"We wanted to show that exploring the world is possible in retirement. We don't have a big budget, but it is possible."
“What we store under our eyelids, no one can take away from us,” says Andrzej Walczak, who travels the world with his wife Teresa in a motorhome. They’re both in their sixties. “A married couple who have been traveling around the world in an RV for years,” is their modest description on social media.
The couple doesn’t count how many countries they have visited or how many miles they’ve traveled. They’re not in a “who has visited the most places” contest. Only because someone convinced them to do so, they took the time to calculate that they’ve already been to almost 60 countries and have traveled more than 120,000 miles. What matters more to them is that there are still many countries to visit.
They’ve had two houses for many years: the brick and mortar one they own in Krakow, Poland, and the one on wheels. In the latter, they’ve spent a total of about seven years, because their trips sometimes last even several months.
“So far, there hasn’t been a country that is not interesting for us. We’ve never regretted going somewhere. Each is different, each is interesting—whether it’s in the farthest reaches of Europe or southern Italy. It was interesting to stay in Turkey and Central Africa, where we got to know completely different environments. Every trip brings a lot of positive energy and reflection to our perception of the world,” says Andrzej Walczak.
What the world is really like
This is the most important thing for them when they travel: getting to know and understand the world, experiencing firsthand what a place is really like, not just what the media says about it. Their friends aren’t always receptive to the views they form based on their own experience, so sometimes that circle dwindles.
During our conversation, Mr. and Mrs. Walczak’s son called to inform them that he had just picked up the RV after a long time at a workshop in the north of the country. This was necessary after a gas cylinder exploded on their recent trip to Iraq. Mr. Andrzej’s tone of voice changed at this news: he’s full of joy that their home on wheels is coming back to them because it means they can plan. They’re attracted to Iran, perhaps next winter, but they’re also thinking of swapping RVs with someone from South America, or trading their camper for another vehicle they can bring across the Atlantic. In May of this year, they announced long-term plans for a trip to visit the Americas from south to north.
“We wanted to show that exploring the world is possible in retirement. We don’t have a big budget, and we have to plan our trips with this in mind, but as you can see, it is possible. We’re trying to show living this way is worthwhile,” says Andrzej.
Sometimes they run into compatriots abroad, such as when they met Brother Jacek, from Gdansk, serving God in Russia.
It’s not that they don’t like their life in Krakow. “However, we definitely feel better when we travel. Staying at our brick house, we say, is a bit of a waste of time; our children are grown, and our grandchildren are reared. We also have a lot to do here, such as writing a book, but traveling is more important to us.”
Nearly 50 years of marriage: travel for two
The art of traveling together is important to them. “We’ve been married nearly 50 years, and this traveling together just strengthens our bond. Because it’s having experiences together, experiencing, encouraging each other, and paying attention to interesting, different things. While in St. Petersburg, especially, we visited different museums—of which there are approximately 100—separately, to exchange impressions afterwards. For us, this is a wonderful thing. ”
Learning to understand and respect differences
Traveling has also taught them respect and tolerance, for example, towards different religions. That’s why they always try to be prepared, to know how to behave in a given place.
“Sometimes I joke, telling my friends that I have met so many religions that I have been a Jew, a voodoo worshiper in Africa, a Muslim … I say that I believe in every god and one of them is real and eventually I’ll end up in heaven,” says Mr. Andrew. “These are jokes, of course, but such a broad view teaches respect,” he stresses.
Ready for anything
When going on a trip, they try to be prepared for everything. Sometimes, however, there are surprises. For example, once they were on the way to a national park in an African country to watch wild animals, but 30 miles before the park the animals were already grazing by the roadside. Their plans were unnecessary.
Their favorite way to spend the holidays? In their home on wheels, just as they did once in the Sahara, where there was only sand and them. “Our granddaughter called on Christmas Eve, on the run, because she still had many things to do. We, on the other hand, only started preparing Christmas dinner in the morning, because that’s all the time we needed. We enjoyed the quiet, the peace and quiet. We love it,” say the Walczaks.