Updated on March 22nd, 2023
Have you made your new year’s resolutions yet? How about adding self-development to your list? Whether you are limited to staying local or keen to start to travel further afield, there is no reason to limit your imagination on how you can develop yourself in the process. It is time to plan & to dream. Here is all the inspiration for the recharged new year you need…your ultimate guide to learning vacations for adults!”
Anywhere. The world is your oyster! Just decide where you want to go…or what you want to learn & take it from there.
Since starting to travel solo again in my mid-40’s I have been constantly searching for new challenges, embracing opportunities to develop & immerse myself in a different culture. As a result, I have discovered the joy of educational travel. Learning vacations are the perfect way to combine a passion or curiosity with understanding the history or culture of a place you are visiting. They are also the ideal choice for anyone who finds themselves solo, with a desire for travel, self-development & a chance to meet like-minded people along the way.
Travel is a privilege & not a right. If 2020 taught us anything, it was that! As we emerge back into a different world, there is a desire to make our travel experiences more meaningful. To take things slowly & immerse ourselves in the opportunities exploring affords us. We may be limited to staying more local initially but as the year progresses, the world will be opening up again.
Now is the time to let your imagination fly & feel inspired to make a fresh start in 2021. To learn a new language. To develop the culinary skills you nurtured during lockdown. Or maybe, to follow that dream you have always had to become an astronaut!”
If you are looking to get your fix of travel when you can’t leave home, check out my post about a Virtual Fortune Teller Experience – How to travel to Bolivia without leaving home!
What is a Learning Vacation?
Educational travel combines travelling to somewhere new, either overseas or domestically in order to take classes in something that interests you. It could involve anything from a day course to a month or more. Learning vacations for adults are the perfect way to delve deeper into the sights, sounds, tastes & culture of a destination. To immerse yourself in the experience & come out with a new skill or insight. It is having the opportunity of expert lectures, hands-on demonstrations, developing together & practising your newfound talents.
How do you organise a Learning Vacation?
Here I have compiled a list of over 30 inspirational ideas to start getting your creative juices flowing. To help guide you on where to start, here are a few questions to consider:
- What interests you? Are you keen to learn a language? Maybe develop a new skill or work intensively on something you enjoy? Are you creative? A keen cook or artist? Do you want to know more about history? Get active? Once you start to open up to these questions, you realise how many opportunities are out there for you.
- Where would you like to go? Or alternatively, what do you want to learn & where do they specialise in it?
- How long do you have? Obviously, the more you want to learn, the longer it will take & the more it will cost. If you are unsure whether you want to invest then why not opt for a 1 or 2-day taster course close to home first? Different skills will require different time commitments. For example, learning a language is hard to progress far in any less than 2 weeks. But also, if you are looking to develop into an expert in any field, that will take time too.
- Where do I find opportunities? If there is not enough for you here, then search out websites dedicated to your interest & dig into those a little. In addition, Facebook has groups for pretty much everything or everywhere you may be interested in. Join the forum & start a conversation. I guarantee you will have more suggestions & personal recommendations than you can handle.
Many of these places may be currently closed or have limited courses running until later in the year. But don’t let that stop you getting on the mailing list so you are the first to know when things start up again. And what harm is there in showing your interest to let them know their services are wanted?”
Once you have some answers to those questions…here are a few ideas which may whet your appetite:
Your Ultimate Guide to Learning Vacations for Adults – Over 30 Inspirational Ideas
Communication is key anywhere you travel & the perfect way to immerse yourself in the culture is to head to language school. Many offer the chance to live with a family which can be invaluable in turbocharging your skills & vocabulary. I have so far spent 2 weeks in Cuba & one in the Dominican Republic to advance my Spanish skills with Apple Languages. I combined my lessons with dance classes, but they also offer cookery, wine, water sports, & skiing combinations too. There are also options for special over 50’s classes.
Familiarising yourself with the local cuisine is a perfect first step to understanding more about the culture. Taking a cookery course in any new country is a great way to start. For example, where better to learn to make pasta than in Italy? Or sushi than Japan?
