Summertime is the perfect time to think about getting out of Dodge. And if you are like most seniors, you are always on the lookout for a different type of travel. With all the uncertainty in the world today — and the annoying airline complications — few people are willing to sacrifice precious time or hard-earned cash unless there are unique experiences and opportunities waiting for them at their destination.
"Learning vacations" have become a hot travel trend these days because they offer an informal brand of higher education married to a variety of appealing locales. There are several reliable organizations that do all the hard work for you prior to your departure. Essentially, all you have to do is decide where you want to go, what you'd like to learn and which credit card you want to use to pay for the trip. Here is a brief roundup of available travel options, both near and far.
—Road Scholar (not to be confused with Rhodes scholarships) is considered to be the leader in not-for-profit educational travel. It has been around since 1975, including over 6,000 tours, and it offers travel in all 50 states as well as 150 countries.
—Shaw Guides. This service offers online access to a continually updated resources for learning vacations. From artists' and writers' residences, to golf and tennis camps, to language and wine courses, this is a great way to find out what is available.
—Cornell's Adult University. Whether you want to study during a four-week program on the Ivy League campus or have an international adventure under the guidance of enthusiastic and knowledgeable Cornell faculty members, this program is well worth researching.
—ElderTreks. Since 1987, many consider this to have been the first adventure travel program specifically designed for people over the age of 50. There are hundreds of trip options available that last between two and five weeks and cost between $4,000 and $12,000.
—Smithsonian Journeys. With over 150 destinations and trips to all seven continents, these journeys include access to expert specialists in fields like archeology, science and history. The flexible options include single travel or family excursions, and they range from one to three weeks in duration.
—Semester at Sea: Lifelong Learning Program. Here's an opportunity to live on a large ship traveling from port to port around the world. You can join undergraduate students in their classes, teach a seminar in your field of expertise or serve as a mentor to a younger person onboard. These programs last 15 weeks and a double room costs about $40,000. The ships stop at 11 countries.
—National Geographic Photography Trips. If you'd like to travel to exotic locales and take photos alongside some of the best photographers on the planet, this program is for you. Trips range from one to three weeks and can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $20,000 or more.
Whatever you plan to do with your travel time, I hope it will be both enjoyable and enlightening. Plus, there's great appeal (for me, at least) in exploring new places and learning new things with peers of a similar age. Bon voyage!
Marilyn Murray Willison has had a varied career as a six-time nonfiction author, columnist, motivational speaker and journalist in both the U.K. and the U.S. She is the author of The Self-Empowered Woman blog and the award-winning memoir "One Woman, Four Decades, Eight Wishes." She can be reached at www.marilynwillison.com. To find out more about Marilyn and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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