View of Baku’s Flame Towers.

Claire Prest, our ElderTreks tour leader, posed a question as we gathered on day one of our 20-day Caucasus itinerary: “Who can name all the countries in the former Soviet Union?” 

The rest of the group applauded as one of our group members quickly rattled off all 15: “Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Tajikistan, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Turkmenistan, Armenia, Latvia and Estonia.

We’d be visiting only...

Cuzco’s cathedral, built with blocks taken from the nearby site of Sacsayhuamán.

My wife, Zelda, and I have been fortunate and privileged to have visited about 100 countries over the last 40 years. More than 30 years ago, I visited Peru several times as a member of the Army Chief of Staff Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) program, but my wife had never been to Peru. I have always wanted to see Machu Picchu, but after one of Zelda’s sisters experienced altitude sickness in Cuzco years ago, Peru was a no-no. 

Then, last year, Zelda read about Lake...

A view of Lake Geneva and the Jet d’Eau.

As a senior in college, I had yet to have a study-abroad experience. My friends had all done it, returning with their pockets filled with spare change in a foreign currency and a lifetime full of stories. 

Knowing that my school schedule wouldn’t allow me to travel for an entire semester of study and that I would be booked for the majority of the summer, one rainy day in April I decided enough was enough. I would create my own study-abroad program, one that fit my schedule...

Cindy and Ted Palmer on the path to Tiger’s Nest.

Life is a compilation of experiences, and mine was enriched by the Bhutan odyssey that my husband, Ted, and I took in October 2016. In this tiny country nestled under the Himalayas between India and China, we found pristine natural beauty, ancient Buddhist monasteries and a guileless culture.

We arrived via a Drukair flight piloted by one of the few pilots from one of the few airlines approved for landing. The thrill of snaking into the Paro Valley between mountains stretching 18,000...

The Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad.

Motivated to return to Iran by the very pleasant memories of our 1972 visit, my wife, Jean, and I took an April 2016 tour of Iran with Distant Horizons (Long Beach, CA; 800/333-1240, distant-horizons.com). We were also heartened by the repeatedly good testimonials written by American travelers to Iran and by the settling of the political environment.

First impressions

We found that Iran had the feel of almost any other destination we’ve visited; that is, there was no...

The Bishop’s Palace in Novi Sad, Serbia.

After touring Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro in May 2016 (see Feb. ’17, pg. 6), my “Former Yugoslavia Rail Adventure” with Explore! continued to Serbia.


The train journey from Podgorica, Montenegro, to Belgrade is long — 11 hours long — but it is considered to be one of the most scenic routes in Europe. By the time our group arrived in Belgrade, I admit that I was antsy, but the scenery was, indeed, fantastic....

Sweeping view of La Antigua from Cerro de la Cruz.

My significant other and I traveled to Guatemala in February and March 2016 and found a vast, lovely land of volcanoes, rivers, waterfalls, archaeological sites, ecological parks and nature reserves. Because we sought a restful vacation, we selected two special destinations for our stay: the former colonial capital, La Antigua, and Lake Atitlán, surrounded by small towns, villages and volcanoes.

La Antigua

Our approach to La Antigua came after an early-morning $10 van ride...

Remains of Pompeii’s original city wall.

One of the oldest continually inhabited cities in Europe, Naples is home to many important historical sites and is widely recognized as the pizza capital of Italy, making it a prime target for history buffs and foodies alike. In July 2016, my wife, Maria, and I, along with two “tween” grandchildren, headed to this third-largest Italian city. Our trip would focus on Naples’ historic city center, the largest in Europe, and the famous pizza restaurant it contains.