Learning adventures across the globeMay 30, 2023 02:19PM ● By Leanne Goebel
You’ve probably heard of road warriors—harried business people who are constantly traveling for work. That doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? But for seniors traveling with Road Scholar, it’s possible to live it up and learn while seeing the world.
Montrose residents Mabel Risch and Beverly Wilson have each traveled with Road Scholar 17 times since the early 2000s. Formerly known as Elderhostel, the nonprofit group travel company is the world’s largest and most innovative creator of experiential learning opportunities, guiding generations of lifelong learners from San Francisco to Siberia, and nearly everywhere in between.
“Road Scholar is a great way to travel. I get to see the world and experience cultures I wouldn’t normally get to see,” said Risch, 78.
One of Risch’s “more interesting trips” was when her group was hosted by a small village off the coast of Greenland. The stop wasn’t part of the original trip itinerary—the community agreed to host them for a few hours when the captain of the group’s small ship couldn’t reach the destination port because of icebergs blocking the way.
“The ship’s crew thought that there’d be about 50-60 people in this village. It turns out there was less than 20,” said Risch.
Risch and her fellow travelers toured the village to see how the people lived, then went back to the ship, where the crew had invited the villagers on board, treating them to drinks and tours of the ship.
“It was a wonderful experience,” said Risch.
Planned or unplanned, these types of experiences come with every Road Scholar trip. The organization stays true to the idea behind its founding in 1975, inspiring older adults to learn, discover and travel.
“I learn something on every trip,” said Risch. “They have really good [trip] leaders who are knowledgeable about the area.”
Road Scholar offers 5,500 learning adventures in 150 countries and all 50 states. Historians, scholars and local experts offer insider access to experiences not available to the independent traveler. In Yellowstone, Risch’s group toured the area with a naturalist, and a train trip on the East Coast had railroad historians telling stories of floods that destroyed train yards. On a trip to the Grand Canyon, her group had permission from a local Native American tribe to use a road on reservation land to drive into the bottom of the canyon.
While there’s no minimum age to travel with Road Scholar, most lifelong learners are over age 50. However, the organization offers grandparent or skip-gen programs for grandparents and grandchildren to travel and learn together, along with family programs for three generations to make memories.
“I like the content of their itineraries. You know exactly what you’re getting into,” said Wilson, 79.
Wilson said Road Scholar is very clear about the activity level of each trip. Itineraries labeled as “easy going” usually require minimal walking and few stairs while “outdoor challenging” includes physical challenges over steep terrain. Some of the in-between levels require participants to be “on their feet” or on the move via metropolitan streets or public transit. There are varying degrees of outdoor adventures as well.
Road Scholar programs are all-inclusive. Expert-led lectures, field trips, lodging, most meals, gratuities and group transportation are all included. They can even handle airfare for some international trips.
“They make all of the arrangements,” said Risch. “I don’t have to worry about a hotel or finding a tour guide. It’s real comfortable as a single person.”
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Both Risch and Wilson are solo travelers; however, Wilson brought her friend, Montrose resident Sandy Shalley, on her most recent trip through the French Canal.
Numerous recent studies show that solo travel is on the rise, especially among females. With Road Scholar, almost 70% of travelers are women, and 30% of travelers go solo, with 80% of the solos being women.
“My mother never traveled because of her life circumstances,” said Risch, a single woman with no kids. “I decided early on that I couldn’t wait around for other people to make up their minds. If I was really going to really travel, I’d have to be willing to do it by myself.”
And she hasn’t regretted it one bit.
But traveling solo doesn’t have to mean traveling alone. Road Scholar’s trips provide opportunities for connection with like-minded travelers, which can turn into lifelong friendships.
“I have a friend in Vermont who I met on the trip to Grand Canyon. We’ve stayed in touch and signed up for the same trips through Road Scholar,” said Risch.
Group travel doesn’t mean you’re tied at the hip either. Risch said Road Scholar schedules in plenty of free time for self-exploration or leisure.
“On a trip to Disney World in Orlando—not my favorite trip, by the way—another woman and I found a nice spot in a hotel where we had wine, looked at the gardens and had nice conversation,” she said.
Risch has traveled the world outside of Road Scholar, but the retired social worker keeps coming back because of the educational opportunities and affordability of the trips, especially for single travelers.
In many cases outside of Road Scholar, traveling solo means paying extra fees for the luxury of your own room. On some cruise ships or resorts, that can even double the price! But when you travel with Road Scholar, you have options to avoid those fees, whether it be teaming up with a roommate or paying a small additional charge. Some programs even offer single rooms with no extra charge!
“You may pay extra with Road Scholar, but you don’t pay double,” said Risch, who usually opts for her own room.
While Risch doesn’t currently have any Road Scholar trips on the books, she’s keeping an eye out for any trips to New Zealand, the Great Lakes, or even up Canada’s east coast.
“I love nature, so I’m not interested in New York City,” said Risch. “Road Scholar makes everything so easy. I can’t imagine doing tours with any other group.”
In addition to taking care of every trip detail, Road Scholar offers travelers peace of mind with its Road Scholar Assurance Plan. The plan, provided to travelers at no extra cost, provides 24-hour assistance in the event of an emergency, offering emergency medical evacuation; medical escort; assistance with lost or delayed baggage; lost, stolen or damaged baggage insurance; baggage delay insurance and more.
“Road Scholar is so trustworthy. I’ve never had a problem and have seen how they solve problems for others,” said Wilson.
Want to go?Explore adventures at RoadScholar.org or call 1-800-454-5768 to request a catalog. You can browse adventures by region, activity level, hobbies and interests, and more.
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