Retirement means different things to different people.
For Fran Battin of South Charleston, who raised her two children with her husband there, retirement means adventure. And sometimes quite far away from home.
Battin met her husband to be, Allen, while attending college in Richmond, Indiana. They married and moved to their South Charleston farm in 1959.
“My husband and I worked the farm together,” Battin said. “We have 500 acres and now my son is farming.”
While their children were young, the couple managed to carve out a couple of weeks a year for vacations and always loved to travel. Their family vacations consisted mostly of visits to national parks like Yellowstone, where her husband worked one summer.
But after decades of working on a farm that produced both corn and soybeans, the couple decided it was time to step back from their life’s work and increase their traveling adventures.
“We started traveling with the Road Scholar program about 30 or so years ago,” Battin said. “It was something we really enjoyed doing together.”
Road Scholar was originally founded in 1975 as Elderhostel, offering programming designed for senior adults exclusively. It was rebranded in 2010 and today the program does not have any age requirements, though usually Road Scholar’s “lifelong learners” are all over the age of 50 and are offered adventures in all 50 states and in 150 countries.
“Once my kids were grown, my husband and I did some traveling ourselves,” Battin said. “Then we got a Road Scholar catalog in the mail, and we picked two or three trips that interested us.”
The couple enjoyed traveling the world together with Road Scholar, learning as they went. They enjoyed the ease of the experiences and the fact that they had all-inclusive pricing, so they didn’t have to worry about a lot of extra expenses.
A self-professed introvert, Battin said the group travel experience was good for her as she met people she would not have otherwise. Tour guides, which the Road Scholar program refers to as faculty, all have in-depth knowledge of their destinations or subjects.
“The first time we went on a trip, we all had to stand up and introduce ourselves,” Battin said. “We told the group that was our first trip and someone else in the group said this was number 238 for him!”
Her memories of that first trip are hazy, but Battin said afterwards they were hooked and looked forward to planning their next adventures together.
“The trips are very hands-on, and we liked that,” Battin said. “We traveled all over Europe, to Antarctica and Canada and we learned a lot about the world.”
Battin’s husband passed away two years ago but that hasn’t slowed her down. Even without her husband by her side, she knew there were more places to explore.
“I thought to myself, goodness I’m 83 years old, what’s left?” Battin said. “And the catalogs kept coming so I decided I’d do the trips myself.”
Plans for her first solo trip were waylaid because of the pandemic, but late last year, she finally made it to Pasadena, California, where she brought in the New Year with a behind the scenes trip to the Tournament of Roses Parade.
“My husband didn’t like crowds, so he was never interested in going on the parade trip,” Battin said. “We were put in groups of 25 but there were lots of people on this one – more than I’ve ever seen.”
That trip ended up rising to the top of Battin’s long list of favorite Road Scholar adventures as she learned about the history of the Tournament of Roses Parade and worked behind the scenes to complete one of the floats.
“I have waited a long time to see that parade,” Battin said. “And working on the float was a bonus!”
What’s next on her agenda? Battin has planned a trip to Iceland with Road Scholar that will be two weeks long.
“We will be circumnavigating Iceland in a small ship,” Battin said. “I don’t know anyone else who is going but I will meet new people.”
At home in South Charleston, Battin, now 85, is looking forward to traveling as much as she is able. She still helps her son, who lives on their property, with the farm work.
“If you ask me to choose my favorite trip, I will tell you the last one was my favorite,” Battin said. “I want to travel as long as I can because it’s important to keep your curiosity up. It’s been a good life, with lots of adventures!”
For more information, log on to roadscholar.org
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