, pub-8051373508966315, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0

It’s All Greek to Me and It’s Wonderful!

It’s been a while since I have sat down to write my blog. Who knew that retirement would be so busy?!

What I like best about my “retirement” is the time to do things that I love. For me, that’s traveling!

Our trip to the Acropolis.

This year we ticked off another box on my bucket list.

I have always wanted to go to Greece, but this year it was my husband’s turn to pick our vacation spot. He chose Scandinavia. However the Universe wanted me to go to Greece. We received an email that there was not enough interest in our Scandinavia tour and it had been cancelled.

I called to rebook and said, “How about the Greek Islands?” They said they had a tour, rebooked us and actually refunded part of our money. It cost less for us to go to Greece than to go Scandinavia. Win. Win. For me.

Guided Tours

My husband and I favor guided tours for overseas travel. We have many friends who are comfortable traveling around the world on their own. We are not those people.

My husband and I have very different travel styles. He likes to know what he’s doing every moment. He likes order and wants to know where he is at all times. I don’t mind getting lost. I like wandering and accidentally stumbling onto non-tourist attractions.

So, for the sake of our marriage, we travel with a group.

Choosing the Group

There are many different travel groups out there. Some cater exclusively to individuals over 55 like Road Scholar. My brother his been on a number of these trips and loves them.

Some of the people on our tour had gone on trips with Road Scholar . They indicated that those tours were more scheduled and structured. Of course, perfect for my husband, not so much for me.

Then there are many other groups including Trafalger, Firebird (they called and emailed me excessively when I was just browsing. I didn’t like that.) and others. However, we chose EF GoAhead tours. We have now been on four tours with them: Italy twice, Australia and Greece. Each time you take a trip, they give you credit towards your next trip. It keeps us coming back. (I guess that’s the idea). And while many people on the trips are over 55, the trips are not exclusively for Seniors.

Why Choose Group Travel?

There are many reasons to travel with a tour group. We like that everything is done for you. They pick us up at the airport, take us to our hotel, arrange transportation, book our hotel, buy tickets to the attractions and generally make sure that we see everything we should see.

Our Amazing Group!

In addition, because my husband likes order and structure, he likes to double check the details of everything. He also has lots of questions. It actually drives me a little crazy. So having a tour guide who takes care of everything is the perfect solution.

Our tour guide Pascale Fraissard.

We have had many good tour guides, but in Greece, we had the most amazing tour director we have ever had Pascale Fraissard. Pascale is a French woman who fell in love with Greece while in school and never looked back. She seemed to know everyone in the locations we travelled to and was a cross between a den mother and a drill sergeant.

Another quality Pascale had that made her special was her ability to make a group gel. She created a real camaraderie. We have been with many travel groups and of course some are better than others. This group was amazing! Everyone on the trip was considerate. They showed up on time and helped each other. We actually liked everyone in this group, but that is not always the case.

Sometimes there are one or two people in a group you don’t like, but with a group of 20 people, you will find someone to talk to. Sometimes you can even find life long friends.

The people who travel in these groups are usually pretty interesting and have travelled to many different places all over the world. One of the people in our group said, “In my day-to-day life, when I ask if anyone has been to a specific country, usually no one has travelled there. When I’m in a tour group, there is always someone who has been to the country where I want to travel to and they have great advice about traveling there.”

If you’re not sure whether or not group travel is the right way to travel for you, try taking a short trip somewhere and see what you think.


One of the reasons we like GoAhead is that the tours have a basic structure. You can see the itinerary, what meals are included and any in tour transportation. For this tour we used ferries to go from island to island and then returned to Athens from Crete by plane.

Then there are additional trips you can add on. Some people don’t like add-ons and think everything should be included. That’s definitely reasonable. However, we like to pick and chose our tours.

For example, we decided to forego two tours because they involved long bus trips. I’m sure they would have been amazing, but after a long plane ride, we weren’t up to it. Instead, we had a free day walking around Athens and a free day walking around Crete. It’s a tough life.

More About Greece

As I said, we have been on four trips with EF Go Ahead tours and have travelled extensively on our own. For us, Greece was the most amazing trip we have ever been on. We went to Athens, Mykonos, Santorini and Crete. Each one was so amazing and unique.

