One of the most wonderful and blessed gifts one discovers from living a nomadic life and traveling to beautiful and even exotic places around-the-world are the people you meet and the lasting friendships that are made. This blog post is about one-such friendship.
On February 28, 2015, I read an article in the New York Times about a couple from Seattle who were trying a different type of retirement. Debbie and Michael Campbell chose to travel the world. They had sold business or quit their jobs, rented their home, sold most of their worldly goods and put in storage a few items they couldn’t part with, taking with them only the bare necessaires – and their down-filled bed pillows – in two big rolling duffel bags. They became known as The Senior Nomads.
Their lifestyle was exactly what I had been contemplating for the past year. And since the NYT was kind enough to publish Michael’s email address, I chose to drop him a note. (See the following:)
February 28, 2015 – ReAnn Scott to Michael Campbell
As a slightly crazy, silver-haired senior (68), retired CEO, widow and grandmother who is ready to begin her very own solo tour of Europe and the rest of the world on May 1st, I cannot tell you how many of my friends and family sent me the article about you two in that was in the NY Times this week.
After reading it and pursing your blog, you two are now my heroes – you’ve accomplished exactly what I want to do – Bravo! But I need you to answer me the question of ‘How did you do it?’
It is my understanding that as an American, we are only allowed to stay in the EU countries for 90 days at a time, then we must leave for 180 days before we can return for another 90. You have spent the past year and a half, if I’m reading correctly, traveling all over Europe. You went back to Seattle for your son’s wedding (which is exactly what I have to do in July!), otherwise you have been on-the-road continually. How did you manage to do that? Did you leave the EU? Go to the UK, Ireland or an Eastern Block country for 180 days? I’m really interested in hearing how you’ve done what you’ve done – because I don’t want to have to leave in just 90 days!
I look forward to hearing from you and reading the rest of your blog posts.
Thank you and safe travels…
March 1, 2015 Michael Campbell to ReAnn Scott
ReAnn – Thanks for your email. The New York Times article did a great job of capturing who we are and the adventures that we are having as Senior Nomads in Europe. We never expected such a large story or the number of emails that have followed. So please understand if our email is brief.
We decided two years ago to apply for a French Long Term Visa which allows you to stay in France and all the other Schengen Zone countries for a year. (If you are not familiar with Schengen Zone look it up on the Internet. You will enjoy learning about it.) Suffice it to say, getting the Visa take time and effort but we knew we would sleep better at night with it. After the first year, we renewed it again.
You can contact the French Consulate nearest you through their website. We used the one in San Francisco. I believe some other EU countries also offer Long Term Stays.
Safe Travels and warm regards,
Michael and Debbie Campbell
March 2, 2015 ReAnn Scott to Michael & Debbie Campbell
Michael & Debbie –
I spent a very cold and snowy weekend reading your entire blog. It was enjoyable and filled with great tips for those of us who are planning to live the nomad life as a senior.
You were the first bloggers, and I have read 100’s since deciding to make this lifestyle change, that mentioned getting a long-term Visa. I even belong to a rather large, International Women’s organization headquartered here with members from over 85 different countries, and not one member I have talked with knew about this option! So thank you – I don’t know if I will be able to put something together before I depart on May 1st, but I am certainly going to try.
I am guessing you used your daughter Mary’s or your friend’s address as the required French residence address for your Visa.
I know you two join in a Rotary, Intl. meeting now and again, and you Michael never miss a soccer game, but Debbie have you found Open Door? It’s a international women’s organization that welcomes visitors. You can check out their website at http://opendoorworldwide.com.
I just booked my Airbnb’s in Athens, Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon for the first part of my adventure. Who knows, we might find ourselves in the same city in the near future. If you cook Debbie, I’ll bring the wine!
I had read everything I could about solo traveling, house and pet sitting. I joined dozens of blogs and signed-up for too many travel newsletters and websites to glean all the information possible that I cold before I boarded my May 1st flight to Greece.
Who knew that just 6 years after that first email exchange, our paths would have crossed numerous time in various countries around-the-world, including Portugal, Spain and Mexico so far, and we would become the best of friends?
If in the same country, you might find Debbie and I talking about our grandkids after a hard day of shopping while sipping a cold margarita!
Or perhaps discussing what color toe nail polish Michael should get during their next pedicure!
Together, we love playing card games and dominos. Debbie & Michael enjoy jigsaw puzzles, me not so much, but all three of us are avid readers and podcast listeners and share our latest favorites with each other. And Debbie and I love to cook and share recipes and where difficult-to-find ingredients can be found.
Because of Covid and none of us being able to travel this year, the Campbells found themselves ‘stuck’ in San Miguel de Allende. This is the same beautiful, colonial Mexican town that I have made my base for the past 4 years. As you can image, I was thrilled to have them nearby for months-at-a-time.
Time has passed. All three of us returned to various locations in the States to get our vaccinations and then returned to San Miguel to wait for the rest of the world to get their shots! We are chomping at the bit to travel once again! Debbie and Michael will be off to Paris to see their daughter and grandkids as soon as they can, hopefully mid-summer, and I am off to Siena, Italy in December to house and pet sit before traveling to Sicily, Malta and Corfu.
A few days ago I celebrated the 35th anniversary of my 40th birthday. I was so happy to once again have my good friend and travel-buddy Joyce here to help me celebrate for the third straight year in a row. We realized that each of the past 3 celebrations have been in a different country! First Paris, then Portugal and now Mexico. Joyce lives in Atlanta but we met through a mutual friend in Mexico and tried traveling together several years ago. It worked – which if you’ve tried to travel with a friend before, that can sometimes be the end of the friendship!
Joyce had met Debbie and Michael during our travels and when we were putting together our list of party attendees for this year, they were the first to be added to the list!
Michael, being the good sport that he is, wasn’t put off by being the only male in attendance. Not only did he carry hot and heavy food to the roof for dining, he actually took the dirty dishes back downstairs and washed them!! This is the type of male friend that every single woman I know would kill to have!
No question – my life has been made so much richer by the wonderful, weird, and fantastic people I have met along the way, but Debbie and Michael Campbell are standouts among the many. They are the type of people who open their hearts and welcome you into their circle of friends. Now, no matter where we are in the world, we will always be connected – by our blogs, emails, WhatsApp and a friendship that will last long after when we must finally put our suitcases and passports into storage!
Until next time….