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Is Travel the Secret to Living to 100?

By Emily Deemer
updated September 29, 2021
Polar Bear in Churchill
Courtesy Natural Habitat Adventures

This article was written by Emily Deemer of Natural Habitat Adventures.

Elsa Bailey made national headlines last May by celebrating her 100th birthday at Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin—on skis. She may have hung up her ski boots for good that night, but she sure didn’t hang up her thirst for adventure.Bailey is still crossing items off her ambitious travel bucket list, which until recently included a dream of seeing polar bears in the wild.

This spunky 100-year-old’s dream became a reality when she traveled to Churchill, Manitoba, as Natural Habitat Adventures’ guest this past October. She spent four days tracking polar bears in the tundra outside Churchill, a small Canadian frontier town known as the Polar Bear Capital of the World. 

One day while Bailey and her group were traversing the tundra, a couple of curious bears approached. Bailey eagerly traced their every move from the outdoor viewing deck of the massive Polar Rover—a vehicle designed to traverse the rugged terrain while keeping guests warm and toasty in the sub-arctic temperatures. 

“We just stopped, and the bears came over! The bears are so used to the Polar Rovers that it didn’t bother them at all,” Bailey told a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press who was covering her adventure. 

“It was two male bears, and this time of the season the male bears very often tolerate each other.They talked a bit to each other, and then one of them tried to climb up on the great big tremendous tire of the Polar Rover!” Bailey recounted. (This is the why Polar Rover tires are six feet tall!) 

Natural Habitat Adventures (NHA) first connected with Bailey when staff member Becky Pahl was on the ski slopes at Arapahoe Basin last May and noticed quite a commotion at the bottom of the hill. She skied toward the party, and saw Bailey making seasoned turns on skis. Pahl was amazed to learn that Bailey was celebrating her 100th birthday.

When Pahl turned on her TV that night, she saw Bailey being interviewed on the local news. Bailey told the reporter she still had items on her bucket list, and seeing polar bears in the wild was at the top. Pahl immediately told NHA’s president, Ben Bressler, and within the week she was driving down to Bailey’s Colorado Springs home to surprise her with a belated birthday present—a trip to see polar bears with the company.    

“I wanted to do this for years, and all of a sudden it just manifested,” Bailey told the Free Press.“They asked me what I wanted to do for my 100th birthday, and I said I wanted to see the polar bears.I’ve seen them on TV, but this just feels different, when it’s real.”

NHA staff member Andrea Reynolds was Bailey’s personal escort for the week.“When the opportunity came up, I jumped at the chance,” says Reynolds.  “It was an exciting prospect to spend time with this ‘100-year-young’ woman who has inspired so many in our office.”

They spent three nights at the Tundra Lodge—a unique “hotel on wheels” placed in the heart of polar bear habitat.“We saw a smorgasbord of wildlife—not just polar bears, but arctic hare, arctic fox, ptarmigan, and more,” says Reynolds. 

Another highlight for Bailey was their dog-sledding excursion, as it reminded her of the winter she spent living in Alaska when she was 50, where the dog-sled was her preferred mode of transportation.

So, that brings me to my question: Could it be that travel is the secret to living to 100+?  Bailey seems to prove this theory. 

The other travelers in her group were treated to a daily dose of inspiration as they watched Bailey take on each day’s activities with vigor and enthusiasm—she even got up in the middle of the night to watch the northern lights, twice! 

“She showed us that one of the secrets to living to 100+ is shooting for the moon, and embracing each and every moment,” said Reynolds.

What’s next on Bailey’s bucket list? Yellowstone, America’s oldest national park. She says she plans to travel there with Natural Habitat Adventures this summer to see bison, moose, and wolves. We can’t wait to see where your 101st year takes you, Elsa!

We want to know: what's the most ambitious item on your travel bucket list and have you checked it off yet? Tell us about it below!

