How This 70 Year Old Couple Bucked Convention to Travel the World

don and alison, a happy senior couple traveling the worldWhen I saw him in the hostel, I couldn’t help but smile. There he was, a man who could have been my grandfather, hanging out with college-aged backpackers and having the time of his life. The younger travelers were enamored with his stories of past travels and his ability to drink them under the table. No one cared he was in his 70s. Age mattered not one bit.

I believe that most of my advice on this website is universal. Maybe as an older couple or family you’ll skip hostels or avoid Couchsurfing, but when we land in Paris, we all face the same costs and list of potential activities, regardless of age. I think, especially here in the United States, there is a belief that you just can’t travel when you’re 70 or have medical problems. And while there are a few things to be more mindful of as you get older, I disagree that there is a special category called “senior travel.” The differences between how I travel and how a 70-year-old travels are really minimal.

So when Don and Alison approached me about their story, I had to share it. Because here is a “senior” couple, limited by some medical issues, engaging in adventures I only dream about. I think their story can teach and inspire a lot of us.

Nomadic Matt: Hi guys! Tell everyone about yourselves.
Don: I’m a 70-year-old retired neuropsychologist. Two years ago, I made a decision to retire because I’d developed a number of medical problems due to stress from work. I was working myself into sickness. Alison (my wife, who is 63) and I didn’t have enough savings to be able to keep our home and do the kind of world travel we wanted to do. We agonized over what to do for a long time until it became clear that it came down to the question of “Do we want to have a home or do we want to have a life?” So we made the decision to sell our home. We’ve now been on the road, with occasional trips back to our hometown to restock our basic supplies and see our friends, for two years, and plan to continue living a nomadic life for the foreseeable future.

What inspired you to become nomadic?
Don: Initially it was the desire to see the places that were at the top of our bucket list, and after that to see as much of the world as we could before we got too old to travel.

Alison: Inspiration came first from Don writing daily “morning pages” (from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way) in search of some answers to the retirement/income dilemma. One day out of the blue, he suggested to me that we could sell the condo and go traveling. I didn’t immediately say yes to this but it was a seed that grew of its own accord until one day, we realized this is what we’d do. I had a nice life at home, but Don was done with work and struggling to keep going. Something had to give.

don and alison, a happy senior couple traveling the world

Where have your travels taken you so far?
Don: After selling our home, we went to Europe. Following that we went to Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu, India, where we stayed for 10 weeks in order to spend time meditating at the ashram of Ramana Maharshi. From there we went to Bali, then to Australia to spend time with some of Alison’s family and friends. We’ve also been back to India, all over Southeast Asia, and, most recently, Mexico.

Did your friends and family think you were crazy for doing this?
Don: Probably, although no one said that to our faces. Everyone was surprised, some of them seemed perhaps a bit shocked, and many of them told us that we had a lot of courage for taking this step and encouraged us to go for it.

Do you feel that your age was in any way a problem or limiting?
Don: When we first began traveling, I was concerned about my health and whether I’d be able to stay healthy, particularly when traveling in Third World countries. However, as we’ve traveled, I realized I can get sick overseas, take appropriate medications, and get well again. It’s not as hard as I thought to get the necessary care when you travel.

Alison: It never occurred to me that age has anything to do with anything. I’m young, fit and healthy and mostly do what I need to do to stay that way. At the same time, I’m aware that Don has some manageable health issues that we need to pay attention to, but nothing that really prevents us from doing what we want to do. He’s so much healthier and happier than when he was working.

Having said that, we’re not cavalier about our bodies. We know that things sometimes take longer to heal than when we were younger. For this reason, we draw the line at things like white-water rafting. Apart from the fact that neither of us are experienced at it, we know that one good jolt could result in whiplash that could take weeks to heal. Still, we’ve hiked in fairly difficult terrain, been swimming with elephants, gone kayaking, ridden camels at dawn in the desert, and climbed volcanoes in the dark.

don and alison, a happy senior couple traveling the worldHow did you save money for your travels?
Don: I had been putting money into a Canadian Registered Retirement Savings Plan for many years. These savings and any interest earned on them are tax-free until such time as I begin to withdraw them. We sold our home at what appears now to have been the peak of the Vancouver housing market in August 2011 and put the money to work in investments. We also receive a monthly pension from a Canadian Federal government plan that I contributed to from the time I was in my early 20’s until I retired.

