Crazy Cool Things to do When You Retire (or Sooner): The Road Scholar Program
While a number of Baby Boomers have retired and started their second acts, many others are anxiously planning for that magical time, when working for others stops and a new life begins. What will you do with your time? This can be a daunting question. But one thing is sure, what distinguishes the Boomer generation is a sense of openness to adventure and the desire for fulfillment and self-actualization. There are lots of cool adventures waiting for you. Here’s an idea: The Road Scholar program.
History and Background
Road Scholar used to be known as Elderhostel, a not-for-profit program in which older citizens could avail themselves of non-degree educational opportunities, at low cost. Early on, Elderhostel was hosted at colleges and universities over the summer months, when the majority of students were on break and classes and dorms were available to participants. Elderhostel was the brainchild of two university colleagues, Marty Knowlton and David Bianco. In 1975, they started the conversation about learning adventures for older citizens after Knowlton returned from a trip backpacking around Europe and staying at youth hostels, and while in Scandinavia became familiar with the concept of “folk schools.” The first year of their trial run at the University of New Hampshire, 220 people participated. That number rose to 20,000 by 1980 with programs in every state, and most of Canada. In 1981, European destinations were added and in 1998 classes were even offered aboard ships via Adventures Afloat. By 2010, 4 million adults had enjoyed the benefits of Elderhostel. Around that time the “hostel” concept changed and the program was renamed as Road Scholar, but the underlying concept of traveling and adventuring while learning has held true.
Road Scholar describes itself as: a diverse community of knowledge seekers and explorers, united in the belief that lifelong learning is a vital part of overall wellbeing. We believe in living life to the fullest at every age — by experiencing the world, and not just looking at it. By meeting new people, touching history where it happened and delving deep into the cultures and landscapes we explore.
Sampling of Programs
Participants no longer are housed in “hostels” but rather in modern, high-quality accommodations, and many would no longer consider it a low-cost option. Excursions range in cost. For example, the website shows that 6-day tours of signature cities range from $900 to $1,200 per participant. US National Park tours range from $1,000 for a 6-day trip to 12 days at $3,000. A 16-day adventure to Alaska and the Yukon is $5,600. A 10-day small ship exploration of the Islands of Italy is $3,000. A 24-day Steamboat Adventure the Length of the Mississippi is $9,000. An 11-day Best of the Seine River from Normandy to Paris is $3,000. This is just a sampling of the huge number of offerings: 5,500+ in-depth, insider, behind-the-scenes learning expeditions on land and sea, to 150 countries from Albania to Zimbabwe, serving more than 100,000 participants per year..
Keep in mind that everything is included in this price: airfare, lodging, ground transportation, lectures, field trips, and entrance into the various venues included in the itinerary, such as museums, parks, etc. What makes this the Road Scholar program so appealing is that it is focused on learning while traveling—that aims to foster discussion, sharing of ideas, and exposure to and understanding of other cultures. Road Scholars receive a unique, in-depth learning experience about destinations, subjects and ideas that spark their curiosity. It is about learning and discovery for the sheer joy of it—no homework required! The Road Scholar organization is headquartered in Boston, but has a staff of over 300 who work in offices around the world, and engage a large network of top-notch educators who lead the programs. “The breadth and depth of our offerings is unsurpassed,” states the Road Scholar website.
While Road Scholar promotes itself as “travel adventures designed for boomers and beyond,” and is geared to the 50+ demographic, there is also a whole category of Intergenerational travel and learn opportunities, where families and children can join in. A sampling of these include: Art , Culture and History: A Berlin Adventure with your Grandchild; A National Park Family Adventure: Sion, Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell; Intergenerational Hawaii: Surfing, Volcanoes and Tropical Forest Adventure; Kayaking o the Lower Columbia River; and Branson Showbiz Kids.
The Lifelong Learning Institute Connection
Road Scholar has built a network of over 400 Lifelong Learning Institutes (LLIs) across the country, helping older adults pursue their love of learning close to home. These centers offer college-level educational experiences (non-credit), yet at a fraction of the cost. Classes are taught by members, retired and active faculty, and outside experts and are a great way to meet like-minded individuals, conduct meaningful conversation, and in the spirit of the Road Scholar movement, continue to learn, grow and challenge yourself.
There are two LLIs in greater Richmond area:
University of Richmond, School of Continuing Studies – Richmond, VA
Chesterfield Lifelong Learning Institute – Midlothian, VA
Whether home or abroad, a Road Scholar adventure is waiting! Let us know about your experience traveling with Road Scholar, or with the Lifelong Learning Institutes.