Colorado Widow Finds Healing & Fresh Start on Trip to Italy

 02/15/2023 | 11:35 AM 
Diane and Elaine

Diane and Elaine

Elaine Balliew’s husband of 39 years passed away of cancer in 2021. The following year, as her wedding anniversary and her husband Bob’s birthday (both in September) neared, she knew she needed to get away.

“My sister Diane, bless her heart, had been taking care of our mom, who just passed away a couple of weeks ago after a rough couple of years. I’m 1,000 miles away, and my sister was in town with my mom. So, as a thank you to my sister, I took her to Italy. It was wonderful to go with her!”

The two sisters enrolled in their first Road Scholar program to Italy. Elaine and Diane’s grandparents were from Italy, and the two sisters found the trip a great way to connect with their roots! They enjoyed having free time in the ports they visited to do some exploring on their own; after their visit to Pompeii, they spent an afternoon in Naples, where her grandmother was from– taking pictures, visiting the museum, and having pizza.

Elaine said she was surprised and delighted that Road Scholar introduced them to some places that she had no idea were so beautiful. “I had this picture of Sicily in my head from the Godfather, and it was so much more beautiful! There was Mount Etna right there!” she said. “And Montenegro! I wondered why we were stopping in Montenegro when we were supposed to be seeing Italy, but I was so glad we did! Kotor was so cool. There were lots of unexpected cool places we went– it makes me want to go back!”

Nonprofit Road Scholar is an educational organization, so Elaine and Diane’s trip to Italy wasn’t just about sightseeing– it was about learning along the way. That learning element is what attracted Elaine to Road Scholar from the start. “I really enjoyed the lectures during the days the ship was at sea,” said Elaine. “It gets you even more excited about the areas you’re about to visit! And the lectures really spurred me to do more reading and learning about art history after the trip!”

Before retiring in 2016, Elaine’s career in product marketing took her to Europe for three weeks each year, to 19 different countries– an experience that really sparked her love of travel. While raising four children together in Colorado, Elaine and Bob explored National Parks and went to the Holy Land and Hawaii, but her husband’s height (and, thus, discomfort on planes) made international travel difficult for them.

Elaine plans to take a trip every September to keep her busy and give her something to look forward to during a time that is emotionally difficult for her. This September, she and her sister will be traveling to Ireland with Road Scholar. While her Italy trip provided a great way to connect with her own heritage, Elaine is looking forward to feeling closer to her husband on this trip to Ireland. “It’s a beautiful country, and I feel connected to it because my husband’s family were from Ireland,” she said. After their Road Scholar program, Elaine and Diane will be taking a side trip to visit the castle where her husband’s family lived.

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