‘We packed up the house, jumped in our van and started to explore’

Jul 03, 2020
Brian and his wife didn't want to spend their retirement watching television and hanging out at the local club. Source: Getty

Could we please stop saying we’re ‘retiring’ and resist ageist terms such as ‘grey nomads’?! For many of us aged 60-plus, ‘retiring’ means stopping the day-to-day routine of that often dreaded four-letter word: W-O-R-K. But are we simply giving up the daily grind or are we actively seeking the next adventure in life?

After all, life really is an adventure, isn’t it? I like to think of it like a movie, with a beginning, middle and end. I wonder how many of you remember the television series Ben Casey and the opening phrase: “Man … Woman … Birth … Death … Infinity”.

We all have different family upbringings, some good, some great, some not so good. Then there’s school. The first job. Some work and personal relationships are better than others… We’re all different. We’ve all been there, done that, right?

It seems that life throws up just as many opportunities as it does obstacles, but the important thing to remember is that the only time available to us all is right now… That time between ‘birth and death’.

What have you done with your life so far? More importantly, what are you going to do with it right now, now that you’ve stopped the ‘daily grind’? Or if not stopped completely at least ‘slowed down’?

Although my wife and I have been fortunate to have lived and worked overseas in several countries before ‘settling’ into jobs here in Australia, we ended up staying in the same house for 26 years. Nothing flash, just a convenient location close to our work at the time.

Over the years the freelance work slowed and we started a micro-business working from home. Big deal! We were still working but not actually ‘doing’ anything.

There have been a few short holidays etc., but really, what on earth were we doing with our lives?!

Then came the inspiration. Some years ago we bought a really old 16-foot Viscount caravan and along with our (at the time) four small dogs did a few short trips away. They were mostly long weekends, that sort of thing. Two years ago we upgraded the van to one with all ‘mod-cons’ and started going further afield.

Long story short, we went to Batlow in southern New South Wales for the Batlow Cider Fest. We ended up meeting and becoming friends with a family of musicians who at the time had been travelling across Australia entertaining people for the better part of three years.

This was ‘The String Family’ — a quartet of very talented classically trained musicians. They had their own reasons for getting on the road and were an inspiration for us to do something similar.

Move forward two years and The String Family found themselves being the evening entertainment at the world famous Paronella Park just outside of Innisfail in north Queensland. ‘Wow!’ we thought. We want to see that and the family playing, but how?

Our current freelance work is done online, but even if it wasn’t and even if we were ‘retired’ (shh… there’s that word again) or on a pension, what was stopping us going up to see them? Absolutely nothing!

We found an agent to help lease our house out for at least 12 months, and spent months deciding what we’d sell, store or throw of our ‘prized possessions’. Then we trialled living in the van in our driveway for a couple of weeks to see if we liked it before committing to it full-time.

At the time of writing we’d been on the road for 12 months, which mightn’t sound that long in the scheme of things. However, one thing we’ve questioned is why on earth we didn’t act sooner! There was nothing stopping us …

We love our lifestyle, but we don’t consider ourselves ‘grey nomads’. We are a couple of young-at-heart 60-somethings who are passionate about getting out and living life.

In our travels we’ve met many interesting people who all have such amazing stories. If we like a place we’ll stay as long as we want, Cairns in tropical north Queensland being one of those favourites in our initial tours. When we want to move on we can do just that! It’s called ‘freedom’ and we’re forever grateful we have that opportunity.

My hope for anyone who has ‘just retired’ is that they don’t just sit around watching television or going to the local club. That’s not living in my opinion.

There is local community work to get involved in (my mum did this for more than 60 years), but there is a whole world you should really consider seeing! You don’t have to travel in a caravan, motor-home or converted bus … There are so many opportunities in Australia to get involved in everything from house sitting, pet minding, farm stays and more that enables anyone to go and see what this great country has to offer, especially in regional areas.

You also don’t have to do it full-time, like we are, but as that old saying for the Northern Territory TV ad goes “You’ll never never know if you never never go!”

Live your life today. We are, because no one knows what tomorrow will bring!

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How are you 'living for today'? What has retirement allowed you to do that you couldn't before?

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