Saturday, October 10, 2015

Launching the Junior Nomads!

The Junior Nomads leaving Portland, Oregon - off to see the world!
Three years ago, Michael and I sat at our dining room table in Seattle and began scribbling notes on a sheet of paper that very soon became several sheets of paper, around the subject of what retirement might look like for us. We have a ten year age difference that has enriched and influenced our marriage over the past 37 years and now it was time, once again, to recalibrate and see what our next phase looked like. At the time Michael was 67 and I was and 57. One of us old enough to legitimately retire, the other eager to tag along! We'd had several life-changing experiences together - Michael even more so, including a successful stint as a professional race car driver before I met him. What might that next adventure be?

Not ready for rocking chairs quite yet!
We have four grown children and five young grandchildren and keeping involved in their lives is an adventure of it's own. Our oldest son Alistair and his family are a three hour drive down the road from Seattle to Portland, however, three of our grandchildren live in Paris. During our musings on retirement, our daughter Mary (mother of the Parisian children) suggested we might want to "travel full time... maybe, I don't know, in Europe?" We couldn't imagine we could afford to do that but she also asked if we had ever heard of Airbnb. At that time, we had not.

Airbnb became the ticket to living affordability in cities all over Europe and beyond.
Whether Mary had an ulterior motive to get us closer to France or not, we certainly thank her for the suggestion, because what seemed an impossible dream financially began to take shape. Once we looked into Airbnb  Michael began one of his favorite pass times, "Crunching the Numbers". The model would be to live in other peoples homes in Europe exclusively using Airbnb unless we were staying with friends. It turned out that if we sold most everything we owned, rented our house, put the remainder in a small storage unit and reduced our monthly expenses to the bare minimum, the travel dream was attainable and project Senior Nomads was launched. Since the day we padlocked the storage we have visited 45 countries, 125 cities and lived in 80 different Airbnbs. This past August we finished two years of almost continuous travel through Europe, Morocco, Israel, the Balkans, and most recently Russia.

We are still having fun, still learning, and still in love. I guess we'll keep going!
We left St. Petersburg on August 19th and headed to France to spend ten action packed days with most of our family. The gathering included our French family, our oldest daughter Kelly, who joined us from Seattle, Alistair, his wife Jenny and their two kids.We rented a large, rambling house in Quiberon, the village on the Brittany coast where Gregoire's parents live. Sadly our son Christopher and his wife Jamie couldn't make the trip, but at least all 5 cousins ranging in age from 15 months to ten years old could be together for the first time!

The big house we filled top to bottom in Quiberon. It was perfect - although not an Airbnb.

Heading out for a bike ride in the rain.

The daily bakery run
Siblings at the Saturday market.
Grandpa had a great time reading to his many grandchildren.
Sisters on the move with Baby Jacques.
Cousins movie night!
Happy in the kitchen preparing a huge pot of local mussels
Everyone digging in at one of dozens of meals together. The best part!
We had great expectations of long, sun filled days at the beach, but for most of our stay we had steady rain. That didn't keep us from having a great time cooking, (over-eating), playing games, building blanket forts, watching movies, riding bikes in the wind and rain, reading, and when the sun did come out, rushing to the beach for a quick swim.

A quick trip to the beach on one of the rare sunny afternoons.
Who knew how many places you can find sand on a baby!
Here's the twist! About six months ago when we were in Prague, Alistair and Jenny sent a text asking for some advice and could we set up a call. Of course it's always nice when your children seek guidance, but these two are very accomplished on most every front, so we couldn't imagine what the situation might be. With a nine hour time difference, we'd just have to wait until the next day to find out what was up.

Hello world! Here come the Junior Nomads.
It turned out that our travels where so inspiring to them that they were planning to quit their successful jobs (at age 42), take Spencer (8) and Lucy (10) out of school and travel the world for a year. Pause. Double pause. And then we burst out in cheers and tears. How bold and amazing is that?
At that point they hadn't shared their vision with their kids so we had some fun strategizing around just how to do that. Of course hitting the road with two school age children was something we couldn't imagine - but were in that same place three years ago, and now we know anything is possible if you imagine it. 

It doesn't get much better than this!
Spencer and Lucy enjoying their "classroom" in Italy.
Both adults would be leaving successful careers, Jenny as a Senior Global Director of Nike + Member Services and Alistair as partner at The Great Society, a fast growing ad-agency, but when they gave their notice, both were asked to think of this as a leave-of-absence and they would have jobs waiting for them when they returned. They rented their house, sold a lot of stuff, made twenty trips to Goodwill and boned up on home-schooling with the world as your classroom! As they say, imitation is the greatest form of flattery...and we couldn't be happier with these copycats.

The Campbells on the road in Montenegro. We hope our paths cross along the way.
Since we waved goodbye in Quiberon on August 30th, they have been to the Netherlands, Germany, Croatia, Montengro, and are currently on the Amalfi coast in Italy. They've already had several adventures and of course, as we know well, that's what this is all about  You can keep up with them #campbellamble.

Michael and I enjoying time with daughter Kelly in Dinan, France.
As for us, we left Brittany with our oldest daughter Kelly and headed up the coast to Normandy to take in the the D-Day sights. I'll write a quick re-cap of that next.

Thanks for following along!

Debbie and Michael Campbell
The Senior Nomads


  1. I love your blog, and this one - with a little more back story on your current adventures - is particularly interesting. At age 55, I'm now doing full-time what I'd worked at part-time: writing and producing high quality, low budget independent movies. It's great to see other people following their passion!

    1. Thanks Mara. We are back in Seattle for the time being, but leaving for France and beyond in November. Life is good and just gets better when you can do what you love. Send me a link to your work!

  2. How simply wonderful! I must say that to have an experience like that as a kid just fills me with joy with a hint of envy! Congratulations to the Junior Nomads. :-)

    1. It is so amazing to see them do this. I can't imagine our travels with kids and school involved, but if anyone can do it these two can! Thanks for being such a faithful reader.

  3. How exciting! You certainly are an inspiration!

  4. Thanks for sharing your experience with all of us. People in their old age will also get inspired by you to enjoy their life. You are simply an inspiration to all and the pictures are simply amazing.
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