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From Professor to Travel Guide: Second Act

By Susan J. Wells

  • PUBLISHED March 22
  • |

Steve Solosky of Massachusetts has always been in love with Paris. Maybe even a little obsessed. In his spare time, the former college professor, 62, visited the city every chance he could—by his count at least 60 times over the last decade.   

As an academic, he naturally took copious notes during those treks—keeping track of quality hotels, lesser-known attractions, educational side-trips, affordable restaurants, easy transportation routes and even packing tips. Friends and acquaintances began asking him for advice as they planned trips abroad. One even told Solosky he should turn his notes into a book for Paris-bound travelers. 

So he did. His book, The Traveling Professor’s Guide to Paris, debuted in 2009. And along with a second edition in 2014, it has sold about 20,000 copies to date.  

This success led to Solosky’s “aha” moment.  
“People started asking me if I’d set up trips for them,” he recalls. “All of a sudden, I thought, ‘Wow, what a great after-retirement job this would be!’”  

Charting a New Course 
With the idea firmly planted, he decided to retire in 2010 from his 31-year career as a math and computer processing professor. Shortly after, he launched The Traveling Professor, a small-group tour business geared to active adults. 

Fast forward nine years, and Solosky has managed to parlay his passion for travel into a second act that he claims nets him more annual income than his previous professor’s salary. He now leads 10 to 14 trips per year accompanying groups of between seven and 12 people who range in age from 50 to their early 70s.  

Destinations and tour packages are customized and updated each year and have included Paris, Normandy, Italy, Peru, Denmark, Norway and Iceland.  To satisfy the demands of return travelers, new destinations like Croatia, Ireland, and Austria have recently been added. 

Careful Planning Paved the Way  
Solosky’s encore pursuit isn’t something he just stumbled upon. His journey, he says, actually began in his 20s after a professor in a college course on personal finance repeatedly stressed the simple wisdom of “paying yourself first,” which means taking saving seriously, if you want to retire comfortably—and early. 

He took the advice to heart. “From that day on, I saved every month, even if it was only $25 or $50,” he says.  

He credits his disciplined saving, along with his book profits and his teaching pension, for helping to finance his post-retirement venture. He also started small, expanded slowly and made key connections with trusted American expatriates—many of whom are also former professors-turned-licensed guides—to lend expertise on tours. 

As gratifying as his second act has been, Solosky acknowledges its challenges, not the least of which is his working knowledge of French. 
“It’s much harder than teaching a statistics class!” he laughs, saying he’s often working from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. when mapping out all the logistics that go into planning an upcoming trip. “My biggest concern is doing too much.”  
So Solosky draws the line by refusing to travel during the summer. Instead, he spends those months at his lakeside home in western Massachusetts. All in all, his complaints are few. 

“My life in retirement wasn’t just a spur of the moment thing; it did evolve over time and it certainly had detours along the way,” he says. “Planning for it, however, and having the freedom to do what you want, I think, is the ultimate goal for anyone.” 

So far, he says, “it’s exceeded my expectations.” 

Susan J. Wells is a freelance business journalist who writes regularly for Kiplinger’s custom content team. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, American City Business Journals, HR Magazine and many other digital, print and brand media.

Do you have an “encore” in mind? Learn more about gigs for people in retirement

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