How these “superior nomads” (sometimes) traveled the world during the pandemic

Through David Jarmul, Next avenue

Reed Kimbrough, 70, former army pilot and senior executive, and his wife Charlcye, 65, who worked in broadcast and sales, traveled extensively before retiring in October 2018 and her in March 2020. They went from Colorado to New York and internationally from China to South Africa. A year ago, they were considering a Tom Joyner cruise (he’s a popular radio host who also hosts cruises) and a trip to Australia and New Zealand.

Then the pandemic upset their plans.

Disruptive? Sure, but the Kimbroughs were safe and sound and still had their home in Atlanta. So they remained in the United States and plan to resume their travels soon – first at the national level. “We feel great now that we’ve been vaccinated,” Reed said.

A difficult year for the world’s “senior nomads”

Other older so-called “senior nomads” who have given up their homes in the United States and been able to afford to travel the world full-time in retirement have found it much more difficult last year.

Many found themselves stranded abroad as the pandemic spread and borders closed. They rushed 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, him as a systems engineer. The Nixons were in Australia at the start of the pandemic, planning to travel to Southeast Asia.

Instead, they headed to New Zealand, “where we had four weeks of strict, strict confinement; no takeout, nothing, “says Mary. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls New Zealand’s Covid-19 level” low. “

The Nixons remained in New Zealand and “life is one hundred percent just fine,” notes Mary. They hiked regularly, grateful for their safety and determined to explore other countries when possible.

“It’s so liberating not to have a home,” says Mary. But, she adds, “Some people think we’re crazy.”

However, international travel remains difficult. Most countries are at US State Department level four Advisory list “Do not travel”.

ReAnn Scott spent the first part of the pandemic locked up with an American friend in a Portuguese fishing village. When they planned to leave last summer, their flights were canceled; the two frantically changed reservations before finally reaching their destinations.

Become restless

Scott moved to a house in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, which – before the pandemic – was called the best place in the world to retire (CDC says Mexico’s Covid-19 level is currently “very Student “).

Scott is still there but is restless. A retired entrepreneur, she has spent the previous five years looking after homes, herding animals and blogging in 34 countries.

“After a year of no travel except to return to the United States for my vaccines, I can’t wait to get on the plane and fly,” she says.

Scott recently celebrated his 75th birthday in Mexico with friends including Debbie and Michael Campbell, 65 and 75, a Seattle couple whose blog and book “Your Keys Our Home” helped popularize the concept of the senior nomad.

The Campbells retired from their careers in graphics and sports marketing and began traveling in 2013. Since then, they have visited 85 countries, from Africa to Australia, staying at over 270 Airbnbs.

“We can’t wait to go to Europe to see our family in France and visit the parts of Central Asia and Russia that we missed last year,” said Debbie, who reports seeing similar optimism from other people posted on the couple’s Senior Nomads Facebook group. page.

Other senior nomads who are temporarily returning to the United States hope that will not be the case for long.

Take Toni Farmer, 66, and her British husband Peter, 70. They lived and worked in Chicago; she as an executive assistant, he in international sales. A few years ago, after the sudden death of a friend at 57, farmers drastically changed their lives to retire despite limited savings. “Life is too short,” Toni remembers thinking. “We sold everything except a few suitcases and traveled the world.”

Temporarily in Tennessee

They were at their home in San Antonio, Texas when the pandemic hit, then rented a furnished house in Tennessee. As the farmers needed a permanent address for insurance and tax purposes and to renew Peter’s green card, they ended up buying the place.

“Buying a house was not what we wanted to do, but it was the most convenient and the easiest,” says Toni.

She looks forward to new trips, from hiking in the Carpathian Mountains to visiting Poland and Morocco, but dreams of becoming a homeowner again.

The Covid-19 pandemic, however, has changed his view of things.

“This freedom to be a ‘nomad’ – never to wonder if the roof needs to be replaced or if tax contributions will go up – is gone forever,” she says.

Other nomads continued to travel abroad.

“We have been diligent in wearing masks and social distancing and felt that we are balancing minimizing health risks while continuing to live our lives,” says Iris Stone, 66.

Stay flexible

Stone retired from a job at a major bank and her husband, Patrick, 71, ran a household franchise. At the start of the pandemic, they cut short a trip to Seychelles and went to South Carolina and Florida. Last summer they started to travel the world again, first to the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico, then to Jordan, Egypt, Tanzania and, more recently, Croatia.

“This is the first time in our nomadic years that it would have been nice to have a home port,” says Iris. “We spent a lot of time keeping up to date with restrictions and requirements, country by country. We were very flexible and just got where we could go.”

Although she says trips have been “different” due to curfews and mask requirements, and many notable venues and events have been closed or canceled due to Covid-19, “we have had very lucky to see sites like the pyramids, tombs and temples of Egypt and Petra in Jordan with so few tourists – a unique opportunity. “

Tom Allin and his wife Nancy, both in the early 1970s, say they have been happy to be senior nomads abroad, despite restrictions linked to the pandemic. Since 2016, they have spent much of their time abroad.

“Even with all of the travel issues, we’re happier traveling than sitting at home watching TV, eating and drinking until we die,” says Tom, who has previously worked with large international construction companies. Nancy is a former medical librarian.

They recently visited Morocco, Turkey and Iceland, and are now in southern Africa.

To save money

Some elderly nomads say they spent the same or less money overseas than they would as 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 lifestyle and location like the United States.”

The couple sold everything after retiring in 2018. “Nomadic life seemed a natural fit,” says Rod.

They have traveled to Mexico, Europe and elsewhere and went to Costa Rica “completely by chance” in November 2019 to save money before returning to Europe. “Traveling to Costa Rica turned out to be a monumental stroke of luck, even though we could hardly tell at the time,” Rod said.

Ken Nixon said he and his wife were offered vacation homes and free Airbnbs by New Zealanders they befriended. Ken says “medical insurance is cheaper” than in the US for both and “we don’t have a car or a house.”

Overall, many international senior nomads expect to continue their quest to discover new places and meet new people.

“Full-time travelers are hard to keep in one place,” notes Debbie Campbell. “Everyone is eager to pick up where they left off.


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