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Grand (Canyon) Goals: Colleen G. Travels Solo With a Road Scholar Scholarship

Road Scholar Colleen G. remembers her conversations about the Grand Canyon with her husband Rich. They had always dreamed of exploring the beauty and vastness of the canyon together, but two trips were both canceled due to illness in their family. Before they could schedule a third visit, Rich was diagnosed with cancer, and his health began to deteriorate. Rich shared his hope with Colleen that she would continue to travel and especially see the Grand Canyon after he was gone.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Thirteen months after he was diagnosed, Rich died in August of 2022. Alone after 40 years of marriage, Colleen recalled Rich’s wish for her to see the Grand Canyon. “After Rich’s death, I was on a limited budget and was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to afford a trip to the Grand Canyon,” says Colleen. “It felt big and overwhelming to travel by myself.”

Colleen heard about the Road Scholar Financial Assistance Program and decided to apply. She loved the idea of traveling amidst the comfort of a small group — and she was delighted when she received a scholarship. “I didn’t want to be there alone.”

 “The scholarship from Road Scholar made it possible for me to take my first solo trip as a widow,” says Colleen. In Rich’s honor, she enrolled in Hiking the Grand Canyon: Adventures On and Below the South Rim in the fall of 2023.

During her program, Colleen experienced indescribable beauty as the moving sun cast shifting shadows on the canyon’s palette of orange, red and brown rock formations. She also found the leadership inspirational and conducive to her own personal growth. “I often thought about Rich and how much he would have loved the canyon. I brought some of his ashes to scatter in the canyon, so he was with me even though it wasn’t as we had imagined it would be when we first planned the trip,” says Colleen. “It was bittersweet.”

Colleen G., from New Jersey, Road Scholar Class of ‘23

“I realized that traveling alone is nice — I can do what I want when I want, like have dessert for breakfast! It is very freeing to know I don’t have to limit myself.”

Colleen hiked halfway down the canyon, about three miles in three hours, with members of her group. “It was quite steep in places, making it challenging on the way down as well as back up,” says Colleen. “We hiked for six hours, with breaks.”

Colleen was grateful to have the kind and knowledgeable leadership of two expert group leaders. They helped me feel less alone in the world. And I met some very nice people in our group, which was a bonus.”

“Just because you’ve lost your life partner and you feel like you’re only half of a person walking around, it is important to remember that we only go around once,” says Colleen. “I still have a life to live, even though I’ve lost someone dear.”

Colleen with her group at the Grand Canyon

Colleen’s time at the canyon was a growing experience. “Learning about the canyon’s arid south rim, the people and culture was a wonderful escape,” she says. “It took me out of myself and opened my eyes to the world around me. It helped me remember that my own needs are still important.  “I may be doing it alone, but that’s better than not doing it at all,” says Colleen.

“Traveling made me feel less alone,” says Colleen. “Maybe it is because when I travel, being alone is a conscious choice. Travel helps me keep going because there is always something new to learn. Why should that change because my husband is no longer with me?”

Colleen cherishes her memories and photos of the Grand Canyon and its overwhelming majesty and magnitude. “I have beautiful memories of new friendships, energizing hikes and perhaps, most importantly – the reminder that life does go on after the death of a spouse.”


Explore Road Scholar’s learning adventures in the Grand Canyon and learn more about the types of financial assistance available.