The GypsyNesters on selling the empty nest and traveling the world
From paragliding in Peru to the dingy Catacombs of Paris, this irreverent empty nest couple did what most of us only dream of after the kids are out – they sold their belongings and embarked on a journey to travel the world. Known now as The GypsyNesters, David and Veronica James inspire others and show no signs of stopping.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your lifestyle.
We are David & Veronica, The GypsyNesters. That’s a combination of empty nester and gypsy. For six years we have been traveling full time. Little did we know when we set out how much our lives were about to change by doing what we call Going Gypsy. The decision to take off traveling, and more importantly to write about our adventures, has led to us seeing and doing things we never could have imagined.
We weren’t really “bucket list” keepers, we just wanted to explore, but visiting the Galapagos Islands with all of the amazing wildlife and volcanic scenery, or Machu Picchu and the Inca ruins and trying to figure out how they accomplished the incredible stonework, or snorkeling the Great Barrier reef in Australia, or just standing on top of the Great Wall of China, those really do belong on an inventory of once in a lifetime experiences. We still don’t really keep a list, but one thing we have certainly found is that the more places we see, the more we learn about new places we want to see.
What was life like before?
We definitely identified ourselves as parents. Veronica called herself a helicopter mom, always hovering over the kids. She even worked at the school that all three graduated from. But raising kids should be a very hands-on job, and it seems to have paid good dividends in our kids as they embarked on their adult lives.
What prompted your lifestyle change?
Like most every couple, we faced a ‘now what?’ moment as our last kid moved out of the house. There was a big empty nest looming over this new and uncertain stage in our lives, but we chose to look at this next phase of life as a beginning instead of an ending.
We had been living on the island of St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands for eight years, and that feeling of being somewhat isolated from our family and friends up in the states, plus Veronica’s reluctance to go back to the school now that all of our kids were gone, prompted us to do something drastic.
So rather than staying put and facing the constant reminders of empty bedrooms and backseats, we developed a plan to sell the nest and hit the highway. But the question then was – could a homebody, helicopter mom learn to let go of her heartstrings and house keys all at once?
Describe your journey.
Our original plan was to take about a year or so, what we like to call a victory lap, to travel and celebrate getting all of our kids successfully off on their own. We decided that the best, and most economical, way to do that would be to buy a used motor-home. We found a beat up old guy on eBay and figured that we would travel until we saw all of our friends and family or the RV blew up. Well, the old Chevy kept running, and we fell in love with the gypsy life, so six years later we are still roaming.
Were there any low points?
Learning to adapt to each other’s ideas and style of traveling took a small toll. We had to compromise because I had a get there, see it, and move on to the next thing, kind of attitude, while Veronica liked to take her time, soak things in, and get to know a place. Things came to a head in Yellowstone National Park when after several days of running ragged trying to see everything, we rounded a corner on our bikes and ran square into a herd of buffalo. Veronica freaked out a little, a blow up ensued, and we realized that we needed to meet in the middle…without the buffalo.
What was the hardest part?
Honestly, the hardest thing we have done was writing our book Going Gypsy: One Couple’s Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All. The idea seemed simple enough, just share our story and all of the laughs and discoveries we made along the way. But getting it exactly the way we wanted it to be took over two years, plus another year going through finding a publisher and then the editing. We are very happy with the end result though, so it was all worth it.
What are some of the things you learned along the way?
The biggest thing we learned was that by going to new places, trying new things, and sharing experiences, we grew closer together as a couple. For us it was through traveling, but it wouldn’t have to be. Just try anything together that neither partner has ever done, cooking classes, art, writing, volunteering, anything. That way both are discovering things at the same time and it has given us so much to talk about. Most importantly, it has allowed us to rediscover the fun-loving youngsters who fell in love over three decades ago.
Did you meet any new people?
We have met so many great new friends, especially in the travel writing community. Our paths cross either while we are traveling, or at conferences or conventions, and it is always fun to finally meet people that we have known online for years sometimes.
We have also had the pleasure of meeting many people all over the world that we would never have had the chance to get to know if we hadn’t become GypsyNesters.
How has this change affected you?
The impact on our lives has been huge, not only as we transitioned into being a couple again, but also in how we relate to our adult children. Being on the go all of the time has allowed us to step back and let them make their own ways in the world. It has shown us that while we will always be their parents, we don’t always need to be parenting anymore.
What advice would you give to someone else considering a new lifestyle?
One big thing we found was that the hardest part was just jumping in and doing it. Once we took the plunge, the rest of the obstacles became individual problems that needed to be solved, and that wasn’t too hard.
We also always like to point out that no one should feel like they need to do the same things that we did. No need to be that crazy. Find what works and go with it!
We are excited to be going to Africa later this year. That will make six out of seven continents for us, leaving only Antarctica.
*You can follow The GypsyNesters’ adventures on Twitter @gypsynester or visit their website www.gypsynester.com where you can also purchase their book Going Gypsy: One Couple’s Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All.
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