Empty nest? Q&A with the Gypsy Nesters

David and Veronica James took a unique approach to the empty nest syndrome.  They were already adventurous, having raised three kids on St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, but when their youngest graduated, they wanted to return to the States and catch up with old friends and relatives.  They sold their condo, bought a beat up old motor home on EBay for $3,000 and hit the road.

They called it their victory lap since they were finished raising kids…but once they reached the West Coast, they wanted to keep going. They eventually bought another motorhome, and over the next six years, visited all 50 states. They have since turned into world travelers, visiting over fifty countries on six continents which they chronicled on their website: gypsynester.com.  That turned into a book: Going Gypsy: One Couple’s Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All 

How did they do it? Senior Planet interviewed David James by phone:

What compelled you to live this lifestyle?

James: I always travelled because I’m a musician and Veronica was home with kids.  Part of it was payback.  She said “it’s my turn to travel now.”  She wanted to catch up.  She liked living in the motorhome, waking up in a new place and seeing stuff.  It was more her idea than mine to keep going.  Once we got on the road, traveling took on a life of its own.

How did you manage to keep going?

James: We had always been freelancers. Veronica was a techie who owned a web design company and I was a singer/songwriter. We combined our skill sets of songwriting and tech and created a website about our travels which became a big success:  GypsyNester.com.   

How do your kids feel about your footloose and fancy free lifestyle?  

James:  They have taken to it.  My wife always joked that it’s great because we’re not bugging them.  They all three knew what they wanted to do and made it happen.  My son’s a pilot in Alaska and other’s a journalist, my daughter is a makeup artist.  We get together in New York for Thanksgiving,   We’re free to go visit them whenever we want.

What did you do with all your stuff?

James: We whittled 30 years of possessions into 16 boxes that we left first in Michigan where we had some income properties, then at a house in Ventura in California.  Unfortunately the house burned to the ground in the recent Ventura fires when we were traveling so we lost even those possessions.  That was hard since those boxes had all our family photos and memorabilia and we didn’t get to save any of them.

How did you manage it financially?

James: We had had some money socked away, we had a couple of income properties, I still get royalties, we monetized the website.  We haven’t actually made money just stayed afloat, covered our expenses.   Plus we are very frugal!                                

What are your travel tips?   How can other people replicate your way of life?

James: The hardest part was making the decision to do it and just go.  After that everything is problem solving.  Every parent’s solved problems all their lives so that part is easy. The next hardest is to relax and go with the flow.  I was always on a schedule, I had a hard time breaking that habit.   You need to learn to enjoy where you are and not force it.

How do you stay healthy?

James: We’ve always had to carry our own health insurance since we were freelancers. We carry bikes and do bike tours to stay active and we make sure to eat decent food.

What are you doing now?

James: Right now we’re doing more overseas traveling.  We do a trip once a month and write about it for various companies. We don’t have motorhome anymore.  But we’re thinking of getting a boat and living on it.  We’ve always had a footloose lifestyle.

What does aging with attitude mean to you?

James: Taking charge of your life and breaking the empty nest rules.  We got kind of miffed by the empty nest thing—people moaning and lamenting that their lives are over because the kids are leaving.  Your job is to raise independent responsible adults and send them out in the world so they have their own lives.  You’ve done that so go and live—you’ve got the rest of your life ahead of you!

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