When Barry Adler of San Francisco visited Nice, France, on an Elderhostel tour, he strolled through the Marc Chagall museum with the curator, a friend of the artist. "It was a lot different from getting earphones and a tape recording," Adler says. His wife, Evelyn, had a similar experience on a trip to Israel. She participated in an archaeological dig and unearthed a 5,000-year-old artifact. The Adlers are among the millions who are discovering the rewards of what some call educational travel. You might call them supertrips.
From studying the impressionists in France to digging up artifacts in Egypt, the options for learning vacations are myriad. If you have an interest, there's probably a tour company offering a guided group trip to match it. Here are a few of them.
ELDERHOSTEL The granddaddy of educational travel organizes trips for adults age 55 and over. Upcoming: Debate foreign policy with diplomats in Washington, D.C. (March 12–17), or spot eagles and avocets in Spain's Andalusia region (April 29–May 13). (877) 426-8056, www.elderhostel.org.
CLASSICAL PURSUITS It's the ultimate book-group: discussing Dante in Florence or Joyce in Dublin. On these tours, you delve into great works in the appropriate settings. Upcoming: Head to the Yucatán Peninsula (January 15–22) to study works by Octavio Paz, or travel to London to chat about Dickens's Bleak House (April 1–8). (877) 633-2555, www.classicalpursuits.com.
SMITHSONIAN JOURNEYS Experts from the Smithsonian Institution bring alive exotic locations. Upcoming: Critique a performance by the Kirov Ballet Company with a dance critic in St. Petersburg (March 19–27) or make fresh egg pasta with a famed chef in Tuscany (September 13–21). Book through the AAA Travel Agency by visiting aaa.com.
GLOBAL EXCHANGE After you've labored alongside Nicaraguan coffee workers on a tour with this human rights organization, you'll have a better sense of the challenges faced by people around the world. Upcoming: Learn about China's sustainable development efforts (April 10–22) or find out how Costa Rica is struggling to promote tourism while preserving the environment (May 1–10). (800) 497-1994, www.globalexchange.org.
Illustration by William Duke
This article was first published in November 2005. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.