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The Heartwarming Story of an 89-Year-Old Grandma Who Visited 29 National Parks with Her Grandson

By Sixty and Me September 26, 2019 Travel

September 27th is World Tourism Day. Since 1980, the United Nations World Tourism Organization has celebrated the day to recognize the good things that tourism does, including job creation, heightened cross-cultural learning and economic improvements.

Road Scholar, the not-for-profit leader in educational travel for older adults, is taking this opportunity to celebrate the millions of people from around the world who travel to lands far and near and leave the world a better place in their wake.

People like Brad and Grandma Joy.

Road Scholar Grandma

The Beautiful Friendship of Grandma Joy and Her Grandson Brad

38-year-old Brad Ryan is a veterinarian at the Smithsonian Zoo in Washington, D.C. His grandmother, Joy Ryan, 89, currently lives in Ohio.

Brad has fond memories of spending time on the road with his grandma; in particular, their first road trip together in 1983. They lost track of each other but reconnected recently and decided to embark on an epic journey together to visit all of the nation’s 61 National Parks together.

The Duo Has Explored 29 U.S. National Parks Together

Brad documented the trips on social media over the summer, and the story went viral, with features on National Public Radio, Good Morning America and dozens of other news outlets. It was the travel story of the summer.

“Once Road Scholar learned about Brad and Grandma Joy, we knew we could play a role in helping them reach their goal,” said Stacie Fasola, senior director, public relations.

As an educational travel organization that provides group travel for older adults, we thought Brad and Grandma Joy would love to experience their next National Park with us. We reached out to Brad and Grandma Joy, and are thrilled to host them on their first visit together to the Channel Islands National park.

Brad and Grandma Joy met in Ohio on September 8th – which also happened to be National Grandparents Day – to embark on their 30th National Park visit.

“I can’t imagine a better place for two wildlife lovers like me and Grandma Joy,” said Brad. “We have dreamed of visiting these enchanting islands and viewing the unique flora and fauna that can be found nowhere else on earth. We cannot wait to share our Road Scholar experience with the countless people who have reached out to us and expressed a desire to plan an inter-generational road trip for their families.”

Find your ideal learning adventure with Road Scholar. Get started here.

Brad and Grandma Joy Will Join 30 Other Adult Learners on the Program

“There is no doubt that my grandson and I have seen a lot of beautiful places for the first time during our road trips, but I can’t stress enough how much I have loved meeting so many interesting people from all over the world,” said Grandma Joy.

“So many people my age are sitting at home and feel like their lives are over. I hope they hear about our Road Scholar trip and decide it’s time to start making new plans. It’s never too late to make new friends. It’s never too late to plan a new adventure. Learning doesn’t have an expiration date.”

So on this World Tourism Day, we salute the Ryan’s, and all of the other travelers who seek to learn about the world around them, and use travel to build bridges across cultures and, across generations.   

Learn more about Grandma Joy and Brad’s story on their Facebook page and Instagram.  

Road Scholar offers learning adventures for nearly all of the National Parks in the U.S. Click here to learn more.

Have you ever travelled with your grandchildren? If you could visit any place in the world with your grandkids, where would you go and why?

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The Author

Sixty and Me is a community of over 500,000 women over 60 founded by Margaret Manning. Our editorial team publishes articles on lifestyle topics including fashion, dating, retirement and money.

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