It was January 2001, and I was just about to begin my ninth Road Scholar program “Best of Oahu and Maui” in Honolulu, Hawaii. I had been widowed for 11 years, had taken early retirement and enjoyed traveling. I knew the mission of Road Scholar (Elderhostel at the time) included “meaningful, often transformational, educational adventures.” But never in a hundred years did I expect this trip to Hawaii to be such a life-changing experience.
The first day’s lectures included two men who had been stationed at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. They were docents at USS Arizona Memorial and gave an excellent presentation on what they experienced that day. The entire group made the solemn visit to the USS Arizona Memorial. What an experience! Seeing the oil globules surface like a living, breathing tribute to the final resting place of so many men was a poignant reminder of that Day of Infamy. Likewise, the visit to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific made us all reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to ensure our freedom. But that moving experience wasn’t what changed my life.
At lunch the first day, I joined two other ladies and a first-timer named Al. I had always found Road Scholars very welcoming to people traveling solo, as I was, and this group was no exception.
As the week progressed, Al and I got to know one another better and found that we both were widowed; liked to travel, read and bicycle; were the same religion and had a lot of common interests, including, what else in Hawaii, but pineapple ice cream!
At that time, the program had a free day on Saturday before the group flew to Maui on Sunday afternoon. I had decided to take a tour to the Big Island of Hawaii and asked if anyone would like to join me. Al and another couple took me up on it. Our hotel arranged all of the details, and very early in the morning, we flew into Hilo.
The first stop was at a Kona Koffee house, where we tasted their coffee and had a sweet. Our host took us to Hilo, Akaka Falls and Kahuna falls before a hike in the rain forest and a walk through a lava tube. We shared lunch at Volcano National Park at a table by the window, overlooking the caldera.
The afternoon found us on the Ring of Crater Road, where the lava had flowed over the road seven years earlier. We walked along the waves of lava to a point where we were stopped as there was an active lava flow. We could feel the heat, and in the distance, see where the hot lava flowed through a lava tube beneath trees and other vegetation setting them on fire. Leaving the park, it began to mist, and we could see the famous Hawaiian single and double rainbows. It was magical! Al and I experienced a wonderful day of together, and it made me realize how attracted I was to him.
On Maui, the whale watching boat trip brought both wonder and delight seeing those massive humpback whales breach, twist and turn and crash back into the water, and the visit to the Iao Valley impressed us both. As our time in Hawaii wound down, I was certain that I wanted to see Al again.
After arriving home, we arranged to meet halfway between our homes for lunch. Though we lived 200 miles apart, we began to meet once a month. We spent more and more time together, and in May 2008, we were married in a quiet ceremony.
Al and I have continued our Road Scholar experiences together, especially enjoying our continued quest of whale watching, from Magdalena Bay in Baja and Guerrero Negro to the Alaska Marine Highway and Grand Manan Island in Fundy Bay. I recently completed my 43rd Road Scholar program, and Al has completed 20 programs.
Neither Al nor I ever expected to meet someone we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with, but here we are, now approaching our tenth wedding anniversary – all thanks to our Road Scholar’s adventure to Hawaii and perhaps a little bit of “island magic.”
Thousands of participants find life-long friendships each year with Road Scholar. Learn more about the kinds of friends you could make on a Road Scholar learning adventure.
Nancy Binder, Road Scholar Class of 1997, has been on 43 Road Scholar programs, including 6 grandparent programs. Before retiring in 2002, she worked as an application software developer. Nancy lives in Antioch, Illinois.
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