Meet the Couple Who “Retired” to Airbnb

When they quit their jobs and used the homesharing service to travel, this couple fell even more deeply in love with the world—and each other.

With 55 Airbnbs and more than 30 countries under their belts, Debbie and Michael Campbell, 58 and 69 respectively, have reinvented what it means to be a retiree. We spoke to them about the inspiration behind their change in lifestyle, and the logistics of how they made it work.

Michael: “Three years ago, our daughter said to us, ‘Hey why don’t you guys just quit your jobs and travel?’ We weren’t 100 percent sure we were ready for retirement. We have both loved the work we’ve done and we weren’t sure if we were ready to quit our jobs. And to be honest, we didn’t think we had enough money to travel.”

Debbie: “But our daughter, who lives in Paris with her family, introduced us to Airbnb, and we did some Excel spreadsheets and it started to feel real.”

Michael: “What got into my head is ‘If we reduce our expenses to as low as possible, would it be possible for us to travel and live in other people’s houses for the same amount of money that we would spend to be retired on our rocking chairs in Bend, Oregon?’”

Debbie: “Turns out it was! So we got rid of most of our stuff, rented out our Seattle house, reduced our monthly expenses, and bought two one-way tickets to Paris. And we’ve been traveling ever since.”

Michael: “We take turns picking where to go next. We’re working our way to the Czech Republic right now. We just look around and see which way the wind is blowing. We never get homesick. I think the fact that we rented our house has prevented us from saying ‘Oh I wish we were back home.’ We don’t really have a home to go to. We can’t quit, we can’t go home. The last time we were home in Seattle, we stayed at a house on Airbnb.”

Debbie: “The benefits have been phenomenal. We’re more fun, we’re more open-minded—we’re even more in love. We don’t sweat the small stuff. And we’re healthier! We’ve both lost weight because we walk an average of five miles a day. I never knew there were so many stairs in the world. But we never get homesick. We’re proof that you don’t have to let the stuff and the house and the overwhelming task of downsizing delay your dreams.”

Totally inspired? Here, 7 tips on how Debbie and Michael made an Airbnb retirement work for them.

Aislyn Greene is the associate director of podacsts at AFAR, where she produces the Unpacked by AFAR podcast and hosts AFAR’s Travel Tales podcast. She lives on a houseboat in Sausalito.