One of our favorite things about traveling is meeting new people on the road. But lets face it, most backpackers are in their 20's, and we are waaaayyy older than that. When people find out our age, they always ask us about kids. Nate and I have been together for nearly 14 years, and we decided a long time ago, that having kids was not our lifetime goal. Even some of our friends, and family back home can’t understand why a "healthy" couple would choose to live childfree. The answer is simple: Not everyone wants to have kids!
I recall the time, when we used to live in LA. Every year our circle of friends with no kids became smaller. Friends, we could hang out with and do adult things like day drinking and vegging out on Sundays. Sorry, parents. We still love you, but your sexy stroller, baby and bottomless mimosas just don't pair well. Prove me wrong, but somebody might call child services on you.
The reality was hitting us harder everyday and we decided to do what every other adult couple in their late 30's would do. We sold our belongings, packed our backpacks and well, ran away.
This is a story dedicated to those who love to wander the world, to the powerful women that prove that having kids is not their only role in life...and to the believers in unicorns!
When we arrived in Cambodia and met Michelle and Peter, a couple much older than us, living a nomadic life style for more that 25 years, without kids, we felt like we found two unicorns. We needed to capture them (at least in pictures), and share their story with the rest of the world.
Maybe it was the 4 hour long boat ride from the mainland to Koh Rong island, or the homemade Baileys that Michelle welcomed us with at the restaurant, but I (Marta) felt immediately connected to her. She was extremely nice, happy and she was just the right person to be greeted by.
I assumed she was in her 50's. Every time I spent time around Michelle I was wondering if she had any kids of her own. I fell into the same stereotype that I hated so much, where people assume that a woman obviously has kids. One day, I finally got the courage to ask her about it, and to my "relief" I found out not only that Michelle didn't have any kids, but she also is like me and she never wanted to have them.
I realized that I had much more in common with this woman than with most women I meet. We both loved Baileys and don't want kids! Like Michelle, I also have always been very career driven and loved working. Michelle is responsible for overseeing the house keeping staff at the resort, amongst many other miscellaneous jobs.
From Germany and England to Africa
In 1964, a 20 year old Peter moved from Germany to Zimbabwe, to work in a refinery. He said, “it was an exciting time to make money quickly there” and as a young guy, he grabbed the bull by its horns. He said that he was able to afford a new car after only working at his new job for only 3 weeks. Peter recalled, “I was so proud to buy my first car and there was only one problem… I didn’t know how to drive.” Luckily, his two colleagues were former taxi drivers, and taught him how. Peter said, “It took them the whole night to teach me how to reverse and drive forward and the next morning, only driving 20 miles, I drove to home.”
Peter was quickly promoted at work to a CEO, and was making great money. He married his first wife and had 2 kids, but his family soon fell apart. He admitted the reason his first marriage failed was because he was a workaholic, and wasn’t a good father or husband.
Michelle is originally from England. She moved to South Africa, with her parents when she was a teenager. Around 1991, a grown Michelle lived with two roommates, one of whom worked for Peter. The roommate decided to set Michelle and Peter up on a blind date.
At that point Peter was in his 40’s, and although his career was at its peak, his romantic life was pretty much non existent. Michelle on the other hand was a brilliant, young woman with dreams of her own. She wasn’t exactly looking for the company of another man, but she agreed to go out on a bind date that her roommate arranged. Despite the 18 years of age difference, the two clicked right away. They were a great match because they both had similar passions for traveling and neither of them wanted to have kids. Disclaimer: Peter had already fathered two kids with his first wife, but Michelle made it clear that it wasn’t her dream to ever become a mother.
One morning some years later, as usual, Peter was making tea in the kitchen when he saw a blooming rose outside the kitchen window in the garden. At that moment, Peter decided he wanted to propose to Michelle. While Michelle was still in bed, he served her the freshly brewed tea, with the rose in his mouth, and for a final touch of romanticism, he was completely butt naked. But as he bent his knee he saw how surprised Michelle was, and at the last minute he chickened out turning the whole thing into a joke. Peter said that from that moment on, he knew in his heart that he wanted to be married to her but he was afraid of rejection.
Finally on June 4th 1999, they both decided to get married. There was no formal proposal, it just happened naturally and mutually. Their wedding was small (only 5 people), but it was perfect and it didn’t cost them anything. There was no big dress and fancy diamond rings. Michelle wore white pants and a top she borrowed from her friend. Their only wedding gift was a honeymoon vacation from all their friends at work.
“Home is where I put my head on the pillow”
Some time after their wedding, Michelle and Peter both got tired of their corporate life and decided to follow their passion of traveling. They both wanted to work in hotel service. Michelle took a job as a head of service in a hotel in Cape Town, and Peter was pursuing a career as a professional chef.
Eventually South Africa became too dangerous as crime was rising, and after losing too many friends to that very crime, in 2000 the two decided to move to Scotland, where they worked in a castle and later on, they managed a pub near Liverpool. They also went to the Butler Academy to become professional butlers.
After a while, they get got sick of the dreary weather in Scotland, and decided to find some sunshine. With the last of their money, they bought an old Audi at an auction for 400 pounds. The car wouldn't start shortly after they bought it, but somehow they managed to drive it all the way to Spain.
In Costa del Sol, they bought a local newspaper and found an ad: “an a English man and his dog looking for management to look after him and his villa.” They applied and got the jobs right away! They worked for him for 2 years.
Their jobs were always exciting and sometimes even dangerous. While working for an American businessman in Granada, they discovered that his bookkeeper was fudging the books. There was a lot of hostility towards Americans in Granada during that time and the newspaper quickly picked up the sensational story about “an American, who hired two South Africans to help with his shady business”. Michelle and Peter were held hostage in the house where they worked, but luckily a local friend helped them to escape potential jail time or even death. They fled in a boat and hid there till it was safe to buy a flight to Venezuela.
Nowadays, Michelle and Peter are living quietly in Cambodia on the small island of Koh Rong. Besides their work at the resort, they also run a small school for kids from the nearby village. They teach young kids the basic subjects: English, geography, math and train the older teenagers to work in the hospitality business.
When I asked them how long they will stay in Koh Rong, their answer was, "how long is a piece of string”? and that was followed with, “we are not planning on a family, so instead we are just committing ourselves to each other. We don’t have to prove anything anymore. We are trying to help other people to achieve their goals”.
Meanwhile The Tipsy Gypsies are currently still traveling the world, staying in cheap hotels, eating street food and measuring time by "beer o'clock". You might be at home, cooking dinner or cuddling with your kids. We clearly live our lives differently but no matter what you do or where you are in your life, with or without kids, I want you to remember: Never stop chasing your "sun"!!!