Q: I want to take a learning vacation, but the options are bewildering. Where do I start?
A: Find the trip that’s right for you by letting your passions guide you and then choosing the company to match. Here, five ideas to get you started.
Ecology and Wildlife
Brazil: An Ecologist’s Tour of the Pantanal,Cornell’s Adult University: Explore the world’s largest wetland on this expedition led by Cornell professors Cole Gilbert and Linda Rayor. Travelers track ocelots, jaguars, and endangered hyacinth macaws, and enjoy creature comforts at lodges such as Pousada Piuval, on a 17,000-acre ranch. 607/255-6260; 10 days from $6,430 per person.
Geology and Archaeology
Grand Canyon Trip,McCabe World Travel: Professor Keith Watts leads a tour of northern Arizona and southern Utah, with an overview of the Grand Canyon and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and trips to remote waterfalls and hidden Native American pictographs. 703/762-5049; eight days from $3,500 per person.
Papua New Guinea Through the Lens,Asia Transpacific Journeys: On a new itinerary to Papua New Guinea’s remote villages, visit sacred spirit houses on the Sepik River while getting hands-on shooting tips from Michele Westmorland, an award-winning photographer who has visited the country 27 times. 800/642-2742; 12 days from $10,695 per person.
A Mediterranean Summer,Swan Hellenic Discovery Cruising: Set sail from Portsmouth, England, to Rome on the 350-passenger Minerva—fresh from a $10 million overhaul. You’ll attend onboard lectures by noted professors, disembarking along the way at iconic sites such as the Alhambra palace, in Granada, Spain, and the Italian port town of Civitavecchia. 866/923-9182; 15 days from $2,499 per person.
Religion and Culture
Rejuvenating Himalayas,Learning Journeys: This trip through northern India focuses on the philosophies behind yoga and meditation with lectures and practice. Stops include Rishikesh and Haridwar, where wellness is central to spiritual life, as well as the Ananda resort in the Himalayas. 855/784-7687; 12 days from $3,550 per person.
Breaking news for surfing enthusiasts: The new website Wavecation.com—think of it as a HomeAway or VRBO tailored to the surfing community—lists hotels, private homes, and other rental options close to ride-worthy waves all over the globe. The most important criteria? The property has to be oceanfront (or front-row, in cases when a jungle or other natural barrier blocks coastal views) to the water and surf spots. “These places are the equivalent of ski-in, ski-out properties on a snow mountain,” says founder Matt Thomson, who has turned down a number of interested homeowners to maintain his super specific standards. The Austin-based resident is surf-obsessed himself. He started riding when he was 12 and has traveled the world—from the coasts of Nicaragua and Mexico to Hawaii and California—in search of the best breaks.
New hotel clubs and programs for kids and families seem to be popping up everywhere. Fairmont properties in Miami, Hawaii, Bermuda, Singapore and other cities around the world have introduced the R.U. Ready? series, motivating kids to make friends and keep in shape through outdoor relays and competitions and active indoor video and computer games.
Every city, it seems, has its own follow-up question, that line that comes after “How are you?” when meeting someone for the first time. In New York City, it’s “What do you do?”; in Austin, it’s “Who are you listening to?”; in D.C., it’s “Who are you voting for?”; and after only one day of visiting my sister in Charleston, that South Carolina city’s question rang out as loud and as clear as the hourly bells on Church Street: “Welcome to Charleston! Grab a seat! Now…what will you have to drink?”
The answer, alas, does not roll off the tongue as easily as the question, and as my sister quickly discovered, locals need to be prepared—with shaker in hand—for almost any answer.
The holiday travel season just got a little bit better…if you’re flying
Delta, that is. Starting on Tuesday, November 24th, over 250 of Delta’s planes will have free WiFi, via the Internet service provider Gogo,
sponsored by eBay.
In 2006, retired chemistry professor Dr. Dogan Sumengen and his wife opened up Hotel Ada in the heart of Sultanahmet, Istanbul’s old city. My fiancé Josh and I stayed there on our most recent trip. Even in June, the peak of the high season, room rates were very affordable (starting at $83 a night), and the hotel couldn’t have had a better location—a five minute walk to the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia, and a ten minute walk to Topkapi Palace.
Already a well-kept secret among Americans traveling to Paris for his off-the-tourist-path city excursions, tour guide and former caterer and pastry chef Richard Nahem has recently paired with chef Charlotte Puckette to design French cooking classes for English-speaking travelers. (Nahem is from New York, and although Puckette has been in Paris for over 20 years, she still calls Charleston, S.C., home.)