By Claire Harlin
Longtime Del Mar residents Wayne and Pat Dunlap were living all aspects of the American dream. He was an economics professor at San Diego State University, chair of the local planning board and coached Little League. She once held the honor of “Entrepreneur of the Year” for running a successful evening wear rental business in Del Mar for 17 years. The couple had a fulfilling social life and lived happily with their son in their panoramic ocean view home.
“We thought we were deliriously happy. We pretty much had it all,” said Pat. “But we thought, ‘Is this it?’”
About two years ago, the couple of 23 years had grown tired of their business, and decided to take a vacation while figuring out their next venture.
“I told Pat, ‘Why don’t we take off for three months?’” Wayne said. “She thought about it and came to me a few days later and said, ‘Why don’t we go for a year?’”
A year turned into two years — two years that not only renewed the couple’s playful spirit and appreciation of life, but also became their next business venture. The Dunlaps have recently released their self-published book, “Plan Your Escape, Secrets of Traveling the World for Less Than the Cost of Living at Home,” and in only two months they have sold hundreds of copies and earned a five-star rating on Amazon.com. On Jan. 21 from noon to 5 p.m., the Dunlaps — who have been inducted into the Travelers’ Century Club for visiting more than 100 countries — will appear for a book signing at the Del Mar Art Center Gallery, located at 1555 Camino Del Mar, Suite 112.
In taking the leap out of their nine-to-five lives, the Dunlaps rented their home, automated their bills and assured the integrity of their relationships with friends and family — all aspects of long-term traveling that they explain in depth in “Plan Your Escape.”
“Most people will say ‘That’s crazy,’ so it’s important to understand how to tell relatives ‘I’m going to take control of my life and live my dreams,’” Wayne said, adding that it’s especially important to stay in touch. “Plan Your Escape” includes an entire chapter about effective ways to stay in touch and document travels with limited resources — from setting up a blog, getting phone service and using Skype.
Besides providing comprehensive lists of tried-and-true tools to research travel destinations and accommodations, the Dunlaps put much emphasis on easing travelers’ fears of the unknown and breaking out of their inertia.
“Considering something outside of your routine is different. The media makes it seem scary, and there are a lot of unknowns,” said Wayne. “But the reality is that you get out there and the world is a wonderful, lovely place. You just have to use your common sense, and a good suggestion is just to turn off the news.”
Another aspect of the book is a chapter about getting a reluctant partner to travel and also there is a focus on how to be a good travel partner. Wayne was inspired to write that section by a man in Crete who once asked him how he and his wife can stand spending each and every second of every day with each other.
“I had not thought about it because for us it comes easy,” he said. “So I started to think about how we do it and I realized that in being a good travel partner, you get more out of the experience. You get more back than you give.”
The couple said their favorite destinations are Italy and the Greek Isles — for it being “picturesque, a nice combination of romance and history.” Now, they are not only selling their Del Mar home, but they are planning a long trip to South America and South Africa.
“Traveling with only a suitcase has shown my wife and me that we do not need stuff to be happy,” said Wayne. “People, friends, new experiences, adventures, romance, learning, having fun and waking up excited about the day is much more important.”
The couple has met many “kindred spirits” — their way of describing people they bond with on their travels — but Pat said her favorite part has been the closeness they’ve gained in their own lives.
“”We fell in love with each other all over again,” she said.
For more information on the Dunlaps’ travels, visit their blog — accepted by “Best Travel Blogs” — at