Geoff Peters and his wife Leanne call themselves ‘roving retirees’, but that vaguely sleepy sounding title belies the amazing chain of events they’ve experienced since making the decision to quit work in September last year.
At 56 and 55 and after having enjoyed long careers, Geoff and Leanne felt ready to retire, but realised they couldn’t afford to do so in Australia at their age. The solution? Buy a 40-foot motor cruiser and spend the next five to 10 years cruising the waterways of Europe.
“We love the ocean and love being on the water,” Geoff says. “You can get boats that are designed as coastal cruisers and boats designed to cruise the rivers and canals and this one is flexible enough to do both.”
In pursuit of his dream, Geoff flew to the UK in November last year to check out the boat, which he’d found online and was docked at South Hampton. He bought the boat, named it Sunshine Coast in order to give our region a plug on his travels, and told Leanne to start preparing to rent their Wurtulla home. Then things really started to happen.
“A year ago, we were thinking, it’s going to be another three years before we can even think about retirement and doing something like this,” Peters says. “So we made the decision to buy the boat and then all these opportunities came up. First, an opportunity to speak on a cruise ship came out of the blue – I didn’t even know those things existed.”
Both Geoff and Leanne have military backgrounds – Geoff was in the Navy for eight years and Leanne was in the Army for 12 years – and it was Geoff’s maritime background that scored him the speaking gig.
“I was asked to give speaking presentations on a cruise ship travelling around Southeast Asia,” Geoff says. The topics were all maritime related subjects, but then I’d talk about retirement, buying the boat. Afterwards, people came up and said, can we follow your travels? So we started a blog.”
The next surprise came when a friend offered Geoff and Leanne jobs as court attendants at Wimbledon, another exciting addition to their ‘retirement’ plans.
“I have to bring a towel back from Wimbledon for my mother-in-law who’s 80 and still plays tennis,” Geoff laughs. “After we got the invitation to work at Wimbledon, the Scots said, come and work with us, but we can’t pay you.”
He’s referring to the Scottish Commonwealth Games team, which sent a delegation to the Coast in May.
Up to 300 athletes and support staff from Team Scotland will call the Sunshine Coast home in the lead-up to the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
Having spent five years working with Sunshine Coast Council as the industry investment facilitator for tourism sport and leisure, Geoff came up on the team’s radar as the right person to show them around the Coast before they set up camp at the Novotel Twin Waters Resort next year.
“I hosted 32 people in all, including 17 heads of sports, and showed them our venues and facilities,” Geoff says. “They loved it.
They couldn’t believe they had so many options and most of the venues we saw, they said this is better than what we train on back home.
“They couldn’t believe how welcoming and accommodating the people were. We took them down to the beach at Twin Waters – it wasn’t even a great day but they just went nuts about that. They noticed little things we don’t even appreciate, like the free barbecues on the beach.”
Geoff was delighted when the Scots invited he and Leanne to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in August, something else to tick off the bucket list.
“I just can’t wait for the Tattoo,” he says. “With the Scots here, they were telling me all about it and giving me insights into the festival beforehand and the Tattoo itself and I just can’t wait. I’m looking forward to the boat, I’m looking forward to Wimbledon, but the Tattoo is what I’m most looking forward to. It’s way beyond what I would have dreamed of a year ago.”
The couple arrived in England on May 28, which was Leanne’s first opportunity to see the Sunshine Coast for herself.
“Strangely, we have no feelings of apprehension,” Geoff says.
“Leanne had a few qualms at first but she’s seen that everything is possible and there are no real scary things out there. If something does come up, we can resolve those issues. We used to own a charter company up in the Whitsundays and we both have a lot of boating experience. Anyone could drive a boat through the rivers and canals of Europe.”
The couple plans to cruise Europe indefinitely and see where the wind takes them: “There are so many opportunities out there,” Geoff says. “The only thing we would change right now is on a couple of occasions we’ve booked things too far in advance and haven’t been able to take advantage of opportunities. I got offered a gig on a 10-night cruise to Hong Kong, China and Japan, but couldn’t go because we had booked things too far in advance.
“We’re learning all the time and that’s part of the reason we set up the website, to pass on what we learn to others.
“We’ll be talking about our travels and giving hints and tips on having a roving retirement,” he says. “We think it’s going to be five years before we even scratch the surface of what we want to do. In five years we’ll say, do we still like it? We really have no idea how long we’ll be away for. It’s very liberating.”
To follow Geoff and Leanne’s adventures, visit retiredafloat.com.