Active Years Travel Choices

This article appears on page 41 of the September 2016 issue.

Wendy Bach of Minneapolis, Minnesota, wrote (April ’16, pg. 2), “My husband and I are now 63 and in good health, and we want to chart out the active ‘this is the time to do it’ type of trips. We love hiking and biking and have taken bike tours. We haven’t done much of the big-group tours; we tend to plan our own itineraries and make our own arrangements. 

“So here is my question for ITN readers: If you could design the ideal sequence of places to visit and experiences to have for our next 10 years, our really active years — considering what is best to see while we can go walking, hiking, biking, etc. — what countries and experiences would you put on the list, and how would you prioritize them?” 

ITN received a number of responses from subscribers. We are presenting some of them below and will have more in next month’s issue.

Carole and Ted Mullett and Julene and Bruce Campbell crewed this narrowboat in England.

Wendy Bach’s request struck a nerve with us because we were faced with the same situation 25 years ago. It’s been a wonderful run, and we’re happy to share our experiences, so here are our Big Five destinations (the hard part is limiting our suggestions):

New Zealand is both beautiful and friendly. It is best explored by motorhome, so rent one and wander for several months. Allocate two-thirds of your time to the South Island, and be sure to visit the famous Milford and Routeburn tracks as well as our favorite place, Abel Tasman National Park, where we ferried out and hiked three days back. You’ll undoubtedly add dozens of day walks to your trip. 

Resist the urge to spend a few weeks in Australia or Fiji while you’re “in the neighborhood.” Visit those at another time.

Patagonia is the most beautiful place on our list. Fly into Puerto Montt, in southern Chile’s Lake District, and rent a car for a week or so, staying at cabanas, enjoying the scenery and marveling at how European the country is. 

Then hike and boat the Cruce de Lagos from Chile to Argentina and, finally, top it off by rafting the mother of all white-water experiences, the Futaleufú River.

We visited Patagonia in 2001, hiking with Backroads (Berkeley, CA; 800/462-2848,

• Serve as volunteer English teachers around the world with Global Volunteers (St. Paul, MN; 800/487-1074, We think this is the best way to experience a country, as we did in 11 countries from 1996 (Poland) to 2016 (Cuba). We especially recommend doing this in China (2009), Vietnam (2005), Italy (1997) and Poland

With Global Volunteers, you pay your own expenses for 2- or 3-week tours, but there are significant tax benefits.

• Cruise the canals of England in a narrowboat. We believe that steering a canal boat through the English countryside is one of life’s great experiences. It’s also a lot of work, as you have to operate all the locks and an occasional bridge, yourself. 

In the UK, there are over 2,200 miles of canals, hundreds of welcoming pubs and thousands of friendly people waiting to meet you. Our favorite canal is the Four Counties Ring (linking Cheshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire and West Midlands counties). 

We rented boats from ABC Boat Hire (P.O. Box 232, Worcester, England, WR1 2SD, UK; phone +44 1905 734168, in 2010, 2011 and 2015. 

For variety, as we did with Le Boat (Clearwater, FL; 800/734-5491,, you can rent a cruiser on the Shannon in Ireland (2002) or do the amazing Canal du Midi in France (2009) and the lockkeepers work the locks for you.

Antarctica is Antarctica and must be enjoyed while you are comfortable jumping on and off the inflatable Zodiacs often used to reach shore. Be sure to book a ship that will land you on the Antarctic Peninsula, and that means a small ship. 

In 2013 we traveled on a package with Road Scholar (Boston, MA; 800/454-5768, that included eight days of landings from the MS Expedition. It was a great experience (though the Drake Passage lived up to its rough reputation).

Ted & Carol Mullett
Vero Beach, FL


Like Wendy Bach, I, too, am 63, active and seeking to tackle more challenging trips sooner rather than later. To include either hiking or biking, I would like to offer one possible list of places to visit and experiences to have that my husband, John, and I have loved.

New Zealand’s South Island offers stunning scenery at every turn, whether one is hiking or biking. Definitely do a heli-hike on Fox Glacier. The ice caves and crevasses are amazing. 

Hike at least one day on the Milford Track or kayak Milford Sound, as we did in December 2005-January 2006. You could also hike the Routeburn Track in Mount Aspiring National Park. 

