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Could you become a grey nomad?


Whether you’re heading into retirement or not, are you thinking about hitting the road? The idea of becoming a grey nomad is more and more popular for those who have always wanted to travel around in a caravan. To really get to know what being a grey nomad is like, we spoke to those who’ve experienced it to get the pros and cons.

For Jaclyn Bold, the founder of Bold Trailer and Caravan Repair Centre, while she’s not a grey nomad herself, she’s seen plenty of older Australians coming through her doors. 

“I am seeing a growing trend in my customers who are nearing retirement actively planning a future that involves purchasing a caravan, or making upgrades and modifications to their existing caravan, so they can live on the road for many months at a time and explore Australia,” she says. “Some customers are making these plans three to five years out from retirement.”

Does this sound like you? If you’re thinking about hitting the road, we asked Jaclyn for a quick-fire list of pros and cons on the practicalities of caravan life, to give you a bit more insight into what to expect.

The pros

  1. Making new friends – “With time now to enjoy, our customers say they love meeting new people while travelling. Some even plan to meet up with new friends again or start to travel together as a group. This is important because on the road you’re away from your established support network of friends and family.”
  2. Seeing it all – “All the locations and stories you have heard of and wished to see throughout your working life, you can finally tick off your bucket list. The sense of achievement and dreams realised is empowering and enriching to the grey nomad’s life.”
  3. Travelling to see family – “One beautiful couple [I know] has three children all living in three different states due to work. They share their time travelling between states to see their grandchildren and using their kids’ houses as bases to get out and explore new areas.”
  4. Chasing the weather – “The ability to follow the temperature you enjoy is not only liberating but can be an essential part of their management plan for people living with temperature affected illnesses like Raynaud’s Disease.”

The cons

  1. The family doctor is no longer nearby – “As we get older, our trusted family GP plays an important role in maintaining our health. While some people are happy to see a doctor in a medical centre in the town they are visiting, I’ve had some customers who’ve had to fly or drive back home to see their doctor or specialist because they struggle to maintain continuity of care while on the road.”
  2. Registration checks – “Make sure you talk to your mechanic and caravan repairer before you start travelling regarding your vehicle registration checks. They will be able to advise you on how to get your car or caravan re-registered while you’re travelling in another state.”
  3. Free camping versus caravan parks – “This is always hotly debated. Free camping, while not paying for a caravan site, requires the caravan to be well equipped to sustain free camping. Caravan parks, while charging a nightly fee, offer the convenience of washing facilities, maintained camping areas and often a community of like-minded people.”
  4. To sell or not sell the family home – “Some retirees are selling up everything to buy a caravan and live on the road. While this may be ok while you’re in good health and still fit enough o travel, if declining health takes hold there is no immediate home to return to.”
  5. Caravans are not maintenance-free – “There is regular servicing and repairs and insurance costs to maintain. When you need maintenance or repairs, you need to be prepared to spend a few days in one location and remember you won’t be able to live in your caravan during the repair – so a hotel may be needed.”

Speaking from experience

Not only is it important to weigh up the pros and cons if you’re thinking about becoming a grey nomad, but it’s also important to hear firsthand from someone who has hit the road. For Sam and Kelly, they chose their later years to deck out their caravan and head out onto the open road. It’s fair to say, they haven’t looked back since!

“Originally, we just wanted to get out and see more of Australia,” says Sam. “Even though we’ve lived here pretty much our whole lives, there were places we’d never had the chance to visit.”

“So many people our age talk about jumping on a plane overseas, but for us it was much more important that our bucket list start with places right here at home,” says Kelly.

From beaches to mountains, mud-soaked tracks to wide open roads, the couple have seen their fair share of Australia. 

“Now that our daughter has had her first child, we’ll probably stay closer to Perth for the next few years,” says Kelly. “But the fact we can jump in the caravan and head off on another adventure whenever we want, is a new kind of freedom we didn’t have before taking on the ‘grey nomad’ lifestyle.”

Who wouldn’t want to give it a try?

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