This empty nest couple decided to sell everything and travel the world

We’ve all dreamed of going on vacation and never coming home, but for most of us it remains just that – a dream. But not for Janice Horton and her husband. Otherwise known as The Backpacking Housewife, Janice is a travel blogger, an author of many romantic adventure novels, a mother to three grown up sons, and the woman who decided to sell everything and travel the world.

After her boys grew up and left home, this nomadic pair sold their house, cars and most belongings, swapping regular life for a life on the road. 6 years on, and they haven’t looked back.

Inspired by Janice’s story, we caught up with her to find out what inspired the couple’s plunge into the great unknown…

Where are you in the world right now, and what are you doing?

We’re currently housesitting in a beautiful chateau, surrounded by countryside and vineyards, in south west France. We are here while I finish writing the third book in my contract for a series of fictional books based on my own travel experiences for my publisher, Harper Collins, in London.

When I first began writing this series of books, we were travelling in Asia, and I was super thrilled to have a book deal. But soon realized that to complete the three manuscripts to deadline, I’d need some downtime from travelling for a while and that’s how we discovered housesitting. Living in France has been the perfect writing retreat! We’ve loved being here, drinking vin and eating fromage, and making lovely French friends.

But we feel our wanderlust returning! Right now, we’re busy planning our next big backpacking adventure around the world.

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What inspired you to pack it all in and go travelling?

I think I might have been born under a wandering star and luckily my husband also loves to travel. Looking back, when we were living in Scotland and working hard to raise our children and maintain our home, we were always also saving up for the next vacation.

We tended to value and prioritise travel experiences over material things.

For example, we’d rather book a holiday than buy a new sofa. Our boys were used to it and they are well travelled too, but only within the time dictated by their school holidays and our accrued time off work.

So, once they graduated university and they left home to live their lives independently of us, we had pretty much decided there was nothing holding us back from selling the empty nest and spending the nest egg on travel and exciting travel experiences!

 
 
 
 
 
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Were people surprised by your decision? What did they say?

Yes, I think so. One or two of our friends and family might have thought we were crazy! Others say they understand and are supportive. Many say that we inspire them to do the same thing. Either way, they no longer ask how we are – they ask where we are!

 
 
 
 
 
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What did your children think of your decision?

The travel bug was always inherently within us and so it’s highly likely that we’ve passed it on to our children too. One of our sons, who teaches English, now lives in South Korea with his wife and our grandson. The other two still live and work in Scotland. Our three sons and their partners often spend their precious holiday time with us wherever we are in the world. They’ve flown out to be with us to the Caribbean and Central America and parts of Asia. They’ve also visited us here in France this summer. My husband and I often return to the UK between travels to see them too as well as our other family and friends. But, when we can’t be together physically, most days we will chat and see each other over social media.

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How has the experience changed your relationship with your husband and your children?

The experience of long-term travel has changed me in many ways, but it has not changed my relationship with my husband or my children. My husband and I get on very well. We are each other’s greatest supporters. We met when we were both 21 years old. We married two years later and this year we’ll be celebrating our 37th wedding anniversary. It’s like we’ve always been a team. These days we are together 24/7 but we make sure give each other space if we need it. We constantly encourage each other to work towards achieving our life goals and to grow as individuals as well as a couple while we travel.

Regarding our relationship with our three boys – we love them with all our heart – and we are so proud of the successful and independent men that they have become. That will never change!

 
 
 
 
 
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What has been your favourite travel experience to date?

Oh, that’s a difficult question to answer, as there have been so many wonderful experiences. If I must choose just one thing, I’d say it was being on the small Malaysian island of Perhentian Besar, on a beach only accessible by boat, to help at a turtle conservation sanctuary. On night shift, I saw huge Green Turtles coming out of the sea under the light of the moon, to lay their eggs on the very same beach where they had been born decades before. I helped to guard and protect nests from turtle egg poachers. I saw baby turtles born through the sand and then run to the sea. It was a truly gratifying and intensely emotional experience for me and one I’ll never forget.

Do you think full time travel is easier or harder than you first imagined?

When we first set out, I honestly didn’t have any expectations about whether life would be easy or hard. I just knew that we’d have experiences both good and bad. Of course, I hoped most would be good. Exploring the world is a real-life adventure and we wanted it to be all about the journey and not just the destination. When we set out we deliberately had an open mind and no set travel plan.

We headed over to the Caribbean first and we explored some of the islands there before travelling to Central America. We ended up staying for many months on the smallest of The Bay Islands, off the coast of Honduras. It’s called Utila and it’s so beautiful there. We love it. We’ve made friends there and my husband says it’s the best diving in the world. We’ve been back several times since.

I feel that life can be easy or hard whether you stay in one place or if you choose to travel. Sure, we’ve had some challenges and setbacks and a few frustrating moments, but we’ve also had the most fabulous and amazing and life-affirming times while travelling too. I guess that’s life!

 
 
 
 
 
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How do you add routine and structure to your day?

The only time I’ve ever needed a routine over the past six years is when I’ve needed time to write my novels. Normally, I don’t like routine. I actually like being somewhere different and new and not really knowing what each day might bring. But, to meet my writing deadlines, I knew I had to be both grounded and consistent for a while at least and that’s what led us to housesitting.

Here in beautiful France, while my husband is doing jobs around the chateau, maintaining the grounds, cleaning the pool and improving his French by chatting to our neighbours, I have a writing routine. I’m enjoying the luxury of what feels to me like a writing retreat.

How has the experience changed the relationship you have with yourself?

Travel has only reinforced what I already knew: life is short and none of us are getting out of it alive. All life is precious. The world is beautiful. Most people are good. The earth that we live on and the air that we breathe is fragile and precious and should never be taken for granted.

 
 
 
 
 
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Why would you encourage people of a similar age to you, to travel?

Yes. Especially the empty nesters. What are you waiting for? If you want to travel then go for it!

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What is the single biggest lesson you have learnt from travelling?

The world is a lot less scary that it looks on the news. Don’t be afraid. People all around the world want the same things and in my experience are mostly good and kind and friendly and generous.

You can follow along with Janice’s travels on her website and also find her bestselling romantic adventure books on Amazon for Kindle and in Paperback.

 
 
 
 
 
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