Work life has a way of putting people in niches. Retirement gives us a way to climb out of those holes and go another direction. This is what my husband Phil and I discovered when we retired in our early 50s.
No longer stuck with who we had become over the years, and not yet ready to yield to being “seniors,” we decided to live our long-held dream of seeing the United States – not just a series of short trips here and there, not just a surface glance at a few important places, but a real, life-changing experience. Along the way, we found much more than we could ever have envisioned.
We decided on this course because we still had our good health and our adventuresome spirit. Now was the time to take off and see this great country as a start to this new phase of our lives. We wanted to do this before we became just as involved in our “new life” as we were in our old. Soon we would be too embroiled in a whole new set of commonplace activities – even if they were of our own choosing – to be able to live our dream trip.
We planned, we cajoled friends into helping us, we leased our house, we sold our cars and we kissed those precious grand-kiddies goodbye. Then we took off to spend a year just vagabonding around the lower 48 states. We had no reservations and virtually no itinerary other than to travel in each of the states, see every national park and have the time of our lives.
As we traveled along, we found our curiosity starting to creep out from someplace deep inside us, and we discovered that we really were turning into kids again. How freeing is it to decide what you are going to do each day with no interference from anyone else? People all along the way would say, “Oh, we’d love to do what you are doing, but what did you do about…” and the laundry list of questions would begin.
In the waning month of the trip, we were reminiscing about all we had learned, what a fabulous experience it had been, and how we had changed, both as individuals and as a couple. We kept thinking about all the people we had met who dreamed of doing the same thing, but hadn’t yet figured out how to make it happen. We wanted to help them live their dreams.
We discovered that there was no book or website that really addressed how to plan such an adventure. Of course hundreds of books exist that tell you what to see, but none on how to extricate yourself from your everyday lives and plan your own trip of a lifetime. We decided to write such a book, but there was one problem. Neither of us were writers, nor did we know anything about publishing.
With 78 million baby boomers reaching retirement, we knew we had a huge potential market just based on people we had talked with along the way. Our next step was learning the steps to writing and publishing a book.
We learned to write query letters to potential publishers, and worked with a major publisher for nearly a year. But we found ourselves right back at the beginning when the publisher decided not to publish the book.
Undaunted by the setback, we decided to learn about independent publishing. Our book, Live Your Road Trip Dream and its companion website, http://www.roadtripdream.com, were launched in 2004 under our company imprint, RLI Press.
The book has sold well from the beginning thanks to articles in such prestigious publications as The Boston Globe and The San Francisco Chronicle, websites including USA Today.com, ABCNews.com and many more. The travel editor for the Associated Press used us as sources for two different articles which appeared in hundreds of papers. We have spoken on radio and TV around the country and done live presentations to groups ranging from AAA to RV rallies to libraries and bookstores. We’ve taken our road trip expertise on the road!
Last year we were finalists in the ForeWord Magazine book of the Year competition in the travel category, and this year won the Benjamin Franklin Award for marketing excellence and innovation. Phil and I both have sales and marketing backgrounds, which have been invaluable to our success.
But a funny thing has happened along this new path. People are now asking us for help in making their book projects successful. We now are headed in a whole new direction: helping people with their own book journeys.
We can’t imagine where our road will lead next; we know only that we will be open to that roadmap too.
Carol White is the co-author of the award-winning book, Live Your Road Trip Dream (www.roadtripdream.com) the ultimate road trip planning guide for extended road trips. Carol and her husband Phil have traveled over 50,000 road miles in the past several years, visiting all forty-eight of the contiguous states and having visited all of the National Parks in those states. They now spend their days helping others to live their dreams. For 2007, they will represent the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association in the Boomer marketplace.
By Carol White.