A nonprofit educational travel company recently announced it will offer a military-history-themed version of a popular itinerary at a discount for veterans next year.
The “Art & War: Military & Impressionist History” tour, which Road Scholar will hold from Sept. 28 through Oct. 6, 2023, will include memorial ceremonies and give travelers the chance to walk in the footsteps of the American soldiers who fought in France during World War II. The group will be restricted to 12 to 24 travelers – veterans and their traveling companions – with a minimum age of 40, but youthful enough to walk at least 3 miles per day.
The organization, founded as Elderhostel in 1975, has long offered trips that included visit to battlegrounds and other military history sites. However, this is the first time it’s restricting enrollment to veterans and customizing an itinerary to make it more meaningful, said Kelsey Knoedler Perri, who spent five years writing trip descriptions for the Road Scholar catalog before moving into public relations a year ago.
COVID-19-related travel shutdowns led the organization to reimagine some of their excursions as virtual getaways, Knoedler Perri said. Then as the travel industry recovered, she suggested reimagining some existing tours. Her father is a Vietnam War veteran and inspired her desire to create something for the military community.
The inaugural tour is based on Road Scholar’s “The Best of Northern France: Paris and Normandy.” The biggest differences are swapping out the Orsay for the Army Museum in Paris, and the Eugène Boudin Museum for the Caen Memorial near the D-Day Landing beaches, though Knoedler Perri says the itinerary will still cover plenty of art history.
“What I’m hoping we’ll be able to incorporate into this is the juxtaposition of the beauty of art and the horrors of war,” she said.
Amale Bourhim, Road Scholar’s program operations director in France, said she wants to make the trip special to show her country’s gratitude for those who fought for it.
“Without D-Day and the Allies, I don’t know where we would be today,” she said.
Both Bourhim and Knoedler Perri said they hope the small size of the group leads to camaraderie. Knoedler Perri will reach out to the enrollees to confirm their eligibility and hear their stories.
“I want to get to know everyone,” she said.
Bourhim said she plans to use that information to add personal touches; she’s already has a few surprises in mind for the group.
That kind of background information helped Road Scholar arrange for a traveler, Tom Nunn, to visit where his father, a paratrooper, landed in Normandy, Knoedler Perri said. Nunn also met a member of the family who gave his father refuge while he recovered from an ankle injury. He told Road Scholar that the experience helped him feel closer to his dad, who didn’t talk about his wartime experience.
Knoedler Perri would like to see the initiative expand to other countries, such as Vietnam.