Living The Dream

In the two years we’ve been full-time travelers, many people have told us we’re living their dream. But it didn’t start out as my dream. When my husband said, “Let’s sell the house and go traveling”, my response was, “ARE YOU CRAZY??” Here’s how he changed my mind….

I already had My Dream In Hawaii

I was already living my dream. We had retired ten years before and moved lock-stock-and-barrel from California to the Hawaiian islands. We bought a beautiful property with room for our horses on the south side of Kauai. I rode in local parades, did rodeo, volunteered at Hawaiian music events, grew a garden, joined a book club, swam in the warm Hawaiian waters, and ate papayas and mangoes from my own trees. “I’m going to live and die on Kauai,” I told Phil.

the go-go years

“I want to tell you about an article I read,” Phil said, as he continued his efforts to persuade me to leave Kauai. I had been silently pondering my options since he started this nonsense, weighing them like the two sides of a scale. Would I choose Kauai or Husband – Husband or Kauai? What he described were the three phases of retirement life:

Your 60’s are your Go-Go Years – Your 70’s are your Slow-Go Years – Your 80’s are your No-Go Years

No-Go Years!! I didn’t like the sound of that and had a bad feeling I’d find myself regretting it if I didn’t travel the world with him. “Call the realtor and sell the house,” I told him. “I’m going with you!”

two years later – back where we started

In these two years we’ve been to 12 US states, 11 National Parks and 10 foreign countries! Could somebody pinch me, please? As good fortune would have it, we got to celebrate the anniversary of our decision to travel full-time right back where we started. Friends on Kauai asked us to housesit for them while they traveled and we jumped at the chance to see old friends there again.

This was the 3rd time we had returned to my beloved Kauai since we left, which is exactly what Phil promised. “Kauai isn’t going anywhere,” he told me as we departed. “We can always come back.”

how we pulled it off

There was a lot of work to do to get ready to travel. It was especially daunting to sell the large property in a down market. We almost gave up but along came a cash buyer who bought the furniture as well. We found a good home for the horses and after much deliberation decided on what stuff to keep, take with us or get rid of. We rented a 20 foot storage unit for the keepsakes, said our goodbyes to good friends and boarded the plane bound for California with our little doggie stowed under my seat.

We had a small RV in California that we bought back in 1995. It was full of good memories of towing the ski boat to the lake, camping with our horses and children and taking trips with our aging parents. We stocked it up with food and bedding and headed up the Pacific Coast with no set plan and no timetable. Not long after we left, the RV started giving us trouble. I think Phil had been waiting for the chance to find us a larger, newer coach that would make us happy as our home-on-wheels. He found a used 2004 model at a good price which felt quite luxurious with its double-door refrigerator and skylight in the shower. We’re both still happy with it to this day.

the adventure begins

We were thrilled to see see some of America’s most beautiful parks and Western states. Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico – there is some stunning scenery in the USA! What a pleasure it has been to enjoy campfires and hike the canyons and see the wildlife.

By now I was really into this travel thing. I got itchy to try out some more “exotic” travel, so we stored the RV, packed our bags and flew down to Mexico. Not long after that we joined some friends in Vancouver for an Inside Passage cruise in Alaska. I loved traveling afar and wanted to do even more.

In November 2013, we arranged for long-term storage for the RV and set out with an open-ended airline ticket to Southeast Asia. We stayed for 5 months and travelled to Taiwan, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Singapore and Hong Kong.

What i love about this new lifestyle

Freedom and Adventure

I love the freedom to choose which exciting places in the world I want to go to and then make it happen. It feels so adventurous. We are doing it pretty spontaneously in both the foreign and domestic travel which seems to add to the adventure. We often choose where to go by looking at a map or heeding a suggestion from someone. Phil has had good luck in securing last-minute bookings of hotels or RV campsites. If one place doesn’t work out, he’ll try another until he finds something that meets our standards. Only once so far have we had to turn around and walk out of a hotel we found unacceptable – and we got our money back.

Bathtub with a view in Bangkok

Bathtub view from a hotel in Bangkok

Jodhpur India accommodations

Our accommodations in Jodhpur India


I feel like I am in the Dr. Suess book Oh, The Places You’ll Go. The places we have been so far have been absolutely exhilarating. The people bowing in Thailand, the colors of India, the wonder of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, traversing the Mekong Delta that I only knew from the Vietnam War days, eating exquisite dim sum like no other in Hong Kong. It’s all priceless to me.


