Ken and Cally Hardaker are 50-something empty nesters who love traveling. But when they're not on the road, they are at home in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia -- a fabulous place to live. The central message of their blog Dodgy Knees is that older travelers can travel independently, just as younger travelers do. With a bit of planning and a few handy tools, they claim you can do it on a budget, and go to places you thought you could only go to on an organized group trip.
Ken and Cally were kind enough to answer a few of our questions below.
TA: How many years have you been traveling and what got you hooked?
Cally: I was born in Japan where my family lived for 10 years, and we travelled regularly to Australia, Europe, and North America. So I guess I was born to it.
Ken: I was a little later starting. After finishing university in the early 80's, I spent three and a half years backpacking around the world. So, it's been a lifelong passion for both of us.
TA: Do you specialize in a particular type of travel?
Ken & Cally: We like to organize all aspects of our own travel. The planning and research is half the fun. So we rarely take group trips except the occasional day trip.
TA: What is the best vacation you've ever taken?
Ken & Cally: We decided to give ourselves a 'gap year' in 2016 and spend a year travelling. It turned into 18 months and we travelled through the Caribbean, South, Central, and North America as well as a couple of months in Europe. In all, 54 countries on the one trip. We loved the fact that travel was our full time "job" for all that time.
TA: What's one place you've always wanted to visit?
Ken & Cally: Mongolia, and we're going next year -- can't wait!
TA: What's one thing you ALWAYS pack when you travel?
Ken & Cally: Our maps program on our mobile phones. We use Maps.me. It uses the phone's GPS so you don't need an internet connection.
TA: If you could only give a traveler one piece of advice, what would it be?
Ken & Cally: Do your preparation. If you want to visit places that have a reputation as being a bit edgy, the more you know beforehand the more likely it is that you'll not have any problems and you'll enjoy yourself. We always check the government travel advice on a country before visiting as well as read what other travellers are saying on forums such as Lonely Planet's Thorntree.
TA: What are some of your favorite travel blogs and communities?
TA: Where was the most unusual place you've ever stayed?
Ken & Cally: An obscure "eco-resort" in southern Gabon where we were the only guests.
TA: What is the most beautiful and affordable city you've ever visited?
Ken & Cally: That's a hard question. Rio, Sydney, and Jerusalem are all up there. But our choice is Havana. The beauty is in the crumbling glory of the city and its history, and it is very affordable.
TA: What's one way people can get the most out of their cruise experience?
Ken & Cally: We don't take cruises. The idea of taking a holiday with 4,000 other people doesn't appeal. We wanted to visit Alaska and "cruised" to a number of locations on the public system -- The Alaskan Maritime Highway. It was excellent. It allowed us to decide exactly when and where we went and was a lot cheaper than a cruise. Highly recommended.
TA: Have you ever met someone while traveling who changed your life?
Ken: I met a Slovenian couple in China in 1986. We've stayed in contact all these years. Last year we visited them in Slovenia and this Christmas they are coming to stay with us in Tasmania. I don't know that it has "changed our life" but it's been a great friendship which continues to this day.
TA: What's something that other tourists do when traveling that drives you crazy and why?
Ken & Cally: When in countries that don't have English as a national language, tourists who just assume the locals will speak English. We always try to learn a few words of the local language, even if it's just greetings, thank you, yes and no (and how to order two beers -- that's essential).
TA: Which underrated destination deserves to be more famous?
Ken & Cally: Albania. We visited last year and loved it. It has an interesting history, great beaches and friendly people. Most young Albanians speak English so it was easy to travel about. It was also very cheap by European standards. We reckon that it will take off in the next few years.
TA: What's one piece of advice you'd give to travelers your age?
Ken & Cally: That it's easier than you think to organize your own trips. You just need a computer, a smartphone, and a few good apps and websites. And apart from being fun to do it yourself you'll save money.