Sandy Cohen, R.N. & Roger Cormier, M.A.

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As we get older, we think about how we want to spend our available time. Some of us decide to make adventure travel or voluntourism a top priority because we want to experience or even contribute to other parts and cultures of our continent and world. Then the question is where, how, when and with whom. Aside from budget limits and other time commitments, the choices are abundant.

Road Scholar (www.roadscholar.org or 1-800-454-5768) features educational and service adventures in North America and on other continents. Examples are Morocco: Melting Pot of Cultures; and a South African service safari to directly monitor leopards and other wild species. Road Scholar is a program of Elderhostel.

Overseas Adventure Travel or “OAT” (www.oattravel.com or 1-800-955-1926) caters to seniors in general and has special bookings for single seniors. They offer land adventures to countries and regions such as Israel, Africa, Peru,Vietnam and India and small ship adventures to regions accessed by rivers and seas like the Nile, Yangtze, Aegean, Adriatic and Antarctic.

Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com or 1-425-771-8303 inU.S.), of guidebook and television fame, offers “back door” trips in Europe from Scandinavia to Turkey. Not necessarily billed as adventure travel, they nonetheless include sites and experiences off the beaten and comfortable path. Although many tour members are retired, they include Baby Boomers, young adults and families with children of college or high school age.

Other programs include Volunteer-Abroad based in New York (www.crossculturalsolutions.org orU.S.1-800-380-4777) and Volunteer Alliance based in California(www.volunteeralliance.org).

People sometimes wonder why seniors would want to journey to exotic and even wild places with only seniors. The same question can be raised about why older people choose to live in seniors-only communities or spend their non-family leisure time with people exclusively in their age range. At one level, one can understand that some people want to be among people whom they perceive to have much in common with them, like getting older, being retired, remembering the era of big bands. 

However, when it comes to adventurous, exploring travel, our most memorable mates include a couple in their 80’s eating up the wonder and wildness of an African safari with people decades younger than themselves. They were in the thick of the action from beginning to end. They did not just observe but communicated with Masai villagers and their children.

It is great fun to learn how other people at various stages of life respond to the sights and sounds of wild animals and fiery sunsets in nature reserves. Many older people go on tours or set up their own travel adventures irrespective of the age range of fellow travelers or completely on their own.

In whatever way you may select your broadening travel experiences and mates, your underlying motivation may include the satisfaction you enjoy and the memories you treasure. Such travel often leads to enriched understanding and feelings of solidarity with previously unknown travelers, wondrous natural settings and people of different cultures.

Some are inspired to get involved in movements for environmental preservation or service to and empowerment of people in need. Adventurous travelers occasionally make friends with one or more travel mates. Those relationships spring from a common spirit and build upon a treasured experience. Such a blessing is precious irrespective of age.

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