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Inspiration

What's Hot in Phoenix

This article was written by Jason Stokes, an artist, adventurer, and travel writer who can be found ranting to no one in particular on Twitter: @JSGestalt. It's hot in Phoenix. While this may not come as a surprise to most, what may be shocking is the sheer multitudes of people who are moving to the capital city year after year. In the summertime, temperatures in the Phoenix area have been recorded at well over 100 degrees, even reaching 120 during the 'peak months.' Yet despite this fact AZCentral.com reports that the city welcomed 40,000 new residents in 2012. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city stands poised to overtake Philadelphia as the fifth most populous city in the country. So what is it about Arizona? What is this magical pull from the 'Valley of the Sun' that has new residents from across the country picking up stakes and moving to the desert? Determined to understand the mass exodus that had so many of my colleagues flocking to the desert wilderness of Arizona, I packed my bags and headed out west to follow them. The first thing I discovered cruising at ten thousand feet over the sprawling landscape below is the sheer enormity of this city. As a habitual traveler, you discover that most metropolises look compact from the air, a core commercial district surrounded by rings of suburban real estate. Usually this view will easily fit in the tiny space provided by a standard airplane window. To my surprise, in the valley between the Camelback and Superstition Mountain ranges resided a landscape that refused to be contained. I found myself pressed against the glass trying unsuccessfully to locate the edges of an impossibly expansive development. I've been to Dallas, and those who say everything is bigger in Texas should come to Phoenix. As I soon discover, the reasons for living out here in the 'untamed west' are as varied as the people who move here. Anna, a former east coast native like myself, meets me at the airport and we're soon driving off into the city surrounded by the most surreal landscape imaginable. I feel as if I'm in an old time movie with painted landscapes providing the backdrop to otherwise mundane activities. Mile markers tick by on the highway with gorgeous purple and red mountain peaks glowing in the setting sun on every horizon. "I am beginning to understand", I remark as we make our exit. "Just wait," she says. "I haven't shown you anything yet." She assures me I am going to love my visit and it will be something I will never forget. Anna is a rock climber. She fell in love the west during one of her family's cross country journeys as a child and made the move out here a little over six years ago. "It feels like home. It's not the lush green mountains of the Blue Ridge parkway, but that's the point." This is a place like no other in the world. Where the scenery itself is both captivating and at times seems magical. An admitted romantic, I wonder what else this city has in store for the more practical minded explorer. My first day we drive outside the city at sunset to South Mountain. An hour away from city center, this secluded overlook provides a full view of millions of twinkling lights. I take five pictures and fail to capture the entire skyline. We are looking down on the cities of Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Glendale, and Tempe. More than four million people reside below and more just beyond the peaks behind us. The scenery is only the beginning of the Phoenix area experience. Over the following weeks, we attend concerts at intimate venues like the Musical Instrument Museum (It could take a few days to experience the entire collection), take hiking expeditions in Sedona Valley and spend Sunday afternoons at University of Phoenix Stadium. Evenings at local restaurants like The Angel's Trumpet and The Cornish Pasties Company reveal that commercialism isn't as rampant here as I'm used to in bigger cities like Philadelphia and Miami. There are still McDonald's on every corner and more Starbucks than you can shake a stick at (seriously how many can there really be?), but local businesses with unique concepts and local charm make me reminiscent of smaller towns like Asheville or Raleigh. While it's very hot in the daytime, I am assured I've arrived at the perfect time. Over the next couple of weeks temperatures drop from an oppressive 110 degrees down to the mid-eighties. By October, the afternoons are pleasant, like a warm spring afternoon anywhere else in the world and nights have just a tinge of chill in the air, dropping down to the low-to-mid 60s. It's so comfortable outside you begin looking for excuses to get outdoors. These are the nights perfect for drinking on the patio and taking walks through the park. The best part? It stays like this all winter long. This is as cold as it will ever get. Two hours north of here, in Flagstaff, it's snowing! Where most residential areas would have green manicured front lawns, there is plenty of sand. But it works here somehow. There are palm trees and everything thing else you'd expect in a dry, arid environment. Homes are decorated with colorful desert flowers, palms, and cacti. It's interesting to note that this is the only place in the U.S. that grows the iconic Saguaro cactus portrayed as so abundant that they appear in almost every single old west movie ever made. In reality they grow in huge groves along I-8 west and I-10 south in the Sonoran desert and virtually nowhere else. Some stray plants may be seen in Southern California, but this is considered rare. The city itself covers so much ground that virtually every desire can be satisfied here. Nature lovers come for the massive red rock enclaves that surround the valley. Spiritualists like Stephanie, a massage therapist I met a few weeks back at the Grand Canyon (also in Arizona), stays here for the mysticism she experiences with other like-minded individuals she has found out here. She explains that spiritualists believe there are focal points of energy throughout the desert where they can commune with nature more freely than other places. It doesn't stop there though. Let's not forget that ASU, a nationally accredited research institute has an annual enrollment of over 72,000 students between its Tempe and surrounding campuses. Phoenix is a young city. It is a place where young people live, work and play. With reasonable rent, $825 on average, clean air, and abundant activities, this one of the greatest places in the nation for 20-somethings (No. 9 according to Greatist.com). Nightlife here is very active, especially downtown near the city center and Mill Avenue. in nearby Tempe, which resembles Mardi Gras on a good night. The population may be getting younger too. Almost 30% of the city's population is under 18 years of age. 17% are between 24 and 34 years old. The longer I stay here, the more I discover what is amazing about Phoenix with very little in the way of negative.There is an almost never-ending list of things to discover and I feel safer here than in most big cities. There is an attitude of perseverance that seems ingrained in the people that live in the valley. Remember Anna the rock climber? Recently sidelined (temporarily) with a diagnosis of MS, she has begun rediscovering her beloved city from new point of view, with a new attitude. "This is like nowhere else in the world." she says. I think she's right.

