Margaret Russell and Bettina Williamson became friends after moving to St Thomas’ Retirement Village in Greensborough.
Known as ‘Thelma and Louise’ in the village, the ladies have shared much laughter, some tears and many adventures in caravan trips across Australia.
I moved into St Thomas’ in 2011. My husband had passed away and I felt a retirement community would be good because of the support networks and the social atmosphere.
I met Bettina on a Friday afternoon at Happy Hour. We are both very easy going and we both love travel and Australia.
One day Bettina mentioned going to Tamworth Country Music Festival and asked if I’d be interested. I didn’t get a chance to do much travelling with my husband because we were both working. We planned to do that in retirement, but we never got to that stage.
Bettina and I took her caravan to Tamworth and have been a few more times since then. Prior to this I’d never been interested in music festivals, but I’ve grown to like them! We’ve also driven the long way to Adelaide, the Mildura Music Festival, and recently went to Kangaroo Island with two other ladies from the village.
We travel well together, I think… you’re in very limited surroundings in a caravan! We’ve had some really good times. Now we’re planning a trip for next year to Cape York, from Cairns.
Bettina is a lovely lady, she’s very easy going and very pleasant to be with. We’re among the younger residents here (in the village) and you see how some people’s health is failing and they’re not able to get around. Our motto is, ‘you’ve got to do it while you can’ – and that’s what we do.
When I came here, I thought I’d be having a bit of a quieter life. If anyone had said you’ll meet someone and go travelling in a caravan, I would have thought they were crazy! But it’s just amazing, it’s been wonderful. When you lose someone, you lose all the plans you had together as well, and I think that’s what Bettina misses too. I’m glad to have found another travelling companion and a great friend.
We moved here in February 2012. My husband Noel was diagnosed with cancer and given two years (to live) but passed away in 10 months. He knew I’d settled and made friends… it’s one of the best moves we made.
I met Margaret at the end of 2012. We just seemed to get on well together. I could talk to her.
I’d been to Tamworth with Noel and we always thoroughly enjoyed it… it’s just a different scene.
I was telling Margaret and she said: ‘that’s one place I wouldn’t mind going’, so we went. I like the more modern type of country music. Telling stories of life and the atmosphere of the crowd is really enjoyable.
Travelling by yourself can be lonely. It’s great to have Margaret’s company. Our friendship just grew over time… we’re both very easy going. I will say to her, ‘what do you want to do today’? And she’ll say, ‘I’m easy, what do you want to do?’
I suppose we are a little different in some ways. I like to organise all the trips and Margaret sits back and is happy to let me do it. She does drive sometimes now and tows the caravan… at first she was a little nervous!
Margaret and I have a similar outlook on life… she’s been through the same thing (losing her husband). I believe you don’t let the grass grow under your feet. I know Noel wouldn’t want me sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. You’ve got to get out there and enjoy life.