Hendrik and Glynis Hollenbach, retirees in their 60s, have embarked on an extraordinary adventure by adopting a nomadic lifestyle and selling their belongings to travel the world. Fondly referring to themselves as the ‘Grey Nomads’, this adventurous couple has chosen to reside in a different location every month, proving that exploring the world and embracing the van life is not limited to young people.
Their journey began when Hendrik, 64, retired as a national sales manager for a prominent bakery brand, and Glynis, 61, resigned from her job as a primary school teacher. Initially, they planned for a temporary trip, setting off in their Toyota Hilux. However, the joys of life on the road were so captivating that they found themselves no longer desiring the confines of a traditional home.
Their camping preferences evolved over time. While their three boys were young, they frequented caravan parks with amenities such as swimming pools and water slides. As their children grew up and left home, Hendrik and Glynis started exploring game reserves and remote camping grounds. However, due to Glynis’s work obligations, they were restricted to school holidays.
The turning point came when the couple made the liberating decision to become permanent nomads. Hendrik vividly recalls the day they handed over the keys to their house, freeing themselves from concerns about maintenance and security while they were away. Everything they owned was condensed into their Toyota Hilux and caravan, and that feeling of freedom and relaxation was unparalleled.
Since January 2014, Hendrik and Glynis have explored their home country of South Africa, venturing through each province and extending their travels to neighboring countries. Their journey has covered approximately 68,000 miles (110,000 kilometers) to date. Their initial trip began in Great Marico, near the Botswana border, where they embarked on an 82-day adventure spanning 7,863 miles (12,654 kilometers). Upon their return, they realized that a conventional lifestyle no longer suited them.
Embracing the nomadic lifestyle has proven to be more cost-effective for the couple compared to maintaining a house. With their constant movement, they spend only £125-£165 on camping per month, often receiving discounts due to their shorter stays in each location. Glynis highlights that the expenses associated with owning a house, such as garden services, security, cleaners, and utilities, outweigh the costs of their current lifestyle.
Food preparation is simple and affordable for Hendrik and Glynis. They enjoy traditional South African braais (barbecues) and consider ribs a favorite treat. They frequently visit shops or malls for supplies and utilize gas or a fire for cooking. With an average annual distance of 7,456 miles (12,000 kilometers), they follow their whims and desires, favoring warmer climates in areas like Limpopo during winter and Namaqualand in spring.
Along their journey, the couple encounters fascinating individuals, particularly at camping sites. Glynis recounts amusing anecdotes about disagreements between couples when deciding how to position their caravans or pitch their tents. In some instances, Hendrik and Glynis intervene to help resolve conflicts and save marriages, providing a touch of humor and camaraderie to their experiences.
Although they are currently visiting their son in Roodepoort, Hendrik and Glynis eagerly anticipate their return to the open road. Their brief stay within four walls has reaffirmed their preference for the freedom and spontaneity of their nomadic lifestyle.
As their interview concludes, the Grey Nomads prepare to resume their journey, eager to continue exploring the world and embracing the adventure that awaits them.