The Caryatids

The history in Athens was incredible and you feel as though you are witnessing the birth of humanity. But of course, Greece is also known for fun and food and food and fun. We went to a “Big Fat Greek” style dinner where we broke plates and drank Ouzo. For some reason my husband was selected to clean up the plates after we broke them all. (I had nothing to do with that.)

Mykonos was gorgeous. Our hotel was on a mountain top overlooking the sea and a black sand beach just a quick shuttle ride away.

It was hard to tear myself away from the beach and the view, but I decided to visit Delos, the birthplace of Apollo (according to legend). Our tour guide made the whole island come alive and as a history major, I was captivated.

Our guide on Delos.

My husband stayed back at our hotel. the Utopia, on Mykonos. He texted me, “I’m not leaving and you can’t make me.” I think he liked the place.

The view from the Utopia Hotel.

But we did leave and went to Santorini. Santorini is the island you see in every marketing shot of Greece. Blue rounded roofs and white painted buildings. Really, just WOW! We took a catamaran ride around the caldera and jumped off into the Aegean Sea. More singing, dancing, swimming, great food and wine.


Our last stop was the island of Crete. We toured the ruins of Knossos, where King Minos imprisoned the Minotaur in a labyrinth, according to the myth. To think that a 1,500 room palace was built 3,500 years ago was just awe inspiring.

One of the frescos at the palace.

After a quick trip back to Athens, we had a group goodbye dinner and the next day caught a plane for home.

It was hard to say goodbye to the history, the fun and the food. (You would think with all the spinach pie and wine and greek salad and fish and wine and dessert I had that I would have had to buy an extra seat for the trip home, but I actually only gained one pound.) But we all have to return to real life sometime.

Moving Forward!

So that’s what I did on my summer vacation. That’s why you haven’t heard from me and why I haven’t been writing.

However, in my time off, I have received so many ideas about people I should interview for my blog. I’m excited to start back to writing again. There are so many amazing people in this world, doing incredible things after 50 and I would love to introduce them to you.

If you know someone I should interview, message me or email me at

FYI — I did not receive any compensation from Go Ahead tours or the Greek government for this blog, but if they would like to say thank you, I like wine!

Friendship and Costa Rica: A Great Combination

How can I begin to describe what a wonderful time I had with 13 other women in Costa Rica. I’ll try.

I’ve always valued friendships with other women and strove to maintain them. In fact, I spent my 60th birthday with two friends: one I’ve known since 1st grade and the other since junior high.That’s why, when a friend, who I’ve only known for 30 years, told me she was putting together a retreat in Costa Rica, I said, “yes”! Another friend asked me where we would be staying and what part of Costa Rica we were going to. I said, “I don’t know, but I’m in.” 

I’m so glad I said yes. 

The Inception

The retreat happened thanks to three amazing women with a vision: Sue Lembeck-Edens, Rachel Mefferd and Judy Kohnen. 

Sue and Rachel met each other at Goucher College in Maryland where they were Dance Therapy majors over 30 years ago. Although neither are practicing dance therapists currently, they are still in the health field. Rachel is an acupuncturist who also teaches Nia Dance, while Sue is a massage therapist who also teaches Asian healing practices such as Qigong

Sue and Rachel connected for a weekend retreat on San Clemente beach in California. They invited a few friends to join them, including Judy, who Rachel met when their daughters were in daycare together. 

During that weekend, they shared what helped them get through the pandemic and what they did for self-care. They also talked about what they wanted more of in their lives and decided they wanted more time with other women. 

“We wanted more experiences whereas older women, we could spend time together like we used to in our 20s, before our families. We wanted to just laugh a lot, have fun and hang out in a way we typically haven’t given ourselves permission to do in a long time,” said Rachel. 

Rachel began looking into retreats where she could be a participant. “They looked really good, but when I tried to picture myself there, there were so many question marks,” Rachel said. “I thought, what if we just do one of our own and invite people we knew.” 

Rachel started by asking her close group of women whom she’d taught Nia Dance to for many years. “We had that background as dance buddies,” Rachel said. She thought it was a natural extension to go on retreat together. Judy and Sue reached out to their network of family and friends as well. 

“Our stumbling block was finding a location,” Judy said. 

They considered several locations, but nothing seemed to fit until Rachel was talking to a friend, who told her about a place in Costa Rica. It sounded like the perfect location. 

