September 25, 2023   8:54pm

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Our travel adviser Susan is focused on even more interesting, fun and rewarding travel … she’s adding ingredients like learning, sharing and giving back. Click-in, because this and the next two ‘Travel” posts are going to give you options for a different kind of experience …

Travel is about getting “new information” about the world around us – and of course, having fun, while we’re at it. And, one of the best things about travel is that we get to share experiences with people from other places and cultures. To “up the ante” there are options for travel that focus on learning experiences, and, sometime even better, also allow us to give back — volunteering to help others while we’re away from home. The good news is that there are many experiences to be had in the U.S. as well as abroad.

The following ideas will get you thinking. There are many great options out there, so this is more of a “consciousness-raising” list than a comprehensive guide. And, of course, the Internet is a great way to search for other options. In this and the next two posts, three broad categories are covered: 1) Educational Tours; 2) Focused Learning Experiences and 3) Volunteer Opportunities.

This post starts us off with:


Smithsonian Journeys: A wide range of trips for singles or families are offered in the U.S, Canada, Latin and South America, Europe and even further afield to places like Tahiti and West Africa. If you are yearning to explore the Amazon River, historic Normandy, Russian waterways and much more – all with specialized tour guides – your dream trip may be waiting. Closer to home are tours on Palm Springs architecture, Dallas architecture, and trips along the Hudson and railroad trips in the Rockies.

National Geographic Expeditions: A wide range of trips to choose from, organized by trip type — adventure, photography, small ships, family, etc. — all under the leadership of expert guides. Experience Bhutan, the Baltic, the British Isles; and closer to home, Costa Rica or Baja. NOTE: there is some overlap between tours offered here and by Smithsonian Journeys, but each offers some that are different.

Expeditions: The web-site for Lindblad Expeditions – a subset of National Geographic specifically offers small ship, educational focused trips worldwide from Alaska to Antarctica with many choices in between. NOTE: There may be some overlap with tours listed on the National Geographic site, but it doesn’t hurt to check out both.

Educational Odysseys: Offers ” Unique Cultural Travel Programs for the Discerning Traveler” — with worldwide trips aimed at exposure to culturally diverse experiences. All led by experts, trips include those aimed at the over-50 crowd who wish to travel and learn, active travel for adventurers of all ages and family travel. Hosting institutions include universities and foundations, providing local experts and lecturers.

Asia Transpacific Journeys: Offers small group trips to Asia, which focus on cultural interaction. Visit their site and read (under “About Us”) their “Travel Ethic — Conscious Travel Through Stewardship and Volunteerism” — it’s quite impressive. They created the Asia Transpacific Foundation, a non-profit that has funded an orphanage in Thailand, built classrooms at refugee camps and much more. (NOTE: I have taken several independent trips with them in the past – all great.)

Other Tour Operators: There are other tour operators who offer trips with specialized guides as escorts. These include Abercrombie & Kent whose guides can take you down the Yangtze or Nile or on game trips to Africa and practically everywhere in between. Cox and Kings is another option, offering “Cultural and Wildlife Adventures.”

University Tour Programs: Practically every university offers tours open to alumni and anyone else, all with an educational focus, led by professors and/or other specialists in the field. An example are the Stanford Travel/Study programs offered, with worldwide trips ranging from active adventures to those which are family focused. Other option is Columbia University’s Alumni Travel Study Program. Search tip for other school programs: In Google, enter the university of your choice with the words “Alumni Travel” or “Travel/Study Programs” and see what shows up. Most programs are offered by the respective Alumni Associations.

Travelearn: Offers organized lectures as part of each trip. The site lists sample itineraries with a description of the lectures included. Example, for a trip to Turkey, there is a lecture on “Ottoman History” on Day Three, one on “Women in Turkish History and Culture” on Day Four, etc. Escorts include professors from the U.S. and local specialists and educators depending on destination.

Archaeological: The web-site for the Archaeological Institute of America, lists tour programs with AIA scholars, with many in Italy, Greece, Turkey, Tunisia but some even in Japan.

Before you Go …
In addition to the educational offerings included in the tours above, make sure that you’ll be content with the types of lodgings and other amenities provided by the operator. It’s not possible for us to vet each of the above — although most of them have great reputations and many are decidedly high-end.

In case of doubt, check with a travel professional, and/or ask the tour provider for references from past clients. Time permitting, do your own research via the web on the lodgings, types of transport (ship or other) that is included in the tour, especially if these things are important to you. Also, always check for visa requirements, recommended inoculations, etc. well in advance of departure.

Tell us where your educational-focused travels have taken you and share your cross-cultural experiences with us at snoety,


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