The Siberia Experience ( at Mount Aspiring is terrific. You fly in a small plane, land in a meadow, ford a river and hike for five miles, then a jet boat picks you up to return you to your starting point. Really fun! 

We did not bike in NZ, but there were many opportunities to do so.

• In Rwanda, participate in at least two hikes to see the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. Visiting two different troops takes you through different habitats. These can be rigorous hikes through dense vegetation. However, your guide will assess your abilities to determine the difficulty of the trek best for you. Interacting with the gorillas at arm’s length is awesome. We were there in July-August 2012.

• In Bhutan, the hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery is beautiful and full of cultural interactions as well. Take a break at the teahouse to catch your breath, and eat lunch there after visiting the monastery. Take a full day to enjoy the ambiance, and when other trekkers have departed, walk down the mountain with the trail to yourself.

We combined our 2014 trip to Bhutan with a trek at the Annapurna massif in Nepal. We chose November for the blue skies; however, spring (March) is when the rhododendrons bloom and the rice paddies are green, in contrast to the brown which we saw in autumn.

• Hike to see the granite pillars of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. The wind can be fierce and the rain horizontal, as we experienced in December 2008-January 2009. Allow yourself a few days in order to increase your chances of having good weather. Horseback riding on a rainy day is still fun, though.

• In Switzerland, get a Swiss Travel Pass for your transport from one locale to another, and spend at least three days in each area. 

Go to Zermatt to view the Matterhorn. When we visited in the last week of June and the first week of July 2003, the hikes near Wengen and Grindelwald and at the base of the Gornergrat offered flower-filled meadows surrounded by towering snowcapped peaks. Visit Mürren, the Lauterbrunnen Valley and the Kandersteg Valley. 

Reward yourself after your hikes by indulging in yummy cheese and chocolate.

Italy’s Dolomites, with stunning scenery, are paradise for both hikers and cyclists. There are numerous hiking trails, and cyclists rule the roadways. July is a perfect time to visit.

In the northern Italian lakes area — around lakes Maggiore, Orta, Como and Garda — walk the famous gardens, stroll the quaint towns and take day hikes in the surrounding hillsides.

• In France’s Loire Valley, you can bike among the châteaux, gardens and picturesque towns or join a walking tour. The food is to die for.

• Be sure to try ice hiking on a glacier in Norway. It’s different from the experience in New Zealand or Antarctica in that you are roped together with other hikers and given a pick axe. In July 1999, we hiked the Nigardsbreen in Jostedal Glacier National Park, which lies to the north of Sognefjord.

Do a self-drive of the country, taking ferries as needed and stopping in villages to hike along your route. John and I drove from Oslo to Bergen and then took the train back to Oslo.

• In Canada, hike in Banff National Park, taking the trails near Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, as we did in July 2015. In Jasper National Park, try hiking to Edith Cavell Meadows, with superb views of Cavell Glacier. Drive the Icefields Parkway, too, stopping to hike at waterfalls along the way.

• I would also add Antarctica, a “must see,” noting that possibly having to hike through deep snow on some of the landings requires you to be in fairly good shape.

Janet Weigel, San Diego, CA


Based on personal experience, I suggest visiting the following destinations during your active years. 

• My husband and I visited Myanmar in March 2016, but we did not go at the best time of year. I was told several times while there that the best time would have been mid-November to December. March was very, very hot. The trip required more physical exertion than I expected in order to do everything I wanted to do.

We went with AmaWaterways (Calabasa, CA; 800/626-0126, for an 11-day cruise. The ship was fabulous, with good food, a great crew, very interesting passengers and no reason to dress up unless you wanted to. 

The main reason to go now is that Myanmar is still pretty authentic, and it’s only going to get more crowded.

• We visited the Galápagos Islands in May 2011. It required a lot more physical exertion than I expected. Of 16 people on our boat, one did almost no offshore excursions, and several of us skipped at least one shore trip just because of the physical demands. Everyone would benefit with a walking aid. 

If you have any question about your physical ability and want to get the most out of your trip, I suggest putting the Galápagos first on the list of places to visit now.  

