TISDALE — Dwight Olson and Bonnie Derkatz-Olson have an unusual hobby: they travel the world.
As a child, Bonnie didn’t believe she would grow up to travel, but she dreamed of seeing Rome. She fulfilled that dream as an adult, and has seen it several times.
A retired teacher, Bonnie got what she called the “travel bug” when she took a trip with her colleagues to Europe.
“I think that’s what infected me,” Bonnie said.
Dwight caught the bug earlier in his life during a hockey trip to Amsterdam in 1986.
“The trip was started in Amsterdam, we went down to France and into Germany and into Austria, and headed back. We played about five hockey games,” Dwight said. “It was a really great trip, it was interesting.”
In their travels, Dwight was even able to find his grandmother’s childhood home, and meet his distant cousins who owned the house.
“Same building, just a few years older. It was incredible,” Bonnie said. “Just to think his grandmother saw that every day, and here he was.”
The couple does three trips a year: one student tour, one youth tour and one personal trip.
Bonnie started going on student tours for the school about 12 years ago as a chaperone, when she went to Europe with a group of students. The following year she and two other colleagues went back, and she has been doing these tours ever since.
“It’s just so much fun to travel and share the passion for travel that we have developed over the years.
“I never dreamed that I would ever be doing this,” Bonnie said. “We didn’t have student travel opportunities when I was in high school. The only thing I could think of is if you were going to do a French language exchange with Québec.”
At the time she had to convince Dwight to go with her.
“He wasn’t really thrilled with the idea. I had to convince him to come along and supervise teenagers. He didn’t know if that was a real good idea or not, but he agreed and he really enjoyed it.”
Dwight explained that at first he didn’t like the idea of chaperoning teenagers.
“I’ve always coached hockey and ball, but I just didn’t think I’d want to chaperone a bunch of young adults for 10 or 12 days,” Dwight said.
But Bonnie convinced him.
“She just needed help,” Dwight said. “She had too many boys, and they were going to Amsterdam.”
Dwight adored the trip.
“I fell in love,” Dwight said. “And I said to Bonnie, I said, when we came driving out of Florence into the Tuscany area, I said, ‘I love this place. We’re coming back.’”
The couple took over the student tours in 2010, about four years after their first student tour.
The locations they choose to take students to depend on when Easter lands in they year they are travelling. When Easter is earlier, they pick trips further south. When it’s later, they can go further north, to places such as Normandy.
They find that the student tours tend to be an appetizer that gets them hooked on travelling for the year ahead.
“After everything settles, they realize how wonderful it was,” Bonnie said. “So many of them have gone and travelled now, which I don’t know if they would have if they never had that travel opportunity as a teenager. We had one girl go to culinary school in Switzerland.”
According to Bonnie, getting hooked is a real risk of travelling.
“We had one girl that travelled with us, and unfortunately their parents say, ‘Oh, you did this to my daughter, now she’s got the travel bug,’” Bonnie said. “And we say to them at our meetings, we say, ‘There’s a very good chance your son or daughter is going to be infected with the travel bug, and there is no cure.’”
In 2012 they decided to do adult tours.
“We enjoyed it with the students so much we decided to do an adult trip,” Bonnie said.
Those trips have included Berlin, Germany; Warsaw, Poland; and Vienna, Austria.
According to Bonnie, the adult tours have more free time.
“The student tours are very, very structured, just because of the nature of the travellers,” Bonnie said. “But the adult tours, they certainly have some structure, but there’s a lot more freedom, and going out for your dinners, just your own time and wherever you choose, and just those kind of flexibilities.”
An example of this freedom is with “optionals,” when adults can choose to do something or have free time.
“With the students we decide, we’re going to do this, this and this, and it’s everybody, because we just have to do that for safety reasons.”
For the adult tours they choose the locations based off the interest of the group.
“People ask, ‘Bonnie, why don’t you do a tour here?’ or ‘Are you going to go there?’ or ‘What are you going to do?’ So that’s where I sometimes take my guidance from,” Bonnie said. “Often it is because we think, because we really feel it’s a locale that people will enjoy.”
Bonnie said the people she has travelled with, who have spent more than 10 days with, have a special bond with her.
“Travel is a wonderful thing, and the people you travel with, you develop a different bond with them as well. We have a unique bond with them, something that we haven’t experienced with anybody else who hasn’t travelled with us. So there’s a new friendship.”
For people curious about travelling, Dwight said that group travel might be the way to go.
“Group travel is easy. Group travel, your itinerary is planned. You don’t have to worry about if you have your hotel booked, if you have a city guide,” Dwight said. “You’re going to get familiar with the city and all that kind of stuff. That’s the comfort zone. Then you have freedom, which is the other thing. You can go out and explore on your own.”
If anyone is interested in going on their adult tours, they can approach Bonnie or Dwight in the community.