Carol White sat down to think about the last twelve months. She and her husband, Phil, finished traveling through all forty-eight contiguous states in a RV and many people were encouraging them to write a book about it. Little did she know the book would change her retirement plans significantly.
For thirty-five years, Carol worked in the computing and telecommunications field, ending with Lucent Technologies. No stranger to travel, Carol was exhausted from the grueling hours and corporate demands. Her children were having children and she wanted to enjoy more time with them and with Phil, also a new retiree.
Retirement certainly comes with its benefits but Carol and Phil got a little bored and started looking around. There was plenty to do in the community but a fun trip wouldn’t hurt and they had their health. The thought “if we are ever going to do this . . . now is the time” kept creeping into their minds and hearts until it couldn’t be ignored.
Sitting down, they brainstormed a plan and then did the most critical task. They set a date. Carol would later implore travelers to do this first because setting a date makes it real.
“Parents don’t just run away for a year,” exclaimed their kids, as the family stared in a funny way at the individuals before them laying out the meticulous details of a prolonged trip around the country. Were they really serious?
When Phil and Carol married, each had two grown children, a son and daughter, making their combined crew a family of six. Some joined them at various points along the trip and others reconnected at home over the holidays. Through the trip, all of them had 24-7 access to the online website maintained by the technology loving travelers. Carol’s later speaking engagements would encourage travelers to use modern technology to make prolonged travel doable without losing contact with the rest of the world. Through GPS, wireless internet, cell phones and more, travelers don’t have to disappear off the map figuratively or literally.
Carol thought more about a book to document their trip and researched online to check other titles. No one had compiled a real A-Z book, covering all the bases of long periods of travel -- especially not on the open road. She and Phil wanted to provide a book about their incredible road trip dream that encouraged all retiring baby boomers to enjoy their own travel plans.
Upon their reentry to home life, many people lamented, “I would love to go but what do you do about . . . .” and the worries grew and grew into a laundry list of concerns. Without a clear “how-to,” people got overwhelmed and gave up.
Carol cautions, even with their book, you really must remain positive and have a can-do attitude. She could have given up and gone home when she broke her ankle crossing the lawn for a picture. Her foot went into a hole and . . . SNAP!
Travel plans were rearranged but Carol managed to see more from her crutches then she would have from her couch at home and more than many people see in a life-time. With Phil’s help, the two also dealt with a rear-ended bumper and plenty of on-the-road complications that might send a less hardy twosome packing. Open-road traveling let the couple go at their own pace, sometimes with few plans until they arrived and only a sparse plotting on the map, resulting in incredible and serendipitous moments.
The open road offered such a delightful time of “aha” moments with rich geographical and spiritual discovery that Carol also realized the need to add bits and pieces of their journal to the back of their book. With so many places to see in the United States, Carol shared that they could go back and see another year of new places without ever going back to what they had seen before.
Carol also thought back to the hectic holiday season, half-way through the trip. Re-entry is tough when you are used to waking up, going at your own pace and simply following your nose all day. Home, with its hurried doctors’ appointment and seasonal family gatherings, was certainly enjoyable in a productive kind of way but soon, the two started looking at each other in that knowing way. Time to get back on the open road.
Another preparatory caution would have to be added too: life will go on with or without you. You can’t loose sight of your goal, but plans do have to be adjusted from time to time. Late in their travel, Carol’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Leaving the RV behind, the two flew home to take care of health details for her mom that would give her the attention she needed until they returned permanently. Technology, as simple as cell phones and e-mail, allowed the couple to keep on top of every issue back home, prioritizing which things could wait and what needed immediate focus.
“But, don’t overplan your trip!” Carol wanted to reader to know, or you might miss the unexpected joys that come along. “Long distance travel is not like a vacation where you observe and enjoy your destination; it is a journey to be savored and incorporated into who you are.”
Embarking on a new journey, Carol nor Phil could have guessed a book about everything from budgeting to packing for a road trip dream would become such a hit -- selling over 10,000 copies and going into a second edition. The process of creating the book would resemble the travel itself, relying upon positive thinking, flexibility and working through the issues one-by-one -- never letting them stop you.
At this time, Carol also didn’t know life would become as busy as before the trip, a retirement filled with speaking engagements and book tours. This time it would be at her own pace, doing what she loved with the fellow traveler and husband she loved close by.
Carol saw many friends while traveling and met many more. She and Phil still enjoy getting together with couples of all ages who are beginning to plan their next journey. The students who followed their travels online remember fondly being a part of Carol and Phil’s Big Adventure.
For more information about their travels and book Live Your Road Trip Dream, see their website at www.roadtripdream.com. Photos by Phil and Carol White.
Thank you Carol [& Phil], for sharing your Story with us.
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© 2008 by Sarah Peppel and Story of My Life®