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To Antarctica and Beyond: Two Friends, Many Epic Adventures

Growing up thousands of miles apart, the lives of Irene G. and Gladys D. began in very different fashions — Irene lived in war-torn Germany, and Gladys grew up on a farm in Iowa. However, after meeting at a stretching class in their retirement center, they formed a close friendship through their many similarities. 


Their love of learning through travel is one of the things that brought them together. Irene had gone on many Road Scholar adventures prior to meeting Gladys, and on a trip together to the Canadian Rockies, she mentioned to Gladys how much she preferred Road Scholar. Gladys immediately agreed to give Road Scholar a try, but their learning adventure in Italy had to be put off due to the pandemic. Instead, they ended up on a program to Antarctica in 2022. 

“It was different than anything either one of us had ever done or seen before,” Gladys said of their adventure. “Words cannot explain,” Irene agreed. “Nature is just so breathtaking. I sat there in the Zodiacs and there was nothing else there except nature. The icebergs are so huge and the blue in them is so beautiful.”

Their Road Scholar adventures have continued ever since, with travels across the world to Egypt and Iceland as well as closer to home in Santa Fe and on a Lewis and Clark expedition from Montana to Oregon. Gladys and Irene were also able to fulfill their dream of going to Italy (our 2023 Campus of the Year) in 2022, on a learning adventure in Sorrento. There, they visited the ruins of Pompeii and explored the historic city of Naples. When choosing a new program, they always decide together: “We just sit at the table and look over the catalogs and whatever jumps out to us, we sign up for!” 


Both women are very active, going walking in the mornings and taking exercise classes together as well. These activities pay off during their learning adventures, as they don’t find it terribly difficult to keep up. “Both of us are grateful that we’re able to do it. Whatever they say to do, let’s do.” Gladys in particular emphasized seizing the moment: “The older you get, don’t put things off. Make a plan to do them, because you never know what tomorrow might bring.”

As experienced travelers, Gladys and Irene know the importance of flexibility. Gladys’ advice to those newer to Road Scholar is “Expect whatever comes. Go with the flow, don’t be hesitant and make the most of it.”

Irene and Gladys also found comfort in the support Road Scholar offers. Irene recalled how she and her husband took their first program in Southern France many years ago. Upon their return home, her husband said, “When I’m gone, this is an organization you should continue with.” Gladys echoed that memory with her own experience: “I fell and hurt my arm, and Road Scholar took very good care of me. There’s nothing they wouldn’t do for you. If anything happens, they’re right there for you, no questions asked.”   


On each trip, Gladys and Irene continue to learn how well-suited they are as travel companions and friends. One thing that they agree makes them compatible is their acceptance of one another. “I was born in Germany during the war,” Irene explained. “I look at things totally differently from Gladys.” Gladys agreed, “We accept that we’re both individuals, we accept each other’s flaws. As we get older, it can be hard to change, so it’s nice to accept what is.”