By Laura Myers
Did you know that internationally acclaimed Road Scholar, a Boston-based nonprofit renowned for its educational programs or trips, currently escorts 12 learning adventures to the Florida Keys & Key West?
Road Scholar, leading programs around the world for 44 years, describes its trip participants as lifelong learners, typically older than 50, who have diverse cultural and professional backgrounds.
Demanding and ever-inquisitive, today’s active senior travelers seek meaningful, immersive experiences that enable them to connect with the unique history, culture and residents of a bucket-list destination.
“We’re forever learners,” said Marilyn Gaddis, a 91-year-old from San Marcos, Texas, during a recent dinner at Key Largo Conch House that was included on a Road Scholar journey to the Keys.
She and husband George Carruthers, 95, a World War II veteran, have experienced 32 Road Scholar trips.
“Being able to see and drive along the Overseas Highway and to discover what the dots on the map are really like was quite special,” Gaddis said.
During the recent seven-day, six-night program titled “Keys, Everglades & Dry Tortugas: Human History & Outdoor Study,” the couple and 14 other participants from around the country hiked and picnicked at Everglades and Dry Tortugas national parks, Pigeon Key, and John Pennekamp, Windley Key and Fort Zachary Taylor state parks.
In Key West the group stayed at Havana Cabana, enjoyed Mallory Square and explored the island city, visiting attractions such as the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum and taking walking tours. Participants dined at Ocean Grill and Bar and Mangia Mangia Pasta Cafe.
Itineraries are active, often beginning around 7 a.m. and ending around 8 p.m. after dinner.
Nina Powell of New Bern, North Carolina, booked her trip solo to celebrate her 75th birthday. During free time in Key West, Powell said she took a “wonderful architectural tour and polished it off with a massage and pampering.”
Older travelers typically want special access to historic sites and museums, tasty local cuisine and popular attractions — without a wait in line. Many seniors want to avoid spending valuable personal time planning and scheduling trips with multiple activities within a destination.
“I don’t like to travel alone,” said participant Stan Crull of Ames, Iowa. “I wanted to go deeper into Florida and I had never been to the Everglades or the Dry Tortugas. I want to visit as many national parks as possible.”
In Key Largo, the group overnighted at Ocean Pointe Suites and ate at Hobo’s Cafe.
Two Florida residents were the group’s knowledgeable guides: Howie Geib, who studied architecture in college and worked in sustainable development, and Aleksey Berzon, who is currently writing a novel.
Some seniors also want to travel with their grandchildren on a celebratory adventure as a way to bond one-on-one with the “grands” — away from the supervisory eyes of their own adult children. Road Scholar features a six-day, five-night “Snorkeling the Coral Reef in Key Largo with Your Grandchild” for grandchildren ages 9 to 14, in July and August.
The nonprofit originally was founded in 1975 as Elderhostel, billed as the not-for-profit world leader in educational travel. It rebranded in 2010 as Road Scholar to reflect “the legions of loyal lifelong learners who rely on us for an in-depth study of the world.”
Road Scholar also features other themed Keys programs that include “On the Road: South Florida Wildlife & Natural Gems by Boat & Boot,” “Florida’s Fragile Coastal Treasure: Snorkel the Coral Reefs,” “Birding in the Everglades, Florida Keys & Dry Tortugas,” “The Best of Miami and the Keys,” “Key West Old Town: A Kaleidoscope of Life” and “The Holidays in Key West: A Sunny Take on Christmas Traditions.”
Visit RoadScholar.org or call 800-454-5768.
Pop on your snorkel gear and grab your grandchild for the underwater adventure of a lifetime at the continental United States’ only coral barrier reef!
Another popular itinerary, 'Keys, Everglades & Dry Tortugas: Human History & Outdoor Study' includes hiking and picnicking at national and state parks.
Enjoy Mallory Square, explore the island city of Key West, visiting attractions such as the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum and taking walking tours.
Many seniors want to avoid spending valuable personal time planning and scheduling trips with multiple activities within a destination.
Go deeper in Florida, on a birding trip through Everglades National Park. Image: Anhinga Trail, ENP/Bob Care