Her friend told her she was taking a direct flight from California (where she lives) to the Guanacaste Airport in Liberia, Costa Rica. That airport there is small and easy to navigate and most importantly, the AirBnB where she was staying could accommodate 14 people.“Everything that she said was what we have been dreaming about,” Rachel said. Then when she saw the pictures and knew, “Yes, that’s the place.” 

The Back Patio

Rachel immediately texted Sue and Judy. 

“We ran the numbers to see how many people we would need to make it viable,” Judy said. Then, they decided to set some dates and put it out to see if anyone was interested. They created a flier and sent it out “to our favorite people,” according to Judy. They needed a minimum of 9 people and ended up with 14. 

Although many women said they wanted to go, they just couldn’t make the commitment, Judy said. 

“Women have to give themselves permission to have time for themselves,” Judy said. “a bunch of my friends just wouldn’t give themselves permission. I get it. For years I haven’t given myself permission to do stuff too.” However, she also understood that some people had other commitments. “It’s also where you are in your life,” Judy said. She asked some friends and family members, but they had younger kids and were not able to go. 

For Sue, it wasn’t really just about getting away for a vacation, she said it was about connection. “Being here in Central Pennsylvania, there isn’t a lot of opportunity to connect with my peer group. So, the idea of building it and they will come was really important to me,” Sue said. “I don’t really have a group with those similar interests, so I really have to extend myself. Now that my kids are older, I have time and desire to build those connections.” 

Judy and Rachel thought about including their husbands in the trip either before or after the retreat, but it just became too complicated logistically because there wasn’t enough buy-in from the husbands to see if it would be feasible to extend our stay, according to Rachel. 

The group also talked about having a mother-daughter retreat, so they combined their ideas and asked their daughters to come along with them. The girls came along with the group.

“Having the girls there was a really beautiful added experience,” Rachel said. “I think it added a depth of women. We had women aged 20 into their 70s,” Sue said. “Everyone embraced one another regardless of age.” 

“The thing that I was struck with the young ones,” Judy said, “was their confidence. ‘Costa Rica, no problem!” 

She added, “I think the girls enjoyed seeing their moms interacting with their friends and running this retreat. I think they had a lot of pride in us.” 


Sue, Rachel and Judy took the divide and conquer approach to planning the retreat. 

Rachel found the AirBnB. “That was the inciting incident of the story,” Judy said. 

Then Judy became the numbers person. She determined what the costs would be and how much each person needed to pay and collected the money. Judy was also responsible for working to arrange meals. The leaders had decided to have a majority of the meals catered and Judy arranged the menus. The expenses worked out to be about $200 a day according to Judy. The group leaders wanted to keep the trip at a modest price point, but they understood that for some people that price was still too high. 

Sue was responsible for arranging the trips such as kayaking, snorkeling and visiting a Macaw Reserve. Although Judy did much of the research, Sue handled working with the local adventure tour group and actually booking the trips. 

Me and my pal Shari

The plan was to integrate a half-day tour into each day’s schedule. They created their programming around the tours such as “Birds of a Feather” was the theme the day the group went to the Macaw Reserve

Sue worked to accommodate everyone’s wishes, but it was challenging at times to make everyone happy.  If people wanted a different tour than the ones that were offered, Sue put them in touch with her tour company. 

“At every step of the way there were challenges. I have to say right up until a couple days before we got on the plane there were challenges,” Sue said. “If I had to do it again, in retrospect, I would probably have a cut-off date and said ‘all done’.” 

The Macaw Reserve

Rachel served as back up to Sue and served as the project manager. Her skills with “WhatsApp” also came in handy when communicating with the tour company. 

Judy said, “You also have to understand  that Costa Rica is not an immediate culture. I was asking about food and the menu and the guy said ‘oh yeah, don’t worry’,” Judy said. Only two weeks before the trip did Judy have more concrete plans regarding the food.  

Vacation or Retreat

For Sue, Judy and Rachel, the trip was not just about planning a vacation with girlfriends, it was about getting more of what they talked about in San Clemente. Each one brought their talents to the table and set up programming for every day. 

“The initial vision for the retreat was the programming. The tours were just secondary because we were in Costa Rica,” Rachel said. “But primarily we want to offer a creative arts retreat where we could dance, write, learn some Asian healing arts and share what we love to do in a community. 

