Tuesday, March 12

TRAVEL TUESDAY: 8 Worthwhile 'Experience Vacations' To Put On Your List

Looking for something besides yet another trip to the beach for your next vacation? From cooking lessons in the hills of Tuscany to snorkeling the waters off the coast of Belize, these eight trips should please just about everyone.

The phrase "adventure travel" has a bit of an image problem. For many, it conjures up images of summiting mountains, diving into underwater caverns, and, well frankly, aching muscles. But stop for a moment and asked yourself what kinds of adventures belong on everyone's travel list. Yes, you can go underwater, safely snorkeling among the coral reefs of Belize. I happen to think it's mighty adventurous to sign up for cooking lessons in the land that practically invented eating....Tuscany. Or mastering the tango in Buenos Aires. Of course, if you insist on some good old-fashioned adrenaline pumping action, you do a bit of hang gliding in Los Angeles with local experts. All eight of these can't-miss adventures have one thing in common.....you'll arrive back home with a heckuva story to tell and wonderful memories that last a lifetime. So read on dear friends.......

Snorkeling in Belize

With knockout beaches on Ambergris Caye, Caye Kaulker, and Placenia, plus inland jungles, 600 species of birds, think toucans and motmots, and Mayan ruins, Belize is paradise for landlubbers and not so far away. But nothing beats exploring the blue sea and getting up-close-and-personal with the underwater residents on a snorkeling adventure. A visit to the five-square-mile Hol Chan Marine Reserve with a good outfitter will include all snorkeling gear and the chance to hobnob with colorful coral, angelfish, grunts, snappers, rays, nurse sharks, it's okay, they're harmless, and maybe even a manatee from June to September. The barrier reef that runs off the shore of Belize is the second largest in the world, next to the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. Unspoiled, less crowded and cheaper....how can you go wrong? IT IS THE FINAL FRONTIER! 
How To Get Started: Raggamuffin Tours offers day trips to Hol Chan Marine Reserve and other packages, including overnights on a sailboat.....I'm packing my bags!

River Cruise in Europe

River cruises are routinely touted as the "next big thing"......and there's a reason for that. While Europe's long, winding, history-drenched rivers aren't exactly a secret, it's true that cruise lines are adding more river cruises each year. And cruising in a small, intimate ship on an iconic European river like the Danube, the Seine, or the Rhine means you're making frequent stops at charming little towns and even big cities like Paris, whose Port de Grenelle dock is with-in walking distance from the Eiffel Tower. Add gourmet meals, local wines, and guided tours and you've got a dream trip in the making. The river cruising season runs from March to September, with the high season being in May, June, and July, which is more expensive but worth it!
How To Get Started: Viking River Cruises offers sails on the Rhine, the Seine, the Danube, and the Rhône, as well as the Volga.

Safari In Kenya

Think a close encounter with lions, elephants, zebra, rhinos, and hippos is out of your reach? Think again. Sure, they don't come cheap, but it's possible to have a full safari experience, including airfare, lodging, meals, and game-viewing drives, all for under $2,500. A quality tour will give you time to spot animals in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Lake Naivasha, and Kigio Wildlife Camp, and guarantee window seats on drives through preserves with an experienced English-speaking guide. This would definitely be a WOW experience.
How To Get Started: Gate 1 Travel offers a number of package tours to Kenya from all major U.S. airports.

Hang Gliding in Los Angeles

I know, at first glance it's likely that you're not too keen on jumping off a cliff and letting a sail on an aluminum frame help you waft safely back to earth. But I'm here to tell you it's a lot easier, and infinitely more fun, than you might think. In fact, of all the photo-worthy stunts attempted on vacation, hang gliding with the help of a qualified tandem partner is completely safe. While you may have heard that gliding over Rio is the ultimate glide....and it ain't bad, there are opportunities to glide right here in America.  Los Angeles, with its mid-size mountain ranges and stretches of beach, makes a terrific backdrop for a float. Learn to hang glide on the sand, and when you're ready to take the plunge, sign up for a tandem ride, in which you share the glider with a licensed pilot. Deep breath, close eyes and JUMP!
How To Get Started: Windsports, located in Sylmar, CA, offers beginners' training on the beach, tandem glides from mountains, and, if you're really bitten by the hang gliding bug, pilot training.

