INTERVIEW: Ruth Schick, Road Scholar (Part 2)
Established as Elderhostel in 1975, Road Scholar has been offering learning and travel programs for nearly four decades! This is a great option for travel with an aging parent if you and your mom or dad like to mix some education with your tourism. There are even service-oriented programs for people interested in volunteering when they travel.
If you’re considering a Road Scholar program, the organization’s website makes it easy for you to browse its offerings by several criteria, including location, topic, and even activity level. Road Scholar offers something to suit almost anyone!
Yesterday I introduced you to Ruth Schick, an active retiree who’s traveled all over the world. She’s visited every continent, in fact—mostly through programs with the amazing Road Scholar organization. In this second part of our interview, she shares more about her Road Scholar experiences.
Valerie Grubb (VG): Have you gone on a trip alone, or do you always travel with a partner or other friends?
Ruth Schick (RS): In 2000, a few years after my husband died, I decided to try a program on my own and chose one in Toronto. I told a friend what I planned to do, and she asked to join me. The Toronto program was canceled, so we selected one in Niagara Falls instead. She and I went together on a program each summer from 2000 through 2005. Except for one program in Iceland, all of those programs were in the United States. Iceland was a once in a lifetime experience; it was like nowhere I had ever been before. There’s so much to see and do that you’ll likely want to rent a vehicle from somewhere like Cars Iceland in order to get all the sights into your trip.
When I retired from full-time work later in 2005 (I continued to work part time until 2009), I wanted to go on some programs that were best in winter. That was when I started going alone (except for two programs).
People who go on Road Scholar programs are always friendly. I’ve never met anyone who’s a problem. In fact, during my New Zealand program I was paired with another woman who was also a solo traveler, and we kept in touch afterward. We actually went to South Africa together (with Road Scholar) three years later!
(VG): Have you used other tour companies?
(RS): I’ve gone on a structured trip with only one other company, Quark Expeditions. I traveled with them to the Arctic (Svalbard, Norway) in July 2013. That program was run in a similar fashion to the Elderhostel program I did in Antarctica in 2007. On both of those trips, once the program participants boarded the ship, we were no different from the passengers who weren’t connected to our program. However, I was much happier with how Elderhostel handled the travel arrangements to and from the destination.
(VG): Is there a mix of ages on Road Scholar programs? Or an average age?
(RS): Yes, there is a mix of ages. I think the people on the foreign programs might have a younger average age, but some are older. The woman I met in New Zealand, for example, was several years older than me.
(VG): Do you know if Road Scholar accommodates travelers in wheelchairs or those who have trouble climbing stairs?
(RS): I don’t really know how to answer this. The programs I’ve done tend to have more physical activity than many. But I think that the organization has been adding low-activity programs in recent years.
Road Scholar does indicate the physical-activity level of each program, so people who can’t handle the physical requirements usually don’t go on the more active programs. If a person with limitations does decide to go on a trip, he or she is aware of that restriction before going and might not do all of the activities.
[Note from VG: Because Road Scholar offers so many programs of varying activity levels, if you have mobility issues, your best bet is probably to call the main office directly at 800-454-5768 and ask for guidance on which programs meet your needs.]
(VG): How does Road Scholar compare to other programs?
(RS): I’ve gone on only one program with another organization, and that was to a group of islands north of Norway. At the time, Road Scholar didn’t go there but does have programs there now.
An acquaintance mentioned that Road Scholar has been becoming more expensive, but agreed that they’re probably comparable to other programs. I really haven’t compared because I like the learning aspect that comes with Road Scholar and am content to stay with that organization.
(VG): Would you recommend Road Scholar? Why or why not?
(RS): I always recommend Road Scholar, and several people have participated in their programs on my recommendation. I like the travel and learn aspect. The lecturers are knowledgeable, and the lectures provide more in-depth learning than I think other tours provide. I like the people who travel with Road Scholar: they tend to be interested in learning, unpretentious, and down-to-earth. I also appreciate that Road Scholar will pair solo travelers together as roommates to keep lodging costs down for both people.
I’m very grateful to Ruth Schick for taking the time to chat with me. Road Scholar has long been on my list of travel opportunities to investigate someday. After learning more about these programs and talking with her about them, though, Road Scholar is definitely on my “must do” list! I especially love that these programs are so accessible to solo travelers (a point highlighted on the organization’s “Why Road Scholar?” page), which makes them even more possible for many people.
Have you participated in a Road Scholar program (or anything similar)? If so, please tell us about in the comments!