Debbie and Michael Campbell are the Senior Nomads. Since retiring in 2013, they have been traveling full-time, living in Airbnbs around the world. They have visited 80 countries and are currently home in Seattle in Airbnb No. 208.
Debbie and Michael have recently published a book called Your Keys, Our Home, which you can find on Amazon. They were kind enough to answer a few of our burning travel questions below.
TA: How many years have you been traveling and what got you hooked?
Debbie & Michael: Five years! We learned about Airnbnb from our daughter Mary in 2013 and realized if we downsized deeply enough we could travel the world and live in other peoples homes instead of our own! So we sold our home, our cars, our boat, and just about everything else and have enjoyed being nomads.
TA: Do you specialize in a particular type of travel?
Debbie & Michael: We are not on vacation. We are just enjoying daily life in other people’s homes as we would in our own home — just in different countries! So we do our best to live locally. We cook in, we walk everywhere, we attend free events and some days, we stay “home” and soak it all in.
TA: What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken?
Debbie & Michael: Safari in Tanzania.
TA: What’s one thing you ALWAYS pack when you travel?
Debbie & Michael: Travel Scrabble (and our personal bed pillows).
TA: If you could only give a traveler one piece of advice, what would it be?
Debbie & Michael: Slow down. You don’t have to do everything — and most of the special moments happen during the time in-between.
TA: What would be your #1 recommendation for a place to travel in 2019?
Debbie & Michael: Croatia. We know it risks being over-discovered, but if you stay away from cruise ship ports there is so much to enjoy in this friendly, warm, and inviting country. Great seafood, lovely beaches, undiscovered natural beauty, ancient history — and it’s still affordable. Don’t miss Hvar, Split, Zadar, and Skradin.
TA: What are the top 3 websites you use for research/inspiration when planning a trip?
Debbie & Michael: Airbnb, Rome2Rio, Skyscanner. These three sites connect us to where we will call home, how best to get to that city from the city we are in, and then the most affordable flights available if flying is the best option. Rome2Rio is a gem of a site in that it gives you options for travel whether by air, sea, or ground. And here is one more secret site if you love train travel: The Man In Seat Sixty-One. The man who writes this blog knows more about international train travel than any human on earth.
TA: What is the best piece of travel advice you’ve ever been given?
Debbie & Michael: Whatever you are doing — whether it is taking a flight or taking a tour — get there early. Nothing bad comes from having an extra hour to get lost, grab that last snack, buy a souvenir, and just chill-out.
TA: Is there something you think most travelers worry too much about?
Debbie & Michael: Their phone plan. We’ve found with our unlocked phones we can buy data plans using SIM cards in any country. Once you have data you can use the internet and your apps so you won’t get lost (and can call an Uber) and can stay in touch with family and friends. And of course, if you are traveling for just a few weeks your US plan can be temporarily upgraded for international travel, and while expensive, it should work without hassles. Don’t forget your phone’s “hotspot” feature for instant WiFi access.
TA: Have you ever met someone while traveling who changed your life?
Debbie & Michael: So many of our Airbnb hosts have become friends. They seem to really want to make sure their guests have a good experience and — in more than one case — we ended up going out to dinner or on other local excursions together. Our favorites were being taken to a secret dinner club in Marrakesh, crossing the border between the Greek and Turkish sides of the Cyprus border for lunch, and learning to make Orchietti pasta with our host’s grandmother in Bari, Italy.
TA: What’s something that other tourists do when traveling that drives you crazy and why?
Debbie & Michael: We do not speak a second language, but we do make an effort to learn a few key phrases — even as simple as hello, goodbye, thank you and especially whatever works for “pardon me”. So that when you approach someone, you can at least say something like “hello, I am sorry to bother you…” before launching directly into a “where’s the whatever” sort of question. You’ll be surprised at how many people want to be helpful (and speak English) if you, in return, speak “polite”.
TA: Which underrated destination deserves to be more famous?
Debbie & Michael: Malta! A visit to this former colonial outpost is like discovering a classic British Pub and ordering the best Mojito you’ve ever had. Havana meets HRH. And along with all that magnificent, faded architecture there are pristine beaches, craggy hills for hiking, and mega yachts tucked up against glittering restaurants in the harbors. But maybe best of all, you can get incredible dental work done (and medical procedures, too) not only quickly, but at a fraction of U.S. prices — with highly credentialed UK professionals.