How do you manage your money on the road?
Don: We budget about $50 per day for our accommodation, plus another $50 for meals and entertainment. Recently, we’ve started staying in places for longer periods of time and have begun renting apartments instead of staying in hotels. The price per night is often about the same as a hotel room, but we save money by making our own meals. We regularly splurge on guided tours or treks, or big events like the Guelaguetza Festival in Oaxaca.

A lot of older couples and individuals feel that round the world trips are for young people. What would you say to them?
Don: Do it anyway while you still have the health and strength to do it. We’re more flashpackers than backpackers: we usually stay in three-star hotels because we can do that on our budget, and the rooms we rent must have wi-fi and an en-suite bathroom. We book hotel rooms or apartments online using,, or

Alison: I think there are a lot of myths about “old age” that people live into. I don’t understand the idea that adventure and a love of life are only for the “young”. We’ve met a full-of-life ninety-two-year-old who learnt to play the fiddle in his seventies and regularly jams with a group of buddies, a seventy-eight-year-old woman who says when she’s eighty she’ll be ready to sell her house and go traveling, and an eighty-something woman who was traveling alone in Myanmar. We love role models like this. Life’s what you make it, and you only get one chance to live this life.

Do you stay in hostels? When you meet young backpackers on your trip, how do they react? I usually find that they tend to get excited about senior travelers. It’s a “cool” thing.
Don: We haven’t stayed in hostels for two main reasons: the first being because of my concerns about the security of our belongings, and the second being that we like the luxury of a private bathroom. That being said, the young backpackers we’ve met on the road have been very positive about us doing what we’re doing at our age.

don and alison, a happy senior couple traveling the world

Did you have any fears about traveling before you started?
Don: Alison has always been much more adventurous than me, so when we first began traveling I had a lot of fears about getting sick in Third World countries. Now that we’ve been traveling for almost two years a lot of those fears are gone because we’ve been sick and recovered without having to be sent back to Canada.

Alison: I don’t like flying. It’s one of my biggest fears. As long as things are going smoothly and I can immerse myself in a movie I’m fine. But any turbulence and I’m a white-knuckle mess. [Matt says: me too!] Apart from that I don’t think I was ever really afraid because I’d done so much traveling when I was younger.

What was the biggest thing you’ve learned from your travels so far?
Don: That traveling really does broaden the mind. We’ve discovered that people are people wherever we go and that the great majority of them are friendly and helpful. If you approach people in a friendly and open-hearted way that is what you are most likely to get back. We do our best to come with a sense of respect for the people we meet on our travels, regardless of their circumstances. We’ve also found that making the effort to learn a few basic words and phrases of the local language does wonders for connecting with the people of a country!

I’m much happier and healthier than I was two years ago. I now know from personal experience why people love to travel. The world and its peoples are much more friendly and much less scary than various government websites would have us believe.

Alison: Everything Don said, and always learn how to say “I’m sorry” in the local language. And presence. There’s no past, no future. Only now. The longer we travel the more this truth is actually lived. Whenever I feel vulnerable I return to the present because it is here that life is lived.

What advice would you give to people looking to do something similar?
Alison: Don’t go blind. Do your research. The more information you gather before you go, the better you’ll be prepared, and the less vulnerable you’ll feel. At the same time, don’t organize yourself into a tight schedule. Leave room for spontaneity. Trust yourself, and go for it. Until you do it you cannot even begin to imagine the rewards that come from such a life. The world is an astonishing place, and people are more openhearted than you’d ever believe from watching the nightly news. Oh, that’s another thing – stop watching the news: it gives you a very negative view of the word!

Don and Alison are a real inspiration. They found a way to make travel work for them and it even made Don a healthier and happier person! I really do love their story as well as what they had to say about their experience. The couple have set up a blog about their travels that you can read here.

