Move over Elderhostel (“the largest educational travel organization for adults 55 and over”).
Travel-the-World U. is eating your lunch!
According to a recent story in the *New York Times*, the number of colleges and universities with very active alumni travel departments has grown to more than 100 in the past 10 years. These agencies define their affiliate groups *not* by age, as Elderhostel does, but by seemingly more positive demographics, including, at the top of the list, where you went to school. Though, in fact, most university programs don’t require you to have gone to their school to go on their trips, they’re still pitching a very powerful P.L.U. (People Like Us) approach. Implicit in the marketing is that your fellow/sister travelers will be bright, well-educated, fully engaged with the world, intellectually curious and compatible, affluent enough to afford the trip, and interesting, if not successful, in their own right. The key Value-added is supposed to be the presence of a learned professor from your alma mater to guide your exploration of theater, literature, history, ecology, archaeology, foreign lands, and/or whatever – but Elderhostel, the Museum of Natural History, and Smithsonian offer experts, too. I’m betting it’s the affiliate group that’s the real attraction. Especially for people like us.
After all, we’re just setting out on this adventure. Before now, vacations have been family affairs, opportunities to get away or escape, with emphasis on relaxation and recreation. Now, however, less encumbered by children and possibly less pressured by work, we have energy to dedicate not just to getting there, but to what we’ll be doing once we are wherever we’re going. We have time to go explore some place we know nothing about. Well aware of all the things we’ve failed to learn along the way, we’re hungry to master new facts and new skills. We’re ready to “work” as we travel, (as long as there’s still a good bottle of wine available at day’s end).
We’re not so adventuresome, however, as to strike out on our own, most of us. And while we’re prejudiced against and thus resistant to using our AARP cards for admission, and we’ve never really liked group tours, university-sponsored educational travel appears to be a very attractive option. Again, not defined by age, but by where we went to school, what interests us, how far we want to travel, how active we want to be, and what we yearn to learn. We can depend, we think, on our university to make it worth our while. They were good enough to educate us once; they can probably do it again. That baby-boomer brand-name consumerism lives on; we’ve re-entered our comfort zone, even if we’re going on a new, global adventure.
And adventures abound. Schools offer as many as Stanford’s 65-70 programs a year or MIT’s 30, or a small college’s 8-10. The itineraries are myriad: the Belize Barrier Reef; the Galapagos Islands; the Mayan Peninsula; Egypt and the Nile; Patagonia; China and East Asia; South Africa; India; the Red Sea; Mexico’s Cooper Canyon; Ancient Greece; the British Isles; Sicily; the Danube; the Elbe; the Baltics and Moscow; Lewis and Clark’s Epic Journey; the Magnificent Mekong; Geiranger Fjord, Norway; Sandakan, Borneo; Australia’s Barrier Reef; New Zealand.
One source of current listings is **High River Passage (www.hcptravel.com)**. Another is your own university website. For example:
Or just Google **“Alumni Educational Travel.”**
Then let us know what works for you. Have you traveled with an alumni group? Your own or someone else’s? Did you enjoy the people? Did you learn all you expected? Would you do it again? What were the highlights? Any advice or caveats?
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