Newly Widowed Grandmother Turns to Educational Travel to Rediscover Herself… and Succeeds!


American expatriate Hester Witchey, 79, grew up near Cleveland, Ohio, where she taught elementary school for close to 40 years before retirement.

Hester and her beloved husband, Frank, moved around a lot; however no matter where she was in the world, she always continued to do what she loved most – teach young children in the Montessori Method. During her career, she taught in Colorado, Wyoming, Maryland, Ohio, China, Zealand, and most recently, in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Traveling Was One of Their Biggest Passions

The Witcheys moved to Guelph, about eight years ago, to be closer to their daughter and grandchildren.

Always interested in learning about new cultures and experiences, they traveled the world for many years with Road Scholar, the world’s largest educational travel organization for adults. Once they retired, they continued to travel with the not-for-profit organization hoping to meet other like-minded travelers along with way.

“Two of the very memorable trips Frank and I took together with Road Scholar were quite different from one another,” said Hester. “We spent a week at the Peabody Music Institute in Baltimore, Maryland several years ago on a music program; however our last trip together was a ten-day outdoor adventure to the Grand Canyon. In our younger days we hiked down (and back up!) the Grand Canyon, so revisiting the canyon was a delightful walk down memory lane.”

Fifteen Months Ago, Frank Passed Away

Like many widows late in life, Hester was faced with finding a “new normal” and rebuilding her life; it helped to have her daughter and grandchildren nearby and an ongoing career as a storyteller that she loved.

“Frank and I took over 30 Road Scholar programs, but I decided last year that it was time for me to venture out on my own for the first time since he passed away,” Hester said. “I’m glad that I’d already experienced the world with Road Scholar because I felt safe and knew I’d be comfortable traveling alone. I met a woman, another widow from my small town of Guelph, and we’re planning to get together and hopefully forge a friendship. ”

Hester’s Situation is Becoming More Common

Women live longer than men in most developed countries, which means that many married women will become widows at some point in their lives. In 2009, for example, 31 percent of men and 37 percent of women aged 45-63 were unmarried, representing a 50 percent decline in the gender gap from 1980.

Hester’s First Adventure as a Widow Was an Unconventional Choice – the Arctic Circle

Heart of the Arctic from Canada to Greenland with Road Scholar explores the unique treasures of the Arctic, where participants learn about fjords, glaciers, traditional villages and the Inuit culture.

“Frank hated the cold and probably never would have attended this program with me anyway, so it seemed like a great first choice,” Hester said. “I needed this trip to determine whether I could still enjoy traveling alone. I’m happy to say that I can.”

Today, in addition to trying to keep up with her three grandsons, Hester continues to enrich the lives of young children through the art of storytelling with an organization called Spellbinders, Inc.

“I wanted to continue an association with young children so after retiring I trained as a storyteller,” Hester said. “I enjoy researching and telling the myths and legends of Native Americans and First Nations peoples as well as fun stories and some of the beloved fairytales. It is such a pleasure to watch the children’s imaginations come to life!”

Editor’s Note:If you love travel and want to see more of this beautiful world of ours, I highly encourage you to check out Road Scholar, who sponsored this post. I have personally traveled with them and I genuinely believe that they offer amazing experiences.

Have you ever been a solo woman traveler? Where did you go and what did the experience teach you? Have you ever gone on a Road Scholar trip? Did you enjoy it? Please join the conversation.

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