Become the Next Success Story

One of my favorite parts about this job is hearing people’s travel stories. They inspire me, but more importantly, they also inspire you. I travel a certain way but there are many ways to fund your trips and travel the world and I hope these stories show you that there is more than one way to travel and that is within your grasp to reach your travel goals. Here’s another example of people who made traveling the world a priority a little later in life:

We all come from different places, but we all have one thing in common:

We all want to travel more.

Make today the day you take one step closer to traveling – whether it is buying a guidebook, booking a hostel, creating an itinerary, or going all the way and buying a plane ticket.

Remember, tomorrow may never come so don’t wait.

  1. Wow! That is awesome. I would love to run into them at a hostel. They are truly inspiring and make me sad that I am not travelling at this very moment.

      • We are going to look into staying in hostels as we’ve certainly heard you can get private rooms. If we discover hostels that have private rooms with private bathrooms then we’re certainly open to that. I stayed in hostels a lot when I travelled in my 20’s and loved it.

        • Love your story! This is my dream once we have kids grown up.
          We love on isla mujeres Mexico. Fantastic hostel right on the beach here, called Poc Na hostel. And a nice slow pace of life and possibly some of the most beautiful blue clean and cool coral sand on the planet :)

        • Anita

          Hi Don & Alison

          I would just like to say that there are many hostels out there that have private rooms with bathrooms. My husband and I are older travellers and we also like to have a private room with our own bathroom. We have travelled all over the world and there have only been a few occasions when we had a shared room and/or bathroom and they were mainly if we were staying in jungle locations.

          Happy travelling.

        • susan

          Hi Alison, Great story! My daughter and I just came back from europe where we stayed in Hostels that had private rooms with ensuite bathrooms: Kinlay House in Dublin, Lavender Moon in Budapest were two but they are easy to find by searching Hostelworld or Hostelbookers! We also found a houseboat in Amsterdam, a loft apartment in Prague and a pensionne in Rome. Many more happy travels to you and your husband!

        • Why stay in a hostel if you can avoid them? There are plenty in NZ and Australia that have private en-suite rooms but its just as cheap to get a room on Agoda.. Great story guys..

        • Allison, we’re in our 40’s and probably best described as “flashpackers” as well. At first we avoided hostels but realized that you can get ensuite private rooms at many of them. Since then we’ve pretty much never looked back. It’s almost always more fun to hang out with other travel enthusiasts and usually more of a culturally relevant experience.

          FWIW, we REALLY got our perspective challenged when we stayed at a “hostel” in Moscow that had a shared bathroom but was one of the most luxurious places we’d ever stayed…all for about 1/2 of what even a cheap hotel costs there. High ceilings, marble, crown molding, etc.

  2. Hasmukh Gor

    I would like to be in the same situation Gret story Hats off to this couple..AGE IS A MATTER OF MIND IF YOU DON’T MIND IT NEVER MINDS YOU .by the way if this couple get chance to come to India (Gujrat) I would like to be theier host

  3. Ryan

    Great story! Thanks for sharing this, Matt. I hope that I’m still traveling like that when I’m in my 70’s (and hopefully with a wife that likes it just as much).

  4. Sheila Englebardt

    Such an inspiration. We travel a lot but in a more planned way (in our 70s). We expect to do so until we, physically, are unable. It has been mind expanding and joyous and we have met so many wonderful people and have learned so much. Thanks for sharing Don and Alison’s story. I wish I had read it 15 years ago :)

  5. Kyah

    I’ve known Alison since I was about 4 years old. She’s always been an adventurer and an amazing spirit! What a wonderful LIFE she’s leading! Good for you Alison and Don!

    • Kyah! How wonderful to hear from you!
      You can’t have red blueberries ‘cos blueberries are blue. Remember?
      Hope you and yours are well, and also having a wonderful life.
      Big hugs from me

  6. So inspiring!! I and my husband would like to grow old together traveling too!!

    Love this post Matt. More stories of couples traveling please. :)

    • Hi Xavier, thank you for your kind words.
      I’d be very interested to know what other article you read about us in. Perhaps you could go to the about page of our blog (just click on the link Matt provided above) and leave a link to the other article.
      Thank you so much.

  7. This is beyond awesome. Anytime I start to worry about our upcoming trip an article like this comes along and reminds me that yes, we can do it and we are going to do it. Thanks.

