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How American retirees visited 200 cities in four years

Michael and Debby are the most extraordinary couple in the world. They sold their house and their car, left the hometown, friends and family and went on to explore the world. The Campbells don't live in the hotels, they rent apartments on Airbnb, they don't eat in the restaurants, they cook at home and do grocery shopping on local bazaars. They are not on the vacation, they are living the best of their lives.
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2017-07-13 | Автор: Анель Тажинова

Michael and Debby began their journey four years ago and they are not going to stop. It was their daughter Mary who proposed the idea to travel around the world instead of sitting at home after the retirement.

The couple, at first, argued that it would cost a lot of money, which they didn't have. But Mary had a perfect response - Airbnb, service which allows to rent apartments all over the world. After long budget calculations the decision was made.

They figured out if they shrink their needs to the minimum - medical and life insurance only - they can travel a bit, using the help of the service. They rented their house, bought tickets to Europe and, in 2013, left their hometown, Seattle.

Michael: "At first we bought two-way tickets, so we could go back home if we didn't like this lifestyle, but we enjoyed it. After coming back home, we decided to go again. Ever since that moment we have only been buying one-way tickets".

Maybe our daughter wanted us to go to Europe, so we would babysit more. Well, jokes on her. (laughs)

After two and a half years of traveling, the Campbells sold their house, their car and the favorite boat. Michael admits that what they have done is quite unique. Even for Americans who are used to the fact that families travel a lot.

Everyone travels but then goes back home. We don't have a home. Our home is where we are.

Michael: "People often ask us if we ever get tired of this lifestyle. No, we don't! This is how we live and we like it. I always tell Debby, we can go back anytime and buy a new house in Seattle. But we never do that, because we get so much more from traveling around the world, visiting so many beautiful places."

Debby: "Once we were interviewed by the journalists of Traveler Conde Nast. I asked them about the topic of the interview and they told me it was "Extreme travelling". That's how I realized that we actually were extreme."

They call themselves Senior Nomads. This was all Debby's idea who worked as an art director for 25 years. "Senior because we are old, and Nomads because we travel a lot."

"The only piece of home that is always with us is our pillows. It makes us feel a bit closer to Seattle."

The first thing they do after they arrive in a new country is placing the pillows on the bed and then going grocery shopping.

They usually cook at home. "If we have our pillows and diet coke, consider us happy," says Debby, making for us some tea. The kitchen is her favorite place in the apartment. "And the ice! Americans always look for the ice!"

If Debby is responsible for what they eat, Michael is the "Chief" of their charging station. As soon as they arrive, he unpacks a big bag of different devices and connects them to all the sockets. They have three iPhones, two laptops, one iPad, one keyboard, two e-books, one Bluetooth speaker, power banks and many wires.

Michael: "These wires are the heart of our organization. Once I lost it for twenty minutes in Zanzibar, Tanzania. It is my job to keep everything charged. Otherwise I will get fired. (laughs)

Debby looks at how a photographer is organizing their devices and contemplates that they never were in such a perfect order. "Michael would want to always put them this way now."

Last year the Campbells wrote their own book for the annual Airbnb convention, where 6000 apartment renters come together from all over the world. In «Your keys, our home», Senior Nomads talk about their experience and tell what they have learned from 1450 days of traveling, visiting 66 countries and more than 200 cities.

Michael is also responsible for planning. They usually have a general idea of where to go, but the concrete plan exists only for 3-4 weeks ahead, not longer. Usually the couple stays for 7-10 days in each country, trying to visit a lot of different cities.

For now it's Astana and Bishkek, but then - it can be anything. They can wake up in the morning and say: «Maybe Germany?» 

Why Kazakhstan? Michael loves the history of the twentieth century, especially the history of the World Wars and the rise and fall of the Soviet Union. When the couple has visited the whole of Europe, Balkans and Baltics, they found themselves wondering about  East and visited Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, and Bulgaria. One day they realized that they have visited 10 out 15 post-soviet countries. So why not visit them all?

We are lifelong learners. For instance, we have been to Russia, although it isn't Americans' favorite place. But we were curious, so we spent a week both in Moscow, and Saint-Petersburg.

The Campbells always read about the country they are about to visit. Before the arrival they already know the country's GDP, birth rate, mortality rate etc. However, they only truly know the country through its people. They really are interested in the development of the democracy, freedom of speech and the level of education.

Debby: "I don't think most of the Americans know where we are right now and our friends couldn't even pronounce the name of the country. But, to be honest, we too wouldn't find Kazakhstan on the map four years ago".

Michael: "Although Americans probably know about Baikonur, because we send our astronauts to space from this station". (Debby looks at him surprised).

When we landed in Almaty, it was really hot, but beautiful. Everything is so clean and green. Although we just came from the African desert...

Senior Nomads is a unique couple. At his 70 and her 60 they travel around the world, have a blog, Instagram and Facebook page with thousands of subscribers, but don't have a house, a car or a boat. But walking on the streets of new cities, they hold each other's hands, joke around and smile.

"I won't be too philosophical  because I'm old. But when I was your age, a 20-year-old young man, I never thought I would visit all these countries», says Michael from Seattle walking the streets of old Almaty.


Фото: Георгий Чумаков

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