Meet a Lifetime NEA Member Who Traveled for 7 Years

Learn how this teacher explored all 50 states on an educator’s budget and wrote a popular reading book while doing it.

by NEA Member Benefits


Years ago, when educator Lorraine Peoples was returning from a Canadian road trip with her husband, Graydon, she knew something was wrong. She didn’t feel well at all. As they were driving by a hospital in Michigan, she turned to Graydon and suggested they stop. Sure enough, she was ill and doctors hospitalized her for a week.

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Such on-the-road “adventures” did nothing to faze the lifelong NEA member and retired schoolteacher. After an illustrious career spanning 33 years teaching elementary school reading, Lorraine decided to retire and take to the road full time with her husband. Together, they would be on the road for seven full years before finally settling down near Chandler, Arizona. 

See the USA

Lorraine and Graydon have nine children between them, and when the kids were young, travel was limited to the summers. The Mississippi River was one of their favorites; the family pitched a tent and everyone learned to water ski.

Curious and ready to meet new people and enjoy new adventures, Lorraine and her husband decided they would love to travel more after retirement. They tested different vehicles, including pop-up and overhead campers, and when retirement for Lorraine finally rolled around in 1996, they sold their house and were ready to see the USA with a Lance pickup camper and a boat.

Seven years is a long time, but Lorraine says they never got bored seeing the “big, beautiful country.” She and Graydon visited all 50 states. Did she miss friends while traveling? No, not at all, Lorraine says, especially since some of them were traveling, too, so the couple would meet them somewhere on the road. “We made new friends along the way, and sometimes, we’d come back to an area and see our old friends.”

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Besides, Lorraine had decided she would work on her book, You Can Teach Someone to Read, while on the road, and she did just that. The book was tremendously successful, and being the ever-resourceful person that she was, she would call local Barnes & Noble outlets before she arrived in town to see if she could schedule book signings at the store. Even the phone calls in the days before the smartphone were a challenge. The couple had a rudimentary cellphone that wouldn’t always work, but truck stops with pay phones were a reliable standby. Lorraine also remembers begging different truck stops to use their fax machines. “You just find a way to do what you need to do. That’s part of the adventure,” she says. 

Lorraine’s advice

Lorraine’s advice to other educators who are considering travel is to budget for the extent and frequency you’d like to explore. While she and Graydon sold their house before setting off, not everyone need take that extreme a measure.

“Look at the assets you’ve got, what do you still need to keep? Plan backward so you’re ready. Where will your income come from? Every teacher will have money coming in from Social Security so that’s one consideration,” Lorraine says.

When they started out, the Peoples bought a used camper, which Graydon worked on during the lead-up to Lorraine’s retirement. They also invested in a campground membership for a flat fee, which allowed them to park in various campgrounds around the country. Lorraine also advises traveling with your medical records in case of emergencies like the one she encountered in Michigan.

Lorraine is more stationary now. She and Graydon live in Arizona, and she continues to do the rounds for her book and volunteer in area schools, hosts potlucks and otherwise keeps busy. She is grateful to have had the incredible opportunity to travel all over the country and meet many different people. Her fondest memories, she says, are the times they camped along the Mississippi and traveled it by boat. The Peoples visited Alaska three times, and the last time they were there, Lorraine’s book had been published so she plastered a big banner on the side of the camper as promotion. She was pleasantly surprised when many people, including homeschooling parents, would ask her about it.

The joy of travel

Lorraine recommends that every teacher get out there and travel at least a little. “Teachers get kind of tied down. It’s very hard to leave a classroom even when you’re not feeling well—you feel so responsible for your kids,” she says, “But travel gives you an opportunity to get out, relax, meet new people and learn new things.”

Having grown up during the Depression when travel was a luxury, Lorraine realizes how lucky she has been. “Even a trip to a town an hour away was a treat then,” she recalls. These days, the options for travel are endless, so there’s really no excuse, she adds.

“The world wasn’t as big and wide and open then as it is now.” Make a plan to travel now or after you retire when you have more time. You won’t regret it.

Draft your own plan to travel

If Lorraine’s story has inspired you to travel, it’s time to draw up a blueprint that will get you where you want to go. Here are a few tips:

  • Decide when you want to travel. Will you travel a little each summer or will you save up for a big adventure after you retire?
  • Where do you want to go? Will you stick to the United States and Canada, or are hoping to skip across Europe or Asia? Start borrowing guidebooks from the library and searching online so you can create the perfect itinerary for you and your family.
  • Start saving now. The earlier you establish a travel fund, the better. Devote a percentage of your income to the fund and/or set out to lower your expenses so you have more disposable income. You can learn to Build Your Budget in 6 Easy Steps with a few NEA Member Benefits resources that include household budget worksheets and expense trackers.
  • Sell what you don’t need. If you plan to travel for months or years at a time, figure out what you don’t need and sell it. That might mean a second car or even your house. Put that money in your travel fund.
  • Determine your mode of transportation. Will you buy or rent an RV or camper? Travel by boat or maybe drive or fly? Think about where you want to go and how you’d get there. That way you’ll know if you have to research RVs and campers or save loyalty points that will net you free plane, train or car travel.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for used vehicles. If you plan to hit the road in a camper or RV, or you’re searching for a boat, look early and often. Searching the want ads long before you need to make a purchase will help you track prices so you’ll be able to recognize a deal. Be ready to purchase when a real value presents itself.
  • Get your tech in order. Before you set off on the road, be sure your smartphone will work everywhere you go or consider renting a satellite phone if you’re going far afield. Download some apps that will allow for free text messaging so you can chat with your friends and family back home—even if you’re at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. And, bring along a jump drive with all of your medical records and important documents.

Start planning your next adventure