Right around Christmas time I start dreaming about next summer's vacation, but I'm not one for fancy accommodations and corny travel guides. I enjoy learning about the places I visit in depth, and traveling with like-minded and curious folk. One program that many of my friends have found suits the bill is the Elderhostel.
The Boston-based not-for-profit organization was created over thirty years ago to encourage lifelong learning for adults, and learning is at the core of its many programs. Last year, of the 8,000 programs offered, 140,000 people took part in U.S.-based tours, while 24,000 joined tours outside the country. Because the organization is designed for adults 55 and over (hence the name Elderhostel), participants are likely to find a high degree of compatibility with those sharing their trip.
Examples of the wide-ranging Elderhostel tours include
A week aboard a sailboat in Mobile Bay, exploring the delta region and its history
Three days exploring a newly opened cave in Arizona
A train trip through Mexico's Copper Canyon
Journey through Arabia: sailing the Arabian and Red Seas
The price of Elderhostel programs ranges from inexpensive to moderate. The word 'hostel' in the organization's name is a bit misleading, as it is not part of the hosteling world; participants stay in conventional lodging such as hotels, rather than hostels.
If you like to travel and like to learn, but don't care to pay for fancy baubles and obsequious service, you might take a look at the Elderhostel offerings. Dreaming of summer is a great way to overcome the winter blahs.