Have you or a member of your family started following a stricter diet? Maybe going gluten-free or vegan? If so, why not consider taking a course to enhance your knowledge & variety in your culinary creations. The Avenue Cookery School in London offers these among a wealth of other courses for budding gastronomes.
I love a tasting tour whenever I visit a wine-producing region. However, what about taking the experience deeper? On courses between 2 & 12 weeks in Buenos Aires, you can learn to become an expert. You also get the chance to travel to their famous wine-producing region of Mendoza (& sample the delicious Malbec).
I loved Scotland, although I’m not the biggest fan of whiskey. If you are, then did you know you can actually take a course to gain a “Certificate of Expertise” in whiskey in Edinburgh?
If, like me, you love a cocktail, then why not consider joining a learning vacation with the European Bartending School? They have locations from London to Rome or Cape Town to Sydney.
If you are looking for a more active learning holiday, then what better option than heading to the mountains & taking to your skis. When I found myself solo again, skiing with friends was my first trip. I hadn’t strapped on my skis for over 20 years but the exhilaration of finding my ski legs again was exactly what I needed. I went to Whistler in Canada where they offer small group classes for full-day lessons. For me, it was perfect.
I have been on a number of yoga retreats over the last few years, mainly in Cuba. Taking classes on any trip is a brilliant antidote to hours spent on flights or buses. However, have you ever thought about training to teach? And where better than Ubud in Bali or Himalaya Yoga Valley who offer courses in Goa, India or Cork in Ireland.
Over the last few years, yoga retreats have been a key place where I have made friends on my travels and we have gone on to have adventures together. To read all about it check out my blog post HERE.
If you are a keen runner then maybe the idea of improving your technique appeals to you. Adventures in Movement offer the chance to run & hike a marathon distance along the forest & coastal trails of the Costa Brava in Spain. Along the way, you receive coaching on Chi running & ways to improve your breathing technique.
How about shaking your tail feather with some dance tuition? While in language school, I learned to salsa in Cuba & loved it (although I am not in any way gifted ;). But how about trying your hand at the passionate & playful Tango in Argentina?
11. Horse riding
I have been on a number of horse-riding tours, but I am definitely not a natural in the saddle. The horses were very docile & knew exactly where they needed to go. However, I do have a desire to learn a bit of horsemanship. There are numerous places around the world where you can learn with Book Horseriding Holidays.
12. Gaucho Camp
If you like the idea of saddling up but want to really get away from it all, then how about a ride through the mountains & valleys of Patagonia? Carol Jones organises trips from 2 – 10 days, riding by day & camping at night for that real gaucho experience.
Learning to sail has been a long & at times painful process for me. Even after taking part in a regatta in the US Virgin Islands, it is still an elusive journey for me to become a competent sailor. If you would like to board a vessel & sail off into the sunset, Rubicon 3 are currently offering trips around the UK. Later in the year, they head to Europe, followed by Caribbean destinations again by 2022.
14. Water sports
If water sports are something you’re keen on, then Wild Wind Adventures offers sailing tuition in combination with pretty much any water-based activity you can imagine from the Greek Island of Lefkas.
I tried kitesurfing once in Turks & Caicos but in only 2 hours it was impossible to progress to introducing the board. To make the most of the opportunity, it would be great to take a course. I attended a fitness retreat at the Extreme Hotel in the Dominican Republic where they also teach kitesurfing & circus skills. I also tried my hand at trapeze!
Have you ever tried surfing? I once received a lesson as a gift which I am sure was more about my family’s entertainment than enhancing my skill set! It was exhausting but exhilarating. Just head to any surfing destination & find the surf school. There’s even one in Ireland if you’re not put off by the cold!
17. Fly fishing
At an altogether different pace, have you ever been interested at trying your hand at fly fishing? Check out the courses at the centre of excellence at The Arundell in Devon, UK.