    Good luck to you both.

  8. So inspiring! I absolutely love this article. And I greatly appreciate Alison’s honesty about hating flying. I’ve been crisscrossing time zones, and still hate riding on planes. Had to fly from Tokyo to NYC this past spring without any pharma support and for the most part it was ok, but still white-knuckled a few bumps. Alison gives great advice throughout. Thank you for posting.

  9. Love it! Don and Alison remind me of a woman I met hiking the John Muir Trail a couple years back. She was 80 years old, hiking the 220 mile trail for the 16th time with her daughter. On her 65th birthday she hiked the 2,600 mile PCT trail. My hiking partner was having a difficult day and all she said was “Honey, I’m 80 years old. If I can do it, so can you. Now put your boots back on and lets go for a walk.” Age is rarely a reason, but an excuse not to do something. Thanks guys!

  10. Great story – inspiration for us as we approach an age only somewhat reduced.

    PS. We’ve recently started using Couchsurfing and have found there are ways to tailor it for the older traveler. We recently wrote about this in “Couchsurfing on a Feather Duvet”. We also recommend Servas – like Couchsurfing but definitely an older crowd.

  11. I stumbled upon Alison and Don’s blog a few months ago, and at first all I did was look at their amazing pictures because, in all honesty, I wasn’t interested in a travel blog. At the same time, Alison started following my blog; her comments were so insightful and her delightful personality leapt off the screen, so I started reading the posts on their site. I fell in love!

    They find the balance of pictures, text, descriptions of their experiences, and personal impressions. The only problem with following their blog is that I’m so envious – not only of their traveling but also my inability to simply hang out with them.

    Thanks, Matt, for interviewing Alison and Don. It’s fun getting a different glimpse of these inspirational people.

  12. Wow great interview! I really like the do we want a house or a life! If they can do it I have more confidence and hope that the wifey, kids and I will soon be on our way to traveling the world.

  13. What an truly inspiring story. Thank you for sharing Matt!

    I hope that one way I will be able to do the same. I’ve never been outside of the U.S. and I am hoping to make it to Europe very soon!

    Keep the wonderful stories coming — they are all very inspirational.

  14. Ave

    It was so perfect to read your story. I’m 65 and have been hemming and hawing about returning to India. Feeling like maybe I wasn’t up to traveling there on my own again–having the energy, etc. And then I saw your photo! Arunachala!!! Couldn’t believe it. I had asked the universe for a sign… Now look forward to reading your blog. Happy trails to you!

  15. Natalia

    Don is 70 and Alison is 63??? They look fantastic!!!!! Such a fabulous, inspirational story. Also agree with Matt saying, “I think, especially here in the United States, there is a belief that you just can’t travel when you’re 70″. I would add that there is also a belief that you just can’t travel UNTIL you’re 70 (i.e., that’s when you might have saved up enough money to go on that lavish trip to Italy you’ve always wanted) BUT by then you might not be in the best shape and have the best health of your life. It’s nice to see that Don has decided to retire and isn’t killing himself at work anymore. After all, no one in their life ever said, “I wish I worked more and traveled/visited my friends less”.
    More stories like this, please! :-)

  16. My 71-year-old husband and I (at 69) drifted through Central Europe this summer for a month. Like this couple, we wanted wifi and our own bathroom but there are plenty of 1-star hotels with these amenties plus a nice breakfast. Before we left, people asked where we were going to go — all we knew was we were flying into Prague and out of Budapest and the rest we’d decide when we woke up each morning. Found we didn’t have quite the stamina for drifting that we did 20 years ago, but we had a great time.

  17. Joanne Joseph

    I can so relate to this energetic, young at heart couple. By living their dream retirement they will quite probably live a longer, more fulfilled life than they would if they had not taken a big leap of faith. I encourage anyone to just “live, love, laugh ~ and travel!”

  18. Sue

    GREAT story, Matt! Being 62 & wanting to travel ‘soon,’ it couldn’t be more timely!
    LOVE reading your blogs & stories…….they’re SO inspirational & helpful!

  19. I met a few ‘older’ travellers when I was in Africa and Asia. We had some great times together and I didn’t even notice an age gap.

