Going Gypsy: When The Kids Are Gone

One Couple's Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest At All

By Eleanor Harte
Going Gypsy by Davi and Veronica JamesDavid and Veronica James fell in love when they were just teenagers and soon after became parents when they were just kids themselves. When their youngest kid moved to college and the other two were already out of the nest, they found themselves at a crossroads. Contrary to what seemed to be expected of them, they didn’t feel sad to be empty nesters. They were excited for the next phase of life. But what did that entail?
That question led them to sell their house and get rid of most of their possessions, quit their jobs, and buy a beat-up RV online. Armed with a “the plan is no plans” approach, they traveled around the United States, transitioning from Mom and Dad to David and Veronica, while maintaining a sense of adventure. Veronica struggles with ending her helicopter mom tendencies while David discovers he maybe needs more of a plan for this adventure than he thought.

This book is a quick, funny read for anyone interested in what it's like to say goodbye to the nest and travel the world!

Going Gypsy Excerpt: Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

Veronica was buried deep in a map. “Hey, we’re pretty close to Hot Springs. Maybe we should stop.”

“Hot Springs is no big deal; I played there a few times.” I actually didn’t dislike Hot Springs per se, but I was trying to keep us on course.

“What do you want to go there for?”

“To take in the healing waters.”

Gypsy Nesters David and Veronica James.
Gypsy Nesters David and Veronica James.

“Take in healing waters?” Was she serious? “But your dad’s expecting us. It’s out of our way.”

“Wait, really? Out of our way? We don’t have a way these days, do we? What about the-plan-is-no-plans and all that jazz?”

Right then I realized that the idea of having a way or a plan had not left my cranium completely. Hot Springs seemed to be highlighting a fundamental difference in our styles of travel. I wanted to move forward, see things, and move on to the next place. Get where we were going. Veronica wanted to take everything in, explore, and even stay a while if something struck her fancy.

I think my method stems from years of having a set itinerary on tour. Ride the bus, eat, set up, eat, clean up, play the show, tear down, pack up, eat, ride the bus. Next day, same thing, like the movie Groundhog Day. Spur-of-the-moment changes or hanging out an extra day somewhere were not options. There was always another show to get to or a mad dash to Nashville to spend a few blissful days at home.

This was not the first time that these differences had caused some friction. Our conflicting styles had run up against each other in Europe too, and this time wouldn’t be the last. It wasn’t the end of the world or anything, but we both needed to give a little. I figured I should be a little more willing to move toward her position, because of the fact that we didn’t have to be anywhere at any given time. It made sense for me to cool my jets a good bit. That, and I’m such a swell guy.

“I guess we could check it out,” I offered. “Maybe it’s better than I remember.”

In reality, all I really remembered was the inside of a tour bus and a stage in some theater, or horse track, or something. Surely Hot Springs had more to offer than that.

“It’s not like we have to get the kids back for school. Why don’t you call your dad and tell him we’re going to be a day or two later?”

Veronica’s dad is one of the most laid-back people I know, and was one of the few family members actively encouraging our new lifestyle, so I knew that wouldn’t be a problem.

Bathhouse Row

Guiding BAMF through bumper-to-bumper traffic, we inched our way onto Hot Springs’ famed Bathhouse Row. These grand old spas were built over the thermal springs back in the 1800s, and folks from far and wide came to partake in the perceived therapeutic properties of the 140-plus-degree healing waters. They still do.

The Fordyce Bathhouse lodges the headquarters of Hot Springs National Park and a museum that captures the grandeur of a by-gone era. With a handy map from the front desk, we followed the self-guided tour. The first floor featured locker rooms, bathtubs and sowers, and ended up in a giant public bath complete with cheesy, Greek god-style statues and a stained glass ceiling. It was all very Victorian.

But upstairs, things took a turn for the macabre. Back in the day, some “doctor” decided that healing water alone just wasn’t good enough.

The famed Fordyce Bathouse in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
The famed Fordyce Bathouse in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Nope, tools – scary tools – were invented to supplement the therapeutic powers of the springs. We had entered what looked like a Frankenstein movie torture chamber. Though we were mortified by the collection, we just had to look.

“Good God, that one has an electric plug!” came flying out of my mouth.

Our fellow tourists looked over, unsure if they really wanted to witness the quasi-medical monstrosity I had spotted. There was a smattering of nervous laughter as their eyes found the offending instrument, but real horror was the overriding emotion of the moment.

I didn’t even want to think about what a foot-long glass tube with a 120-volt cord sticking out the back would be used for, especially in such close proximity to so much water.

Tile covered bath at Fordyce bathhouse in Hot Springs AR
Tile covered bath at Fordyce bathhouse in Hot Springs AR

I felt myself moving away, a strictly reflexive action. My body’s neuromuscular systems were instinctively reacting to prevent any unwanted insertions, but Veronica stood frozen by fear, curiosity, or  maybe astonishment.

She had to be a little scared; we all were. But what I found waiting for us next, in the Women’s Hydrotherapy Room, was rally going to strike some terror into her. The contraption confronting me looked like it should be on top of a fire engine.

“Oh honey, come over and see this thing,” I called out in my most amicable, singsong tone.

She founded the corner and let out a panicky little squeak when she came face-to-face with a Volkswagen Beetle-sized box containing several firehose-like nozzles protruding from one side, and a bevy of levers, knobs, pedals, valves, gauges, and dials on the other.

The whole room was tiled and waterproofed, so obviously the idea was to soak down the patient until whatever was afflicting her drowned or begged for mercy. Hey, I’d have been begging as soon as the good doctor touched that first knob.

If this was the stuff they showed to the public, I could scarcely imagine what was behind some of those locked doors. I wasn’t about to stick around to find out.

“Oh gee, look at the time, we ought to get going,” I muttered anxiously.

Veronica didn’t take much convincing. She beat me to the door.

Buy Going Gypsy on Amazon!

Visit David and Veronica's website, Gypsy Nester

Like this article? Share it with your friends!