Cooking Classes in Tuscany

Anyone who has tucked into a plate of fresh pasta or seafood.....or, for that matter, just about any dish in Tuscany knows that 'ohmygosh' moment when you wonder, how on earth do they do this? It's time to take the leap: Sign up for a cooking class with an expert in Tuscan cuisine.....in the Tuscan countryside! It may not sound quite as adventurous as hang gliding or snorkeling, but consider this: You're pushing the envelope of your abilities and that plate of hand-made pasta you put in front of your guests at the next dinner party may impress them more than any adventure travel story ever could. There are a number of opportunities to immerse yourself in Italian cuisine both in Florence and in outlying areas, where you find yourself learning to craft bruschetta, gnocchi, and even tiramisu while surrounded by olive trees, vineyards, and rolling farmland. Don't stop with Italy, taking classes in France, Greece or China would also be very rewarding. THIS EXPERIENCE IS FOR ME!!!
How To Get Started: Toscana Mia offers hands-on culinary training in a relaxed, friendly environment in either Florence or the Chianti countryside.

Tango Lessons in Buenos Aires

Argentina's cultural life may be defined by dance more than that of any other country. Visit a tango salon, or milonga, and you'll see extraordinary demonstrations of this seductive, mysterious dance, whose rapid turns and inherent drama were inspired by Argentine citizens of old. But aside from the flamboyant styles of tango on display, there is also the opportunity for you, as a visitor, to learn a more subdued, and manageable, version of the dance. If you've ever thought about it: Arrive at a milonga early in the evening and you can usually participate in an affordable group lesson. Experienced dancers won't show up till midnight. If you're up for it, dress the part: That means dress shoes, suits, and dresses. Ready for even more adventure? Once you've mastered the basic moves, go out with your sweetie and hit the dance floor! 
How To Get Started: Academia Nacional de Tango offers evening lessons.

Volunteer Vacations

Most experienced travelers are eager to find ways to make their world a better place, and there's no better way to indulge your Peace Corps fantasies, without the long-term commitment, than by signing up for a volunteer vacation or a mission trip. Book a trip with an experienced tour operator or missions department and make a difference by working with underprivileged children, teaching, healthcare or participating in a construction project. Examples of ongoing volunteer vacation opportunities include teaching arts and crafts to children in orphanages in India and assisting with food and water safety and building or renovating infrastructure on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Mission work can take you anywhere in the world, working on a wide range of projects.
How To Get Started: GVI is a tour operator specializing in volunteer opportunities. It offers packages that can include working with children, construction projects, and wildlife conservation. If you are interested in mission work, check with your local church. Most churches have mission opportunities through-out the year. Investing in the life of others IS the greatest gift you can give yourself. 

Genealogy Travel

There's never been a better time in human history to find a 'route to your roots'. Heritage travel is big business, with Ireland leading the way with more than 120,000 overseas visitors per year. One in nine Americans have some Irish heritage. Aer Lingus offers a "Discover Your Roots" tour that includes a night in Dublin, an hour-long consultation with an Irish genealogy specialist, and vouchers for car rentals to get you to your hometown. Similarly, African Americans have explored West Africa with the help of Palace Travel's Discover Senegal package; Chinese Americans have booked customized trips through Explore China Tours, and Italian Americans turn to the Pallante Center for Italian Research for genealogical research. Surely, results will vary, but for some people a walk back into their family history is the greatest adventure they could take.
How To Get Started: Read "Find Your Roots in Ireland" for tips on tracing your family's history from the Emerald Isle to tips for exploring other ethnic backgrounds as well.

I hope you will consider an 'Experience Vacation'. They can truly be unique and not only change your world but the world of so many others. Think on it...
....you'll be glad ya did!


1 comment:

  1. Hmmm, checking out Raggamuffin Tours and Viking.
    Thanks for the ideas.

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