FAIRFIELD — A riverboat cruise along the Mississippi River helped introduce Suisun City resident Gail Forte to the Fairfield Senior Center.
She went to the center to sign up for the trip and was asked about volunteering. That was 11 years ago. Forte has been an adult services travel volunteer ever since.
“I love the senior center,” she said. “You walk through the doors and you’re welcomed.”
The tour trips that seniors learn about at the senior center allow for group travel.
“You’re not out there alone in an airport,” Forte said. “You know what you’re getting.”
Her volunteer work includes seeing off travelers at the start of their trips – a farewell that sometimes sends Forte on 2 a.m. drives.
Jay Fehan, district sales manager for Collette Vacations and a speaker recently at the senior center about upcoming trips, said Forte’s volunteer work is nice to have.
“She does all this and she’s not on the payroll,” Fehan said.
He said travelers should seek people who’ll take care of them –and that “Gail does such a good job” at that.
Older Americans often travel more than the rest of the population, Fehan said, because they have the time and often the resources to do so.
Forte has lived in Solano County for 40 years. She came to California from Boston where she grew up in an Italian-American neighborhood. Her red hair meant some people mistakenly concluded that she was Irish, but Forte’s father was from Sicily and her mother from Naples.
Along with the Mississippi trip that started in New Orleans, Forte has traveled to Italy in 2005 and learned from an Italian bartender about her popular last name. The bartender brought a phone book to show her all the Fortes, she said.
London and Paris are also on her list to visit.
Her trip to Italy proved to be as much fun as the Mississippi riverboat ride.
“We wanted to stay in Rome forever,” she said.
Travis Air Force Base’s location in Solano County helps make the region a travel stronghold, Forte said. Retired military are often familiar with much of the world and interested in trips, she said.
A trip taken later in life might hold a different type of importance than for the younger generation, Forte said.
“When you get to a certain age and you pick a trip, you savor it because you may not be able to do it again,” she said.
She suggested speaking the local language if possible. Forte did so in Italy – although she acknowledged her Italian wasn’t as strong as when she heard her parents speaking the language.
More importantly, she said, visit a country without bringing preconceptions about the place and the people.
“Go with an open mind,” Forte said. “Go with an open heart.”
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.