I can recall when my daughter turned 10-years old, going into a count down mode.  Each year afterwards I was another year closer to an empty nest.  I had big plans, long lists and endless dreams of how life was going to be, once my little birdie flew the coop.  Now many parents experience a sadness once their child(ren) go off to college or move out— but I didn’t experience that.

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I was so eager to start my next chapter of life and I had so many things I wanted to do, that my biggest problem was which great thing I was going to explore first.  I eventually figured it out, and here are my top 5 favorite things to do as an empty nester:

Date Nights:

One of the most important things I wanted to do once my daughter left for college, was to reconnect with my husband.  I realized that when our daughter was born, we fully embraced the parent trap and fixated on her 110% for eighteen years.  We went on family dates, but had forgotten about dating each other.  

We decided to take turns in planning different date nights.  Some were fancy dates where we both got all spruced up and headed over the Steiner Ranch Steakhouse and others where impromptu — and we just drove over to Holla Mode near Zilker for Thai Style Rolled Ice Cream.  We also enjoy catching comedy shows and concerts when they come to Austin or a nearby city.


While travel had always been a staple for us, becoming empty nesters afforded us the ability to take more romantic, adventurous and even last minute trips.  I recalling taking our first trip without my daughter.  She was eighteen and for her birthday, I got my “push gift” from my husband— a trip to Martinique.  My daughter was distraught at being left behind, but that was our first taste of the empty nester life to come!  It was amazing.  A few short months later, she was gone away to college and we were free to not only travel the world, but also explore places in our own backyard.  Travel doesn’t always have to mean catching flights — sometimes the biggest adventures are found close to home.  But don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to my upcoming trip to Spain this year. 

Crafting and Classes:

Purchasing a new home in North Austin, really brought out the crafting spirit in me as I started decorating my new empty nest.  I remodeled the kitchen, had new flooring installed and then got the wildest idea to have a couple of greenhouses built in my backyard.  All things that kept me busy and my mind occupied.  I also really got into taking different classes like cooking at Faraday’s Kitchen Store; hip hop dance, step aerobics and got accepted into a 12-week Citizen’s Police Academy.


I’ve always had a giving spirit and believed in a community of kindness; so it makes sense that volunteering is one of my favorite empty nesting activities.  I started a social events committee in my neighborhood and somehow that evolved to me being the HOA President. 

I plan and execute 95% of the events in my neighborhood.  I serve on several community boards of directors and planning committees throughout the city.  I enjoy fundraising for non profit organizations and the social events aspect of volunteerism. 


Socializing with friends who are also empty nesters is the best thing ever!  I find friendships are a little harder to maintain when my friends are still raising school-age children and teenagers.  But the empty nester crew can drop everything on a dime and head out to the Alamo Draft House for a quick movie or High 5 for drinks and axe-throwing.  

The sky’s the limit when I hang out with my friends that don’t have kids waiting for them to get home. And things get equally as fun, when we add our husbands and partners to the mix.  We get to enjoy game nights or head over to the bowling alley or to TopGolf.  And sometimes just coming home after a long day, sling-shooting my bra across the room — pouring a glass of wine from the McBride Sisters Collection and sitting down to talk on the phone with my Bestie uninterrupted is all that I need. 

Those are some of my favorite things to do as an empty nester and they all keep me busy to some degree or another.  I love that I’ve re-discovered myself in this empty nesting journey and can fall head first into any and all things that I want to do.  I know my daughter is safe and leading her own life — and that makes my empty nest just that much sweeter!

Lisa Haynes
Lisa Collins-Haynes is full-time photographer, for the past 7 years. She specializes in client work for motherhood sessions and underwater portraits. She also does commercial work in food and product photography. Lisa holds a BS in Hospitality and Tourism Management and a Masters in Business Administration. Before becoming a photographer, Lisa was an International Travel Writer and enjoyed traversing the globe and story-telling to her readership. Writing was an unexpected pathway into the diverse world of photography for her. When not working behind the lens, Lisa enjoys volunteering in the community, cooking, traveling with her husband and spending time with family and friends. She resides in North Austin; has one college-aged daughter and a grand puppy named, Cookie.


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