All around the world with Penn Alumni Travel

After returning home from a Penn Alumni Travel group trip, it’s not unusual for a passenger to book another.

“We’re able to offer a comprehensive travel experience with a robust educational component. Oftentimes, the lifelong learning opportunities we provide are ones our passengers couldn’t replicate on their own,” says Alyssa D’Alconzo, director of Penn Alumni Education, Travel & Career Networking.

“All of our trips include faculty hosts,” says Emilie LaRosa, assistant director of Penn Alumni Travel and Education. “They share their expertise in lectures and special tours.”

Penn Alumni Travel takes nearly 25 trips per year to destinations on all seven continents. Among the 2018 offerings are “India: Splendors of the South;” “Provincial French Countryside;” “Great Journey through Europe;” “Botswana;” “Trade Routes of Coastal Iberia;” “Argentina & Chile: Wine & Trekking Adventure;” and “Polar Bears & Beluga Whales.” 

Trips are open to all members of the Penn community, and their family and friends.

A few spots remain open for the “Art & Culture of Cuba” trip, which runs Dec. 2-9, 2017, with Larry Silver, the James & Nan Wagner Farquhar Professor Emeritus of History of Art. 

About 40 percent of travelers earned an undergraduate degree from Penn, another 40 percent are Penn graduate or professional school alumni, and remaining passengers include staff, faculty, and non-affiliated friends of the University.

André Dombrowski, an associate professor in the Department of the History of Art and core faculty in the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Program says that he became a faculty host because he wanted to travel to places he wouldn’t necessarily visit on his own, while also learning about Penn history and traditions from alumni. Plus, he loves sharing his scholarship.


“I try very hard to make the sites and the art we see along the way exciting and come alive,” he says.

On one trip, he was writing an extensive essay on French artist Claude Monet while hosting a group tour of Belle-Île-en-Mer, off the coast of Brittany where Monet lived in 1886.

“My fellow travelers helped me find the spots where Monet stood and painted, and stopped with me at the house where he had stayed. I gave a lecture on Monet later that day, and we all bonded over the experience,” he recalls.

Since his first trip in 2012, Dombrowski has cruised the Danube, Rhône, and Rhine rivers; traveled through Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Belgium; and shared his area of expertise in 19th-century French art traveling to Provence, Normandy, and Brittany, France. In 2018, he’ll take his next trip, “Cruising Tahiti and French Polynesia.”

The trips appeal to alumni like Michael Leibowitz, who discovered Penn group tours in 2016 when he went on a walking tour along the Camino in northern Spain. The globe trotter is on a quest to visit every country in the world. So far he has traveled to 137.

“Since I usually travel alone, the appeal was a chance to interact with, and share the experience with, fellow travelers with a common bond on a non-traditional adventure. When I got the brochure for the Camino de Santiago trip, I could see it was professionally organized with highlights I would enjoy. I especially liked the fact that a Penn history professor [Thomas Max Safley] would be on the trip to provide special insights.” 

Leibowitz just returned from the “Tanzania Migration Safari” trip and says he is eagerly looking forward to his next trip, the “Himalayan Kingdoms.” Sharing the days’ experiences at group dinners and getting to know fellow Penn graduates on the trips are what make his journeys with the tour group so special.

View the 2018 trip schedule on the Penn Alumni Travel website.

Penn Alumni Travel