We have almost nothing tying us down – no dependent children, animals, parents (sadly), or job. No lawn to mow or plants to water. Banking and bill paying are done on-line. Our mail goes to a service that will scan or forward important docs to us. My doctor will renew the couple of meds I need to a pharmacy close by (I stock up for foreign travel or find a substitute which I did in Thailand). If I have to clean the RV, I’m finished in 20 minutes and there’s no cleaning for me when we’re in hotels. Our kids in San Francisco kindly keep our dog for us when we’re overseas and give her back when we re-board the RV.

Girl and dog in bed

Our granddaughter in San Francisco spoils our dog Widdle while we are away


We’re living cheaper! I’ve always kept an accounting of our spending, so I know for sure that we are living below our budget. Traveling in Asia was relatively cheap, especially compared to living in Hawaii. Sometimes our dinner was as little as $6-$10, including beer. Nice hotel rooms ran us about $80 a night and included breakfast and wi-fi. Airfare between cities and countries was quite a bit cheaper than flying the same distance in the USA.

In the RV we spend around $30-50 for a spot for the night which usually includes water, electric, sewer, TV and internet. We no longer have property tax, home maintenance or yard work to pay for and that makes our housing costs very affordable for us. Occasionally we will pay more for a special RV site, like on the beach near San Francisco. That’s where we are as I write this. I have a magnificent view of sailboats and people fishing on the jetties and playing in the sand. There is a miles-long pathway and beach for hiking and superb restaurants nearby. To stay here costs $80 a night, but I think that’s more affordable than a sticks-and-bricks beach front house in the San Francisco area.

Costs for gas, tires, maintenance and repairs for the RV are a bigger expense than for a car, but added to the park fees, this lifestyle is still much cheaper for us. And did I tell you how much I’m enjoying it?

View of Half Moon Bay, CA

The view from my RV as I write. Half Moon Bay, CA

We buy less, too – mostly just things we can eat or drink or services like hair or nails and an occasional cigar for Phil. Not much shopping for clothes or household items as the RV won’t hold extra stuff. We’re not tempted by souvenirs in foreign lands because there’s no room for them when all you’re traveling with is carry-on bags!

Carry-on bags only

Some people are amazed that I travelled for 5 months in Asia with only these carry-on bags!

Don’t call it a vacation

“Have a piece of cake, you’re on vacation!” a well-meaning friend said. No, we’re NOT on vacation or at least we can’t think like that. If we did we’d be eating cake everyday, and busting the calorie budget. We’d likely be splurging on all the other indulgences that people allow themselves on vacation and that wouldn’t hold up in the long run. This is how we live every day so we have to have some restraint, eat well, exercise and take care of life’s business. On the other hand, the fun of it all makes me think of that old ditty I heard as a youth, “Every night’s a Saturday night and every day’s a Sunday.” I’ll add that every week’s a vacation week, so we have to go easy on the cake.

What’s next?

After combing the RV for anything we could leave behind in storage or give to Goodwill, we’ve set out on a road-trip across the USA. Our first destination – the Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico.

After that fabulous event and some time with Phil’s cousins, we’re continuing on to the East Coast. I want to see friends and family and revisit my ole stomping grounds in my home state of North Carolina. Along the way we’ll visit Austin, New Orleans, Nashville, the Outer Banks and sunny Florida. Then we’ll be ready to pack those carry-on bags again and travel to some of our “bucket list” places, like islands in the Caribbean, Panama, Machu Picchu, the Galapagos – the list goes on. Given that we are pretty spontaneous and don’t like to plan too far out, all we’ve done so far is prep the RV for the road and make our reservation to see the hot air balloons. The rest will fall into place if our good fortune holds.

I do consider it good fortune that my husband convinced me to live this dream that so many people tell us they share. Do you have a dream like this? Would you like to travel more? Please leave me your comments below. I’d love to hear them.


Central and South America map

38 responses to “Living The Dream”

  1. Liz Harris says:


    What a life! I love how you just go on the fly and let the winds carry you where they will. That would be my traveling style if I could do this. I don’t know how how you can afford to travel so extensively, but I’m glad that you can and that you do – It is truely inspirational. Thanks for sharing your adventures!

