When independent traveler Joan Rattner Heilman, writer for The Daily Herald, and her husband decided to visit Tibet and China, they decided for the first time that they might want to join with a tour company. They discovered tour groups specifically geared toward their age range (50-60) and activity level. Despite the “old fogie” stigma, they found that the tour was adventurous, delicious, and energetic. Her article, Step Lively has suggestions for fellow mature travlers looking for an active vacation.
“We signed up with Overseas Adventure Travel, a company offering “active” explorations designed for travelers over the age of 50. It turned out that we were the oldest fogies on the tour and all of us had to step lively. OAT is the younger, peppier sister of Grand Circle Travel, the goliath operator of leisurely escorted tours trips to the ends of the earth for the older crowd. Grand Circle takes up to 40 voyagers at a clip, average age 73.
OAT gets a younger group, mostly in their 50s and 60s, limits the participants to 16, and plans energetic, fast-paced tours for which you must be in good condition. Bad back? Stiff joints? Low energy? Forget about it. We were told in advance that we should be able to walk at least three miles “unassisted” per day, climb up steep and uneven stone steps, negotiate cobbled or dusty streets, tolerate an altitude of 12,000 feet and get up out of our beds very early at least two mornings. Not only that, but we soon learned that we were expected to move right along, no lagging or straggling.
It helped that every tiny detail of the tour was carefully planned and that everything went off exactly as planned. The luggage usually arrived in our rooms before we did, our tickets were always ready, we didn’t have to worry about getting lost, drivers never failed to show up on time, our accommodations were clean and comfortable, we could always find the ladies’ room (such as it was) and all of it was orchestrated by Stephanie (Chinese name: Liu Lizheng), our gem of a guide.”