18. Scuba diving
Anywhere that has a reef or aquatic life will offer scuba diving instruction. I have taken my PADI open water certificate twice, both times on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The first was in my twenties, the second, 20 years later! I had to take an extra medical as I was over 45, was twice the age of my fellow students but I really enjoyed it! Check out PADI to make sure wherever you learn is safe & certified before enjoying your marine exploration.
Have you ever thought about freediving? Basically, controlling your breath to enable you to dive deep without the tank? I have a friend who is an excellent instructor in Turks & Caicos.
20. Open water swimming
If you are a passionate swimmer & fancy taking to the open water, Swimtrek offers courses & adventures around the world. In addition, Swim the Lakes is based in the beautiful Lake District, UK for those keen to brave the cold.
Travel & photography go hand in hand, especially now that Instagram has transformed our attitude to holiday snaps. Not in the Guide Books offers trips which allow you to fine-tune your skills while exploring Costa Rica, Australia, Scotland & Greece among many other destinations.
If you love music, learning as part of a small group can be a truly uplifting experience. HF Holidays offers breaks which allow you to showcase your talents & grow together with like-minded individuals.
The Song House in Ireland has a couple of retreats each year for those wanting to stretch their vocal cords. You live & cook with your small group as you learn to harmonise on some traditional Gaelic & world songs along the way.
Whatever your crafting passions, you will find an opportunity to develop your skills. For example, Craft Courses in the UK offer everything from calligraphy to blacksmithing. For a really unique travel experience then why not try your hand at making authentic glass beads in Venice?
Also in Italy, you may prefer to develop your pottery skills. In Florence, you can learn everything from clay modelling to the wheel, to glazing & everything in between.
Anywhere which is a magnet for artists will offer the chance of taking a learning vacation course. For example, in Virginia, USA, you can take lessons independent of your level & with any medium you wish, to further develop your skills.
There are numerous writing retreats across the world for anyone with a story. For example, to write your memoir, where better than Costa Rica to tune your craft? Or how about Guatemala to join other women & combine it with yoga?
IFA have a number of courses to better understand the fashion industry, design or even organising fashion events. They have centres in both Paris & Istanbul.
If you want to delve deeper into the history of a destination, then look to Smithsonian Journeys. For example, they have tours that explore the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama & the D-Day landings in England & France.
National Geographic Expeditions take the idea of the tour one step further. With you on the journey are experts, photographers, scientists & writers who share their experience & allow you to learn along the way.
31. Whatever you like…
There is a huge range of options to explore for learning vacations with Road Scholar. Just input your area of interest, ideal destination & see what comes up!
If you are serious about advancing your education & would like to do it overseas, then check out Keystone Academic Courses. They offer courses for all levels of expertise in numerous locations around the world.
33. And if this planet is not enough for you…
My final offering is for those who want to go beyond discovering our little world. If you have always held a fascination for becoming an astronaut, then why not try Space Camp for Adults?
The world will start opening up again & now is the time to turn those long-held dreams into a reality. I hope that my list of learning vacations for adults has given you the inspiration you need to start planning now & would love to hear what you choose.
Interested to read more?
You can also Subscribe Here to get regular updates & special offers from Sue Where? Why? What? along with a copy of my 201 Inspirational Travel Bucket List Ideas for FREE! I hope you chose to join me on the journey.
This post may contain affiliate links. By using these, Sue Where Why What may receive a small commission. You will not pay any extra charges for this. My opinions, reviews and recommendations remain my own. For more information see my disclosure.
Self development is a great goal for any year. I do like the idea of planning a vacation around a specific learning goal. Language and food are the ones that come top of mind for me. We love to do wine tastings and pairings when we travel. Great to see the variation in different regions around the world. I loved your blog post about learning to salsa in Cuba. We have certainly improved our scuba diving skills as we travelled around the world.