    • CarolSue says:

      Thanks, Liz. I’m glad we share a travel style. As far as affordability, when there is no house to pay for, maintain, pay taxes, etc., some $$ is freed up for travel. Plus we don’t have or buy much “stuff” anymore. I hope it continues to be affordable. When it isn’t, well, then we’ll have some terrific memories! Good to hear from you.

  2. barbara king says:

    Carol and Phil,
    I am so glad that I had the opportunity to meet you both on The Vision. I so enjoyed your company and look forward to following your travels both here in the stated as well as abroad. Perhaps we will meet up again and go for that bike ride that we talked about. (I’ve got your back Phil.) Safe travels and keep on enjoying life as it flies by so quickly. Warmest Regards Barbara

    • CarolSue says:

      Hi Barbara,
      So good to meet you on the cruise and share dinner and stories. Phil is very excited that i wiggled a little bit toward the positive side when it comes to having a motorcycle.I was certainly influenced by all the riders at our table! You all made it sound so fun. So glad you contacted me. Hope we stay in touch. Who knows maybe we’ll even meet on the seas again – or the highway! Best,

      • barbara king says:

        Dear Carol, Dennis and I are just in from our cruise and sadly did not meet anyone as interesting and warm as you and Phil. I did mean to inquire about your dinner at Chops Grille. I hope you enjoyed it as much as Alice and I did. I am looking forward to the cruise that we have planned in March with our granddaughter. She is very excited and it is her first so we get to see it through her eyes which is totally new and different for us. Next week I’m off to Biloxi for a girls trip, just for 3 days, I think we should have fun. I really enjoy following all of your adventures and traveling the world through your blogs. Stay safe and keep leaning toward that motorcycle thing. ( I’m tryin’ for ya Phil) Enjoy life, stay safe and love each other, Warmest
        Regards, Barbara

        • CarolSue says:

          Hi Barbara. Thanks for connecting. Sounds like you do a lot of traveling, too. Ah, it’s the good life, isn’t it? I am so glad we met you on our cruise, and am glad we are able to stay in touch. I want to follow your travels, too. Enjoy!

  3. Jim Rockholt says:

    really enjoy reading your posts. We are currently in our mid 50s still working but have a great desire to travel in retirement years. i like the fact that you started in your 60s which gives me hope there is still a lot to live. Keep the stries coming as it is good reading and great encouragement.

    • CarolSue says:

      Thanks, Jim. Go for it! This traveling life is simply great. I really didn’t think it would be but I got a very pleasant surprise. I hope your wife will enjoy it as much as I do. CarolSue

  4. Lori says:

    Good for you! I love that you are living life to the fullest. What a wonderful example you are setting and it’s awesome that you share your stories with all of us. Glad to see you so happy.

    • CarolSue says:

      Thank you, Lori. So glad you are keeping in touch. I know that you want to live life to the fullest also. You go, girl!

  5. paul says:

    Hi Phil and Carol,

    I read your stories twice already. I feel jealous and yet exhilirated because I will be following your footsteps soon,
    very soon. To start, I ahve already bought my plane ticket to Australia and New Zealand in early March 2015.
    I love you both and thank you for sharing. Paul

    • CarolSue says:

      This is FABULOUS news! Congratulations. Hard to believe that you are giving up your medical practice. People will miss you, my dear doctor. And now I REALLY have to find another one….I hope your life as an adventurer is as rewarding as mine. It would be simply wonderful to meet up with you somewhere out there in the wild blue yonder! Best to you – oh, and keep reading and staying in touch. I love it.

  6. Walt says:

    I’ve been saying regarding life
    ” There’s no rehearsal down here”
    & you both are my hero’s & the example, you are so very blessed.
    Be safe, keep the updates coming

    • CarolSue says:

      Thank you, dear Walt, for your kind remarks and support. We feel blessed, and lucky, and brave. I never thought I’d go forward with no idea of where I’d be next week, but here I am. It’s refreshing, liberating, and fun! Thanks for staying in touch and enjoy your good life there on beautiful Kauai.

  7. MimiWry says:

    Hi Carole Sue and Phil let us know we yu wil be in Jupiter Fl it wil be fun to see you guys glad you decided to travel whie you are still young love Mimi and 2 Deans

    • CarolSue says:

      Mimi dear, we will be sure to see you in Florida – looking forward to it. I’m hoping your darling daughter and my dear friend Diane will meet up with us there. Wouldn’t that be a kick! Luv to you.

