Love Shines Bright Under the Northern Lights: The Educational Journey of a Mother and Daughter
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Love Shines Bright Under the Northern Lights: The Educational Journey of a Mother and Daughter

Courtesy of Road Scholar
Courtesy of Road Scholar

A general perception of family travel is of two adults with their young children camping in Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, or white-water rafting in exotic locales like Costa Rica or the Galapagos. We’ve all seen these families; they’re either packed into cars or campers traversing the highways and backroads, or they’re waiting for their flights with colorful suitcases, and backpacks, with their ever-present electronic devices in tow.

Well, there’s another type of family travel that isn’t quite as visible —that of the baby boomer parents (age 50+) and their adult children, in their 20s and 30s. In fact, as more and more baby boomers transition from full-time parents to empty nesters, they yearn for ways to stay connected with their adult children. In many cases, their adult children have graduated from college and graduate school, and now live far from home. Many of these parents who have traveled for years with not-for-profit Road Scholar – either solo, or with a spouse or partner – see educational travel as an opportunity to bond with their adult children while continuing their own journey of learning.

Courtesy of Road Scholar

“While Road Scholar is known for exceptional learning adventures for adults 50+, grandparents and their grandchildren, multi-generational families and solo travelers, we are less known for providing programs for parents and their adult children,” said James Moses, President and CEO of Road Scholar. “But we’d like to change that. Our educational experiences are designed for everyone interested in learning about the world and about themselves. And there is no better way to expand and enhance family relationships than by learning together. Sharing a love of learning with grandchildren and adult children strengthens our bonds and creates memories that will last forever.”

Mary Ann, 57, lives in a small town west of Chicago, Illinois, with her husband of 36 years, Mark.  She worked for over 20 years as a fire and police dispatcher, while raising her three children, including Ana, 26, who lives and works a short distance away. Mary Ann traveled in the U.S. with her husband, but she’d never traveled outside of the country until the pull of motherhood led her to Berlin, Germany in 2013. That year, Ana decided to study abroad for her junior year, and knew she wouldn’t see her parents for four long months. As any mother in Mary Ann’s position could attest to, that was far too long.

“All of my children went to colleges nearby, so I never had to go long periods of time without seeing them,” Mary Ann said. “But that all changed when Ana decided to study abroad in Berlin. I told her if she was brave enough to study abroad, I was brave enough to visit her. I was 50-years-old when I got my first passport.”

Courtesy of Road Scholar

Ana says her mother’s visit to Berlin in 2013 was also a defining moment for her, as she saw her mother in a new light.

“I vividly remember my mother’s trip to Berlin with my aunt, because it was the most energetic I’d ever seen her!” Ana said. “Every day was jam-packed with activities, and she was just eager to learn everything about Berlin.”

Mary Ann knew early on that she had to look beyond her husband for a travel companion, and thought why not her adult daughters? She is very close to her children, and knew that a one-on-one trip, away from their daily lives, would help her build relationships with them as adults. The discussion of their first trip together—and their first Road Scholar adventure together —began as a way to celebrate Ana’s graduation from graduate school, her new job, and the purchase of her first home.

“When my older sister graduated from law school, she and my mom took a trip to the Badlands,” Ana said. “Both my parents and my grandparents have traveled with Road Scholar, so my mom recommended a trip for us to Iceland. It had become a new hot spot and definitely on my bucket list. When I finished grad school, I started a new job and didn’t have the time to travel immediately. Last year, all the stars aligned and we enrolled.

The Hunt for the Northern Lights: An Introduction to Iceland is a six-day Road Scholar learning adventure that explores the natural wonders of Iceland, from Reykjavik to the countryside, including the sometimes elusive Northern Lights.

Once other family members got wind of the trip, they enrolled as well, including Mary Ann’s three siblings and her sister-in-law, who’d traveled with her to Berlin several years ago, making it truly a family affair.

Courtesy of Road Scholar

Ana was the youngest participant, but she says the group leader and other participants made a real point of making her feel welcome and included. As a Business Communications major, she was particularly interested in Iceland’s economy and what it was like to be a young adult in Iceland. Ana says she really enjoyed the opportunity to meet and learn more about all of the other participants on the trip, some of whom had children and or grandchildren around her age.

“I think young adults who are interested in learning would enjoy a Road Scholar program,” she said. “It was cool to hear about other people’s experiences and listening to their stories. I made a point to sit with a different person every day.”

Road Scholar is a not-for-profit organization with a mission to inspire adults to learn, discover and travel. Its learning adventures are designed for adults 50+, however the organization also encourages older parents with adult children to explore its 5,500 programs in 150 countries and 50 states. To learn more, please visit our website at https://press.roadscholar.org