)