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Home Stays--Having a ‘Real Living Experience’

<i> Hughes is a 30-year veteran travel writer living in Sherman Oaks. </i>

For mature travelers looking for cultural or home-stay exchanges overseas, two California-based groups now provide such trips--and just for seniors.

The first, Seniors Abroad, is in its fourth year, with as many trips to Japan and one to Scandinavia (Denmark and Norway). Seniors Abroad was begun by Evelyn Zivetz of San Diego. She has arranged and escorted the trips for more than 130 persons and made arrangements for a similar number of foreign guests in the United States.

The nonprofit program has two trips this year. The first, to Denmark and Norway, is set for Aug. 17 to Sept. 3 and will cost $2,050 from Los Angeles. In addition to the round-trip air fare, the exchange trip includes two six-day home stays, in Denmark and Norway, brief stays in Copenhagen and Oslo, some meals and sightseeing.

Seniors Abroad’s visit to Japan is Oct. 5 to 26 and will cost about $2,875 (Zivetz is crossing her fingers on the dollar/yen exchange rate). The trip includes two home stays, one in the Tokyo area; the other could be almost anywhere in Japan. Both are for six days. A stop in Tokyo and also a visit to a Japanese retirement community are also included.

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“We’re not looking for the average tourist,” Zivetz says. “We’re looking for seniors who want a real living experience overseas, getting involved culturally and learning the other family’s life style, finding out about a country’s heritage and traditions--and bringing those back to share with other Americans.”

In all of the host homes in Japan, Denmark and Norway, at least one person in the home speaks English. The Seniors Abroad program does not require those taking a home stay abroad to host a foreign family at home.

“There are many international programs for younger people,” Zivetz says, “and that’s fine. But people over 50 are today’s decision makers. They vote more, read more, participate more in community and national affairs.

“It’s important that they need to know more about this world and its people and to share that learned knowledge with friends at home,” she added. “We hope Seniors Abroad helps provide the opportunity to do this.”

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On the Seniors Abroad Japan trip, there are a few days for independent travel available and, at the end of the formal program, tour members can extend their trips, at their own cost, to include such other destinations as Hong Kong or China. On the trip to Denmark and Norway, no optional independent travel will be available.

Seniors Abroad is also looking for U.S. hosts for Japanese and Scandinavian visitors arriving here in 1988.

The second home-stay program is called STEP--Senior Travel Exchange Program--and is directed by Walt Stanley of Santa Maria, Calif. It is just over a year old, with one tour of Germany. The company has just concluded hosting 40 German seniors touring the United States.

STEP’s international program is different from Seniors Abroad in that it includes more group sightseeing. Also, those who take the German home-stay program are expected to act as hosts in the United States.

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This year’s Germany trip includes two home-stay visits in Cologne and Stuttgart. The 22-day trip will leave the West Coast on Sept. 11 and cost about $1,995.

In addition to the home stays in Cologne and Stuttgart and sightseeing in both cities, STEP’s trip will include a Rhine River cruise, a train ride to Berlin and visit to Nuremberg, the Romantic Road and Black Forest, Heidelberg and Frankfurt.

“Ours is a nonprofit organization seeking international good will through travel,” Stanley says. “In addition to Germany this year, we’re planning a trip to Great Britain in 1988. But we can also help with home stays on an individual basis in Great Britain, Holland, Scandinavia and even Australia in 1988.”

STEP is aimed at those 50 and older but a companion accompanying a senior can be any age. They prefer grandchildren who go along to be 16 or older.

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For more information:

Seniors Abroad, 12533 Pacato Circle North, San Diego, Calif. 92128.

Seniors Travel and Exchange Program, P.O. Box H, Santa Maria, Calif. 93456. (The nonprofit group asks $2 for its fall travel program to cover printing and postage.)


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