Meaningful Travel for Seniors: International Opportunities and Courses
I’ll be honest, I usually don’t write about travel for seniors, but that doesn’t mean that things like adventure tours for seniors don’t interest me. I’m always thinking about the longterm, and how I can continue to have travel be a part of my life, for my whole life. So, in light of that, why not write about seniors travel?
Personally, my goal is to make travel feel accessible to anyone and everyone, and I’m not age discriminant in the carrying out of that task.
I actually got interested in the whole idea of travelling seniors by writing an article for a magazine, and discovering that my whole perception of what travel for seniors looked like was just plain wrong. In my head, I pictured lackadaisical cruises, or beach vacations where the buffet was only steps from the beach. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
The international opportunities and courses that exist for travelling seniors are actually astonishing. When researching, I had these moments where I thought, “damn, I wish I was retired already!” The good news is, there’s such a variety as to what you can actually do. It was a situation where I was more than happy to admit that I didn’t know enough about what was on offer, and that’s why I wanted to write about this - to write about seniors travel in general.
If you’re one of my younger readers, and you feel like an article on seniors travel will bore the bejeezus out of you, that’s cool too, but just remember to bookmark this for 30 years from now. Better yet, just send the link to your parents!
On a serious note, I actually feel like anybody could be interested in this, if only because seniors travel might look a whole lot different than you thought it did and, whether we like it or not, we’re all getting older.
In writing this, I thought of my parents, who aren’t the type of people to have a passive vacation, and look to dig a little deeper under the surface of a location, and tend to steer clear of manmade beaches.
If you haven’t, don’t forget to check out my popular podcast, “Rick Steves Over Brunch,” where my co-host Stephanie (from History Fangirl) and I Rick Steves’ Europe episodes, and add in our own travel advice.
Senior Travel Reimagined: Travel Opportunities for the Golden Years
Let’s be honest, It has never been easier and more affordable to cross the globe and chase your dreams.
It’s easy to concoct a whole list of reasons for why it’s not the “right time” to cross the globe, but as time moves forward, it’s the choices we didn’t make that pain us more than the ones we did. Thankfully, It’s never too late to take the trip or journey that will change your life. American author Anna Quindlen sums it up quite well when saying, “the life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.”
Who you were yesterday doesn’t define the person you can become tomorrow, and there’s no reason that the chapters you write as a retiree can’t be even more intriguing than those that came before them. The good news is, you don’t have to write them on your own either - the following programs are built for those who understand that learning is a lifelong mission, and there’s no blueprint for what that needs to look like.
Road Scholar describe themselves as a “university of the world” and offer over 5,500 learning adventures which are specifically catered towards retirees. The breadth and scope of these learning adventures is remarkable, as they operate in over 50 states and 150 countries worldwide. If you’re thinking about senior travel groups, it really doesn’t get more credible and renowned than Road Scholar.
Having operated for over 40 years, they’ve attempted to grow and ensure that there’s something for everyone. Some trips have an intensive physical element and focus on hiking, golfing, or sailing (so, in essence, adventure tours for seniors.) Conversely, other trips have a more academic, historical focus (educational tours for seniors). They’re a company that’s trying to ensure that travelling seniors can find exactly what they’re looking for.
The cost is dependent on the trip you choose, but there are many affordable options in the one week range that start around $1000. Dennis Sullivan, a solo-traveller with Road Scholar noted after his first trip to India that, “considering the quality of the food, the places we stayed, and the price I paid, I really don’t think I could have done something similar on my own.”
This is educational travel for adults at its finest, which makes it one of the most popular options around when thinking about group travel for seniors.
Whether you’re looking to volunteer, work abroad, learn a language, or just to dive into another culture, Workaway has you covered. Typically, you look for an opportunity that suits your strengths and interests, then arrange a fair exchange where you contribute a few hours of your time per day to a project.
You can work with an NGO (non-governmental organization), volunteer at a school, contribute on a farmstay, work on a project that promotes animal welfare, or simply stay with a family to work on your language skills. This is something where this could constitute single travel for seniors, or group travel for seniors - it all depends on the experience.
With Workaway, the market here is really travelling seniors who want to make a difference, and do more than just go on a vacation. This, no doubt, classifies as meaningful travel for seniors.
The cost here isn’t as much monetary as an exchange of time, energy, or skill. That being said, you’ll likely need to get there on your own. Devon, who worked on a farm in Germany noted, “I had a great time there...It was great to spend time in the home with Regina and the animals, especially the very friendly cats. I learned about different ways to keep bees that I wasn't aware of!”
If you’re an older sports fan, you might enjoy my interview with NHL Hall of Famer Borje Salming.
Learning Courses Abroad through EF (Education First)
With language learning, immersion is the best way to not only pick up a language, but understand a culture. That’s why EF offers the opportunity to learn a language in over 50 destinations with 150 study abroad programs to choose from. You can do everything from learn Spanish in Madrid to Japanese in Tokyo.
The experience is highly customizable as you can choose the length you’d like to stay (2-22 weeks), the intensity of the language program (basic, general, intensive), as well as your accomodation (EF campus, host family with meals included, or EF residence). Naturally, the price is going to vary based on your preferences, but most programs start around $1500 for the two-week basic program.
Lauren Chodas who studied in Nice, France noted, “I never thought that I was capable of learning another language! Full immersion allowed me to progress more in 6 months than all other years of study.”
Volunteer Abroad with Cross Cultural Solutions
One of the best parts about retiring is having more time to give back in meaningful ways, such as volunteering abroad. I think most people would agree that volunteering abroad certainly constitutes meaningful travel for seniors.
Cross Cultural Solutions offers the opportunity to give back in nine communities around the world. Each program has a different emphasis, but all of the programs aim to “change a child’s life, one journey at a time.” This is a real genuine commitment, and it’s about more than just senior travelling. That being said, with Cross Cultural Solutions, you’re going to have a real opportunity to give back.
The program contribution will vary greatly depending on your length of stay and group size. For example, one week for one person is $1950, but 4 or more people who choose to stay longer than 5 weeks would only be required to contribute $500 a week per person.
Celeste Torrens and Nathalie Weeks, two sisters in their seventies recently went to Greece to volunteer at Ritsona Refugee Camp and said, “Volunteering is our favorite activity to share...CCS has allowed me to be inspired by giving me the opportunity to make a difference.”
Looking for travel tips? How about 101 of them?
Finding the Right Fit
Whether you want to learn a language, immerse yourself in history, give back to a community in need, or even go sailing, you can find your opportunity. There’s never been a better time to say yes to learning more about another country and, as a result, yourself.
What previously constituted travel for seniors, or seniors travel, just no longer really applies to the sheer breadth of opportunities that are available. Companies and organizations like Road Scholar, Workaway, Education First, and Cross Cultural Solutions are changing the landscape of what it means to travel for travelling seniors.
Learning comes in a variety of forms, and, in your retirement, you can do said learning in an nearly limitless amount of locations and ways. As they say, the next chapter of your life remains to be written, and all you need to do is pick up the pen.