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Feb. 4, 2023

E121 Retire in San Diego, California

E121 Retire in San Diego, California

What comes to mind when you think of San Diego, California: the zoo, the beach or the weather? For Susan Lewallen it was unquestionably the weather. After working as physicians for over two decades in Africa, Susan and her husband Paul Courtright decided to move back to the States for retirement. Their wish was for perfect weather - not too hot and not too cold. San Diego won out. Find out more about retiring in San Diego, the climate capital of the United States, on Episode 121 of Retire There with Gil & Gene.

Susan Lewallen wrote two novels set in Tanzania, based, in part, on events she witnessed in Africa: Crossing Paths and Distorted Vision.

For more information about Susan and her books, check out her website.


Susan Lewallen


Susan Lewallen retired from a career in ophthalmology. Married to Paul Courtright, an epidemiologist, they made their careers living in Africa (specifically Malawi, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and South Africa) and working all over the continent, where they raised their two sons. During this time, they established and ran the Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology (www.kcco.net). They returned to the US in 2016, and Paul continues to do occasional consulting.
One word for why we chose to retire in San Diego: weather! After living in some of the most beautiful spots in Africa, where they needed neither heating nor air conditioning, they were spoiled. A look at the US map and they knew San Diego was the only choice. They’re avid hikers and have been thrilled to find many places to hike within a short drive. Paul volunteers many hours each month with the San Dieguito River Park to maintain trails.
Susan loves to read fiction, and one of the first things she did in retirement was to join the Publishers and Writers of San Diego and to start studying the art and craft of fiction writing. Immediately, she jumped in and started writing. She’s published two novels based on things she saw in Africa. The books are titled Crossing Paths and Distorted Vision, both set in Tanzania.
Because she traveled across much of the African continent for work, she said she never wanted to get on a plane again after retiring. But after a few years of staying put, she missed traveling, and so they're back at it again, planning to spend several months every year in foreign travel. This is handy, since both of their boys have settled in Africa (one in Dakar, Senegal and one in Nairobi, Kenya) and they expect to be grandparents soon! Although international flights from the San Diego airport are rather limited, sometimes requiring an additional leg, it’s a very easy airport to navigate. For flights in or through Mexico the Cross Border Exchange (CBX) is fantastic, explains Susan.
When in San Diego, the couple keeps busy. They joined the Diplomacy Council in San Diego, which offers excellent lectures and events and they often host foreign visitors for meals through that organization. Besides hiking, they cook regularly for a homeless shelter, enjoy many activities with the large San Diego Peace Corps Association, and work on get-out-the-vote campaigns. Susan is in four book clubs and enjoys writing book reviews for a group on Goodreads. She thoroughly enjoys speaking about their lives and work in Africa at local civic organizations and she loves hosting book club discussions about her novels.