When Carl and Irene Johnson met¬†Polly Vicars 11 years ago, little did they know that it would eventually change the course of their lives. The Johnsons are¬†veterans of the Lifelong Learners program, having participated in four voyages during the past 12 years. They¬†first met Polly and her late husband, Hubert, while traveling on the Spring 2002 Voyage.
‚ÄúWe met by chance since we were scheduled for many field trips together on the Spring 2002 Voyage.¬† We enjoyed each other‚Äôs company so much we started doing field trips together independent of the program,‚Äù said Vicars.
Polly, an energetic, outgoing member of the shipboard community, retired in 1988 from her job as Administrative Assistant to Martha Layne Collings, the only woman Governor of the state of Kentucky. ¬†Upon their retirement, Polly and Hubert chose to move to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico after living in Kentucky for 38 years. When Carl retired from his work in financial planning, the Johnsons were thinking about relocating from Chicago. ¬†Polly encouraged them to consider Puerto Vallarta.
“When Carl retired, we considered moving to Florida, but there are too many old people there,‚Äù¬† quipped Irene.¬† ‚ÄúSo upon Polly‚Äôs recommendation, we started to think about Puerto Vallarta.‚Äù
After attending a reunion for the Spring 2002 voyage held in Puerto Vallarta, the Johnsons started to seriously consider the bucolic Mexican balneario city.¬† In 2006, they purchased a home near Polly. The Vicars and the Johnsons were enjoying a comfortable lifestyle where they were active in community affairs and volunteering. ¬† Sadly, Polly‚Äôs husband, Hubert, suddenly passed away in 2011. Irene had been planning to participate in another SAS voyage, so upon¬†her suggestion, Polly¬†agreed to¬†join Carl and Irene during the current Summer 2013 voyage, which¬†Polly¬†now affectionately refers to as her ‚ÄúComing out party.‚Äù
Even though this is a difficult time for Polly, returning to the MV Explorer without her beloved husband, she has remained very active during the current voyage. ¬†During a recent Moroccan field trip Polly opted for a ride in a four by four, while Carl and Irene enjoyed the overnight trip to Marrakesh with day trips to Fez and Rabat.
Both Irene and Polly recognize the fortuitous rewards of traveling with students on the Semester at Sea Program.¬†‚ÄúOne student we met on our 2004 voyage kept in touch with us and became our 'third daughter,' said Irene, “and we encouraged her to apply for the US Foreign Office.¬† She got her first position in the US Embassy in London two years ago.‚Äù
Polly also relishes the relationships she‚Äôs created with her shipboard family.¬† ‚ÄùAlthough I did not have children of my own, one of the students I met on the 2002 voyage visited me this year in Puerto Vallarta.¬† We had a wonderful time.‚Äù
Irene, a participant in multiple voyages, still marvels at the¬†unique benefits of sailing with the Lifelong Learners program. ‚ÄúThis is a wonderful opportunity to be with young people, while learning in a safe environment while traveling. ¬†It's a great opportunity for anyone who wants to see the world.‚Äù