    I spent a great couple of days in Luang Prabang with a 70-year-old guy called Chuck, a college professor from New York. One night we walked round the city and chatted to some trainee monks and on the other, we went out to a club for Halloween wearing rainbow face paint. :)

    Love this interview.

    • Casia

      Love those details. My kind of traveling. I call it meandering – being open to whatever twists and turns come your way.

  20. Well, I’m a travel/location photographer. been traveling for almost 40 years. I’ll be 60 on my birthday. I have no intention of slowing down. After all, age is just a number. So, they say.

  21. What a great interview! We’ve been traveling together for almost a decade, and hope to continue for as long as we can. It’s inspiring to read about people making brave decisions as Don and Alison did, and living their lives to the fullest. Thanks for sharing their story!

      • Barbara

        Hello Alison and Don,

        Your story is very inspiring to people like myself that have dreamed of casting everything aside, and finally doing something just to make ourselves happy. I am curious though; do you both come back to your original hometown at all? Do you have family still in the area, and how do you continue to stay in touch and see them? As my husband and I have children, this has been the major factor that keeps us from just taking off and living a more nomadic life.

  22. Elaine Cundiff

    I enjoyed reading about their travels and hope they keep up the exciting experiences.
    We are 73 and sold our house six years ago and started full time RVing. We have driven to Alaska, the Keys, Labrador and Newfoundland, Baja, Belize and now spend most winters in the Yucatan. We flew to Turkey two years ago for a month trek to view sights and enjoy the Turquoise sea and to Costa Rica this March to look at birds and wildlife. This winter we will fly to Guatemala for 2 to 3 months study some Spanish and do some hiking and birding. Age and health are beginning to slow us down so travel as soon as you can and as far as you can. We have traveled internationally often when we were younger and now enjoy the more relaxed lifestyle of traveling by RV in North America. We now have enough solar to run our air conditioner on sun and batteries for 3 hours so we tend to get off the beaten path when ever possible. We often meet folks who travel in small RVs from Alaska to Argentina but they are usually Europeans and younger than we. Travel is exciting and we think helps keep us young. Are children are very supportive especially because we can park our RV in their back yards and stay there for a nice visit and because they enjoy flying down to the Yucatan for a week vacation on the beach when it is cold in the states. Living in an RV in your children’s back yards or on BLM land is an inexpensive way to live. Good luck to all you travelers and enjoy learning all about the different cultures before they disappear.

  23. It was my Millennial son (Mr. TheWorldOrBust) who convinced me to start a travel blog. (I’m not sure he now thinks that was not such a great idea because who wants their mother at TBEX–really–I get that). What I’ve discovered is that there are many people of different ages and stages in their lives traveling — in all sorts of ways and for all sorts of reasons. There’s even a Boomer Travel Blogger Facebook group. In between the youngish backpackers and us oldish folks, there’s a cadre of those traveling with their young children. For the most part, I think it’s the love of travel, discovery and writing that binds us all.

    • Bea

      My husband and I fall into the family travel group. I went to renew my son’s passport this morning (he’s 8 and it’s his third passport) and the look of shock I got when the clerk saw that he had been to India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Jamaica in particular, well there is certainly a mainstream view that family travel can only include certain destinations…. Flashpacking is a wonderful way to describe it! My kids may not have a favouri

  24. What a great story of a wonderful couple who knew what they wanted and had the courage to go and get it.
    How does one take the first step and not worry about what would happen to the rest of the family and the dog if and when one takes off on that dream trip?
    I swear that is what is keeping me at home otherwise I would be meeting all of you travelers in hostels. :)

  25. Don and Alison are a great example for everybody, young and not people! I can only admire their courage to choose what is making them happy leaving behind everything they built till now. Happy and safe travels guys! :)

  26. Thanks so much for sharing this inspiring post!
    There’s really no reason for anyone, whether young or old, to hold back from traveling. I really admire the couple and I hope that I’ll also be more spontaneous in traveling just like them. 😉

  27. Lizzie Bennett

    Don, Allison, what do you do for health insurance while you travel? I found that there is usually a time limit on travel insurance that includes health coverage (e.g. 12 months). Have you found another solution for extended travel that exceeds this sort of time limit?

