Be sure to pack good walking shoes

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The pace might be a bit slower, but seniors can still sightsee and explore on foot.

WASHINGTON - Don't tell Dee Booth she can't hike through the Himalayas or walk the roads of foreign countries for more than six hours at a time.

"I like doing as much walking, hiking and climbing as I can," said Booth, a 68-year-old retiree from Framingham, Mass. "I like to be moving; I don't want to be sitting on a bus all day."

Some may think travelers opt for luxury hotels and narrated bus tours as they age, but Booth said she is looking for adventurous travel, experiences full of undiscovered places and empty of tourist stands. She said she went on guided bus tours as a college graduate but did not enjoy them.

An avid traveler since her daughter's graduation from college in 1991, Booth said she enjoys meeting up with group tours around the world and running into the same explorers multiple times. She usually registers for trips alone but has met up with one woman four times, although they only planned on taking the same trip once.

Fitness and health issues do not concern Booth. She makes an effort to walk four miles every day, although she admitted sticking to her schedule has been hard since the loss of her canine walking partner. On days when she can't make it out for her morning workout, Booth said she stays active by gardening or working at her part-time job at Trader Joe's grocery store.

She said she doesn't get frustrated when she travels with companions who aren't up to the physical challenge of exploring a new place, but she feels sorry for what they miss out on. A travel agency she has used many times called Eldertreks categorizes clients into five groups based on fitness ability. Sometimes clients misrepresent themselves, she said, but usually no one seems to lag behind or walk too far ahead.

Each Eldertreks guide is equipped with a medical kit and many travelers pack their own supply of aspirin and bandages. It is not always easy to see a doctor, Booth said, especially when traveling in remote sections of the world.

Nancy Parode, who writes blogs and articles for senior travelers for the About.com Web site - seniortravel.about.com - suggested various health insurance options for seniors traveling overseas. Medicare, she said, won't cover adults once they leave the United States and emergency medical treatments can be very costly.

"You need medical insurance if you're going to leave the country and that includes cruise ships," Parode said.

In many ways mature explorers are very much the same as younger ones, she said. Fitness levels vary and travelers of all ages choose vacations that match their lifestyles.

Many seniors are interested in learning to use new technology including global positioning systems and cell phones with international capabilities, Parode said. After years of writing and blogging about the mature traveler, she said she still cannot come up with general guidelines that would satisfy every older traveler.

"I don't think you can put the mature traveler in a box," she said. "People are healthier now then they've ever been. There's a great diversity out there among our seniors and it's hard to categorize them."

For Bob Faucett, keeping his clients happy is all about setting a good pace. As executive and part-owner of Unitours, a travel agency based in New York that specializes in Catholic pilgrimages, Faucett said he leaves much of the pace-setting and trip planning to parish priests because they have a better understanding of parishioners' wants. But sometimes, he said, priests try to pack too many events into one day.

"Our company is 52 years old. We know what you can cram into a day and what you can't," he said.

Weary travelers can hop into cabs or wait in the bus to avoid long walks, but Faucett said travelers should plan to spend a lot of time on their feet. He said he often has to be blunt with clients who aren't looking to hike.

"This is not a cakewalk," he tells them.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2010