“We spent the morning looking for a cafe with wi-fi” and “I couldn’t eat for three days after a dodgy supper”.
You would be forgiven for thinking that those quotes came from a student on a gap year, but the woman behind the words is 65 year old travel blogger and ‘gray gapper’ Lesley Norris.
Norris is an adventurer, absolutely. She and her husband Bruce are currently travelling through South America in her Mercedes Unimog; a 4X4 of epic proportions that even manages to fit in a double bed and working toilet. During their adventures they’ve survived a night in the jungle, been rescued by marines and even survived a very nasty car accident when Unimog plunged into a ravine. Again, they had to get rescued from there.
While Norris and her husband are certainly two of a kind in the travelling world, they’re part of a wider trend of ‘granny gappers’ or ‘gray gappers’; backpackers and travellers who are forgoing the cruises and package holidays normally associated with their demographic and travelling on their own terms.
Since launching in 2011, Trusted Housesitters, a website which connects home and pet owners with their members; animal lovers, former security professionals and fellow home owners, has also noticed the trend.
“We have members of all ages and backgrounds” says director Rachel Martin, “but if you look at our most-reviewed sitters, a large percentage of them are retired or at an age where retirement or semi-retirement is a possibility.”
Angela Laws is one of those people. Since retiring her and her husband have spent their golden years travelling the world, looking after vineyards in France and beach houses in California, an enviable life that’s seen her feats picked up in publications like Metronews Canada and Travel With a Challenge.
Like many other house sitters, Laws has found age to be a blessing rather than a hindrance. Mature sitters are typically viewed as more reliable and the number of housesits she has been able to pick up is testament to this.
Although enviable, gap years for seniors are becoming more and more a norm with one in four retirees having taken or planning to take a ‘gap year’ within the next five years. Life begins at…well who knows when it’s supposed to begin these days, but the stories of Angela Laws and Lesley Norris show that age is nothing more than a number.