By Michele Herrmann, Regular Contributor
Perhaps there’s one thing that seniors can teach travelers of all ages: it’s never too late to see the world. In 2013, Nancy Bradford and Anne Wyatt Brown, who are both residents at Roland Park Place (RPP), made a pact to travel together.
Known as the “RPP Travel Buddies,” these senior women, who live at a retirement home in Maryland, started off their adventures together with a trip to Africa. The two kept their journeys going, with visits to Peru, Morocco, Tanzania, Mississippi and South Africa. Next year, Nancy and Anne will be taking a boat trip to Europe to visit England, Ireland and Scotland.
Jessie on a Journey has interviewed Nancy and Anne to learn more about their exciting journeys. We’ve also asked them to share their senior travel tips for the young at heart.
Note: This post is part of Jessie on a Journey’s Inspiring Travelers series.
1. What prompted you to travel together?
Nancy: We met at Roland Park Place and became friends right away. After realizing we might get along well, we planned our first trip together. I’ve traveled all my life. Travel was a passion I shared with my late husband. We took our kids across the country. Right now, I’m taking my grandchildren on various trips as well.
Anne: Nancy came up with the idea of traveling to Kenya and Tanzania. I thought it was a great idea, so we started making travel plans. Before moving to Roland Park Place, I had traveled with my husband for academic conferences, where we did some sightseeing here and there.
2. How do your travel styles match and differ?
Nancy: We do very well together. We also have a similar sense of humor, which matches up with our travel style. However, we never share a room. Anne is ten years younger than me and there are things she can do that, at 88, I just can’t.
Anne: I think our travel styles work well; we are very similar. We are both outgoing and always have a great time together. One thing we do not do is share a room as we have different sleeping styles. That’s why it works well.
3. How do you balance each other out?
Nancy: We are never critical of each other. We help each other when we need to. We also make it a point to have an adventure.
Anne: We balance things out by agreeing on things ahead of time. For instance, we generally go with a travel company. Everything is taken care of and we have time to enjoy the experience.
4. Does each of you handle certain aspects of a trip?
Nancy: We do it together; we talk it over and make decisions together. It works perfectly. We both agree that we want to take a trip and then we plan from there.
Anne: We both agree to go somewhere, but there are differences. For instance, Nancy does the phone calls, sets us up and generally makes suggestions. She books the tour and then we discuss logistics, like how to get to our destination.
5. Do you both prefer group tours?
Nancy: We mostly stick to group tours, with about 10-15 people. I’m in my 80s, so you have to plan it well when you’re older.
Anne: We mainly do tours. The smaller the group the better. So far, when we’ve traveled together, we’ve always had a company handle our arrangements. The only exception was our paddle boat trip through the Mississippi, where it was harder to plan a tour. When I traveled with my husband, we would mainly go with other friends. If we were at an academic conference, we would contact the organizers and get suggestions on what we could do in that particular city.
6. What’s traveling like for both of you as seniors?
Nancy: I have a great sense of adventure. I know I can’t do some of the things I used to do 10 years ago, like hiking to Machu Picchu, but I will travel as long as I can.
Anne: Overall it has been a great experience, but we realize that we are getting older. On our last trip, the group was mostly made up of couples, and they weren’t really interested in chatting with a couple of widowers. It was kind of a downer and the first time we had experienced something like that. We have also noticed that walking trips are getting harder for us, so we’re keeping that in mind for our next trip.
7. What has been your most memorable experience so far?
Nancy: We had a great experience when our car broke down in Tanzania. We were out in the fields waiting for help to arrive and 4o feet away from us was a caravan of elephants. It helped pass the time.
Anne: We ended up back in Nairobi on the day of the Westgate shopping mall attack. We were at the same hotel, and, all of a sudden, our bags had to be checked as if we were going through airport security. We had no idea what was going on. Finally, we got inside and learned what had happened. We stayed in the hotel for dinner that night. The next day, I saw so many residents who had lined up to give blood, I was actually amazed. I think that we were the last Americans traveling to Nairobi who didn’t have to worry about these things.
8. From your experiences, how do locals generally react to senior travelers?
Nancy: I would say people are always very welcoming. We never had a problem.
Anne: Something that I’ve noticed is that our local guides are always interested in us. We enjoy talking to them and they normally ask us many questions.
9. What destinations are on your must-see list?
Nancy: I think it’s the one we are planning for next year. It’s a summer trip to Scotland, Ireland, and England. We are going on a small boat to cut down on all the walking.
Anne: This might not be the place to visit right now, but I believe Palestine was amazing. I learned so much about what’s going on there. In Africa, I found the people to be welcoming and interested in learning about other cultures. Peru is beautiful, but I realize that I’m getting too old for high altitudes. I used to think it was no big deal since I had lived in Colorado, but the altitude in Peru got to me. In the end, I had to leave the trip early.
10. What tips do you have for other senior travelers?
- Don’t wait too long and don’t start traveling in your eighties.
- Small group tours help cater to your needs better.
- Pick any destination in the world and read about it before you go. You can get there, just like we did.
- Pick a friend you know you can travel with.
- If you are with a group, let them know your limitations. If you can’t walk for a long time, it’s OK to admit it.
- Be realistic on what you can accomplish. Don’t think that because you want to walk, you can walk.
- Don’t ignore the suggestions on the difficulty of the trip. We ignored them at first; don’t do what we did.
- If things get demanding, speak up and suggest something else to do with the trip leader.
- If you’re older than 50, consider booking a tour specializing in senior travel.
- If you feel you can’t do something, let the tour guide know.
Do you have any senior travel tips to add?
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