    • Health insurance for over 70’s is prohibitive for long term travel (like thousands!), on the other hand cost for health services in third world countries is very inexpensive and really very good in our experience so we just pay for it as we go.
      We have at the moment a special arrangement with the BC Medical Plan whereby we can be out of province for up to 2 years and still be covered – meaning we could claim back any expenses, but we haven’t bothered so far as the costs have been negligible (even for me seeing an english speaking neurosurgeon in Mexico after I fell and hit my head quite badly).
      We also have MedJet Assist which costs about $800 per year for both of us and will fly us to the hospital of our choice in the case of catastrophic illness or injury.
      So – we just went to Sweden for 2 weeks and paid about $250 for extra coverage for both of us – just for 2 weeks, but worth it to be covered in Europe where medical expenses are quite high.
      We’ve needed medical attention in India, Laos and Mexico. In all three places we received excellent care for very little cost. The same would not be true for western countries, especially for the US. I guess we just stay away from those places :) though we really want to go to eastern Europe so need to look into that situation.
      MedJet Assist feels like a safety net.

  28. they actually look really young for their age. :) i think when you do what you love, you stay young. also, once a 70+ year old man schooled me on a snowboard, and taught me that no matter the age, anything’s possible.

  29. I can relate to a lot of the advice here – from budgeting, to knowing some words in the local language and not staying in hostels (or shared accommodation). This interview gives really good advice no matter what the age. +1

  30. Cool! Love meeting people like this. Met 65 years old couple who were cycling from Cape Town to Cairo in Nairobi 3 years ago. They told great stories that fascinated the younger travellers! :)

  31. What a great way to live! I only hope that I too can get to their age and do the same. For now though I will follow Alison’s advice about researching and staying spontaneous, as those are always the best trips, I find.

  32. A very inspirational story and I’m looking forward to dipping into Alison and Don’s blog. I firmly believe that I shall travel as much as I can while I have the resources and health to do so. It’s very good for us to be faced with the reality that we humans have more in common than the surface differences.

  33. Eric

    Well done interview with a lot of depth. The choice to break free of routine and live a life one imagines is inspiring. Been following Alison and Don awhile and enjoyed getting to know them a bit better through this story.

  34. Great and inspiring article! I just found the website for Alison and Don and followed over from there website to here. I am a mid-lifer myself that loves to travel (and blog) so I was attracted to their story AND to this website too. Travel is for the adventurous at heart–regardless of age and this interview is a great example. I’m looking forward to reading more about travel insights AND people like this on this site. ~Kathy

  35. Good on you guys! I love hearing of other travellers in my age bracket. By the way go explore hostels, I’m 62, travelling solo and mainly stay hostels. Of course as a solo traveller it’s easier to deal with hostels as I only need a single bed. They are a great way of saving money, you meet wonderful travellers and get to hear their stories. My advice is, research well, choose ones that are smaller and have their own cooking facilities and wi-fi. The large ones are too much like hotels and you are less likely to meet people. I have found what I think is the epitome of the best hostel, it is good mix of fun and quiet, has terrific facilities and awesome staff, I now tend to judge other hostels by their standard. Happy to share that information. Keep on travelling, it has given me my interest in life back. Loved your story and your advice.

  36. MARCOS

    I wonder in what Don & Alison did their investments?? using their retirement money, where did they invested?????
    please matt tell us to have an idea.
    thank you!

  37. How amazing! My dream is to be this happy and adventurous with my husband – we manage to get away a couple times a year, but he’s not into the ‘selling it all and running away’ idea. Maybe when we retire? These two inspirational people are living proof of my favorite saying: “You never grow up, you never grow old.” And look how much fun they are having! :)

  38. Jak

    Im so inspired by you both. Im 50 and my husband is 51, we are seriously considering selling our house and travelling. Our kids are all grown up now (we started young!) and its our time. I feel that if we dont do it now we never will.

    We’re currently researching, but its knowing where to start. Should we do the hostel thing? can we do it frugaly (only so we can travel for longer) etc etc We’re definitely excited about the prospect :)

  39. David Battambong

    66-year-old solo traveler here. I meet many over-60s when I’m on the road (mainly SE Asia) and it’s always a source of great pleasure to meet other members of the ‘club’. Great interview, Don and Alison, hope to see you on the road sometime.

