Get Out There

By Eric Christensen

October 8, 2012 5 min read

Today's seniors are unlike the generations that have preceded them. More widely traveled and read, many of today's seniors are unsatisfied with typical travel options. Thankfully, companies are designing vacations that not only offer once-in-a-lifetime destinations, but also cater specifically to an older customer base. These companies realize today's seniors do not want to settle when planning a vacation.

Authentic Tanzania designs bespoke safari tours for small groups around customers' interests and abilities. Emily Liebchen, sales and marketing manager at Authentic, reports that this year, 40 percent of their guests have been 60 or older. Groups wake up early for breakfast, walk for three hours either along a circular route or out to a mobile camp, rest for lunch during the hottest hours of the day, then spend the afternoon either walking or driving in search of game. Cars are shaded and offer step-up assistance. While in the bush, guests stay in spacious tents, with mattresses and en suite hot-water showers. The lodge-based safaris offer accommodations equivalent of an international four-star hotel, Liebchen says.

Authentic takes visitors to National Parks and game reserves, including Selous, the largest reserve in Africa. Guests are shown how to track wildlife, and they may see birdlife, local flora and even the big five. Guests are treated to forests, waterfalls, and magnificent views of the savannah. Very fit and active guests may wish to select a physically demanding route that features chimpanzees.

Ward Luthi, the president and founder of Walking the World, designs and leads "small-group adventures for the 50-plus population to more than 30 destinations around the world." Luthi uses walking to help keep people active while exploring exotic locations such as Costa Rica, Corsica, Italy and Nepal.

Walking the World offers unique trips that feature challenging excursions outside of people's everyday experience. A veteran of the Outward Bound program, Luthi likes to design somewhat challenging adventures. "Our trips are a little longer than other walking tours. By getting people to go past their limits, we can help them achieve a powerful moment ... where they say, 'I wish my kids could see me!'" One of Luthi's favorite excursions is a scenic hike to the Delicate Arch in Utah's Arches National Park. "It's not a very long hike," Luthi says, "but there is a part that looks challenging. When I help people across, the rest of the trip becomes easy. You can see their entire demeanor change. They can take on anything."

This process of challenge and growth, particularly when shared in a small-group setting, is a priority of Luthi's. "I think sometimes if you look at adventure travel, you can pick out the best hikes, the best restaurants, and the best experiences you can find in that area, but I think in some ways, people are also looking for an experience ... that feeds the spirit as well as their eyes and stomach," Luthi says.

Todd Smith, founder and director of AdventureSmith Explorations, offers small ship adventure cruises to the Galapagos Islands, South and Central America, the South Pacific, and other places. Smith says approximately three-quarters of his customers are older than 50. "We help folks select, among all the (small ship) options, which cruise best fits their interests and abilities."

These small ships have 12 to 150 passengers, and their small size allows them to reach remote locations that sometimes cannot be accessed even by car or plane, let alone a typical cruise ship. Additionally, due to environmental concerns, only small ships are allowed to sail to locations like Antarctica, one of AdventureSmith's regular destinations.

AdventureSmith offers both tranquil, relaxing cruises where much of the wilderness sightseeing is done from the boat, and more challenging, active cruises where a large portion of the day is spent on shore exploring. But some of the small ships have tight, steep staircases. If that is an issue, AdventureSmith can help you pick a ship better-suited to your needs. Regardless of which ship you ultimately choose, AdventureSmith prides itself on offering its customers a high level of comfort, including delicious meals and comfortable cabins.

For today's seniors, retirement does not necessarily mean the end of exotic travel. Instead, it can be the beginning of new adventures. Many companies are eager to accommodate your needs and help you choose a vacation that exceeds your wildest dreams.

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