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One night. The TLN began over dinner one night. Five long-time American residents of
Italy and the Italian spouse of one of them had gathered in a
trattoria in the Cimini
mountains north of Rome. All were at or near retirement age. The discussion, animated and
wide-ranging, continued well beyond the meal. The topics included cultural differences
between Italy and the U.S., travel, retirement, and aging.
Advisory Council.  The group recruited volunteer members of an Advisory Council to help
them and the eventual members of the Board of Directors to define a program that would
contribute to successful aging in lifelong learners. The
members have expertise in Cognitive
and Developmental Psychology,  Gerontology, Language learning, Higher and Continuing
education, Cross-cultural education, nonprofit management, International Law and Finance,
and Tourism.
Board of Directors. Please contact  director@travlearning.net
How & why the TLN was created
Tourism. Another topic that night was tourism in Italy. For years all those seated around the
table had observed bedraggled tourists climbing on and off tour buses, some hot and
irritated. We had all had witnessed tourists crowded around Rome's most popular sites (e.g.,
theTrevi fountain, the Pantheon, the Colloseum) or waiting in seemingly endless lines. This
wasn't the Rome some of us had known years ago as junior year abroad students, nor did it
reflect the Italy we had come to know and love, the Italy of small provincial towns.
statue
Research. Our investigation of the educational travel sector revealed that although study
abroad programs for college students had become increasingly more interesting over the
last decade, scant attention was being paid to adults. Most universities had turned over the
planning and operation of their alumni tours to major tour operators, and the two major
non-profit providers of educational travel, Elderhostel (now Road Scholar) and Smithsonian
Journeys had also outsourced a great deal of planning and operations.
Copyright © 2012-2014
James Emil Flege
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Wanted: an alternative to Elderhostel & Smithsonian tours

Successful aging. As is usually the case when well educated people engage serious topics
over several bottles of
excellent local wine, a variety of opinions emerged. All members of
the group coverged, however, on one point. We had all formed the impression that older
people in Italy are generally more active and engaged -- and happier it seemed -- than their
American counterparts. If so, why? Because of more numerous or intense social
interactions? More exercise and less junk food? More robust educational and cultural
activities?
Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn on the Spanish Steps in Rome
Audrey Hepburn & Gregory Peck on the Spanish Steps in Rome
throngs of tourists on the Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy
Cost & benefits. Over the next several months we began to wonder if it might be possible
to create a new form of travel for adults, one that maintained the relatively low cost afforded
by mass tourism, spared people its downside (crowds, haste, superficiality) while at the
same time providing meaningful educational and inter-cultural experiences.
crowd of tourist at the Trevi fountain in Rome, Italy
a long line of tourists wait to enter the Vatican Museum in Rome, Italy
a long line of tourists wait to enter the Vatican Museum
A new vision. Our planning group began to develop a new vision of educational travel for
adults in Europe. This new program would offer participants a chance to learn in place while
living in small provincial towns along the Mediterranean. Learning something new, and
getting to know local peoople. The new approach, in effect, represented a form of slow
educational travel. With these aims in mind, the group formulated the TLN's  
mission
statement.
No such program. We found that most European travel presented as
"educational" tours were either overpriced, skimped on educational content, or
both. We noted the absence of
any program for adults that provided a strong
educational component and the opportunity for cultural immersion.
Above (a,b) Cary Grant &
Audrey Hepburn at the
Spanish Steps in William
Wyler's Roman Holiday,
1953; (c,d) the Spanish
Steps and Trevi fountain
as they are today;  (e,f)
cueing up for the Vatican
Museum