Traveling for Christmas

Two local senior women are planning solo travel during the holidays
December 1, 2023 at 7:53 a.m.
A stay at the Empress Hotel in Victoria is one of the many Christmas trips on offer this year. Photo courtesy of the Empress Hotel.
A stay at the Empress Hotel in Victoria is one of the many Christmas trips on offer this year. Photo courtesy of the Empress Hotel.

I was intrigued when I learned that some local senior women would be spending their Christmas holiday on trips with strangers.

Well, maybe not strangers, but on trips with Road Scholar, the not-for-profit organization that provides educational travel programs geared toward older adults.

Sarajane: Christmas at the Empress in Victoria
Sarajane from her recent trip to Mexico's Yucatan peninsula 
Here is Sarajane with the trip leader, whose first language is Mayan, and the staff at one of the hotels from the trip, a historic hacienda 


Sarajane from Seattle, age 74, will be spending Christmas in Victoria this year and in Quebec next year. Because her family is 3,000 miles away at Christmastime, she says: “I’ve made my own plans that guarantee I won’t feel sorry for myself. Both the Empress Hotel in Victoria, B.C and the Hotel Frontenac in Quebec are historic hotels in the grand manner that will wine and dine us in style, along with exploring the city. I plan to do this every year, so I booked 15 months in advance to secure a solo room in Quebec.”

Sarajane started 2023 with back-to-back Road Scholar trips to Mexico City and to the southern Mexico state of Chiapas, visiting Aztec and Mayan archeological sites. “Then in June I enjoyed the Best of the San Juan Islands.” Traveling to Victoria for Christmas will be her fifth Road Scholar trip of the year!

Sarajane recalls that her first Road Scholar trip was with her mother in 1986. “We studied Jung for a week with Elderhostel (Road Scholar’s original name) at Fort Worden.” Sarajane began traveling on her own about eight years ago, once she retired. “I find that Road Scholar covers just about all my bucket list destinations, especially in North America.” She adds that she especially enjoyed Yosemite last year.

In October, Sarajane took her fourth Road Scholar trip this year to Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula, well-known for its ancient Mayan ruins. “I chose Mexico because I took a course at the University of Washington on the history of Mexico, as well as a course on ancient architecture, so seeing these sites in person was especially meaningful.” She adds that her dietary preference for no picante foods, even in Mexico, was not a problem!

When asked why she travels with Road Scholar, she replies, “I chose Road Scholar because these trips always emphasize local history and culture (and do not include shopping). The small groups are friendly, and I feel included as a solo traveler. Most meals are shared, often at one long table.”

She recalls her recent trip to the San Juan Islands: “I could have traveled to the San Juans on my own, but I love having all the arrangements, including six ferry rides and transfers, made for me.” Having a local trip leader who is a well-known whale photographer with lots of stories to share was a bonus.

She adds that she trusts Road Scholar to make it all fun and interesting.

Kathleen: Christmas in Assisi
One of the sites visitors to Assisi will see. 'Tis the season for musical performances, great works of art, expert lectures, and traditional Umbrian cuisine on this holiday celebration in Assisi, the hometown of St. Francis, photo courtesy Road Scholar


Kathleen from Snohomish will be spending Christmas in Assisi this year.“I love to travel at Christmas time,” says Kathleen. “There are not as many other visitors! Assisi appealed to me because the last time I was there they had an earthquake and I was not able to see the basilica. I am very interested in the story of St. Francis of Assisi and learning about how others celebrate the holiday season.”

Kathleen will be spending the holidays in Assisi. “I am very interested in the story of St. Francis of Assisi and learning about how others celebrate the holiday season.”


She has been on more than 20 travel programs with Road Scholar.“I started taking Road Scholar tours in the lates 1990s with my mother,” says Kathleen. “She was retired and wanted company as my father no longer wished to travel. I was allowed to come as her companion.”

During the last 30 years, Kathleen has been on 10 domestic trips and four international trips, plus she’s taken six online courses. She has taken Road Scholar trips with her mother, her sister, an aunt, friends, and two trips as a solo traveler.

Photos from two of Kathleen’s previous trips with Road Scholar, a cathedral door in Barcelona and a kiva in Chaco Canyon 

“I like the people, the staff and other travelers on the Road Scholar trips. They are very warm and welcoming. The staff are knowledgeable and kind.”

Kathleen describes the process of researching trips. “When I decide I want to go somewhere, I look at other travel companies, but always seem to come back to Road Scholar.” Part of that reason is that, as a continuous learner, the itineraries fit her taste and interests. “I really enjoy the lectures they provide us travelers that provide insight on where we are going and what we will be seeing.”

She encourages travelers to order a catalog or to check out the Road Scholar website. “They have tours for everyone!”

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