  8. Iris Burman says:


    I love following your journey and truly wish I could be on this train too.

    To see the picture of you with “carry on” only is quite impressive. I have traveled with you to several foreign lands in the days when you had a bag just for your shoes! Way to go girlfriend- less is more.

    I am looking forward to the part of the trip you describe as “sunny Florida”. I would love to see you then (mi casa es su casa). We can share the tropical bounty of my yard depending on the season (bananas, papayas, avocados, mangos, pineapples and whatever else we have growing in the garden). Give me a heads up when you finally make it to the east coast . It could be that we connect on your way south. I still go up to Baltimore sometimes and, you never know, but it might coincide with your time near there.

    I am excited to hear the next chapter of Carol Sue stories. Give Phil a big kiss for me and I send greetings from Eddie Ray as well to the both of you.

    love you muchly, Iris

    • CarolSue says:

      Irie dear, I can’t wait to see you in Florida and eat from your garden. My luggage – with the special bag just for shoes! I needed all those shoes in Jamaica, Greece and those other places we went together, didn’t I??? I loved that fine luggage. That was back in the day when airplane travel was more civilized and they didn’t have gorillas tramping on your bags. Yes, I’m a carry-on only girl today. Would you believe that I actually sent part of my carry-on luggage home from India? I simply had too much!! It just goes to show that people can change. What hasn’t changed is my friendship with you. I so look forward to renewing it in person! Hello to Eddie Ray. Luvnkisses.

  9. Aloha CarolSue & Phil!
    Just wrapping up a bout of insomnia and had some time to catch up on your adventures. SO disappointed we couldn’t make it work to get together before you took off on your cross-country. As ever, your life exploration of this phase of the “go-go” years is inspiring. I’m heading back to Kauai Nov 1, and it just never seems long enough. Jerry has to go to Israel on business on the same day, so we will thankfully have Visiting Angels in to see to Beth for our brief times away as she is 94 and going strong!

    Either when you are back in the bay area or on Kauai, OR if you’re going to be somewhere near where we’ll be, let’s enjoy a sunset together and some roasted veggies! I’ll keep tracking your progress…..Love and Aloha! – – Katherine & Jerry
    PS. Bernard makes you look like a liliputian…. (course he’s a mountain so EVERYone looks small around him!)

    • CarolSue says:

      Hi Katherine, so good to hear from you. I love that photo of me and Kauai’s mayor, probably because he does make me look so small! So good to keep up with you and Jerry – you two do lots of travel, also. I would love to see you when our paths come near again. Best to you, Jerry and his mom who is amazing. Enjoy your time together and your good life. Luv, CarolSue

  10. MJ Ientile says:

    Hey Carol, It’s MJ from Kauai (Michelle’s momma!)
    Thanks for sharing your adventures with us, so exciting. You look wonderful and your smile is shining. I read with interest that your EastCoast bound. Let me know when your making your way up the coast as I’d love to meet with you again. I’m in NY – NJ now but have family in SC! I’m happy to drive anywhere, lmk. Say hi to Phil if he remembers us…Michelle just transferred to Oklahoma State Univ. so she’s landlocked! We miss our Kauai too! Loved the pics of ShyGirl, i remember her as ‘SassyGirl’ !!!! She loved to challenge yo!! . LOL
    Hoping to hear from you. Aloha and Blessings Carol, MJ xo

    • CarolSue says:

      Hi MJ, good to hear from you. I have a photo on my computer of us in the equestrian drill team Aloha Riders. I remember how you hated our purple riding britches! It sounds like you are doing well up there in NY. I will let you know when we are in SC. It would be good to see you again. Best always, CarolSue

      • dena says:

        Aloha from another Aloha Rider,
        Carol it is so fun reading about your adventures. I am so happy for you and Phil, it sounds so exciting. You give such good advice too about life. Especially in the sense of not keeping too much baggage and not eating too much cake!! It is good to remember, yes because life can be like a constant vacation.
        I miss the Aloha Rider Drill Team that was some good fun!
        Cheers to you MJ and Michelle .
        It is nice seeing you all here. Enjoy

        • CarolSue says:

          Dena, thanks for your comments. I too miss the fun we had with the horse drill team. Heck, I miss my horses. But you are right – Phil and I are having a great time. Glad you liked the “advice” about overpacking and eating too much cake. I have to remember that everyday! Wishing you and your family well. Take care and stay in touch! CarolSue

  11. Steve Hoch says:

    What a great frame around your new life of travel. A great tale of tales. Keep ’em coming!

