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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Exploritas: From Alaska to Zimbabwe

It’s time to see the world.

Whether your dream is to canoe the Cache River Wetlands in Illinois, or explore Mahabalipuram and the sandstone temples that arose in south India more than a thousand years ago, the Exploritas program can help you to realize that dream.

Formerly called Elderhostel, Exploritas is a not-for-profit group travel program that combines exceptional educational and hostelling opportunities for adults over 55 and their guests. The program is based on the belief that retirement is still an active and exciting time in one’s life, and that learning is an integral part of a healthy, fulfilling existence. Exploritas has two special features: it provides safe, stimulating, learning environments at good value.

This was the nation’s first—and the world’s largest—educational travel organization founded for older adults. Exploritas pledges to provide its participants with instruction by knowledgeable, professional group leaders; talks presented by experts in their fields; in-depth field trips; and the combination of travel and adventure. Since its creation by Marty Knowlton in 1975, more than four million adults have taken part in its various programs.

Thirty-four years and approximately 8,000 programs later, Exploritas continues to squire intrepid travelers throughout North America and to more than 90 countries across the world. Currently, the program is composed of a network of more than 1,800 colleges, universities, environmental education schools, museums, state and national parks, along with other academic and cultural institutions.

All Exploritas programs include accommodations, lectures, activities, gratuities, travel insurance, and most meals. Each program has its own distinct aspects: some are geared toward outdoor experience; some pertain to individual skills; a specific location; a topic of interest, such as culture, food, or wine. There are literally hundreds of choices.

Some programs are more traditional, while others, such as Adventures Afloat, involve traveling off the beaten path to some of the most remote and exquisite locations in the world. What better way to discover diverse histories, cultures, and natural environments than from the deck of a floating classroom?

Another program that Exploritas offers is called Outdoor adventures, one of the more active choices. It includes bicycling, hiking, bird-watching, and water sports such as kayaking, rafting, and canoeing. Local experts share in-depth information while venturing with travelers into some of the Earth’s most fascinating environments. Participants get to experience the wonders of the natural world by exercising their bodies and their minds at the same time.

A unique facet of this program is the intergenerational component. This is a major draw for many because it offers grandparents, their children, and grandchildren the opportunity to investigate mutual interests, such as geology, dinosaurs, outer space, genealogy--you name it. Exploritas provides the learning experiences that bridge the generations.

This travel program is a celebration of the curiosity, enthusiasm, and passion of senior adults from all walks of life. Its travelers are open to fresh ideas, broadening experiences, and making new friends. They are well-educated: almost half have four-year college degrees; 20 percent have earned advanced degrees. But the defining characteristic of them all is that they love to learn new things: Exploritas vacationers enjoy exploring the world.

Additional information is available at or

Enjoy your travels,
Laraine Jablon

(Excerpt from her CSA Journal article, Elderhostel: From Alaska to Zimbabwe, September 2009.)

Laraine Jablon, BA, MA, is a writer specializing in social, health, and spiritual concerns of seniors. She lives in Nesconset, New York, and welcomes your thoughts.