Each day there was a theme, for example, one of them was “Sunrise, Sunset” to correspond with the Sunset Boat Tour. “Then we would circle back to our programming and we would create images and writing to correspond with that theme,” Rachel said.  

Judy was responsible for creating writing prompts and led the portion of the program on journal writing. For “Sunrise, Sunset”, Judy prompted people to write about different phases of their lives. Her interest in writing began when her kids grew up and left home. “I knew I needed a well-developed interest,” Judy said. “I didn’t know what to be like ‘It’s the end of the world,’ when my kids moved out.” She’s been writing workshops for over 10 years and was excited to share her interest with the group. 

Sue led the Asian healing arts program from Yoga to Tai Chi to  Qigong. Each class was different and focused on relaxation and getting in touch with the participants’ inner thoughts. Over the years she has built her career on her passion for Dance Therapy. “Everything is related to movement and body. Whether it’s energy within and around the body,””What I shared (during the retreat) I cultivated in a class I’ve been teaching for about 10 years now called ‘Meditation Through the Seasons’,” Sue said. ”That’s the movement I have embraced through the years.”  

Qigong on the Beach.

Rachel led the group in a wide variety of dance routines. Each had a different message and a mixture of upbeat music and rhythmic moves. “The communities of women started through dance, so of course we were going to dance and do other healing arts. We did improvised dances that were related to the tours.” 

Although they had everything planned, Judy said they built in flexibility. “We wanted to be able to make changes based on the mood of the group,” Judy said. “I had different writing backups to try to match up with people’s moods of the day.” 

But what wasn’t flexible was the time. “The writing portion was for a very fixed time,” Judy said. Each section had a set amount of time that the leaders stayed within. “I think we worked really well together,” Judy said.

In the evenings, the leaders invited other members of the group to share and present  their passions. It was a great opportunity for the group members to learn more about each other and their individual artistic endeavors. 

One of the greatest challenges was the weather. “It was really, really hot and people were not that interested in working up a big sweat,” Rachel said. Luckily, the AirBnB has a pool outside that the group used to keep things cool. Dance routines were often followed by a dip in the pool and some routines were even moved into the pool.   

Looking Back

 I spoke with the women a few weeks after the retreat to see what they thought of the week. 

“I thought it was fantastic,” Sue said. “I had a great time.” 

“I really enjoyed my part,” Judy said. “At first people were reluctant to get up early (6:30 a.m.) for the Early Pages writing, but with the sun coming up early and going down early it made early birds out of night owls. People really started showing up to the writing and people really shared.” “I loved spending time with my daughter. I loved having time with the women. I loved the body movement part being able to move all day,” Judy said. However, she admitted that the woman’s energy could be a little overwhelming at times. “I was really surprised by that.” 

The Last Night in Costa Rica

“It really met all my expectations and my vision,” Rachel said. “I fell in love with Costa Rica and would really like to go back and explore more of it.” 

“I feel we got so much of it right. It felt so good in that way. Sharing dance with everyone and seeing their smiling faces has stayed with me,” Rachel said. 

One of the changes they would make would be to have clearer intentions. “We kept saying to people that this was a hybrid model of a retreat. Some of it is structured and some of it is you,” Rachel said. Not everyone understood that. People understood the structure, but they were reluctant to venture out on their own according to the group leaders. 

If they decided to plan another retreat, they might hold it in the U.S. “Having it in Costa Rica we were taking in a lot of unknowns. So, we might do something in the states where we would have a little more control.

But as far as the programming, I wouldn’t have changed a thing,” Sue said.

Judy said they might also have a smaller group. 

“I have to say it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of work too. I loved all the planning,” Rachel added with a laugh. “It was pretty ballsy to do it.” 

The leaders final moment together.

For Judy the only downside was when there were glitches during the retreat. “It was a stressor when things go wrong on your watch,” Judy said. But she said when that happened, they had each other to lean on.

“I have to say we had each other’s backs” Sue said, ”in the planning and the facilitating.” “And we knew how to pull out the best in each other as things came up,” Sue said. 

And of course, having co leaders allowed them to vent!   

“I have nothing but a deep bow to Judy for all of her details and cool-headed numbers. And for Sue keeping everything in emotional balance and to ground everyone. I felt so comfortable co-leading with them,” Rachel said. 

“This is the perfect time in our lives to go on a trip like this,” said Judy. 

If you know someone I should interview for this blog, email me at, pub-8051373508966315, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0