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Around the world in 45 minutes

Joan and Harry Becker take neighbors on virtual excursions

Created date

August 9th, 2016
Joan and Harry Becker with a photo from their trip to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

Joan and Harry Becker with a photo from their trip to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

Like many things at Cedar Crest, traveling around the world is possible without leaving the community. Once a month, Harry and Joan Becker host “Traveling With the Beckers,” a 45-minute slideshow in which they share 45 years worth of traveling, camping, and photography with their neighbors at the Pompton Plains, N.J., Erickson Living community.

The musical presentation includes photography from one of their many trips to Europe, the United States, and Canada. In the second bedroom/office of their two-bedroom, two-bath, Hawthorne-style apartment home, Harry creates the slideshows using a computer program called ProShow Gold, and Joan chooses the music. 

The popular program, which started last year, usually draws a crowd of more than 50 residents, sometimes as many as 60 or 70.

“If our neighbors have been to those places, it brings back fond memories, and if they have not been there, then they can appreciate the beauty of the places to which we have traveled,” says Harry.

“We enjoy watching people enjoy our shows because they come up with questions and comments. Everybody keeps coming back,” says Joan.

They enjoy their presentations just as much.

“When we do the shows, we relive our travels along with [our neighbors], and we never get tired of seeing our pictures or listening to the beautiful music,” says Harry.

Across the country in 21 feet

Parents to six children, the Beckers began their adventures in 1969, traveling the United States and Canada in a 21-foot pop-up camper. “They were between 5 and 15 at the time. They love camping,” says Harry. “It’s great for the kids because when you get to the campground they can run around and meet friends.”

Once they retired, they bought a small motor home and continued visiting sites in the United States and Canada, from Grand Teton National Park to Yellowstone, from the Smoky Mountains to Maine, and many places in between.

Along the way, Joan and Harry took photographs, enabled by the fact that they weren’t tied to motels or group tours. “We could stop whenever we wanted to take pictures,” says Harry.

In fact, Joan would take photographs even while Harry was driving. “I’d have my camera in my hands at all times and could quickly grab a picture,” she says.

While neither is a professional photographer, their eldest son is. And they belonged to a camera club. “That’s how we know how to take quality images,” Joan says.

Each slideshow contains 450 images. The April 7 show took residents on a beautiful virtual tour of Scandinavia and Russia. They visited the magnificent Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen; set sail on the Ocean Princess to visit Norway, Sweden, and Finland; and visited St. Petersburg. 

Audience members also took a short tour of The House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wis. The house is an architectural wonder that includes dollhouses, music rooms, an unusual carousel, and a large circus room.

On May 18, the audience toured Austria and Germany by bus and cruised up the Rhine River to Amsterdam, Holland, with Joan and Harry.

In good company

While Harry and Joan have done their fair share of traveling, they’ve met neighbors who have traveled even more. “People have traveled all over the world,” says Harry.

Joan says their program has been a great way to meet people at their new home, which they moved to in December 2014 from a three-acre property in Branchville. 

“We walk down the hall and someone will say, ‘You’re the Traveling Beckers!’”

She says they also enjoy meeting people at dinner since they have their choice of four on-site restaurants each night. 

“People here are very interesting,” says Joan, who enjoys hearing their life stories.

Although they don’t travel as much now, they are discovering new hobbies they didn’t have time for before. Joan joined the bocce club, and Harry’s into horseshoes. And they have many more to try—Cedar Crest has more than 180 clubs and activities. 

“There is so much to do here; we’re very busy,” says Joan.

Travel adventures

Virtual travel isn’t the only way to see the sites at Cedar Crest. The community’s resident-run Trips and Travel Committee organizes excursions throughout the year to various locations, including Vermont; Washington, D.C.; Tanglewood, Mass.; and West Point, N.Y.

In April, more than 40 residents traveled from Cedar Crest to the Smoky Mountains for a trip packed with fun, entertainment, history, and dramatic scenery. 

The travelers enjoyed a guided tour of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and explored the region’s wildflowers, wildlife, culture, and natural history. 

They also visited the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in the heart of Gatlinburg, Tenn., as well as the Titanic Museum, Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine Distillery, Dollywood, and “Drama of Creation” at Natural Bridge, Va.  

Resident Ruth Ellerthorpe, who runs the Trips and Travel Committee on campus, organized the excursion.

“We have a loyal following,” says Ellerthorpe. “Residents have confidence in our planning and know that we’ll take care of all the details so they can relax and enjoy the trip.”