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People and Culture

The History of Overseas Adventure Travel

In 1958, a retired California high school principal named Ethel Andrus founded a travel company to serve the members of the new organization she had just formed, the American Association of Retired Persons, or AARP. This company, Grand Circle Travel, grew to become the Grand Circle Corporation, the leading provider of international travel and discovery for Americans over 50. Overseas Adventure Travel became a member of the Grand Circle family in 1993, but our own history predates that…

Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.) was founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1978 by a 28-year old high school teacher named Judi Wineland. Her inspiration came after a trip to Africa, where she identified a need for a more authentic, adventurous, and affordable safari experience than the typical ones available at the time. She targeted unspoiled Tanzania as the first destination for her fledgling company, and in so doing, became the first US tour operator to offer tented safaris there. From this beginning O.A.T. began offering custom small group tours to exotic destinations around the world, with O.A.T.-designed and operated trips to East Africa, Nepal, Turkey, and Peru.

Trailblazing has been an O.A.T. hallmark ever since. In 1993 we were purchased by the Grand Circle Corporation, whose leadership in the travel industry had been established in 1958, when it was formed exclusively to serve members of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Now offering its programs to all mature Americans, Grand Circle is today the nation’s preeminent travel company serving people over 50.

O.A.T.’s entry into the Grand Circle family signaled a seed change–not just for O.A.T., but for the entire travel industry. Availing ourselves of Grand Circle’s expertise, we became the first US travel company to create, operate, and sell adventure trips to Americans aged 50 and over. This growing segment of the population (the most well-traveled in history) gradually became our primary market, and to best serve them we began refining our product line to offer what has been called “soft adventure.” This allows the mature traveler the opportunity to experience wild and exotic places in an active, hands-on manner–while still enjoying a strong degree of comfort and service.

This, combined with our unique, high-quality products and our deep-rooted commitment to customer service and social responsibility, has made us today the leader in our field.

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