I recommend Galápagos Travel (Aptos, CA; 800/969-9014, very highly. They were great in providing answers from people who had been there.

• As an extension to the Galápagos trip, and also arranged by Galápagos Travel, we went to Machu Picchu. I don’t like to climb, but I took a pair of telescoping climbing sticks along and they really helped. Getting everywhere I wanted to go was not as difficult as I had feared. Hire a private guide; it’s well worth the money. 

The rest of Peru also has a lot to offer. Spend at least a week in the rest of Peru. 

Even if you’ve been at high altitudes before, plan on a gradual entry (i.e., drive to where you want to go and stay for four or five nights along the way at gradual altitude increases). In my experience, neither age nor physical fitness plays any part in whether or not you’ll develop altitude sickness or, if you do, to what extent. 

Collapsible walking aids (just straight poles) are very handy if you have any balance problems. I’d suggest at least one; they take up almost no room.

If you have any trouble walking or CLIMBING at all, remember that just because you’re on a comfortable river cruise, it won’t necessarily be easy getting on and off the boat, especially if it’s low-water season.

For any trip, ask lots of questions, particularly about the “difficulty ratings” printed on tour itineraries. I find the best place to start is to call a travel provider and ask if anyone there has ever actually been on the tour or cruise you’re going on. If so, ask them every detailed question you can.

I am 66 and my husband is 73. We consider ourselves fit but not exceptionally so, and we are very active international travelers.

I hope this is of some help. If there’s any question you would like to ask, I’d be happy to try to answer. Email me at

Linda Kolb, Del Mar, CA


When you’re 63 and in good health is a great time to travel! Wendy Bach doesn’t give us any idea of which places she’s already visited, so I will mention only a few faraway places for her bucket list. 

• When I visited Machu Picchu, Peru, in my 50s, I rambled all over it and climbed the nearby peak to look down on the ruins. I returned there in my very late 70s and had trouble getting around to all the sites I wanted to see. If you haven’t been there, you should definitely put it high on your bucket list!    

• When we were in our mid-70s, we visited Bhutan with our son and his wife, in their 40s. They climbed to several very high monasteries, where they had some wonderful interactions with the priests. My husband and I could make it only halfway. 

• We lived in Italy for a while in our early years but didn’t get to the Cinque Terre, the five wonderful little towns in the northwest, until our early 80s. All the younger visitors were having fun hiking the trails between the towns, while we took the train. 

• The above, as well as Bagan, Myanmar, are all wonderful places to visit and hike during the next decade.

Brenda Milum
Olympic Valley, CA


To plan active travel over the next 10 years, first prioritize destinations worldwide that you would like to experience, then research your options (small-group or independent travel?, hiking or biking?, etc.), then start following your dreams. Keep in mind that your destination list will be fluid, changing as your world expands.

My husband, Ray, and I each traveled extensively before we married 18 years ago, when we were in our early 60s. Now we alternate in picking destinations. Ideas for destinations come from our dreams, fellow travelers, ITN and beyond. 

We started with Kenya and Tanzania, followed by Thailand, China (including Tibet), Egypt, Peru, Australia, Antarctica, India, Botswana, Zimbabwe and more. Most of our overseas trips are in small, active groups, each with no more than 16 people. We frequently take tours with Overseas Adventure Travel (Cambridge, MA; 800/577-1414,

As I look back, I’m grateful that we fulfilled dreams while still able to cope with long flights, poorer sanitary conditions, questionable medical care and higher physical activity. We chose land tours rather than cruises so we would have more personal flexibility to appreciate local life. Although older now, we’re still going strong.

As for my top three travel experiences, they include trekking in Nepal (done before my marriage), hearing elephants outside our tent in Botswana and Zimbabwe, and laughing at “teenaged” penguins splashing while they learned to swim in Antarctica. (If you travel to Antarctica in December, you may see baby penguins as hatchlings, but at the end of February we lucked into seeing them as more independent creatures, curious about everything and learning to swim.) 

For Ray’s top three, he lists witnessing animal migrations in Kenya and Tanzania, hiking in Antarctica and attending the Diwali festival in India

Our mantra is “Do everything you can while you can!” There is so much to see and do but so little time. 

Wanda Bahde
Summerfield, FL