Gaylene Seeney and her sweet Mini Foxy cross Albert are the perfect travelling companions. Photo: Jekka Shearer (DARE Australia)
Gaylene Seeney and her sweet Mini Foxy cross Albert are the perfect travelling companions. Photo: Jekka Shearer (DARE Australia)

ROLL ON: Travel dreams alive and well for local grey nomad

While the pandemic has placed limitations on many travellers, it hasn't stopped a local retiree from planning her next holiday.

Bundaberg retiree Gaylene Seeney has been travelling around the state and country for the last four years with her loveable mini fox terrier Albert in tow.

While COVID-19 and lockdown has disrupted many plans over the last 12 months, it hasn't stopped Gaylene and her trusty travel companion from hopping into the caravan when restrictions have lifted.

"It (COVID-19) hasn't changed my retirement or travel plans … I'm a gypsy spirit at heart and don't like to be in any one place for a long period of time," Gaylene said.

"I just spent six weeks at my daughter's place in Chinchilla and by the second week I had itchy feet and wanted to get going … if anything COVID has just made me want to avoid bigger towns, suburbia and big crowds as much as possible."

Gaylene Seeney and her sweet Mini Foxy cross Albert are the perfect travelling companions. Photo: Jekka Shearer (DARE Australia)
Gaylene Seeney and her sweet Mini Foxy cross Albert are the perfect travelling companions. Photo: Jekka Shearer (DARE Australia)

Born in Monto, Gaylene grew up on a farm and spent 30 years of her adult life living on one too.

Her husband worked and needed to use their car leaving Gaylene with no access to a means of transport - something that left her feeling isolated and trapped for many years.

"I think that's what has spurred me to travel because it gives me a sense of freedom," Gaylene said.

"My son lives in Bundaberg, works as a panel beater and is the grandson of a mechanic so he knows a lot about vehicles and I was really lucky because he was able to assist me with getting a reliable vehicle in my price point to tow my van with."

While travelling off-grid over the years has taught her plenty of important skills and resilience over the years, her life experience has also had a part to play.

Despite living with a disability, spinal issues and being born without thumbs, Gaylene hasn't allowed this to set her back in any way.

At a young age she taught herself to play tennis and at one point was Monto's top A-grade female tennis player.

"Most of the things I have accomplished in my lifetime are because I taught myself … travelling on the road teaches you resilience because it's a real learning curve but I think COVID-19 is teaching people that too," Gaylene said.

"If something goes wrong my biggest asset is the ability to say 'well it could be worse' and I always tell people to pack their sense of humour because you'll need it … you've got to laugh when something goes wrong or you'll cry."

Research conducted by Australian Seniors shows the turbulent year that was 2020 has not altered the plans of retirees looking to explore their own backyard. Photo: Jekka Shearer (DARE Australia)
Research conducted by Australian Seniors shows the turbulent year that was 2020 has not altered the plans of retirees looking to explore their own backyard. Photo: Jekka Shearer (DARE Australia)

Currently sitting in her caravan at the back of a friend's 11-acre property with Albert beside her, Gaylene said all she can hear is the birds singing.

Gaylene also goes fishing while on the road and one of her favourite spots to travel to is Theresa Creek Dam near Clermont.

She said her favourite thing about travelling is meeting like-minded people and sharing travel stories around a campfire.

The travel enthusiast said she recommends anyone wanting to follow suit to think about where they want to go, what they want to do and what they want to experience.

Travelling solo and physical limitations has meant Gaylene needs to travel at her own pace so she never pre-books or tells people she's coming but instead travels spontaneously.

"Most people I meet are over 60 and their capacity is diminishing so they are doing it while they can so I say do it now because who knows what tomorrow will bring," Gaylene said.

"Don't think you can't do it - if you really want to believe you can and find a way, seek out professional advice and don't just rely on one person's opinion.

"Albert is the best travel companion - he really adds to the experience and assists me when I'm in a particular bit of pain or experiencing depression and anxiety … he gets me out of bed in the morning."

After living on a farm without access to transport for 30 years, Bundy local Gaylene Seeney said travelling on the road gives her the feeling of freedom. Photo: Jekka Shearer (DARE Australia)
After living on a farm without access to transport for 30 years, Bundy local Gaylene Seeney said travelling on the road gives her the feeling of freedom. Photo: Jekka Shearer (DARE Australia)

But according to the 2021 Mindset Shift report, Gaylene isn't the only one.

Research conducted by The Australian Seniors shows the turbulent year that was 2020 had not altered the plans of retirees looking to explore their own backyard.

While COVID-19 hit the health and financial situations of many people hard, three in four and 76.2% of seniors aged 50 years and over had not altered their retirement and travel plans as a result.

The report showed 65.5% were still planning to travel internationally and domestically while 44.4% of those surveyed had either considered or decided to relocate to a regional area.

Of those numbers 68.6% had thought about or made the move to be closer to the stunning coast.

Two fifths and 43.1% are thinking about spending their retirement as a grey nomad with almost three quarters and 72.4% feeling optimistic about the future of Australia.

In the 20th report published by The Australian Seniors more than 5000 Australians over 50 were surveyed.

Results from a recent survey revealed 65.5% of seniors aged 50 and older were still planning to travel internationally and domestically. Photo: Jekka Shearer (DARE Australia)
Results from a recent survey revealed 65.5% of seniors aged 50 and older were still planning to travel internationally and domestically. Photo: Jekka Shearer (DARE Australia)

Director of clinical psychology at the University of Melbourne associate professor Christina Bryant said the results were contrary to the stereotype that older people are inflexible and stuck in their ways of thinking.

"It appears that this group of older people have altered their outlook following the hardships faced in 2020.

"Although over half of the respondents said they had shifted towards being more focused on their families, being concerned about the issues of the world also featured prominently, again challenging a stereotype that older people withdraw from engaging in world issues.

"This may also link to an intriguing finding in the 2021 Mindset Shift survey that only eight per cent of the sample described themselves as "desensitised to all the chaos and change". In other words, older people care about what is happening around them."

Greenstone's head of public relations, research and insights Therese Waters said the survey was to find out what the demographic wants to get out of life and how the mindset has shifted.

"We conducted this research to better understand how Australia's over 50s have adapted following 2020 and how this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic has shaped their view of the future," Ms Waters said.

"We found that even with set desires and a bucket list in tow (20.6%), this segment of Australians confirmed they're as agile as ever - with almost three quarters (74.3%) confirming they're adapting and reprioritising."

To see all the survey results click here

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