We may all have dreams of travelling once the kids leave home, but one couple, David and Veronica James , took the plunge, sold their home and set off on their travels, becoming ‘gypsynesters’. We asked them to share some of their remarkable experiences with Fabafterfifty readers.
What prompted you to become ‘gypsynesters’?
How far ahead did you start to plan?
When our middle daughter graduated from high school and went off to college, the reality of an impending empty nest hit us. In three more years the last chick would fly from the nest. We felt it important that our transition from Mommy and Daddy (and in Veronica’s case Helicopter Mom) to an empty nest, just the two of us, couple needed a thoughtful approach. So we googled “empty nest” and were put into a bit of a panic when the first thing that popped up was an ad for an Alzheimer’s patch! Holy crap! We just finished raising our kids, we’re not dying!
A huge part of the concept was fear of Boomerang Kids. We figured if we didn’t have a house to boomerang to, the kids would know we were serious about them making their own way in the world.
For more on this: http://www.gypsynester.com/lifeafterkids.htm
Was it easy to sell up and not have a proper ‘home’?
No. It was quite frightening, actually. It didn’t help that half of our family and friends thought we were nuts. Whittling down a marriage’s worth of memories to a few storage boxes was an herculean effort. See: http://www.gypsynester.com/16.htm
How have you found spending so much time together?
How has gypsynesting affected your relationship?
In some ways this is a bonus time for us since we spent a huge portion of our first twenty years of marriage separated because David’s work as a musician required him to travel almost constantly. Now we get to make up for some of that lost time. What we found, and are still finding, is that newly minted empty nest couples need to share experiences that are new to both partners. Traveling has often been the best way for us to do this. Our plan took on a life of its own leading us to sell everything, including our house. Now everyday is a new experience and our relationship is stronger than ever.
What do your kids think about their parents being gypsynesters?
The Boy’s initial reaction to our motorhome was, “You’re going to sleep in your car?!” He’s come around to our lifestyle, however.
In general, the kids are relieved – we were extremely involved parents and we’re sure there was a fear that we would be too involved with their lives as adults. They are thrilled we are happily bopping around and not languishing over their departure. As an added bonus, we’re an off-beat story for them to share with their friends.
How far have you travelled so far?
Actually, our first trip was to Europe on the very same day we put our youngest in college. Since then, we have circumnavigated the entire US, with jaunts into Canada and Mexico, two more trips to Europe, took a crazy two week rail trip on Amtrak and have an upcoming cruise to Central America. At one point we bought a beat up old motorhome on Ebay for $3000 and did a tour of the western US national parks. So a rough guess – about a hundred thousand miles.
What’s been the highlight of your gypsynesting experience so far?
Wow, camping right on The Sea of Cortez in Puerto Penasco, Mexico, staying in a centuries old winery in Italy, feeling dwarfed by the Redwoods, watching Old Faithful, a summer’s day on the waterfront in Montreal – it would be too hard to choose one, but we can say that the most rewarding thing we’ve learned is that the great majority of folks out there are good people.
Are there things you’d wished you’d thought of before you started?
Initially, we were trying to hard to see everything in a minimum amount of time. We had been known to vacation like that, but this isn’t a vacation, it’s our lives. So we have learned to dial back the day to day planning, embrace the unexpected and look for the unknown gems along the way.
The low points of ‘gypsynesting’
Have there been any ‘low’ points?
Surprisingly few, we often look at each other and say, “we lead a charmed life.” It’s hard not to feel that way so. I guess the closest to a “low point” story may be when Veronica locked herself into a hotel room in Italy:
Having never spent any time alone in a foreign country, I’m extremely excited to roam the streets of Casale Monferrato, a charming little town in northern Italy. Romantically picturing myself strolling the streets among the afternoon shoppers, I ask David to put together a list of items to buy for a late night hotel picnic after his rehearsal. He suggests salami, cheese, olives, bread and wine. I’m so excited that I practically chase him out of the room so I may get on my way. I give him a kiss and a shove as I kick the door shut behind him.
Alone in the hotel room, I hastily change into what I think is proper shopping attire, making sure I’ve got my Euros, the hotel room key and David’s list. I jot down the words I need to know – salume, formaggio, pane, vino. I’m ready.
Feeling all Audrey-Hepburn-in-Roman-Holiday, I toss my hair over my shoulder and grab the door knob. It fails to turn. It’s locked. Great.
I step back and take a look at the door. Pretty standard setup – a brass knob with a push button lock, a deadbolt with the standard thumbturn mechanism. The knob lock’s push button is popped out, but the thumbturn is set in a horizontal position. How did that happen? David knew I was going out and he wouldn’t have thrown the deadbolt to lock me in. Maybe it’s automatic, a security thing.
I throw the thumbturn to vertical, grab the knob and pull. No good. The knob itself isn’t turning, making me think that the deadbolt is the only thing holding the door shut. I can hear the deadbolt sliding as I move it back and forth, tugging on the door each time.
A uncomfortable sweat is beading in my hairline. I push in the knob button and it pops right back out, causing a crazed yanking frenzy and a full-blown sweat.
Then it hits me – call the front desk! Wait. The clerk and I have no language in common, how am I going to explain my predicament? Great. Problem solved – there’s no phone in the room.
Cell phone! I dig it out of my bag. I don’t have the front desk number. I frantically rummage through drawers for an Italian version of the yellow pages or a match book or anything with the hotel number on it and come up empty.
Determined not to call David, admit defeat and catch the onslaught of teasing that was sure to follow, I sit on the bed and glare at the door. On the other side I can hear someone in the hallway, but my desperation level hasn’t reached pound-on-the-door-to-beg-some-weary-traveler-for-help yet. It’s just a freaking door – how hard can this be?
I check the door hinges to be sure I’ve been pulling in the proper direction. I repeatedly flip the deadbolt and tug. The stupid thing must be broken.
Audrey-Hepburn-in-Roman-Holiday has now officially become Audrey-Hepburn-in-Wait-Until-Dark. Casting all dignity aside, I throw myself at the door and start wailing on it hoping for rescue. No one’s around. Crap.
Italian door: 1. Veronica: 0.
I reluctantly pick up my cell phone and call David.
“Yeah honey, what’s up?”
“I can’t get out of the hotel room and don’t you dare make fun of me because I’m really pissed off,” I say through clenched teeth. “The friggin’ lock is broken.”
“It’s not broken, the button on the knob opens it. You just have to push it…”
“I DID THAT! IT WON’T STAY IN!” I yell, grabbing the unturnable knob.
“…and hold it in while you pull the door.”
I push the button and yank on the door in a total hissy fit. I’m knocked to the floor with the force of the door flying open.
“Thanks,” I sheepishly whisper.
Oh, we managed to lock ourselves out of a tiny motel on a freezing night in Vermont one time too. No keys, no phone to call the night clerk, no wallet, just stepped out side to see the snow and clunk, locked out. Luckily the people in the next room overheard us before we froze to death.
Are you planning to always be gypsy nesters?
Veronica: “I’ve changed so much, I’m sometimes unrecognizable to myself. I went from the fearful helicopter mom, happily anchored to one spot, to someone who cannot sit still for more than three days without going stir-crazy.”
David: “Our philosophy is the plan is no plans, so I could never say never, but at this point it is really hard to imagine ever settling down and staying in one place for very long.”
You can read more about David and Veronica’s travels at http://www.gypsynester.com/