Having finally gotten old enough to join Elderhostel, I discovered they had changed their name to Exploritas. Gone are the days of simple dormitory living and shared bathrooms (thank goodness!). Although they still have some intense ‘learning tours’, you’ll find a wide variety of activity levels with many interesting tours on their website.

Due to the recession, they’ve seen a big decline in sign-ups, so both tours we took recently weren’t full. This was very nice as there was room to spread out one’s ‘stuff’, and have a better chance to talk to other participants. They have all been interesting, energetic, well-traveled and pleasant.

In March 2010 we took the Northern New Mexico tour – Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos – as we’re unfamiliar with the area and its history. What a terrific tour – the guide was a local historian and had arranged some wonderful interviews with local artists and musicians, as well as short video documentaries to give us background on what we were going to see on successive days.

It was intense and packed full, but you always have the option of ‘sitting out’ an activity and just resting if you need to. This was so much more enjoyable than just looking at a Square and its vendors without knowing any of the history or culture that makes that area unique and interesting. There are many small museums in each city, yet each one arranges their collections differently, so you gain a much better idea of context for these beautiful handicrafts. We loved the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, and the Acoma Pueblo tour outside Albuquerque should not be missed.

The hotels were mid-priced and very comfortable. The food was modest (by our personal foodie standards) but adequate.

One interesting difference was generational. There were only 4 Boomers on this trip, my DH and I, and two women from the East Coast. On week-long trips you’ll have one or two meals where you’re on your own. Both times, the Boomers went for expensive, high-end meals, while the WWII generation preferred modest, lower-cost dining. Although we’ve been told New Mexican food is spicy, most of the seniors didn’t enjoy spicy food and so everything was pretty much toned down, by our standards. My DH adores really spicy food, and he was continually frustrated by our group meals. Even asking for hot sauce didn’t work – it was only mildly spicy by our San Francisco standards!