Medicare, Wet Sneakers, and Las Vegas
If I hadn’t been aware that this was the meet-and-greet reception for our group tour of the American canyonlands, I would’ve thought that I had just entered an upscale retirement community. White hair, formal pantsuits, comfortable walking shoes, and collared shirts decorated the Four Seasons Resort banquet hall. Chatter such as, “I qualify for Medicare in a few months!”, “Our oldest son turns 40 this year”, and “Excuse me, I need to take my diabetes medication now,” wafted beyond the glass chandelier and into the high-beamed ceiling.
What I did not know at this reception in Scottsdale, Arizona was that touring the American southwest with my family and 35 Senior Citizens would turn out to be one of the most spectacular trips of my 20-year-old life.
Before the first, long bus ride up to the Grand Canyon, I was fully prepared to plug into my podcasts, Instagram feed, music, photos, and books. However, upon realizing how these older people listened, engaged, enjoyed the moment, and laughed with our tour director, Nicole, I started to pay attention.
Our director offered ample history, jokes, and helpful information on the places that we visited, all of which I would have missed out on had I stayed sucked into my media — as most millennials and Generation Z-ers do.
Did you know that the jaw-dropping hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, Utah were carved by ice and frost wedging? Or that, when a canyon wall appears to have water dripping down it, this actually indicates that the canyon has a high water content and needs to relieve some?
When the bus driver and Nicole played some old-timer Western music to get the group excited for our trip from the Grand Canyon to Lake Powell, all of the old people started singing along. ALL of them. Madison and I had no clue what those songs were, but they sure did. They hummed and chanted all the way across the Utah border and into Bryce Canyon National Park. I was floored.
As we watched the sunrise over the Grand Canyon and waded through the 50-degree Virgin River in Zion National Park (with soaking wet Asics on), we realized that these people were never, ever exactly on time... they were always at least 20 minutes early.
Our new friends were full of stories, history, humor, and sweet compliments for my sister and me (“Oh, it is so NICE to see such young faces!!!”). They are intelligent, witty, outright adorable, and inspiringly active. They’re all happily married with or without children, and many of them have travelled all over the world. Old people goals right here, you guys.
During each breakfast, we said hello and good morning to our companinons, and then shared the best places to view the canyon, take pictures, and walk. While my family and I hiked farther and longer than most of our new friends, they commended us and always checked in: “What have you girls and your parents been up to all morning?” Then, they’d offer their own fun tidbits: “I reached 10,000 steps for last week!!” They genuinely cared about my fam and our activities, which in turn made me grateful for my youthful energy and the ability to climb hills for miles and take 10,000 steps every day.
At the final dinner in Las Vegas before my family and I soared up the Eiffel Tower and the old people struck gold at the casinos and went to bed, it felt like I was saying good-bye to special summer camp comrades. We'd come a long way from the awkward nursing home reception eight days ago. I’ve never been friends with so many grandmothers and grandfathers, and I would not have wanted to experience the American southwest any other way. After all, I do share a common ground with these people: we have the same early bedtime.
For any family, couple, or single ladies looking for an exciting trip through Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Byrce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, and Las Vegas, I highly recommend the America’s Canyonlands tour run by Tauck. Nope, this isn’t sponsored one bit — we simply had such a fantastic time hiking in canyons, eating, exploring Vegas, and making a whole bunch of new friends.