Since 1975 when Elderhostel, Inc., offered its’ first programs, the educational travel industry has grown by leaps and bounds. Today, the field is booming, and many organizations, both for profit and not-for-profit, offer similar programs for all ages. Elderhostel, however, remains the largest provider in the U.S. of high quality educational travel programs specifically for older adults.

Educational travel offers participants a combination of lectures, field trips to back up those lectures, and free time. It’s a way for travelers to learn about the history, culture and politics of an area. According to Nordstrom, “These intrepid voyagers are not soaking up the sun on a beach or heading toward the eighteenth hole. They are out and about, learning up close and personal.”

As Nordstrom’s new book, “Learning Later, Living Greater,” says, educational travel is just one of three ways adults can make their after 50 years far more fulfilling than they ever thought possible. Nordstrom, an expert in lifelong learning for older adults, also advocates later-life learning both in the classroom, and through meaningful community service, as ways to redefine the retirement years. In fact Ken Dychtwald, Ph.D., has said, “Nancy Merz Nordstrom has written a compelling user-friendly guide to lifelong learning and, in many ways, a complete redefinition of the after-50 years.”

Educational travel, where the world really is your classroom, as Elderhostel says, is different from a standard ‘vacation.” “People should not confuse the two,” says Nordstrom. She goes on to say that “Vacations, while necessary for everyone, are seen as ways to seek out leisure and avoid anything serious. Educational travel, on the other hand, while it too is fun, is a way to absorb the essence of the places being visited. It’s an exciting concept for those redefining their retirement years.”

Courtesy of her groundbreaking book, “Learning Later, Living Greater: The Secret for Making the Most of Your After-50 Years” published by Sentient Publications (ISBN: 1-59181-047-7) Nordstrom offers the following Ten Ways Educational Travel is Better than Your Average Vacation.

Educational travel brings you chances to make new friends as you travel with like-minded individuals.

With educational travel programs, a cohesive group develops as you delve into the topics of your program. Consequently, it’s very common to continue that bond even after the program is over. Many people regularly keep in touch with their former travel mates, and some have even found romance. “Many marriages have resulted from meetings on educational travel programs,” says Nancy Merz Nordstrom. “I know of one couple who found each other again after 40 years apart.”

Educational travel participants get VIP treatment.

Since educational travel programs are carefully organized, participants get special treatment. Usually there’s no waiting in long lines, having to deal with crowds of tourists or time wasted waiting for a reservation at a restaurant. “And, parking is never an issue,” Nordstrom says. “Participants are taken as close as possible to their destination.”

Educational travel programs employ the best professors, instructors and experts at any given location.

“What a joy it is to learn about the many nuances of an area from a local expert,” says Nordstrom. “In Austria, I learned all about Innsbruck during World War II from a professor who was actually there. It was the perfect way to learn.” Whatever the topic, whatever the area, educational travel programs seek out and find the best people to bring the culture, history and politics of an area to life.

Educational travel gives you an opportunity to get behind the scenes.

People who travel to learn are not observing new cultures from a bus window. “They are out and about, drinking in the sights up close and personal,” says Nancy Merz Nordstrom. “They get the chance to talk with the locals, take advantage of behind-the-scenes tours, see things that the ordinary tourist misses. They have the opportunity to absorb the true essence of the area being visited.”

Educational travel is a way to really learn about the world around us.

As technology shrinks our world and brings us all closer together, the opportunity to learn about our neighbors grows, says Nordstrom. “Don’t we owe it to ourselves to delve into this landscape and explore the cultures of different people? By doing so we come away with a much different view of not just them but also of ourselves.”

Educational travel is the perfect ways for a single person to travel.

“Traveling by yourself is easier on an educational travel program,” says Nordstrom. “You’ll be in the company like-minded adults, a nice mix of both couples and singles. It’s a safe and welcoming environment, one where everyone watches out for each other.”
Educational travel leaves us with much more than a typical vacation.

We gain a deeper knowledge of the world. We get to experience life – to truly live it. Educations travel, according to Nordstrom, “gives us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the exotic spectrum of life on Earth. You don’t get that laying on a beach.”

Educational travel can give you the opportunity to mix service and learning.

According to Nordstrom, “Service learning travel programs offer travelers the opportunity to give of their skills and experience by volunteering in a new location.” “It’s the perfect opportunity to change the stereotypical views of older adults and leave a lasting legacy for the next generation” she says.

Educational travel is a wonderful vehicle for an exploration of ourselves and our quality of life.

Nordstrom says, “Educational travel is tremendously helpful in this exploration. It shows us how to understand and appreciate, not only our own lifestyles, but different cultures too. It changes us by broadening our perspectives and teaches us about new ways to measure our quality of life.”

Educational travel is a way to find our authentic selves.

“You can think of educational travel as a spiritual or even a creative activity, an activity that helps us delve into a search for our authentic self. And that search is what the journey of our after 50 years should be all about,” says Nordstrom.

To learn more about lifelong learning for older adults please visit

"Learning Later, Living Greater: The Secret for Making the Most of Your After-50 Years," can be purchased at

Author's Bio: 

Nancy Merz Nordstrom, M. Ed., is the author of Learning Later, Living Greater: The Secret for Making the Most of Your After-50 Years, published by Sentient Publications in Boulder, Colorado.

Learning Later, Living Greater introduces readers to the ideas and benefits of later-life learning. It challenges people to become involved in meaningful new avenues of productivity: learning for the sheer joy of learning something new, educational travel, volunteerism, civic action, and more. It shows them how to stay mentally and spiritually young. Learning Later, Living Greater is the guidebook for transforming the after-work years into a richly satisfying period of personal growth and social involvement.

Merz Nordstrom also directs the Elderhostel Institute Network for Elderhostel, Inc., North America's largest educational travel organization for older adults. She offers counseling to new start-up programs, provides resources and facilitates communication among more than 380 Lifelong Learning programs across the U.S. and Canada, and develops links between these programs and similar programs in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. She has also worked closely with developers establishing lifelong learning programs in Japan.

Nancy blogs and writes columns for several online sites that focus on adults over the age of 50. These sites include - and She maintains a web site at that provides information for the general public.

Merz Nordstrom has been interviewed extensively by the media about the learning in retirement movement. Articles have appeared in many newspapers and periodicals, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Boston Globe and the Washington Post. She has done numerous radio interviews, local TV shows, and was a guest on the CNN Financial News TV show "Your Money."

A dedicated lifelong learner, Nancy returned to school after the unexpected death of her first husband, and at age 53, earned a M.Ed. in Adult Education. As a later-life student she became aware of the opportunities and challenges facing older adults, and has dedicated herself to the belief that lifelong learning is both empowering and life-affirming, regardless of age.