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Senior nomads travel the world, even during COVID

by sanmigueltimes
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Reed Kimbrough, 70, a former Army pilot and management executive, and his wife Charlcye, 65, who worked in broadcasting and sales, traveled widely before he retired in October 2018 and she in March 2020. They leapfrogged from Colorado to New York City 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 upended their plans.

Disruptive? Sure, but the Kimbroughs were safe and healthy and still had their Atlanta home. So, they stayed stateside and plan to soon resume trips — domestically first. “We feel good now that we’ve been vaccinated,” Reed says.

A challenging year for global ‘senior nomads’

Other older so-called “senior nomads” who gave up their U.S. homes and had the means to travel the world full-time in retirement have found the past year far more challenging.

Many found themselves stuck abroad as the pandemic spread and borders closed. They scrambled to adjust their travel plans and retirement dreams.

Mary Tipton Nixon, 64, and her husband, Ken, 69, sold their Michigan home and started their nomadic journey in February 2016. She’d worked in human resources, he as a systems engineer. The Nixons were in Australia when the pandemic began, planning to travel to Southeast Asia.

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

The Nixons have remained in New Zealand and “life is 100% completely normal,” Mary notes. They’ve been hiking regularly, grateful for their safety and determined to explore other countries when possible.

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

International travel, however, remains difficult. Most countries are on the U.S. State Department’s Level Four “Do Not Travel” advisory list.

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

Getting restless

Scott moved to a house in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, which — pre-pandemic— has been called the best place to retire in the world (the CDC says Mexico’s COVID-19 level is currently “Very High”).

Scott’s still there but is restless. A retired entrepreneur, she spent the previous five years housesitting, petsitting and blogging in 34 countries.

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

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

The Campbells retired from their careers in graphic design and sports marketing and began traveling in 2013. Since then, they’ve visited 85 countries from Africa to Australia, staying in more than 270 Airbnbs. ABNB, -1.86%

“We can’t wait to get to Europe to see our family in France and visit the parts of Central Asia and Russia that we missed last year,” says Debbie, who reports seeing similar optimism from others posting on the couple’s Senior Nomads Facebook FB, +0.09% group page.

Other senior nomads who’ve been temporarily back in the U.S. hope it won’t be the case for long.


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