Inspiration

An NYC Must-See Reopens to Visitors!

When I write about Ellis Island, it's a little personal. Okay, it's a lot personal. If my great-grandfather Angelo Cappiello hadn't left his little village in Italy more than a century ago and passed through the "Island of Hope, Island of Tears," I wouldn't be here. He was one of the 12 million immigrants who were processed at Ellis Island from 1892 to 1924. He (and I) got lucky—my great-grandfather gained entry into the U.S. while many others were sent back home. One year ago, Ellis Island was not nearly so fortunate. The National Park Service site, which debuted as a museum in 1990, was dealt a tremendous blow by Superstorm Sandy, whose storm surge caused serious flooding and extensive damage to electrical systems and other infrastructure. While some areas remain closed to the public, we're really psyched that the island is once again welcoming visitors from around the globe. READ ABOUT OTHER DESTINATIONS THAT SURVIVED SANDY A visit to Ellis Island—which is part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument—begins at either lower Manhattan's Battery Park or in Jersey City's Liberty State Park, where Statue Cruises operates ferry service to both Liberty and Ellis islands (statuecruises.com, $17 adults, $14 seniors, $9 children 12 and under, free for children under 4). An audio tour of the island is included in the ferry/admission price (which also includes a stop at Liberty Island). The Great Hall of the island's Beaux-Arts main building is open, giving you the chance to see where long lines of hopeful immigrants once stood, and to savor Spanish architect Rafael Guastavino Moreno's stunning ceiling, featuring interlocking terra cotta tiles. While some exhibits, such as "The Peopling of America 1550-1890," are now reopened, others, such as "Peak Immigration Years," remain closed. On a sunny day, even in late fall or winter, the ferry ride alone is a beautiful way to experience the vast, deep harbor that helped make New York City and its neighboring communities in New Jersey one of the world's most valuable ports. And whether or not you have an Ellis Island immigrant in your family, I heartily recommend the somewhat geeky—and slightly sentimental—recitation of Emma Lazarus's famous poem "The New Colossus" as your ferry approaches Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty: Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp! cries she with silent lips. Give me your tired, your poor...

Inspiration

Fall for Boston: 6 Great Activities

There's no place like Boston in autumn. Sure, the Red Sox are in the World Series (yay!), but even when they're not, this city and its neighboring communities play host to foliage, football, spooky Halloween traditions, and outdoor activities like no other. Boston foliage and hot cider hold a special place in my heart because they remind me of visiting family and the beginning of the school year, four of which I spent at Boston College in the beautiful Boston suburb of Chestnut Hill. (Boston's fall foliage actually resembles our team colors of maroon and gold.) Here, six of Boston's top fall activities: See the Foliage. Whether you drive far out into the hills and suburbs or enjoy the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, you've got to see the gorgeous leaves. There really is no wrong way to do foliage in New England, even if it's just strolling through a local park with beautiful hues that glow when bathed in sunlight. Sip Hot Cocoa and Watch a Football Game. Fall for me means sipping hot chocolate with marshmallows while watching a football game. No matter whom you are rooting for (or even if you're not into football) it's the Boston way. Bostonians love their sports and invite anyone to join in the cheering. Eat and Drink Pumpkin Everything. Fall means savoring pumpkin-flavored and -spiced goodies. (This year there are even Pumpkin Spice M&Ms at Target stores!) When I studied abroad in Italy I fell in love with the seasonal tortellini di zucca and everything else "di zucca," and now eating pumpkin tortellini while sipping pumpkin ale is one of my fall traditions. Visit a Brewery. Speaking of pumpkin-flavored brew, try some for free at a brewery tour! The two major breweries in the Boston area are Samuel Adams and Harpoon. Both have free tours and tastings: Samual Adams always has free tastings; visit Harpoon during the week after 4 p.m. for a free tasting that includes great info and a 20-minute time period of free access to many taps and a complimentary (not to mention sweet, soft, warm, and fresh) pretzel!  Go on a Witch (or Ghost) Hunt. Visit charming, spooky Salem (of witch-trial fame), a cute town with funky shops that range from fun to downright scary. But Salem is not the only place to find ghosts in the area. My friends and I once signed up for a ghost tour in downtown Boston. Did the spirits make an appearance? Well, maybe not. But the history, stories, laughs, and company were sure entertaining! Skate on Frog Pond. There's nothing like skating outside. In cool weather with many layers and hot cocoa to warm you afterwards (can you tell I like hot cocoa?), skating is the perfect date or activity. Though it can get crowded, it's a must on the Boston bucket list! The Common is beautiful and skating adds a heavenly touch to any autumn evening.

