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Ha Long Bay, Vietnam Cruise Tour with cave visit

Carolyn Rundorff has a strong appetite for curiosity and learning, something that has fueled her travels in retirement.

A longtime widow and retired middle school librarian, Rundorff, now age 78, doesn’t buy into the notion that “I’m too old for that.” She intends to keep active as long as she can.

She’s among a growing number of older adults who represent a significant shift in their mindset about travel. Data shows that seniors are leaning toward adventure and educational travel in growing numbers.

One study states, “The latest generation of senior citizens is proving healthier and wealthier than their predecessors and are spending more on experiences rather than on material goods.”

It’s through a not-for-profit travel program called Road Scholar that Rundorff has found the adventure she’s been seeking.

The program is an outgrowth of Elderhostel and is the nation’s largest not-for-profit educational travel organization for adults, “a true university of the world,” according to press materials. It offers 5,500 programs in 150 countries and 50 states, and provides opportunities for giving and receiving financial aid.

Since 2001, Rundorff has taken 27 educational tours with Road Scholar, providing her with adventures, close friends and an education about people she wouldn’t have met otherwise. The tours and volunteer projects have created, for her, a fulfilling life.

Some of her travels include volunteering for Mardi Gras, Habitat for Humanity and the National Parks Service. She’s built trails and homes across the United States.

She now acts as a volunteer ambassador for Road Scholar, often speaking to local service clubs about the program and what it offers. Through its Many Faces of Oregon, she often joins tour groups and shares information on Portland, the Oregon Coast and Columbia Gorge.

She also talks to tour groups at Pittock Mansion and Vista House. It’s an opportunity to meet people from around the country.

“I have great times,” she says.

Road Scholar reports that it has seen a steady growth in total program enrollment over the past five years, including a significant increase in the number of women traveling alone.

Among Rundorff’s international trips are Kenya, Cuba and Switzerland. She’s often traveled solo, but now travels with several women from Georgia, two of whom she met on Mount Hood on a tour titled “Historic Lodges of the Pacific Northwest.”

She also enjoys traveling with her grandchildren on Road Scholar’s intergenerational tours. “They loved it,” she says.

On an average week, about 2,000 participants are learning about the world through this program. Over the past year, participants have included 340 repeat travelers who have taken a total of 50 programs; another 55 who have been on over 80 programs; and 21 people who have taken over 100 trips.

The average age of the Road Scholar is 72, and the average age of a first-time Road Scholar is 68.

People like Road Scholar because they don’t have to spend time scheduling activities, making reservations and other time-consuming details of travel. Road Scholar handles meals and all lodging, tips and taxes, listening devices and 24/7 emergency assistance and more.

The mission is to provide learning adventures, opening minds to new ideas and deepen understanding of oneself and of the world’s people, places, cultures, history and environments.

One of the outstanding new programs Road Scholar offers is for caregivers.

Acknowledging the weighty responsibility of caregiving, program organizers feel the learning adventures in their tours provides a respite from the emotional and physical demands of caregiving.

With the support of donors, the grants help offset the costs of arranging substitute care while caregivers are away on a Road Scholar trip.

“Road Scholar has been an asset in my life,” Rundorff says. “I can’t do high-end tours and these rates are affordable. I continue my love of learning and have found friends to have fun with.”

In addition to her Road Scholar travels, Rundorff also belongs to a “red hat” group, delivers meals, and is part of literacy programs through Portland Public Schools.

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