- By David James
(David and Veronica James are authors of the new book, Going Gypsy: One Couple's Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All, and bloggers at GypsyNester.com. Here's how they became GypsyNesters.)
With our youngest’s high school graduation fast approaching, we typed “empty nester” into a Google search box and hit enter. The first thing to pop up on the screen was a huge ad for an Alzheimer’s patch. If we weren’t already convinced that finishing the job of raising our kids was a signal to take a drastic leap toward the rest of our lives, we were once we saw that.
'Helicopter Mom' Gets Grounded
Veronica had been the quintessential “helicopter mom,” hovering over every aspect of her offspring’s lives in a hands-on operation that included working at the school all three kids had attended.
Nothing wrong with being an involved parent, but now that they were off on their own, she had to ground that chopper. Drastic measures were called for.
She had an understandable reluctance to return to the school that now seemed as empty as her nest. On top of that, we had spent eight years on the somewhat secluded Caribbean island of St. Croix and, from that point of view, we looked at our last child leaving for college as an opportunity to return to the mainland and catch up with family and friends.
Going Full-Time Gypsy
Selling our island home — along with everything in it — we set out on an epic road trip of reconnection, a kind of victory lap after the years of all-hands-on-deck parenting involved with getting three teenagers safely out into the world. The original idea was to be a short-term interlude, but as we wandered, we couldn’t seem to come to a conclusion. There was always something beckoning over the horizon.
So we leapt again — this time into a life of going full-time gypsy.
We set out to explore the world while examining the possibility of making the journey a permanent adventure. With her background in technology, Veronica put together GypsyNester.com and we began writing about our escapades, as well as our discoveries from our new life after kids. Before long, we found that our revelations resonated with visitors to our site, and that inspired us to write more and forge ahead.
Along the way, we realized that we were transforming our relationship with our adult children, too. It was no longer necessary to be involved in their day-to-day lives. We had learned to let go and let them make decisions (and maybe mistakes) for themselves. By trusting them to find their own paths, we adjusted to the fact that we will always be their parents — but we don’t always need to be parenting.
As for the couple who fell in love before any of them were born, we came to the realization that trying new things together revitalized our relationship, and we wanted to share that. We found that when we experienced places, foods, or fear-conquering feats of daring that neither of us had any familiarity with, we grew closer.
These days, when we shoot the rapids in Montana, eat bugs in Mexico or jump off of a cliff in Peru, we sink or swim together — and always have plenty to talk about once we come out unscathed. Sure, sometimes things go awry, like getting locked inside an Italian hotel room or riding our bikes square into a herd of buffalo. But these situations quickly become amusing anecdotes.
Encounter With Hot Bovine Breath
Seriously, how could we not find the humor in a warning of “mind the bison,” delivered in perfect Mary Poppins diction? We had to laugh at the utterance of our fellow Yellowstone cyclist — at least until we rounded a corner into a cluster of the massive beasts blocking the road. Believe me, there’s nothing like a blast of hot bovine breath in the face to snap one back to sensibility.
Mostly, we now find ourselves in awe of the wondrous world around us. This new gypsy life has led us to over 40 countries on five continents, places we never dreamed we’d see. We have walked on the Great Wall of China, kayaked with humpback whales alongside icebergs off Newfoundland, cuddled koalas in Australia and looked over the edge of an active volcano in the Galapagos Islands.
But it seems like every time a checkmark appears next to an entry on our bucket list, two more items get added. The more we travel, the more we want to see. We’ve gotten greedy that way.
There is more to becoming a GypsyNester than traveling, however. You can make the transition to a post–child rearing couple through many methods. Anything that inspires, excites, or challenges can be the catalyst to revolutionizing and redefining an empty nest.
For us, the transformation must be complete because, as Veronica likes to say, “I’m now more afraid to stop than I was to start out in the first place.”
So we keep going… seeking new adventures, and going… looking over the next hill, and going… always exploring, and… Going Gypsy.