St. Olaf College | News

Active around the world at all ages

Participants on the “Hiking Scotland’s Islands: On and Off the Beaten Track” program pause for a moment during their trek to Loch Coruisk in the Scottish Highlands. The program is just one of many that take an active approach to traveling.

Most people know how active Oles are on the Hill. More than half of students play a varsity, club, or intramural sport; the fitness and recreation facilities on campus are heavily used; and you can often see students running, biking, inline skating, and playing frisbee golf.

Alumni and family members can stay just as active when traveling with the college.

Jeffrey Bores ’85 leads participants in a pose during the “Yoga in Italy” Alumni & Family Travel program.

In the last few years, participants in St. Olaf College’s Alumni & Family Travel programs have hiked in Scotland; hiked, biked, and kayaked in New Zealand; canoed, portaged, and hiked in the Boundary Waters; and practiced yoga in Italy.

Louise Wilson ’80 P’19 says that her most memorable moment being active abroad was “swimming with wild dolphins in the ocean on the New Zealand trip. Also, walking on the glacier during that same trip was exhilarating.” (Taking a helicopter to get to said glacier probably got the adrenaline pumping, too.)

Participants on the “Active New Zealand Adventure” program hike Fox Glacier, located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park.

These experiences are often about much more than just “staying active.” They can also show the traveler that they can accomplish more than they thought.

Karen Alsop ’81 says that canoeing through the Boundary Waters was “tiring and challenging at times, but most definitely rewarding and inspiring! Our St. Olaf guide mapped out a trip that stretched me to the ideal point.”

During the “Active Adventure in Croatia” program, participants took in the stunning scenery by bicycle.

Often the active aspect isn’t just about moving your body — it frequently connects to the local culture. Professor Emeritus of Religion John Barbour and Professor Emerita of Art and Art History Meg Ojala said of the Hiking in Scotland programs they’ve designed, “we wanted to create a program that combines spectacular natural beauty with a wealth of interesting cultural history. We also decided to highlight walking itself as we experience each day’s hike and learn about Scotland’s distinctive ‘walking culture,’ with its ancient paths and contemporary infrastructure, including the ‘right to roam.’ We explore how walking has psychological, aesthetic, political, and religious meanings.”

Barbour quotes Rebecca Solnit, “who describes ‘the mind at three miles an hour: walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord.’ On Scotland’s hills, glens, and coastal paths, we Ole hikers experienced such moments.”

Jane Brownlee P’97, ’99, ’03 on a kayak outing during the “Active New Zealand Adventure” program.

Wilson says she chose to participate in an active Study Travel program because “it really is a part of who I am. I looked forward to meeting and sharing the experience with other like-minded individuals. I am not an adventure/danger seeker, but I am a kinesthetic learner and that is how I best experience another culture.” 

She goes on to note that “those who thrive on being active will find the experience of taking part in hiking, or kayaking, or biking while surrounded by the beauty of another country very spiritual.”

Alumni & Family Travel offers about 12 to 14 trips per year, including active programs coming up in Spain (walking the Camino de Santiago), Scotland, Italy & Slovenia, the Boundary Waters, and Argentina.