Traded a rocking chair

To mark the new edition of The Travel Book – our epic journey through every country on earth – Lonely Planet talked to Debbie Campbell, half of the blogging couple known as the Senior Nomads. Nearly four years ago, Debbie and her husband Michael left their home in the USA for one last great adventure before retirement, and they’ve been travelling ever since.

We caught up with Debbie in Georgia – the 54th country of the Campbells’ never-ending tour – to talk about how it began, where it might lead, and what they’ve learned along the way.

How did this odyssey begin?

Our daughter Mary lives in Paris with her French husband and our three youngest grandchildren. When they were visiting us in Seattleover Christmas almost four years ago, the subject of our retirement came up. We weren’t sure what the next few years would be like, but we knew we had ‘one more big adventure’ ahead of us before settling into our rocking chairs. We just weren’t sure what that might be.

Mary asked if we had ever heard of Airbnb? We had not. She suggested we think about stopping work earlier and travelling full-time, staying in Airbnbs. At first, we couldn’t imagine doing that – but just six months later we had sold most of our possessions, including our cars and our sailboat, rented our house and put what little was left in storage. We’ve been on the road ever since.

Our philosophy is: we are not on vacation – we are living our daily lives in other people’s homes, just as we would have if we’d retired in Seattle.

What do your family and friends think?

No one expected us to be gone this long, that’s for sure. It’s like we went on vacation and forgot to come back. We know our grown children are very proud of us. And in fact, our oldest son was so inspired that he and his wife quit their jobs and took their two young children out of school for a year making a lap around the world, also living in Airbnbs.

Do you have an end in mind?

We like to say we’ll keep doing this as long as we’re learning something new every day, having fun, staying close to our budget and we are still in love. So far, so good.

Aisle or window seat?

That is something non-negotiable. I always get the window seat.

Do you have any travel habits or rituals?

Well, we do have a few things that could qualify. On the days when we break camp and head to our next city, we sing Willie Nelson’s hit On the Road Again throughout what we call ‘Travel Day’.

Another would be keeping our daily journal up to date. Every evening, we recount the day’s activities and total our expenses. Then we tape the receipts in the book along with any ticket stubs or other reminders. We’ve filled over a dozen books so far and counting.

And we travel with our bed pillows – that way, anywhere we lay our heads is home.