Meet the Retirement Rebel Who Sold Her Belongings to Live Life on the Road
Siobhan Daniels is leading her own retirement rebellion, motivated by positive ageing. She sold her flat and most of her belongings and bought a motorhome – and she’s been travelling ever since. In her new book, she reflects on her journey so far
When her daughter went to university, Siobhan took a year out of work and backpacked solo around the world, which sparked a travelling bug. When she retired at the age of 60, she decided to travel again. ‘I was having a particularly difficult time in my life,’ Siobhan admits. ‘I hit the road again to challenge ageism and champion positive ageing. My family thought I was a bit crazy for doing it, but they’re all proud of me now.’
Siobhan knew there was a need for change in her life. Her brother died suddenly from lung cancer in his 50s and Siobhan had a hysterectomy which found pre-cancerous cells and led to an early menopause. Her sister also lost her battle with cancer, and Siobhan says she began to feel ‘marginalised and voiceless’. ‘I looked at myself in the mirror and I was at a crossroads,’ she continues. ‘I realised that I needed to do something. I needed to find another way of living, so I hatched a plan – but I didn’t know what form it was going to take. I’d never driven one, but in September 2019 I turned the key on my new motorhome and set off with genuinely no idea where I was going. I just wanted to go with the flow and that’s basically what I’ve been doing for the last three years.’
When Siobhan set off, she headed straight to the Yorkshire countryside. ‘I started my trip with two of my friends who I began nursing with at St James’. One flew over from Ireland and one still lives in Leeds. They came with me and we explored the Dales and the Lake District together. They helped me get to grips with driving the motorhome, but then I went solo. When I went to Scotland, I’d already got to grips with the physical side of things, but mentally I had a lot of demons I needed to deal with. I stood at the edge of a loch near Aviemore and I screamed, shouted and cried. Then I had an overwhelming feeling of calm. I thought “that’s it” – I’m going to leave all those emotions behind and use the negativity as fire in my belly to push forward and find my inner warrior.’
Siobhan’s travels haven’t always been plain sailing. As she travelled south from Scotland, Covid hit the UK. ‘I got really scared then,’ she remembers. ‘I didn’t know where I was going to go, or what I was going to do, but I managed to find a campsite in Lancaster and the man who runs it let me stay in one of his fields. I spent the first lockdown there with another couple from New Zealand who had arrived just before lockdown. It was really scary at first, but the sunshine came and I was walking and cycling and things weren’t too bad. I hit the road for a little while, but then the UK went into lockdown again. I was in Norfolk and had to spend five months on my own in the motorhome. That was a really difficult time.’
That’s when Siobhan started questioning her motivations. She set out on her travels to better herself and challenge ageism, but Covid meant she wasn’t meeting anybody or sharing her message. Things changed over Christmas. ‘My pipes froze at one stage and I felt a bit like Bear Grylls,’ she laughs. ‘My daughter was going to come and see me which I was really looking forward to but the Prime Minister only allowed one day for travel so she couldn’t come – that was another really low point. I was heartbroken and I did feel alone and lost. But I thought “come on Siobhan, pull yourself together; you’re good at talking, so find people to speak to”. So I set up my Instagram page and started doing Instagram live streams.’
Using Instagram, Siobhan has interviewed other inspirational women including Jo Moseley, a Skipton-based mum who became the first woman to complete the coast-to-coast challenge on a paddleboard (read more about Jo here). ‘Hundreds of women were listening to these interviews and they’re still on my Instagram feed now,’ she says. ‘I realised there were people out there who wanted to hear my message and who felt the same. I got my mojo back, and since then I’ve been travelling Great Britain. I’ve been doing talks at Women’s Institutes and speaking at events, and I’ve been writing my book along the way.’
In Siobhan’s book, Retirement Rebel, she shares the highs and lows of her journey so far. ‘I’ve also reflected a bit on my childhood and the things that happened to me that made me behave in a certain way in adulthood, and how I’ve had to deal with those to be able to find my true happiness,’ she explains. ‘I think women will relate to the book and my story and I know already, just from my social media and from my talks, that my message is inspiring them. They are having adventures too. I’m also asking people to communicate with their sons and husbands. It’s not just about inspiring women, it’s about letting men know that women feel like this at this stage in their life, and if they want to go off and have their adventures then they’re not crazy. Support them. You could even do it together.
‘It’s very much about finding yourself and realising you’ve still got plenty of years to live. Age as positively as you can. Whether you like it or not we’re all heading in the same direction. Siobhan doesn’t understand the obsession with anti-ageing. ‘I want women to change the narrative and challenge that. We’re all ageing and ageing is good,’ she says. ‘We’ve been fed a lie that being old is something to fear. That’s great for the cosmetic industry, but pro-ageing (rather than anti-ageing) means we can feel better about getting older.’
Reflecting on her three years of travelling, Siobhan has learned a lot about herself. ‘I’ve learned that I’m a lot braver than I thought I was and I’ve become the woman I always felt I should have been, but I just didn’t get the opportunity to be,’ she says. ‘I’ve got a voice with an opinion that people want to listen to. I feel now that I’ve got the courage I need to be a trailblazer, to inspire other women. I can deal with difficult situations now. I was afraid and I felt I couldn’t do things, but now I can.
‘Because I know how broken I was in my 50s, and how happy I am now in my 60s, I want to inspire and help other women. I want younger women not to fear getting old and I want older women not to forget themselves – to face their fears – and have adventures.’
Over the last three years, Siobhan has been on a roller coaster ride, both physically and emotionally. ‘It’s a journey I’m so glad I began,’ she says. ‘I’ve learned to live in the moment. I don’t plan too far ahead but I have a little seed of an idea. I want to revisit my first adventure – which would entail me travelling a bit further afield.’
1. The Yorkshire Dales
2. Scotland and the Outer Hebrides
‘That was my dream come true because it’s where I felt, after letting all my demons out, that I was truly happy. I’d always wanted to go there and when I got there I just cried. It was even better than I had ever imagined. I felt strength and a joy of life when I was there.’
3. Kent and Sussex
5. The farm where I’m currently staying in Dorset
‘This is my third time here. I volunteer on the farm and do so many hours in the morning so that I can park up for free.’
1. Don’t be frightened to ask for help.
‘You can’t do everything on your own, and it’s fine to ask for help.’
2. Don’t pack too much.
‘A lot of people don’t realise there are legal weight restrictions if you’re travelling in motorhomes and caravans.’
3. Be curious.
‘Sometimes people over-plan and they’ll miss something exciting. Just go for a wander and you’ll discover the most exciting things.’
4. Always consider safety.
‘If you’re going walking on your own, tell people where you’re going. Make sure you’ve got water, a snack and waterproofs. Make sure you’ve got the right kind of shoes for the conditions. Don’t go walking up a mountain in flip flops and a T-shirt.’
5. Take a book with you.
‘It’s amazing how many things you’ll want to write down and remember, and the advice and recommendations you’ll get from other people that you’ll want to make a note of. I always have a little book with me to make notes. It’s really nice to flick through months later to see how you felt in certain moments in time. Do that in everyday life too! Making notes every day is a great idea. That’s how my motorhome idea came about and now look at me three years later.’