Elderhostel International

Senior couple walking on a beach

In 2009 Elderhostel International, a world leader in educational travel for adults, changed the name of all of its learning adventures programs to Road Scholar.

A Brief History of Elderhostel

Founded by Marty Knowlton and David Bianco in 1975, Elderhostel International began as just an idea as the two men spoke after Marty returned from a European walking tour that lasted four years. During that time, Marty traveled with only a backpack, staying in youth hostels.

After returning home, the former educator and free-spirited activist told David Bianco, a university administrator, about his journey. He also talked of the affordable youth hostels where he met fellow travelers and of the folk schools of Scandinavia. In the folk schools senior citizens shared their skills and traditions with the younger generations, passing down their country's folklore, music, dance, and folk art. He told of seniors throughout Europe being active in their communities and the two men wondered why American seniors quietly disappeared into retirement.

It was then that David Bianco decided that his campus did not need a youth hostel. It needed an elder hostel instead. The two men developed a program combining inexpensive accommodations with interesting not-for-credit classes. The first year, 1975, five New Hampshire universities and colleges hosted 220 senior citizens in campus elderhostels.

Word of Elderhostel programs quickly spread, and by 1980 there were programs in every state and most provinces of Canada. The following year Elderhostel offered international learning programs in Great Britain, Scandinavia and Mexico.

As Elderhostel International continued growing in numbers, they introduced many different types of travel learning adventures including:

  • Programs for grandparents and grandchildren
  • Day of Discovery - one day programs
  • Road Scholar - a series of adventurous learning programs

Today, Elderhostel International offers a vast array of different programs in more than ninety countries, all fifty states and aboard ships. Travelers no longer stay in college dorms, instead, accommodations are in hotels and inns throughout the world.

Elderhostel International Becomes Road Scholar

Although the Elderhostel International Corporation still exists as the parent company, beginning in 2009 all of the programs of Elderhostel International became known as Road Scholar. Remaining a not-for-profit 501c corporation, Road Scholar depends on private donations.

Each year, Road Scholar offers more than 8,000 learning adventure programs in ninety countries throughout the world including:

  • The United States
  • Canada
  • Europe
  • Africa
  • The Middle East
  • Asia
  • The South Pacific
  • Australia
  • The Caribbean
  • South America
  • Central America
  • Antarctica

Types of Programs

The following is a very small sampling of the thousands of educational adventure programs offered by Road Scholar.

Adventures Afloat

Adventures Afloat provides a wonderful way to gain knowledge, explore new areas and have fun. Adventures take place aboard riverboats, ocean liners, and small ships. Popular Adventure Afloat programs include:

  • Enchanting Rivers of Europe: Amsterdam to Budapest - small ship
  • Discovering the Jewels of the Mediterranean: Athens to Istanbul - small ship
  • Beyond the Pharaohs: Egypt Past and Present - riverboat
  • Ancient Portugal: Life Along the Douro River - riverboat
  • The South of France by River: Wine and History from Sarlat to Bordeaux - riverboat
  • Voyages to Antiquity: Athens to Rome - ocean liner
  • An Insider's Perspective of London Theater Aboard the Queen Mary 2 - ocean liner
  • The Southern Caribbean and Panama Canal: A Journey Through History and Nature - ocean liner

Independent City Discoveries

Independent City Discoveries combine independent discovery with structured learning. These programs include accommodations, lectures and field trips by local experts, outlines for self-guided tours and some meals. Programs include:

  • Mystical Lands: The People and Culture of India and Nepal
  • The Greatest Road in Europe: Camino De Santiago
  • Exploring Natural Wonders: The Real Costa Rica

Day of Discovery

Day of Discovery programs are one day programs in various American cities such as:

  • Molly Brown: A Look at Life and Legend, held in Colorado
  • Sidewalk with a View: An Exploration of Downtown Los Angeles Architecture, held in California
  • Preserving Museum Treasures at the Mütter Museum, held in Pennsylvania

Intergenerational Adventures

Intergeneraltional adventures include special programs for grandparents and grandchildren, or families with children:

  • Family Ties: Grandparents, Grandchildren and Great Times held in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania
  • Adventures on the Sea of Cortez: People and Wildlife
  • Rocky Mountain New Year: A Family Ski-In, Ski-Out Adventure in Park City, Utah

Women-Only Programs

Women-only programs provide a variety of educational travel adventures such as:

  • Wilderness Canoe Camping Trip in Maine
  • Sedon'a Healing Arts for Women: Yoga, Tai Chi, Ayurveda and More
  • Hiking Adventure for Women: The Magic of Glacier National Park

Small Group Programs

Small group programs limit the number of participants to ten to twenty-four. The programs are grouped into eight activity levels. Examples of these types of programs include:

  • Wolves in Winter: Track the Pack in the Minnesota Northwoods
  • Autumn Whales and Seabirds, Exploring Tide Pools, Lighthouses of Grand Manan
  • Walking the English Countryside: the Cotswolds and Cornwall

Individual Skills Adventures

Examples of individual skills adventures include:

  • Learn to Play the Appalachian Dulcimer in West Virginia
  • Photography and Natural History on the Oregon Coast
  • A Culinary Voyage in Victorian Cape May, New Jersey

Travel Opportunities for Seniors

Since its beginning, Elderhostel International was, and still is, dedicated to continued learning through travel. The organization is one of few that encourages seniors to travel the country, as well as the world, and provides many programs to help seniors do just that.

Elderhostel International