A review of the story of empty nesters becoming GypsyNesters and an interview with the authors
What do you think when you hear about a couple selling their house and travelling the globe? Perhaps, like me, you are a little envious. Perhaps, also like me, you doubt you would be able to live like that and wonder how one starts off on that kind of lifestyle in the first place. In Going Gypsy, David and Veronica James tell their story about becoming full-time travellers with no fixed address.
David and Veronica raised three children, affectionately referred to as Piglet, Decibel and The Boy. When the youngest went off to college, they began thinking about what to do with the rest of their lives. When they searched the Internet, they were astonished to discover lamenting and grieving about the empty nest. “Raising kids is hard work, and we couldn’t comprehend all of these people grieving the end of that task.” As David said, “The kids have grown into full-size Homo sapiens fully capable of feeding themselves. The time had come to let them do their own hunting and gathering.” He later adds, “Personally, we taught our little cubs that if they get really hungry, they can always kill and eat a bag of ramen noodles.”
After thinking about the next stage for a while, a plan began to emerge. The plan was to have no plan. They would become GypsyNesters. Of course, a life of no plans doesn’t happen without some preparation. There were jobs to wind up, finances to take care of and a house to sell. Anyone who has ever tackled the job of downsizing can relate to Veronica’s dilemmas and mixed feelings as she reduces their lives to sixteen boxes for storage. They buy a beat-up, second-hand RV that became known as BAMF (Bad Ass Mo Fo), thanks to middle child Decibel.
Chapters in the book alternate between David and Veronica’s voice. This gives the reader both perspectives, each full of heart and humour. Throughout the chapters, the back story of their lives up to this point unfolds. Lives as ordinary and unique as everybody’s. If you’ve ever thought that the kind of person who gives up their home and travels the globe couldn’t possibly be the parent cheering at Little League games, the volunteer at the school, the person waiting tables, delivering pizza or driving a mini-van, this book will make you rethink that preconception. When describing herself as a helicopter Mom, Veronica says, “No one hovered like me. My rotor blades were sharply honed.” A worrier, constantly fearing for her children’s safety, she also describes herself as a “big, sloppy mess of fears.” And so, the transition to GypsyNester did not come about without anxiety.
“What if there are road bandits out there? Could we fend them off? What sort of implements are needed to repel road bandits? Do road bandits still exist?”
“What if other people think we are actually homeless? Are we actually homeless? Why do I care what other people think? Get real, I care what other people think.”
They conquer their fears and learn to live with conflicting travelling philosophies as they drive the back roads of America, reconnecting with family and friends along the way and developing adult relationships with their children. Going Gypsy mentions a few of their stops along the way (David has an obsession with weird roadside attractions), but the book is not a travelogue. It is about how they become full-time travellers. You can read about their travels on their blog gypsynester.com.The book is well-written, amusing and engaging. Whether you have a full nest, an empty nest or no nest, I think you’d find something to relate to in their story. For anyone facing a new stage in life, it is an inspiring and encouraging story. All in all, a satisfying read.
I had the opportunity to ask Veronica and David a few questions.
Q: It has been seven years since you decided to become GypsyNesters. What do you think now, when you look back and read about your fears and apprehensions at the time?
A: All in all things have gone about as smoothly as we could have hoped, so any apprehension was probably unnecessary. That said, a little bit of why things have gone well likely stemmed from our initial fears of making big mistakes. But mostly looking back we are surprised at how much we didn’t know. In a way, that ignorance kept us going because there was always something to learn or a problem to be solved.
Q: Are you still driving BAMF?
A: Yes and no. The original BAMF did finally give up on us, but true to his form, he gave us a good story. On Mardi Gras night, deep in the bayous of South Louisiana, as we were driving back to our campground with the sun setting, he threw a rod. However, not one to ever strand us, he limped the last few miles while making a horrible racket. As luck would have it, a friend had a nearly identical, but ten years newer, model available. We drove it for several years, and out of habit began to call him BAMF as well, until just recently when we traded down in size to a smaller camper van. The name was traded to him too, we call him baby BAMF.
Q: What has surprised you most about your new lifestyle?
A: Our first surprise was just how much we liked. As time went on, we also discovered how it had helped us rekindle our relationship as a post child-rearing couple. Sometimes that can be a difficult transition in a marriage, and we were amazed by how much closer we became by having new experiences to share and discuss. Traveling supplied those for us, but it doesn’t have to be that, any new endeavor will do, just as long as it is being taken on together.
Q: There is a chapter in the book where you muse about a future time when you become grandparents. Are you grandparents now? If so, how has that affected GypsyNesting? If not, now that you’ve spent some time as gypsies, do you think grandchildren would change your lifestyle?
A: We are not grandparents yet, and don’t see a change to that in the immediate future. We would love to be, but actively fight back every instinct to voice our desires of extending our progeny another generation to our kids. The image of becoming nagging parents constantly asking, “when are you going to have children?” is enough to keep our desire for new babies to love and spoil in check. It’s hard to say how things will change. We see our adult children fairly often while we travel about, so working visits into our schedule wouldn’t be too difficult. Veronica has said for years that she would like to take our grandchildren with us during summer breaks, and that would be fun.
Q: Is there another book coming?
A: We are in the very early stages of compiling a sequel. Our idea is to pick up where Going Gypsy left off and tell some of the amusing anecdotes from these past few years of exploring the world. As with Going Gypsy, we will endeavor to document our travels and observations, including all of the hijinks and shenanigans, with an eye toward inspiring empty nesters everywhere to embrace this new phase of life.