What does it take to be crowned winner of the innovative new BBC series, Race Across the World? In an impressive turn of events, former PE teachers, Tony and Elaine Teasdale raced twelve-thousand miles across twenty-one countries and four seas to be the first to reach Singapore and take the 2019 title.
At 62, the pair were the oldest in the competition, which saw six couples attempting to reach the Far East on a limited budget, and without a smartphone in sight. Oh, and did we mention that they weren’t allowed to take a single flight?
Tony and Elaine used a combination of life and travel skills to navigate their way across the globe before three million viewers saw them fall into each other’s arms at the final checkpoint. We talked to the happy couple about their time spent on the BBC2 show to find out what inspired them to take part, and what the reaction to their win suggests about attitudes towards people in their age bracket…
Firstly, congratulations on winning Race Across The World. What an achievement! What inspired you to apply for the show in the first place?
Our children had all done several gap years. Our generation didn’t do that so we wanted a ‘gap’ holiday!
Have you always had an adventurous spirit or is this something that has developed over the years?
We were always adventurous. We took our children on safari in Africa, skiing, camping, and we travelled through Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. Before we had children, we hitch-hiked from New York to Toronto.
Thinking back across a gruelling journey, what were the toughest moments you faced? What did you learn about yourselves as you overcame them?
We found it tough in Northern China as we did three 27-hour slow trains in a row on hard seats. Passengers were smoking and spitting constantly, and the toilets were gross. We learnt to just tolerate this and quietly carry on, though it was very grim.
When you arrive at the final checkpoint in Singapore to discover that you had won, you both seemed visibly emotional and shocked. Thinking back to the moment you started your journey, how confident do you feel that you could be serious challengers?
In the China leg we were last to reach the checkpoint and were disappointed in our performance, knowing we could do better. We gained confidence through this to ‘fight back’. We planned carefully and stayed focused on the journey after that.
After the final episode, much has been made about your age – there seems genuine surprise that a couple of 62-year olds could beat younger competitors. Do you think that viewers and other teams underestimated you?
We think the challenge suited older people as generally older people are better at looking through train and bus windows patiently rather than feeling frustrated and wanting to be out doing things all the time.
Every young person we met on our journey was inspired by us, especially in the hostel in Krabi where the oldest guest was no more than 24. We were conscious of our age more than they were. We were in a mixed dormitory with 12 young people. We think viewers often referred to us as the ‘old’ couple but not in a derogatory sense. They obviously related more to people their own age group whereas older people can relate to all age groups as they have experience of all ages.
Our competitors saw us as ‘the dark horses’ in a surprising way. We think old people need to accept age as a blessing rather than a disability.
What do you think the media reaction tells us about attitudes to people in their 50s, 60s and beyond?
The media maybe underestimates the potential of older people thinking they are physically not as strong as younger people or as quick thinking. However, older people have usually experienced lots in life to give them resilience and patience to see things through.
We are not to be written off! In the workplace we are the generation that has been written off as expensive to employ, and no better performing than a young person, an attitude that is not good for young or old!
You’re both retired, having finished your careers as PE Teachers. How was the transition to retirement? Did you go cold turkey or did you phase out working life in some way?
We went cold turkey but straight into caring for elderly sick parents and grandchildren, so we were busier than ever! For this reason the transition was easy.
What do you think older workers can bring to a workplace environment?
We think older workers can bring a sense of perspective to the working environment since, (as in our profession) changes and new strategies go round and round and are nothing to lose sleep about. Work needs to be enjoyable and satisfying. There seems to be lots of unnecessary stress in the workplace today.
What’s next for you now the competition is over?
We would like to see more of our huge world (on a budget) and for long periods of time (whilst we have the mental and physical capacity to do so).
Your story is inspirational to our members and proves that age really is just a number. Everyone should feel like they are able to do something new and exciting, whatever their circumstances. What would you say to our members who have an urge to do something different and challenging, but feel inhibited or don’t know where to start?
It is easy to slip into an easy comfortable life and not challenge yourself or take risks. There is so much to see and do and in doing and seeing it we grow and become an inspiration for others, especially our families. One of the best things about doing Race Across the World for us was experiencing the pride our children and grandchildren had for us.
Did you see Race Around the World? Do you think your life experience would earn you the crown? Email us at [email protected] – we’d love to hear your thoughts!