The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

Like you, I love to travel (though I’m still a bit of a novice by some ITN readers’ standards, having visited only six continents and 60-plus countries). I’ve always viewed travel as a combination of entertainment and education, but my trip to Israel in November 2018 far exceeded my expectations and has had two lasting impacts that I didn’t expect.

The tour

My tour, “The Holy Land: Past, Present, and Future,” was offered by National...

The Fenella, one of the Isle of Man’s vintage steam trains, runs between Castletown and Douglas.

A few years ago, while we were exploring the British Channel Islands together, our friend Mary said, “Let’s go to the Isle of Man next!” “Why?” we asked. “It’s just Manx cats and motorcycle races, right?” But Mary said there was a lot more.

In 2019, the time had come, so we called Mary and off we went!

The Isle of Man (IOM), located in the Irish Sea midway between Ireland and England, is not large — only about 33 by 13 miles...

Feeding one of the last two remaining northern white rhinos.

Even before leaving for a Southern Africa safari in September 2019, my two friends, Cynthia and Jim Lyon, and I had already booked a trip to East Africa for September 2020. All three of us love to travel, and nothing nourishes our souls more than a wildlife trip. Who knew that a global pandemic would ground us for most of 2020?

As spring wound into summer, our hopes of traveling to Kenya were quickly dimming, but we still fanned a little flame of optimism. In early July 2020, it was...

The formal gardens of Borromeo Palace overlook the lakeshore near Stresa.

Guidebooks gush about the legendary beauty of northern Italy’s Lago Maggiore.

The Michelin Green Guide’s editors award the lake three stars — worth a journey — and call it “the most famous of the Italian lakes... at times both majestic and wild.”

Especially beguiling, the guidebook continues, are the three Borromean Islands, Bella, Madre and Pescatori, which lie, locked in the lake’s blue embrace, just offshore from the Belle Époque...

We watched these horses relaxing in Lake Nicaragua as we waited for our lunch.

In pandemic mode, temporarily cut off from our travels, all that we have left to satisfy our adventurous spirits are our memories… and planning for the next trip.

As longtime friends and travel companions, we plan our own trips over several months, sometimes years, scouring blogs, asking others about their experiences and always reading everything available in ITN! We travel together about once a year to places that aren’t of interest to our other travel companions. We...

Passing the ruins of Godstow Nunnery, northwest of Oxford.

Along its banks, Henry VIII honeymooned. Grand abbeys were built and destroyed. Kings were crowned and queens beheaded. “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Wind in the Willows” were written. The Magna Carta was signed. Enduring landscapes were painted, world-class gardens were established, and over-the-top palaces were built. If not for the Thames, there would be no London.

On foot I traced it all, following a route that looked like a strand of yarn...

The Great Mosque of Djenné.

For more than a hundred years, Timbuktu (Tombouctou) has been used as a metaphor for the most isolated place in the world. Unlike the fictional Shangri-la (invented by James Hilton in his novel “Lost Horizon”), however, Timbuktu is a very real place.

A bit of history

Its reputation for faraway isolation developed during the 19th century, but it did have a golden age, based on trade and scholarship, from the 12th to the 16th centuries. The University of Timbuktu was...

This expansive view was seen from a high vantage point on one of our hikes.

Though our November 2019 tour would be the first time that Road Scholar offered a hiking trip in Japan, their local partner, Walk Japan, was an expert at this type of trip. Offering a great hiking experience on clean, well-maintained trails through fields with lovely vegetable gardens and terraced rice paddies, forests, streams and waterfalls, the journey was planned to take in the fall colors, and they were near their peak, with bright-red and salmon-pink maples, bright-yellow ginkgos and...