Retired social worker Ann Tokar spent more than three decades caring for others. While she enjoyed her career very much, she's now taking the time to explore the planet with fellow university alumni.
It seemed a natural fit to travel with her alma mater, given her fond memories of her days at Loyola College, one of Concordia’s founding institutions. She hadn’t travelled much since 1972, the year she graduated with a BA in sociology and set off on a four-month European tour.
Upon retirement in 2007, Tokar started travelling again. She visited Italy’s Tuscany region through the Concordia University Alumni Travel Program. The program operates within a network of universities across Canada and the United States and offers a dozen trips to exotic destinations annually.
Now a seasoned traveller, Tokar has since taken more than 10 trips to various corners of the earth. She has experience travelling with many agencies — yet she keeps returning to Concordia. “I’d rather travel with an alumni group. There's an instant connection with fellow graduates, who come from different professions and universities, with the same enthusiasm of discovering the world, one country at a time,” she says.
Staying in touch with people from her trips is part of the fun: trading emails and sharing photos, sometimes making plans to meet again.
Her best trip? “Antarctica was my trip of a lifetime. It really captured my imagination!” she says of her 2009 holiday.
There’s something about living in ice and snow at home in Montreal that drew her to the southernmost continent’s wondrous natural landscape, home to some of the world’s most breathtaking wildlife.
The educational aspect of alumni trips is also an attraction for Tokar. "In Tuscany, for example, we participated in a town hall meeting, where questions could be addressed to an entrepreneur in the wine and olive producing regions as well as a university student about cultural traditions of young Italians still living at home. Cooking lessons were also an added treat,” she says.
One thing she loves about travel is the direct contact with different cultural groups.
“You’re immersed in their life even if you’re on a bus. I find the local guides are part of their country and they really do a wonderful job introducing their country to us,” says Tokar.
An avid hiker and walker, Tokar will trek Iceland’s stunning trails this summer and will soon tackle the famous Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route in Northern Spain.
She just returned from the Galapagos Islands last month. Her bookshelf holds albums of trips to Egypt, Russia, Peru, Canada’s Northwest Passage and China.
When she's not globetrotting or planning future trips, Tokar expands her horizons in other ways. She is a stone sculptor and enjoys volunteering in literacy programs in a grade school and taking courses. She also exercises at Concordia’s PERFORM Centre, which brings her back full circle to the Loyola Campus.
The spirited Tokar already looks forward to her next trip. In May, she’ll head to Istanbul with a fellow Concordia graduate she met on the Tuscany trip. “Crossing borders is like cultural immersion,” she says. “I feel it makes me a citizen of the world.”
For information or to subscribe to the mailing list, contact Yanick Dahan at email@example.com or at 514-848-2424, ext. 3819. Upcoming trips include: Canada's Northwest Passage (August 24 to September 6, 2013), Symphony on the Blue Danube: A Classical Music Cruise (September 18 to 30, 2013) and Voyage of Ancient Empires: Amalfi Coast, Pompeii, Sicily and Malta (October 4 to 12, 2013).
• Concordia University Alumni Travel Program
• Concordia Department of Sociology and Anthropology
• Concordia’s PERFORM Centre