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Educational Travel and Pleasure

Pursue Passions at Your Own Pace

Kayaking in the South of France.
Learn how to kayak on the Mediterranean sea if you wish.

I made a decision a few years ago that has changed my reading life. I’ve read the New Yorker magazine my whole life — even when I was pre-reading, I cut out cartoons and the little line drawings on pages, and created my “own” New Yorker stories. Yet, this magazine, packed with excellent articles and arriving weekly, can be overwhelming. Who among us is caught up? I daresay, none (except me, now). My decision was this:

Only Read What You Want.

Yes. If you’re not interested in an article, flip to the next. Yes, each article is educational, interesting, and important. However, if it’s not interesting to ME at that moment, then I get stuck and never finish the issue. This concept? It was joyful, and freeing, and I tell you, I am now always caught up on my New Yorkers.

“So what?” I hear you asking. Maybe you don’t get the New Yorker. Maybe you do, but you’re a super fast reader (or someone with a long commute), and can enjoy every single article.

But then you’d miss the point…

Travel, museums, food, and yes, even magazines are both educational and filled with things that don’t necessarily interest us. And yet, we drag ourselves around the world, again and again, not having a great time, doing things we feel we must do, seeing things we feel we must see. So here’s the trick:

Only Do What You Want.

But what about the top ten things to see in a destination? What about the highest rated activities from tripadvisor or your friend’s sister’s co-worker’s cousin? What about packing a journey with as many educational opportunities as possible?

Seriously, that is a recipe for disaster. You’ll come home more tired than when you left. You’ll be so exhausted while trying to hit everything on the must-see list that your journey will become a chore, instead of a pleasure.

Once you reframe travel as exploring a destination the way you want, for things that interest you, all of a sudden each journey becomes a treasure chest of goodness, learning, and opportunity — and a pleasure.

Pursue passions at your own pace.

And travel becomes educational in the way YOU chose — because you’re interested!

“But how?” you’re wondering.

Take a look at a few examples…

Learn As Much As You Can Before You Go

If you’re a researcher, planner, or a renaissance learner (i.e., interested in many different things), you’ll want to learn as much as you can before you go. This doesn’t mean not leaving things open to serendipity; rather, gorging yourselves on knowledge about where you’ll be and what you might choose to explore while you’re there. Rick Steves said it best, in an article published in Transitions Abroad on making museum visits meaningful and fun:

“If the art’s not fun, you don’t know enough about it. I remember touring the National Museum of Archaeology in Athens as an obligation. My mom said it would be a crime to miss it. It was boring. I was convinced that the people who looked like they were enjoying it were actually just faking it — trying to look sophisticated. Two years later, after a class in ancient art history, that same museum was a fascinating trip into the world of Pericles and Socrates, all because of some background knowledge. Some pre-trip study makes the art more fun.”
Pre-travel preparation.
Some pre-trip study can make the experience more enjoyable. Having some sense of cultural context complements visiting the previously unknown.

Eating Well

This is a constant refrain with me — do your research! Learn about food and culture at your destination through food travel guides in both print and eBook formats (yes, they exist — and many are wonderful and can browsed before purchase online!). Download the urbanspoon app or the world around me app to get on the go recommendations for delicious meals — you don’t need to suffer through drab cuisine anymore in an unknown destination, because you’re informed! There are even Slow Food apps for the great food in Italy, and apps for other great regions and cities worldwide.

Follow the food — eat local food, at the source. When in France, eat French cuisine at local spots. Additionally, explore different ethnic cuisines while in a place — because these immigrants often combine the best of their heritage cooking with local ingredients and trends. In Scotland and only want to eat fish and chips? Go ahead — it’s local, practically a national dish, and then you can compare and award your own best fish and chips place with a gold star (or repeat visit).

Fish and chips at Dores Inn, Loch Ness, Scotland.
Enjoy an authentic local meal of fish and chips at the Dores Inn in Loch Ness, Scotland.

Get Off the Tourist Track

Ride a bike in Paris and you’ll discover more than just traffic patterns. Travel via barge in Europe. Trek the Sahara. Visit smaller towns, and hang out with locals. Ask at the library or search online during your travel planning for local events and festivals that will give you a glimpse into the culture. Slow down, explore, listen.

Pelicans on a quiet pier.
Check out the laid-back pelicans found on a quiet pier off-the-beaten path.

Take a Lesson

What do you love? Or want to learn? Try something new whilst on your travels! Maybe it is learning to surf in Cornwall, taking a photography class or tour, horseback riding in Spain, or cooking in Italy. By following your passion, and learning more about the subject, you’re not only expanding your mind and skills, but also deeply interacting with locals on a level that most will never experience.

Photography class while taking your trip.
You may opt to take a photography class while taking your trip.

Whether you are traveling solo, as a couple, with your family, or with an extended group, these suggestions apply (and not only to travel, but to real life!). Are you ready to ditch the musts, and do what you want? What will you do first?

Young boy running towards his passion.
Let the inner child draw you to your passions, especially when traveling!
Related Topics
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Travel: A Lifelong Journey of Learning Slow Immersion Travel: Learning by Experiencing Educating your 5 senses via travel
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