David and Veronica James share how they turned their travel hobby into a full-time adventure.
Posted in , May 1, 2019
Over a decade ago, David and Veronica James hit the road with just one rule: The plan is no plan.
They sold their home on the island of St. Croix when the youngest of their three children went to college, made their way back to the states and bought an RV off eBay. They then took, what they affectionately called, a “victory lap” to celebrate the end of one chapter of their lives and the beginning of another.
The couple, who were both in their late 40s, planned on visiting with family and friends while making pit stops in all 50 states. It took them approximately eight months of full-time traveling to reach that goal. Then, when the time came to give up their nomadic existence, they weren’t ready.
“We just loved it so much,” Veronica tells Guideposts.org.
They ditched their old motor home for a newer model and started exploring other continents, road tripping to Mexico and South America, flying overseas, and most recently, renovating a 38-foot boat they plan to sail along the California coast.
They’ve visited dozens of countries on nearly every continent, creating a successful travel blog and writing a book about their journeys. Guideposts.org chatted with the pair of adventurers to find out their best travel tips for other boomers hoping to follow in their footsteps.
According to both David and Veronica, the first step in deciding to travel, whether it be for one or six months, a full year or longer, is to do just that: decide.
“It's the hardest thing but once you do that and you commit to that, the rest of it is just problem-solving,” David says. “And we've all done that in our jobs and with our kids, and throughout your life. By the time you reach our age, you've solved a lot of problems in your life.”
Decide where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, how long you’ll stay and how you’ll afford it. Then, problem-solve based on your needs. Find ways to save money, find places where you can book longer stays, find cultural experiences that will enrich your travels and make the trip worth it.
Living on the road nearly full-time for over ten years means Veronica and David have encountered their fair share of traveling hiccups along the way. From canceled flights to illness, to the time they accidentally booked a cruise to Cancun during Spring Break Week, the couple has learned to roll with the unexpected punches. It’s made traveling less stressful, and more enjoyable for them both.
“It does very much help to go with the flow,” Veronica says. “That's not everybody's personality, either.”
The couple says if you know you don’t do well with mishaps and unplanned changes to your travel itinerary, then choose trips and packages that are planned for you and cater to your wants and needs.
One of the most common questions the duo hears from fans of their travels is how others can replicate their lifestyle. David and Veronica didn’t plan to make their hobby a full-time job, but once they decided not to settle down, they had to find sources of income. They had to get creative in order to fund their adventures.
“Veronica, when we were done with our first year, actually sat down and figured out our expenses, and it was actually cheaper for us to live in that motor home than it was to live in our house,” David explains. “We would go 100 miles and stop and see something and we'd spend a lot of time in Walmart parking lots because it's free to park there.”
The couple used the money from selling their home to purchase condos in the college town their son lived, renting them out to students for a bit of extra cash. They also started a travel blog that began as a way to keep friends and family updated on their whereabouts, but quickly gained a following and led them to another source of income.
Veronica does web design and photography on the side, while David writes freelance for other travel companies. The two have found ways to earn cash by becoming, what they call, digital nomads.
“There are a ton of other ways to make money while not having to be in your house or at your job,” David explains. “If you do a bunch of things that make a little bit of money, it ends up being enough to live off of."
One of the best decisions the couple said they made early on was buying an RV to do their domestic travels. It forced them to downsize, but it also allowed them to keep a semblance of home while on the open road, something that was important to Veronica, a self-described “homebody.”
“One of the nice things about having a motor home was that you could bring your home with you,” Veronica explains. Their RV had all of the essentials, and because they packed their things in storage, there was plenty of space for the two of them. In fact, both agree traveling in the motor home brought them closer.
“It helped our relationship transform,” David affirms.
Another travel tool the couple thinks people don’t take advantage of enough is travel companies. Because of their blog’s popularity, tourism boards and travel companies often invite them on free trips to experience new places in ways they wouldn’t have if they’d been left to their own devices. After using these companies, David and Veronica say the travel industry is finally cluing into the buying power of the boomer generation, catering to seniors more than ever before.
“There are a lot of companies that take care of you a little more when you’re older,” Veronica explains.
Whether you’re planning on a week-long vacation or for long-term travel, David and Veronica say the best thing is to try something new. That might mean volunteering in your visiting city or jumping off a cliff something the couple did while in Peru. The experience of getting out of one’s comfort zone just can’t be imitated.
“Especially when your kids are gone, a lot of times people feel like, ‘Oh, now what? I don't have any real purpose in life,’” David explains. “But we found that if you just keep trying new things.”
“I worked really hard to get outside my comfort zone to the point where I started writing about fear conquering and asking some of these tour companies every time, ‘Do [you have] something that's going to get me out of my comfort zone. Because I want to be as fearless as possible,’” she says. “Zip-lining over a 300-foot waterfall, feeding crocodiles, joining a roller derby… I needed very much to step out of that comfort zone to grow.”