    • CarolSue says:

      Thank you, Steve. It is a recap of sorts of what’s it’s been like for us. Who would have thought it could be so much fun while feeling so natural? Thanks for reading and for commenting.

  12. Di says:

    Aloha CarolSue & Phil,
    LOVE,LOVE,LOVE your blog! Always feel like I’m right there 2!
    I so admire what you are doin’ : Grabbing that Carousel Ring and ridin’ high!
    Love you,
    Di & Johnnie

    • CarolSue says:

      I wish you guys WERE here! Missing our great times together is one of the hardest things about not being on Kauai! Good that we visit you and you visit us. Let’s meet up at your Mother’s house in Florida.

  13. Susan Ullis says:

    Love what you are doing, and that you are sharing it through this excellent blog. You writing is as captivating to read as your photos are to view. Looking forward to continuing to follow your spontaneous travels. xoxoxo

    • CarolSue says:

      Susan, thank you for complimenting my writing. Coming from you, an excellent writer herself, that is high praise and very encouraging to me. If I weren’t so busy having fun on this adventure, I’d practice more! I do enjoy telling the tale and am glad that you enjoy it. Thanks again.

  14. Kathy says:

    Hi carol my darling
    Love reading your stories and seeing all your beautiful pictures
    Thanks for taking us no yours and Phil’s journeys if any one could travel it’s you glad Phil talked you in to it I’m happy you are planing a trip home it’s going to be nice having you home safe travels love you

  15. Ally Asbe says:

    Trail blazer! That’s you! You always have been and you always will be. Please impart this to me my dear soul teacher. Your wisdom and teaching means more now than ever. Love you so much. Your Ally

    • CarolSue says:

      Thank you, Ally, for your kind message. You blaze trails pretty well yourself, dear heart. And you are one smart cookie who also has the love of a beautiful family and friends. Keep on doing what you are doing and you will keep on getting what you are getting. From here it looks like you have it all. Enjoy ’cause you deserve….Luv u.

  16. alicia says:

    Good morning Carol and Phil. It’s still morning here anyway. Reading your post while drinking my coffee this morning was a wonderful distraction from reading or watching the morning news. Thank you for that. I loved reading it and living vicariously through you. As you know we are travelers at heart but housebound these days. We are fortunate to have a nice place to be “housebound” so not complaining. When I get the itch I’ll turn to your blogs and they make me smile and daydream. I’ve yet to travel more than just a couple days with only a carry on bag. I’ll have to try it next time and see how I do. When that time comes I might ask for some advice on how and what to take. As I was getting to the end of your story it dawned on me that I think our family (Phil’s side) has a strong gypsy gene!!! LOL I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere in Phil’s genealogy search there was a whole troupe of gypsies we came from! I love reading your stories and seeing your pictures so keep’m coming auntie! Have a wonderful time and stay safe out there. Oh and one more thing; let me know when you get to New Orleans there are a couple of restaurants I suggest you try that are not on any tourist list. Remember Rick lived there and I’ve spent a lot of time there.

    Love and hugs, Alicia

    • CarolSue says:

      Hey Alicia. Thank you so much for your comments. We sure wish you and Rick could travel ’cause we’d just have to meet up somewhere. When he’s better, we will! Yes, I will take your suggestions on where to eat in New Orleans. You know we are all about eating. You are right, Phil may have gypsy in his genes – we both did that “live free” thing in the ’60’s. How lucky we were to do it then and to do it now. I love it that you keep up with us. I’m glad to have you along! Stay in touch. Luvnkisses.

  17. Marjorie says:

    Thank you for continuing to update us and include us in your journey. I DO share your dreams and know anything can happen at anytime. Enjoy and I’ll be looking forward to your next posts. Tell Phil I said hello too! Sending you

    A L O H A !!!

    • CarolSue says:

      Hello Marjorie,
      Thanks for your comment. Who knows, maybe you and your family will sell that lovely store, Palm Palm, on Kauai and travel the world, too. Bring some of those travel-worthy knits you sell to travel in. That’s what I wear, thanks to you! Best, CarolSue

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