Thank you, Linda, & I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Language, wine & food will always be high on my list too! Sue x
Hi Sue, interesting article! I actually think every trip is a learning experience. A friend of mine works at your #30, hoping to join her on a trip to Antarctica this or next year, fingers crossed. I love wine tasting too, looking for a course to join to learn how to describe the taste better. Best regards, Elisa
Thank you, Elisa, & really pleased you enjoyed the post. It sounds like your friend is the perfect person to visit Antarctica with. You can never taste too much wine either as far as I’m concerned 😉 Sue x
Great article Sue. I did my skipper training in greece and yoga teacher training in India. It is such an amazing experience to learn a new skill when travelling. I think when you are in a location thats new and exciting it’s easier to immerse yourself and stay focussed compared to when at home.
Thank you, Nicole, & I couldn’t agree more! I need to get back on a boat soon & practise before I can take my Day skipper course but Greece sound like the perfect location for it! Sue x
Love this blog post! We should all be working on self-development every day of our lives whether we are traveling or at home. There are so many online courses whether to learn a language or learn more about SEO. But yes, learning vacations are a great idea! I would love to go on a painting / art improvement vacation stopping here and there and indulging on canvas at scenic spots. Language and culinary skills improvement courses are quite popular. 🙂
Thank you, Jan! Glad you enjoyed it & an art tour/vacation sounds perfect! Sue x
I had planned to take a Spanish class in Mexico a few years ago, but I found that there were so many courses that I couldn’t decide on which one to take. So I didn’t follow through. Hopefully, one day I’ll try again. I love taking cooking classes, but I realize that I never cook any of the dishes again once I return home. Still they have always been fun and informative experiences.
There is so much I could still learn. Nevertheless, I’m doing a language class every two years for two weeks since we have a law that entitles us to this kind of extra-vacation. I’m always very much looking forward to those extra-breaks – and I feel like a teenager all over again…with a guest mother and all that jazz.
Other than that, each of my trips is a learning vacation since I’m a terrible culture vulture – I always have long lists of museums and galleries to visit. And you’d be amazed how much history etc. you can learn from art.
Yes, traveling as such is my learning vacation 🙂
Thank you, Renata, & that’s a really good way of looking at it. Travelling itself is always an education in itself! Sue x
You are such an inspiration, Sue and at least a few of these self development vacations are worth adding to one of my adventure must do’s! I would be happy to achieve just a few of the things you have done. Keep it up!
Thank you Alma for your lovely words. I hope you get to explore those ‘must-do’s’ sometime too! Sue x
This is a great concept. I’d be interested in many of these, especially history, writing and photography.
Thank you, Sara, & they all sound great – photography & writing are definitely on my lost too. Sue x
Love all of these ideas! You did some great research. The longer we have traveled the more we look for these experiences and search for slow and meaningful ideas. I take cooking classes as often as I can and have done one yoga retreat for ten days. I also did a women’s kayak trip – so memorable. I’m thinking about a writing retreat in the future and am saving this post for all these great ideas.
Thank you, Laureen, & you have certainly inspired me to look for cookery courses more when I’m away. It’s such a great way to learn about the culture…& of course, make & eat amazing food. I also remember reading about your kayak trip which sounded fantastic. I’m really glad you found some more inspiration here. Sue x
What a fantastic post! I love this roundup! I want this to pop up on my screen every week. Such a helpful way to choose travel destinations. This is amazing.
Thank you, Heather! I hope I have inspired you a little to hunt a few of these down. Sue x
I love going on cooking classes when I visit a foreign country. It really helps you to understand the local ingredients which makes it more enjoyable to explore the local markets so you know what you’re looking at. Most of the classes I’ve done have included a trip around the market to buy the ingredients, which is an enjoyable part of the process…. basically anything to do with food, and I’m good!
Thank you Jay & I agree. When we start travelling again, I’m going to make a pact with myself to do this more. I don’t think you can beat a tour around the market either, the perfect way to see a nation going about its business. Sue x
Sue, this is such a great list! I’ve done some of these things–like cooking classes and wine tasting–but there are many more that I need to try. I’m especially interested in the European Bar Tending School, how fun! Travel really can be improved while learning something new at the same time.
Thank you, Wendy, I love the idea of the Bar Tending school too! Glad you found the list useful. Sue x
Great article Sue! I enjoy reading your articles. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you, Bozena! Sue x