Going on a vacation to learn a skill you have long wanted to pick up sounds like an ideal getaway, but proceed with caution, says John Spence, the president of Scott Dunn USA, a travel company in Solana Beach, California, that specialises in customised tours. “If you don’t pick the right skill for you, or go in with unrealistic expectations, your precious time off won’t be enjoyable,” he says. Here, he shares his advice on planning a learning vacation that you won’t regret taking:
Follow your passion
The options for what you can learn on your vacation are limitless, and include cooking, photography, art history, farming or a sport such as diving or horseback riding. To get the most out of the trip, Spence advises choosing something you’re passionate about; also, if you’re travelling with others, don’t be unduly influenced by their interests. “I’ve had instances with clients where friends piggyback on each other’s learning trips and don’t have the best time because they’re not particularly keen on that skill,” he says.
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A little, or a lot?
With whatever skill you intend to learn, figure out whether you want an immersion or only to occupy a portion of your trip. It’s possible to learn cooking basics, for example, by taking a week-long course at Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork, Ireland. Another option is to enroll in several half-day classes at the school and have more free time to explore the destination itself. “Spending your entire break devoted to learning something new can be overwhelming, so make sure that it’s what you really want,” Spence says.
Consider your budget
No matter the skill, you can learn it by taking a vacation in a wide range of price ranges, and having a clear idea of your budget will help you home in on the right trip. If you want to learn scuba diving, for example, heading to the Maldives will cost several thousand dollars per person, while a scuba diving trip to the Florida Keys is a more wallet-friendly proposition.
Don’t forget the children
Learning vacations can be great family trips, too, provided that they are fun, not overly educational. “Yes, you want your kids to learn, but you don’t want them to be bored by overloading them with too much information,” Spence says. His favourite child-friendly options include the Junior Ranger program at Tswalu Kalahari Reserve in South Africa, where children learn wildlife tracking, and a class at the Gladiatorial School Rome, where families can learn about gladiatorial combat.