Book Review: Your Keys Our Home: The Senior Nomads’ Incredible Airbnb Journey

Back in 2013, Seattle residents Debbie and Michael Campbell were ready to retire, but Debbie felt they had one more ‘big adventure’ left in them before they settled down. After hearing about Airbnb from their daughter they decided they could travel around Europe while staying in Airbnb rentals to keep it affordable. They sold almost all of their possessions (including their cars and beloved sailboat), rented their house, packed their bags and in July 2013 they hit the road.

Four years later, the Campbells, AKA the Senior Nomads, are still traveling. In the past four years they’ve visited more than 60 different countries, over 200 cities, and stayed in over 130 Airbnb rentals. They’ve been featured in the New York Times, the Huffington Post and other publications and interviewed on Rick Steves’ radio program. Most importantly, they’ve made friends all over the world.

Somewhere along the way they connected with the staff at Airbnb, shared their experiences, and were eventually invited to speak at the Airbnb Open in Paris in December 2015. Following that they were encouraged to write a book about their experiences, primarily for Airbnb hosts all over the world, but for others interested in a different way of traveling as well, and Your Keys Our Home: The Senior Nomads’ Incredible Airbnb Journey was the result.

The Senior Nomads in the kitchen of their Paris Airbnb rental (photo credit: The New York Times)

The book is an easy and very enjoyable read – I couldn’t put it down, and ended up reading it all in one sitting. Debbie and Michael tell about how their adventure got started; their evolution as Airbnb guests, including how they choose their Airbnb rentals and get themselves to each destination. They include lots of good advice on how to search for and nail down an Airbnb rental that will be a great fit for one’s budget and with the desired amenities, as well as tips on how to be a great host and a great guest. They describe how much they pack (not a lot – they each carry one large rolling duffel and a backpack), their rules for staying within weight regulations, and who handles what as they travel. Woven through the book are fun and interesting stories from their travels.

Debbie and Michael get ready to hit the road again (photo credit: The Huffington Post)

After four years of traveling together, the Campbell’s are still in love and still enjoying each other’s company. For now, they have no idea when they’ll stop – in 2016 they sold their house in Seattle and became true nomads.

On one level, Debbie and Michael’s wonderful little book shows how it’s possible to affordably travel the world by staying in other people’s homes as if they were your own. But, the book is also an inspiring guide for re-imagining retirement. Whether you have dreamed of paring down possessions to the essentials and getting out to see more of the world, or just finding a more affordable and interesting way to travel, Your Keys Our Home is a terrific starting point for creating your own “big adventure.”

(Debbie and Michael have been blogging about their travels from the beginning of their adventure. You can follow along and learn more at their blog, The Senior Nomads. As of this writing they are in Amman, Jordan, following visits to Beirut, and before that, several locations in Africa.)

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9 thoughts on “Book Review: Your Keys Our Home: The Senior Nomads’ Incredible Airbnb Journey

  1. Vicky says:

    Thanks for the link to their blog. I’m not interested in reading their book but did find reference to a book Baking Cakes in Kigali which looks interesting. However I will be following their blog as I like they are doing something interesting. Funny how we can each have such a different experience with an organization such as AirBnb. We have vowed never again, only on one occasion has our rental property lived up to the pictures and description. There has to be something wrong with the system when most properties are rates so highly because if you look at Trip Advisor it’s rare that a hotel is 5 stars yet it is so common on AirBnb. For us there has been the lack of hot water in Ubud, the builders living upstairs in Lisbon and their noise from 8 am through to 10 pm, threadbare sheets and towels in Honolulu, the poor quality linens and coffee cups with angel wings instead of handles which rendered them unusable in Reyjavik. Yet all these properties are rated 5 star. We’ve been left to conclude that a lot of people live a lower quality of life at home than we do. The final straw was our Montreal host canceling this past week for our upcoming 2 week stay leaving us to find somewhere else to stay with a 2 week lead in. Funny how AirBnb billed us the same day we booked but we can expect to see a refund in 10 days. We are done with these home sharing sites.

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    • Laura says:

      I’m sorry to here that your Airbnb stays weren’t everything you hoped. We’ve done two, and both met expectations and our stays went well. After reading the book, I believe one of the reasons the Campbells have been so successful in finding great places to stay is the amount of communication they do upfront with hosts before booking a rental. They’ve learned that how that communication goes will be a good indicator of how the rental and their stay will go. That’s not to say all their rentals have been perfect, but over time they’ve learned how to deal with problems. While the majority of their book deals with traveling with Airbnb, there is lots of other information related to traveling that makes the book a worthwhile purchase, in my opinion.

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  2. Laurel says:

    This looks so interesting. We’ve been debating whether to try Airbnb abroad. We’re usually hotel people so everything is predictable, while my daughters both think Airbnb is the way to go. But I’m going to check this out. Thanks!

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    • Laura says:

      As I said above, our experience with Airbnb in Japan was very positive, and I’m looking forward to using them again. The Senior Nomads give many good tips in the books for finding and securing a great rental that fits your needs for both price and amenities.

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  3. anexactinglife says:

    Reading this post and seeing the photos, it makes me think what is possible when people are able to manage their general health, mobility, activity level and finances. Travel is not my goal, but I hope I can be that active and organized!

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  4. debbie campbell says:

    Dear Laura and Brett, What a wonderful surprise it was to find your glowing review of our book during a Google Search for something else. I am so happy you enjoyed it, and we appreciate you spreading the word. I’ve scoured your blog and the two of you sound like our lost soul mates. I would have answered most everyone of your FAQs the exact same way. I hope our paths cross someday. Thanks again – Debbie Campbell. p.s. find our email on the blog and send us yours if you’d like to have any personal communication. We’d love to come to Hawaii sometime.

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    • Laura says:

      So sorry for the very late reply – I got all caught up in jury duty and didn’t do a good job of keeping track of comments! I absolutely loved the book, and will be reading it again (and again).

      I plan on emailing too – I have a ton of questions!

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