  40. Very inspiring and invigorating. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    I never experienced riding on the back of a elephant in the water, even when there are numerous in the area I come from in India. Seems lot of fun. You reminded me to enjoy the things that are in our reach, and to the maximum! Way to go..

  41. Really loved the point on knowing a few phrases in the local language…any seasoned traveler will tell you it makes a big difference. Feeling like you can communicate with those around you (even just slightly) contributes to a greater feeling of confidence and safety. Plus, it’s fun!

  42. Athala Ell

    I really inspired by that old couple….
    A very inspirational story and I’m looking forward to dipping into Alison and Don’s blog.

  43. Met this older couple on a trip once… to talking about music over a pint or 3 and it turns out they worked at the Fillmore in San Francisco in the 60’s and 70’s and had pretty much seen every classic rock act worth mentioning play live. That was pretty cool!

  44. Love this story! Being a single, professional female with adult kids thriving on their own now, being able to travel was something in my younger years I never dreamed I could do and now I am all over all the time. I would like to have extended trips but I am still working like crazy and don’t have this couple’s luxury of savings or assets to sell like a home. Great post of inspiration for any age!

  45. After 15 months of criss-crossing Mexico, my new book looks at Americans and Canadians who’ve chosen to avoid the big expat colonies in San Miguel de Allende and Lake Chapala. What they’ve found is both diverse and surprising. The book is called Into the Heart of Mexico: Expatriates Find Themselves Off the Beaten Path.

  46. Joan Marie Davidson

    I enjoyed your interview as well as the comments regarding living your life. I’ve traveled sola for years now, backpacking in Central America, then to Europe on my own, and 2 years in Madagascar (PCorps) 1998-2000. I’m now just 76, spent 3 weeks Brazil in October and
    though I had to book flights in advance (large country!) left everything else open – ended only regretting that I spent one day too many in Foz Iguazu.

    I tend to agree about medical care abroad, often even better than in the USA and certainly less costly.

    Where you are and where you re going now is what I had had in mind for 2013 (missed it!) so I’ll be extremely interested in what you do and see.

    Just one note: it’s may not be easy as a small woman traveling alone, but it’s better than not traveling at all (or perhaps going with a tour group all-arranged)


  47. i travelled round the world with my husband and kids aged 11 and 13. It was the most amazing gift I could be given as a parent and allowed for us to bond in a way unimaginable at home. My children are much closer as siblings and we all have benefited from it in different ways. My Son is a professional freerunner and my daughter plans to be a Scuba Diving Instructor – not quite the direction they would have gone in, if left in school in England.
    I learnt that not all goals are made of the mind – the true ones bubble up to the surface and pop like hot mud, engaging a person in life in incredibly different ways.
    I would do it again in a heartbeat! So I think you are never to old. Just need to understand your own needs, that’s all.

  48. Caroline

    What a great story! Do you know where they stay when they travel back to Canada? Do they have family to crash with or some sort of home base?

    • Hi everyone
      Thank you for all your wonderful comments. Just checking back in here after a while.

      No Caroline, we don’t have a home base, though we still regard Vancouver as our hometown. My nephew’s home in Vancouver is already very full so we don’t impose. Other family are in Montreal, Sweden and Australia.

      We’re back in Canada right now and have to stay in BC for 6 months in order to continue to qualify for provincial health coverage. We arrived May 28 directly to a fabulous housesit for the month of June. We have housesits arranged for June, August and November, and a couple of good leads for house sitting for September and October. We don’t have anything for July yet – anyone out there need a house sitter in Vancouver for July? lol. Or know anyone who’s going away and doesn’t mind if complete strangers stay in their home?

      We are continually amazed by, and grateful for the kindness of strangers We are staying in the beautiful home of friends of friends – people we’ve never met. We are indeed blessed.

      Living this way takes a certain amount of courage and trust I suppose, but more than anything it feels *right* .

      Cheers, and happy travels. Go see the world!