Inspiration

South America's Greatest Adventures

Article by Andreas Ambarchian, a freelance journalist from England. He writes about a variety of subjects including travel, wildlife and sports. This article was written on behalf of South American Vacations, providers of adventure tours in South America. With tropical rainforests, Andean mountains, and arid deserts, the varied landscapes of South America make it the perfect place to enjoy an exciting adventure holiday. The Amazon Jungle, PeruWhen it comes to adventure, there are few places in the world that can compare with the rainforests of Peru. Even getting to the region's largest city, Iquitos, is a bit of trek: unreachable by road, visitors have to arrive in the area via air or boat. The real adventure, however, starts when you leave Iquitos to explore the surrounding rainforest on a jungle tour. One of the most biologically diverse areas of land on earth, the Peruvian Amazon is inhabited by 63% of all the mammal species in the entire country and home to a third of all the mammals in the world. In this area, you can also see endemic species of birds and reptiles as you trek through the dense forest foliage. Where to book: To find the most reputable tour guides, go to the iPeru office in Iquitos on Calle Napo 161, Office 4, close to the Plaza de Armas in Iquitos. It's important to go with a trustworthy company because, although they are rare, unpleasant stories of trips gone wrong and abandoned tourists are not unheard of. Cost: The typical cost for a two-day tour is around $200 per person. The Death Road, BoliviaThe Bolivian capital of La Paz is a sprawling assortment of bare brick houses built precariously on the slopes of the valley that the city calls home. However, even more unstable looking than these dubiously positioned structures is the Death Road, a 41-mile stretch of gravel-covered dirt track that connects the capital to Coroico, a city northeast of La Paz. The infamous route is estimated to claim the lives of around 200 people a year, a figure that led the American Development Bank to label this stretch as the most dangerous road in the world in 1995. Although used by both cars and lorries, the road has recently become a popular tourist attraction, with backpackers keen to take on the deadly path. The route incorporates a nearly 12,000-foot descent, with tight, hairpin bends, almost all without the safety of guard rails. Where to book: Many hostels in La Paz have links with tour companies. Cost: The general price for one rider is around $60, less for larger groups. Iguazu Falls by Boat, BrazilThe spectacular views of the waterfalls of Iguazu are probably best observed from the Argentinian side of the attraction, however, for those interested in feeling the raw force of the famous falls up close, a boat ride from Iguazu National Park in Brazil is undoubtedly the better option. The tour starts inside the park, with passengers first being transported to the water's edge by car. From the shore, boats leave every 15 minutes, with the ride itself lasting about two hours. Passengers are taken through some of the smaller cascades before getting within breathtaking proximity of the Three Musketeers Falls, the largest part on the Brazilian side. Anyone going on the ride should be aware that they will get very, very wet, however, any personal items can be put in the waterproof sack provided on the tour. Where to book: Inside the park. Cost: $100 per person. Trekking to the Lost City, ColombiaBuilt in 800 A.D. and abandoned during the Spanish Conquest of South America, the Lost City of Sierra Nevada in Colombia was left undiscovered for hundreds of years until, in 1972, a group of treasure hunters stumbled on the site. More than 40 years later, the Lost City remains largely unexcavated, accessible only via a 44km guided trek. Tours to the ancient site, located in the tropical jungle of the Tayrona National Park, generally leave every day during the high season between December and March, or every few days throughout the rest of the year. Walkers can choose between the option of a four-, five-, or six-day trek. Along the route there are mud paths, rainforest clearings, and swarms of mosquitoes as well as refreshing rock pools. The final stage of the trek includes a climb up 1,400 steps. Where to book: At a travel agency in the nearby cities of Santa Marta and Taganga. Cost: Tours cost around $315.