How these “elderly nomads” (sometimes) toured the world during the pandemic
Through David Jarmul, Next avenue
Reed Kimbrough, 70, a former Army pilot and executive, and his wife, Charlcye, 65, who worked in broadcast and sales, traveled widely before retiring in October 2018 and they in March 2020. They jumped from Colorado to New York City and international from China to South Africa. A year ago they considered taking a cruise with Tom Joyner (he’s a popular radio host who also hosts cruises) and a trip to Australia and New Zealand.
Then the pandemic changed its plans.
Annoying? Sure, but the Kimbroughs were safe and sound and still at home in Atlanta. So they stayed in the States and plan to resume their travels soon – domestically first. “We feel good now that we got the vaccine,” says Reed.
A challenging year for global “senior nomades”
Other older so-called “senior nomads” who had given up their US homeland and had the opportunity to travel full-time around the world in retirement found the past year far more difficult.
Many were stuck overseas as the pandemic spread and borders closed. They struggled to adjust their travel plans and retirement dreams.
Mary Tipton Nixon, 64, and her husband Ken, 69, sold their Michigan home and began their nomadic journey in February 2016. She had worked in human resources and he was a systems engineer. The Nixons were in Australia at the start of the pandemic and planning to travel to Southeast Asia.
Instead, they made their way to New Zealand, “where we had four weeks of strict, rigorous lockdown; no takeaway, nothing,” says Mary. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describe New Zealand’s Covid-19 level as “low”.
The Nixons stayed in New Zealand and “life is one hundred percent normal,” notes Mary. You have hiked regularly, grateful for your safety, and determined to explore other countries if possible.
“It’s so liberating not to have a home,” says Mary. But she adds, “Some people think we’re crazy.”
International travel, however, remains difficult. Most countries are on the State Department’s Level 4 Do Not Travel list.
ReAnn Scott spent the first part of the pandemic with an American friend in a Portuguese fishing village. When they were due to leave last summer, their flights were canceled; both desperately rebooked before they finally reached their destination.
Scott moved into a house in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico that – before the pandemic – was dubbed the best place to retire in the world (the CDC says Mexico’s Covid-19 levels are “very high” right now).
Scott is still there, but he’s restless. As a retired entrepreneur, she has spent the last five years house sitting, pet sitting and blogging in 34 countries.
“After a year without traveling except for my vaccinations to the US, I can’t wait to get on a plane and fly away,” she says.
Scott recently turned 75.
The Campbells retired from careers in graphic design and sports marketing and began traveling in 2013. Since then, they have visited 85 countries from Africa to Australia and stayed in more than 270 Airbnbs.
“We can’t wait to come to Europe to see our family in France and to visit the parts of Central Asia and Russia that we missed last year,” says Debbie, who reports that others see similar optimism from others who post on the couple’s Senior Nomads Facebook group page.
Other high-ranking nomads who were temporarily back in the US hope this will not be the case for much longer.
Take Toni Farmer, 66, and her British husband, Peter, 70. They lived and worked in Chicago; she as assistant to the management, he in international sales. After a friend suddenly died a few years ago at the age of 57, the Farmers made dramatic changes to their lives for retirement despite limited savings. “Life is too short”, Toni remembers how they thought. “We sold everything except a few suitcases and traveled around the world.”
Temporarily in Tennessee
They lived in San Antonio, Texas when the pandemic broke out and then rented a furnished home in Tennessee. Since the farmers needed a permanent address for insurance and tax reasons and to renew Peter’s green card, they bought the site.
“Buying a house wasn’t what we wanted, but it was the most practical and easiest,” says Toni.
She looks forward to new trips, from hiking in the Carpathian Mountains to visits to Poland and Morocco, but is longing to be a homeowner again.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed their attitudes.
“This freedom to be a ‘nomad’ – without worrying about whether the roof needs to be replaced or the tax bills go up – is gone forever,” she says.
Other nomads continued to travel internationally.
“We’ve been conscientious about the use of masks and social distancing, and have felt that we are balancing minimizing health risks with the life of our lives,” said Iris Stone, 66.
Stone retired from a job at a major bank and her husband, Patrick, 71, ran a house cleaning franchise. In the early days of the pandemic, they broke off a trip to the Seychelles and went to South Carolina and Florida. Last summer they started traveling around the world again, first to the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico, then to Jordan, Egypt, Tanzania and finally Croatia.
“This was the first time in our nomadic years that it would have been nice to have a home base,” says Iris. “We spent a lot of time learning about the restrictions and requirements from country to country. We were very flexible and just drove to the places we could visit.”
Although she says travel has been “different” due to curfews and masking requirements, and many notable places and events have been closed or canceled due to Covid-19, “we were very fortunate to see landmarks such as the pyramids, tombs and temples of Egypt “. and Petra in Jordan with so few tourists – a once in a lifetime opportunity. “
Tom Allin and his wife Nancy, both in their early 70s, say they’re happy to be senior nomads despite pandemic restrictions abroad. They have been spending a large part of their time abroad since 2016.
“Despite all the travel problems, we’re happier traveling than sitting at home in front of the TV and eating and drinking ourselves into an early death,” says Tom, who previously worked for major international construction companies. Nancy is a former medical librarian.
You recently visited Morocco, Turkey and Iceland and are now in southern Africa.
Some elderly nomads say they spent as much or less money overseas than American homeowners.
Rod Sedlacek, 70, a former federal employee who also worked in the construction industry, weathered the pandemic with his wife, Rose, 66, in Costa Rica. He says, “Although Costa Rica is expensive by Latin American standards, we could never afford a similar lifestyle and location in the US.”
The couple sold everything after retiring in 2018. “The nomadic life was a natural fit,” says Rod.
They have traveled in Mexico, Europe, and elsewhere, and traveled to Costa Rica “pretty much randomly” in November 2019 to save money before returning to Europe. “The trip to Costa Rica turned out to be a monumental stroke of luck, although we could hardly have guessed it at the time,” says Rod.
Ken Nixon said he and his wife have been offered vacation homes and free Airbnbs by New Zealand locals they have befriended. Ken says “health insurance is cheaper for both of them” than it is in the US and “we don’t have a car or a house”.
All in all, many international senior nomads expect to continue their search, see new places, and meet new people.
“Full-time travelers are hard to keep in one place,” notes Debbie Campbell. “Everyone strives to pick up where they left off.”