  49. Matt, I wish I remembered how I found your site so I could say thank you. Today alone, Don and Alison reminded me to get out there, and Oneika reminded me to finish my TOEFL certificate. Yours is the only email newsletter I actually look forward to.

    See you at the hostel!

    (And by the way, the Boston hostel may be big and new, but it is fantastic. My TripAdvisor review was in July 2012, but I’ve stayed several times since and always had a good experience.)

  50. Oliver

    That is amazing! When I was doing the “Camino de Santiago” two weeks ago, I met a couple who are 70s and were doing the “Camino” during one month. More than 244km by foot. And this was not their first time on the road. They told me that they’ve done the Camino multiple times, including one way which starts in Sevilla, in the South of Spain (814km)

    I was shocked with their vitality and how they interact with other travellers in the hostel. Just awesome.

    Good interview Matt!

  51. Sue

    Great article and I admire their sense of purpose in life.

    How about an article about a woman doing something similar traveling solo? That kind of

    lifestyle would be even more of a challenge for a female traveling alone.

    • Janice

      My friend and I just booked our first hostel in Thailand. We’re in or 50’s and too excited! Whoo hoo , thanks for the encouragement Matt.

  52. Great interview! I love Don and Alison’s spirit! Also, Alison I love your buzz cut. I have the same haircut. It is perfect for travel! My mom and I head to Turkey and then onto Bangladesh next week. I tried to get her to cut her hair but she did not go for it. :)

    • The buzz cut is one of the best things I’ve ever done. Had it that way for about 3 years now. Hope you had a great time in Turkey. I so want to go there – probably this coming Sept.

  53. Bravo to Don and Allison!

    I couldn’t help but smile when I read this, knowing they’re Canadians:

    “…always learn how to say ‘I’m sorry’ in the local language.”

    • Chuckle. Something, I imagine, people from all nations could benefit from :)
      I’ve found it very useful with persistent vendors. Oh and also really wished I’d learned it when I managed to make a little girl cry by taking her photo :( (still dying about that incident)

  54. So inspiring! I am 50 now and finally got on the road fulltime, still working, over a year ago, after a couple of false starts in the previous decade. As much as young nomads inspire me, I also love to follow older nomads, with their continuing or renewed zest for life. You keep my hope alive!

  55. I so agree with this. I wanted to travel in my 20’s. I had a mortgage, kids on the way etc and… it was a week here and week there. We got to 40 and my wife said ” We do it now or will will never go”. We took our three young kids out of school in 2004 and have never looked back. The thing about traveling when your a bit older is, your more tuned into the world, less shy and are able to integrate as you say with a bunch of collage backpackers but also all the different kinds of people you meet on the way. If you think your too old to travel, you may actually be at the best age to travel.
    And if your like 80, hey, you can take some risks you never could when you where twenty and had your whole life ahead of you 😉

  56. Eva

    I am so inspired by this story!
    Thank you Matt for sharing, and thank you Don and Alison for dispelling my fears of traveling in my “old” age. My daughter and I are leaving for Nicaragua in a couple of weeks and she persuaded me to get a “real” backpack, with no wheels, so I’ve been stressing over how I will be able to handle that, plus a myriad of other things that I never gave a second thought to when I traveled in my 20’s.
    My adventurous spirit has been renewed :-)

  57. Kathy

    CouchSurfing is the way to go!! I am 69 and have travelled all over the world and the only way I can afford it is CouchSurfing or hostels! Either way you meet the most incredible people. I open my home to couchsurfers so it is a win- win situation! Also volunteering is amazing and again, a win-win experience. Was doing that in GUATEMALA in February and off to Haiti this September..using my free Arroplan points of course!!

  58. What a fantastic story and couple. Sometimes I let the little question creep in “am I too old to be backpacking around the world at my age?” and the answer always is a NO! I am about to turn 40 on the road and I am sooo happy to be realizing this dream of traveling long term; which I wanted to do for the past 10 years but kept putting off. The question creeps in because I am only 2.5 months into it and I am enjoying and learning so much that I almost feel guilty. ha ha!
    Don and Alison are a true inspiration because they also chose to LIVE life! My best wishes for them and I truly hope I get to meet them on the road someday…

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