More and more, savvy travelers are looking to skip the passive vacations in favor of immersive, hands-on experiences.
An educational, enriching excursion can include everything from archeology to alpaca farming … and chances are, whatever your interest, there’s an educational vacation for you.
Want to become part of that group? Opportunities abound.
To start, there are career vacations. These are the trips that give you a chance to try out other jobs in case you decide to pack up your desk and start over in a distant locale.
VocationVacations offers dozens of opportunities to try new careers, including dude ranching in Washington State, learning from a wine sommelier in Colorado and alpaca farming in New York State. Try your hand at whatever it is you always wanted to do, and who knows? You might get hooked.
Other options allow you to try your hand at running a bed and breakfast, or even a lighthouse. Elizabeth Pointe Lodge on Amelia Island in Florida offers a three-day program that teaches how to run a bed and breakfast, and the Wedgwood Inn in New Hope, Pennsylvania, has five- and 10-day programs available. The Rose Island Lighthousein Newport, Rhode Island, features a weeklong program that trains guests in maintaining a lighthouse, and New Dungeness Lighthouse in the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge in Washington State lets weekly guests learn the ins and outs of running a lighthouse. There’s also plenty of time for exploring when the work is done.
If playing games sounds like more fun than work, try a sports fantasy camp for adults. The San Francisco Giants offer a six-day baseball camp, capped with a game of Pros versus Campers. Hockey buffs can try the Wayne Gretzky Fantasy Camp, featuring four days of practice and games.
If football suits you, the Pittsburgh Steelers offer a Men’s Fantasy Camp in the summer, complete with on-field practices and an evening banquet. For the golfers in the crowd, there are the Jim Dent & Rick Bradshaw Schools of Golf, located in Florida, where golfers can train and play with the pros.
Don’t like sports at all? Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp might be for you. It’s offered in New York City, Hollywood and London, and it’s the musical experience of a lifetime. Legends like Roger Daltrey and Ted Nugent teach aspiring musicians, and participants have a chance to write original songs and rehearse in a professional studio. Of course, camp ends with a Battle of the Bands, making the celebrity fantasy complete.
For some, history is more enjoyable than fantasy, so archaeology expeditions are available. Earthwatch Institute allows guests to excavate archaeological sites around the world, and the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) leads luxury tours through international historical sites. Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in southwestern Colorado offers excavation opportunities while preserving the history and heritage of the Pueblo Indians. Can’t decide on a destination? The Biblical Archaeological Society has a database of expeditions where you can search out your dream dig.
If you’re the crafty sort, you can try your hand at boat-making at the Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory. Two-week courses teach boat-making techniques, and a more intensive course teaches how to make a Chesapeake Light kayak from scratch. For those who prefer something more delicate, Firehouse Glass in Vancouver, Washington, holds private lessons in glass-blowing and making glass beads, and the GlassWorks and Printmaking Studio in New Orleans offers classes in torch working, glass sculpting and casting. Japanese pottery aficionados can get their fix at Tsukamoto in Mashiko, Japan, where guests can enjoy hands-on workshops in pottery making.
For the truly wild and artistic at heart, the ancient art of Maori bone carving can be learned from the Nelson Bone Carver(Stephen Gilberg) in New Zealand, where you’ll take a slab of freshly-cleaned bone and carve, sand and polish it.
If you’d rather work with live animals, try one of many farm destinations, such as the Bar 717 Ranch in California (where you feed the animals and milk the cows), Harley Farms in California (a goat-cheese-making experience, complete with goats), and Shelburne Farms in Vermont (featuring sheep shearing season in the spring).
Finally, for those who don’t mind a little buzz in their vacation, The Beekind Honey Shoppe and Apiary in Sonoma County, California, brings guests closer to bees while teaching how to extract honey; further east, Tillers’ Training Center in Scotts, Michigan, offers a variety of agricultural classes, including beekeeping.
This list only scratches the surface of all the educational trip options available worldwide.
For still more great learning-while-traveling opportunities, check out The Complete Travel Detective Bible, in stores now!
By Erica Adams for PeterGreenberg.com.