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10 Ways Educational Travel is Better Than Your Average Vacation

October 29, 2009 – Baby Boomers are seeking a new level of enrichment in their leisure travel activities. This is born out by the U.S. Department of Commerce which says that educational travel is growing and older adults are leading the charge. “Educational travel programs are one sure way to guarantee a higher level of enrichment, and the travel industry is well aware of the growing interest in lifelong learning through educational travel. More and more tour operators are gearing their offerings to later-life learners,” says Nancy Merz Nordstrom, M. Ed. and the author of Learning Later, Living Greater: The Secret for Making the Most of Your After-50 Years (Sentient Publications: ISBN: 1-59181-047-7). For 78 million Baby Boomers keenly interested in a more active and healthy retirement, lifelong learning through educational travel is proving to be an essential part of their new lifestyles.

Since 1975 when Elderhostel, Inc., offered its first programs, the educational travel industry has grown by leaps and bounds. Today, the field is booming, and many organizations, both for profit and not-for-profit, offer similar programs for all ages. Elderhostel, however, remains the largest provider in the U.S. of high quality educational travel programs specifically for older adults.

Educational travel offers participants a combination of lectures, field trips to back up those lectures, and free time. It’s a way for travelers to learn about the history, culture and politics of an area. According to Nordstrom, “These intrepid voyagers are not soaking up the sun on a beach or heading toward the eighteenth hole. They are out and about, learning up close and personal.”

As Nordstrom’s new book, Learning Later, Living Greater… says, educational travel is just one of three ways adults can make their after-50 years far more fulfilling than they ever thought possible. Nordstrom, an expert in lifelong learning for older adults, also advocates later-life learning both in the classroom, and through meaningful community service, as ways to redefine the retirement years. In fact Ken Dychtwald, Ph.D., has said, “Nancy Merz Nordstrom has written a compelling user-friendly guide to lifelong learning and, in many ways, a complete redefinition of the after-50 years.”

Educational travel, where the world really is your classroom, as Elderhostel says, is different from a standard ‘vacation’. “People should not confuse the two,” says Nordstrom. She goes on to say that “Vacations, while necessary for everyone, are seen as ways to seek out leisure and avoid anything serious. Educational travel, on the other hand, while it too is fun, is a way to absorb the essence of the places being visited. It’s an exciting concept for those redefining their retirement years.”

Nancy Merz Nordstrom, M.Ed.Nancy Merz Nordstrom, M.Ed.

Courtesy of her groundbreaking book, Learning Later, Living Greater: The Secret for Making the Most of Your After-50 Years published by Sentient Publications (ISBN: 1-59181-047-7), Nordstrom offers the following Ten Ways Educational Travel is Better than Your Average Vacation.

10. Educational travel brings you chances to make new friends as you travel with like-minded individuals.
With educational travel programs, a cohesive group develops as you delve into the topics of your program. Consequently, it’s very common to continue that bond even after the program is over. Many people regularly keep in touch with their former travel mates, and some have even found romance. “Many marriages have resulted from meetings on educational travel programs,” says Nancy Merz Nordstrom. “I know of one couple who found each other again after forty years apart.”

9. Educational travel participants get VIP treatment.
Since educational travel programs are carefully organized, participants get special treatment. Usually there’s no waiting in long lines, having to deal with crowds of tourists or time wasted waiting for a reservation at a restaurant. “And, parking is never an issue,” Nordstrom says. “Participants are taken as close as possible to their destination.”

8. Educational travel programs employ the best professors, instructors and experts at any given location.
“What a joy it is to learn about the many nuances of an area from a local expert,” says Nordstrom. “In Austria, I learned all about Innsbruck during World War II from a professor who was actually there. It was the perfect way to learn.” Whatever the topic, whatever the area, educational travel programs seek out and find the best people to bring the culture, history and politics of an area to life.

7. Educational travel gives you an opportunity to get behind the scenes.
People who travel to learn are not observing new cultures from a bus window. “They are out and about, drinking in the sights up close and personal,” says Nancy Merz Nordstrom. “They get the chance to talk with the locals, take advantage of behind-the-scenes tours, see things that the ordinary tourist misses. They have the opportunity to absorb the true essence of the area being visited.”

6. Educational travel is a way to really learn about the world around us.
As technology shrinks our world and brings us all closer together, the opportunity to learn about our neighbors grows. Says Nordstrom, “Don’t we owe it to ourselves to delve into this landscape and explore the cultures of different people? By doing so we come away with a much different view of not just them but also of ourselves.”

5. Educational travel is the perfect ways for a single person to travel.
“Traveling by yourself is easier on an educational travel program,” says Nordstrom. “You’ll be in the company of like-minded adults, a nice mix of both couples and singles. It’s a safe and welcoming environment, one where everyone watches out for each other.”

4. Educational travel leaves us with much more than a typical vacation.
We gain a deeper knowledge of the world. We get to experience life – to truly live it. Education travel, according to Nordstrom, “gives us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the exotic spectrum of life on Earth. You don’t get that laying on a beach.”

3. Educational travel can give you the opportunity to mix service and learning.
According to Nordstrom, “Service learning travel programs offer travelers the opportunity to give of their skills and experience by volunteering in a new location. It’s the perfect opportunity to change the stereotypical views of older adults and leave a lasting legacy for the next generation.”

2. Educational travel is a wonderful vehicle for an exploration of ourselves and our quality of life.
Nordstrom says, “Educational travel is tremendously helpful in this exploration. It shows us how to understand and appreciate, not only our own lifestyles, but different cultures too. It changes us by broadening our perspectives and teaches us about new ways to measure our quality of life.”

1. Educational travel is a way to find our authentic selves.
“You can think of educational travel as a spiritual or even a creative activity, an activity that helps us delve into a search for our authentic self. And that search is what the journey of our after-50 years should be all about,” says Nordstrom.

Nancy Merz Nordstrom, M. Ed. is a frequent consultant to news organizations and outlets eager to discuss the redefinition of retirement for the Baby Boomer generation. Nancy is Director of the Elderhostel Institute Network, serves on the faculty of Computer School for Seniors and blogs at http://computersavvyseniors.blogspot.com, among others. She is one of lifelong learning’s preeminent experts. Her website can be found at http://www.learninglater.com and you may email her at learninglater@comcast.net.

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