Monday, June 8, 2009

Elderhostel Reimagined

I've enjoyed two Elderhostel trips and look forward to more. Their programs address both educational and recreational impulses, nicely balancing both.

My first and favorite junket with the Elderhostel crowd took me to New Mexico, where we spend three days at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu and three in Santa Fe. The entire six days were focused on the life and art of Georgia O'Keeffe. We visited the grounds of Rancho de los Burros on Ghost Ranch, O'Keeffe's summer home. Even better, we took a complete tour of her more permanent home in the village of Abiquiu. I loved seeing her piles of rocks on the window sills, her gardens, books and furniture. I was thrilled to see a jar of tea in her kitchen hand-labeled by the artist as "very good tea". We hiked in and around Ghost Ranch (today a Presbyterian-owned retreat center) and were able to identify many landscapes from O'Keeffe's paintings. One evening a local man named Tio Manzanarez spoke about his memories of "Driving Miss Georgia". In Santa Fe, we visited the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. The tour guides and lecturers were all excellent and I learned tons about O'Keeffe. For me she is a beloved individualist who uniquely personified the American West. Her sense of what was beautiful and paint-worthy changed the way we see the world.

The second trip, called "Discover Maine Through Arts and Nature" took me to Portland. Being my first-ever trip to Maine, I was enchanted. There was so much to see and do. We took architectural tours, visited a lighthouse, took a harbor cruise, visited the Portland Art Museum and the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow home, and of course, ate a classic lobsterbake dinner. I would love to take another trip to beautiful Maine.

Now Elderhostel is looking to rename their programs. They are having a contest for a new catch phrase for what they do so well. The very name "Elderhostel" is a turn-off to some people age 55+, for whom the concepts of elderliness and/or hostels are not beguiling. Among the suggestions: Curiosity U., Edulife, Edutopia, Global U., Pathways, WorldQuest. This is the kind of challenge I like to let simmer on the back stove of my mind. We'll see if I can come up with something. Personally, I don't have a problem with the moniker of Elderhostel. I am more tired of being called a boomer than an elder! Hopefully elder equals wiser. I think being an elder is a wonderful stage of life.

photo by KAO: "the most photographed spot on the Eastern seaboard", Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth, ME.

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