The Day Shelby Tucker was a Passenger on my Scooter

The Moto Quest seems to bring incredibly rousing and quite famous people into my life. Not only has Neale Bayly became one of my “moto” mentors, he introduced me via email to Shelby Tucker, one of the most inspiring adventurers with 78 years of age behind him. When the sun rises in a few hours, he will have turned 79. You think what I am doing is brave and extraordinary? Try imagining a 79 year old hitchhiking through Indonesia!! Can you? I couldn’t, until I was honored to meet this wonderful man in person. Shelby Tucker is an outstanding author. His most popular book is “Among Insurgents: Walking Through Burma”, a non-fictional read about crossing Burma on foot, at a time when land access to Burma was prohibited. Besides countless crossings and travels, Shelby also hitchhiked from the UK to and through India in his twenties, and did the same trip 50 years later. Shelby is currently writing about these two unbelievable journeys and I can’t wait to get a hold of that book when it’s completed. Shelby Tucker in Indonesia meeting TMQ After riding up and down Jalan Raya Tuban in Kuta for the third time, trying to find the little B&B Shelby was staying, while waiting for his Timor visa, I finally arrived and sat in the lobby of this austerely accommodation, dolled up for a dinner with an inspirational gentleman. A white haired man came down the stairs with two pairs of glasses hanging around his neck, an old bag over his shoulder, that he told me later, had travelled with him around the world for over 50 years, an Indonesian map in one hand, and one of his books tucked under his arm. He greeted me with a lovely hug and some charming words that Neale hadn’t warned him what a gorgeous lady he was going to meet. A little flattered and very excited for the chance to spend the evening with him, I invited him on my scooter to head out for some dinner at a warung*. The last time he visited Bali was in the early 60’s and he talked about how much has changed since then, while we were cruising through the crowded streets of Kuta. A man with so many stories to tell was humble enough to ask me a million questions about myself and my life, before I finally got to hear about some of his ventures. Based on my own travel plans though South East Asia, he shared stories about his trip through Laos with “Herrmann the German”, who apparently looked like Adonis and knows how to get you a of a dangerous situation with a great sense of humor. (Yes, Germans can actually have a sense of humor!). My head rested on the palm of my hand and my eyes were wide open as he spoke, he took my breath away with his thrilling and funny tales. Shelby told me what the beauty of hitch hiking was: That people tell you the most interesting and personal stories. There is no restriction to the conversations because they know you’ll get out of their vehicle in a few km and you’ll stay a stranger, knowing they will never see you again. Quite often the last ride of the day also offers food and a bed. Knowing how much he’s traveled by himself, I wanted to know about Shelby’s wife, who as he told me prefers a comfortable holiday with quality time by the beach. After he dragged her along for an astonishing adventure through Africa for their honeymoon, he called himself lucky that she didn’t get a divorce one month later. Instead of a bed of roses, like a freshly married woman would dream off, she found herself outdoors in Africa in a sleeping bag attacked by ants or in restaurants with bathroom walls covered in poop and being served by a waiter with leprosy. I wonder what a man would have to deal with being married to a gypsy soul like me? Well, I’m definitely not dreaming of that bed of roses… He warned me, that by Sigmund Freud I had to be careful not to get the typical symptom of “Torschusspanik” when I hit my mid thirties. A woman without a man is like a horse with three legs, he reckons. Shelby was reflecting back on his unmarried and childless friends. Many of them find themselves unhappy and depressed at a later age. The only way to prevent this, Shelby said, is having a great passion for something and to go for a swim each morning. Yes, we did not only speak about adventures, but about love, relationships, politics, education and writing. By the time we had finished our Cap Cay, a traditional Indonesian dish, we had shared things like how a volcano has taught each of us more or less insightful lessons about life, our very different Australia experiences, and how we both got to meet Neale. Many of our stories couldn’t be any more dissimilar and our age difference not much greater, but we have one major thing in common, not having a planned journey, but following the road wherever it leads. It became a night much later that Shelby is used to and when I dropped him back at the hotel, we got to take this photo together. He wanted to give me something to remember on my way, some words his dad had told him. “Be careful that no man will ever waste your beauty. Don’t meet someone over and over again, unless he can see himself being committed to this relationship. A woman’s beauty is her capital in life, it’s not fair of any man to take it away from her.” Selamat Malam & Happy 79th birthday, Shelby!! Shelby Tucker    *A warung is a type of small family-owned casual shop or café in Indonesia and Malaysia. A warung is an essential part of daily life in Indonesia.

One thought on “The Day Shelby Tucker was a Passenger on my Scooter

  1. I met Shelby Tucker traveling in Nicaragua in 1985….he has been a friend, mentor and inspiration ever since. On my return to my native England, I went to Oxford one day to find Shelby, arriving unannounced. His dear, sweet wife Carole invited me in for tea where I met another man who had also arrived, unannounced, to visit with Shelby. He had met him in Afghanistan. It’s never been anything less than wild with Shelby. His travels around this planet are simply beyond comprehension and he continues, approaching 80 years of age, to write and travel and inspire me and countless others. How could I have ever thought in 1985 I could introduce him to a friend in Indonesia when I’m in America and he in England over the internet so they could meet for a ride on a scooter. It’s a wild world.

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