In March this year, we decided to buy a campervan and start our adventure looking for farm job in order to get the extension on our visas. What was supposed to be a relatively short journey, became a long one with 3 stops on the way from Sydney to Ballarat. We stopped at three different camping sites and as often happens, we talked to other fellow travellers. Nothing special until here, right?
Well, not really. They were not young, loud backpackers from Europe as you would probably expect, but mature travellers from Australia. I am talking 60+ range of age.
There were the two couples in Tumut, whom we met in the kitchen area. While we were cooking burgers, they were playing cards, laughing and chatting like old friends do. Interesting enough, the two men stood up to do the washing up and one of them told us with a smile: “I’ve been married for almost 50 years. Do you want to know the secret of long lasting marriage? I’ve been doing the washing up from day one!” Well, don’t they say people get wiser with age!! 🙂
Another interesting couple of travellers were our “neighbours” at the camping site of Shepperton. They were brother and sister. While the woman was quite reserved, the man was very happy to chat and he told us she wanted to do a long road trip around Australia and he decided (with the wife’s approval, he specified) to join her in the adventure, as he didn’t like the idea of her driving around by herself.
He told us about his past experiences in China and called Sam a “POME”. I had never heard of that, he explained it is the way some Australians call the English as the word stands for “Prisoners Of Mother England”, obviously referring to the fact the first ones arriving in Australia were convicts.
Which is ironic in a way, as many Australians descend actually from those convicts. In fact, it seems that originally it was actually the way English would describe Australians and not the other way round.
I later read (on Wikipedia) that there is another theory which says that POME is actually a shortening for “Pomegranate”, which alluded to the fact that sunburn was (and still is) frequent in British immigrants, whose fair skin would turn red like a pomegranate a few days after their arrival in Australia . I think I like this version the most.
But back to the main topic.
It was only later on in Ballarat that I heard the expression “Grey Nomads” for the first time: Our landlady told us she was soon moving to Philip Island with her partner, both of them in their sixties. She said they love to travel and refers to themselves with that name.
“Grey Nomad” seems to be an Australianism and is it the term used to identify a senior or retired person who travels independently, particularly in a caravan, campervan or motor home, for an extended period within Australia, without necessarily having a specific schedule or set return date. [ http://andc.anu.edu.au/australian-words/meanings-origins?field_alphabet_value=121 ].
Even If it seems that this phenomenon is not limited to Australia only, I have never once met senior people travelling by themselves in campervan in Europe.
If you are lucky enough to meet Grey Nomads during your travels, don’t let the age difference be a barrier: talk, and above all, listen to them. It is so fascinating hearing their stories of a lifetime, and incredibly inspiring as well: it surely broadened the limited idea I had of road trips in Australia mainly made of coloured campervans used by young backpackers drinking “goon” ( cheap box wine).