On the Road Again - Fay and Barry Young Take the Scenic Route Through Their Golden Years

Fall 2011 CSANews Issue 80  |  Posted date : Sep 02, 2011.Back to list

When it comes to travelling, Fay and Barry Young aren't exactly rookies – the Vancouver couple has travelled extensively throughout their lives. But when it comes to being snowbirds, they're definitely the new kids on the block.

"We've only been doing the snowbird thing for, say, two years," admits Fay, a former elementary school teacher. But, if the quality of this limited experience is any indication, it's something that the couple will be doing for some time. "It's a more relaxed kind of lifestyle. You're kind of away from your daily routines and things, there's always something new to look forward to – new scenery, new wildlife, new people."

Unlike many snowbirds, the Youngs don't have a home-away-from-home to which they migrate every year. Rather, they take their home with them, in the form of a 19-foot camper van. "I guess what really started us is we went to Australia in 2008 and bought a used camper van and travelled all the way around [the country]," Fay explains. "That kind of got us into that type of lifestyle. We came back and [thought], it might be nice to have a little camper van here. When one came along, we [said], 'OK, let's do this!'"

While some might consider a van a little cramped when it comes to a vacation property, Young says that it's been more than sufficient for their needs, "It's good for two people," she says. "[And] it's easier on gas than the big ones." 

True, the small space forces the couple to make some tough choices ("You have to take fold-up chairs," Young says with a hearty laugh), but the two take the compromises in stride. "Apart from the driving, you're sort of living outdoors most of the time, so you're [only] sleeping there."

And, when it comes time to hit the road again, a smaller vehicle offers a distinct advantage, allowing the couple to hop from town to town without worrying about getting into a tight spot. "It just parks like a car," Young explains. "You don't have any problems finding a spot in the Wal-Mart parking lot!"

The best part of travelling light, however, is the freedom which it affords them; when the Youngs find a place that they like, they simply find a spot to park, set the emergency brake and relax. So far, the Youngs have concentrated on the desert states of the U.S. Southwest (Arizona and New Mexico). As Young explains, the arid, sunny climate is a world away from grey, "wet coast" winters, and the scenery is nothing less than breathtaking. "It's a stunning desert," Young notes. "The saguaro cactus are magnificent, and to see forests of them is amazing."

The Youngs are also fans of the laid-back southwest culture. Yuma and Tucson have become favourite destinations in Arizona, as has Tubac, a 250-year-old town of about 900 people nestled in the Santa Cruz River Valley. The town is known for its eclectic and internationally renowned art colony, and is home to more than 80 galleries and art studios. "That was an amazing little place," Fay says. "We walked through there, and there's artwork, outdoor sculptures and stuff that blows you away."

Young says that the experience is even more amazing across the border. As part of their annual desert sojourn, the Youngs routinely visit the Baja Peninsula of Mexico. There, they've found all that a snowbird could ask for: sun, sand, surf and a hearty dose of Mexican hospitality.

So enamoured have the Youngs become with Mexico that next year, the couple plans to spend more time visiting the Baja, specifically San Felipe, a picturesque town on the Sea of Cortez. "There's a camp called Pete's Camp about 12 kilometres north of town," Young explains. "You can park right on the beach for $18 a night. It's just beautiful – it's a never-ending beach." As Young explains, the town offers all the necessities, with the added benefit of fabulous local cuisine. "They have a Saturday market close by, where you can buy amazing seafood and all kinds of fresh vegetables. We've never had a problem getting sick from local fruits and vegetables or anything like that."

For those looking to spend their retirement on the road, Young suggests that the first step is to do your homework. "You need to talk to people who have done it before," Young says. "We've learned a lot from other people we've met, who have always been very welcoming and very willing to share experiences and information, and point you in the right direction."

Not only has this helped the Youngs with the practical details of travelling – where to stay, where to eat, what to take with them and how much it will all cost – it's helped them with the metaphysical journey that often comes with seeing different parts of the world. "It's given me a greater appreciation of human nature," Young says. And isn't that what being a snowbird is all about?