Solo Travel & Education

Some of the principles behind Chautauqua.

Some of the principles behind Chautauqua.

For me, looking through a college course calendar is like browsing the Christmas catalog.

I want it all.

My wish list just keeps growing.

Last summer I went to Chautauqua, a small town in western New York State that was named the best small town in America by the Smithsonian Magazine. For nine weeks every summer this town turns into a campus for learning. There are lectures every morning and afternoon. Courses you can take that last a week. There’s a live theater, symphony orchestra, opera, dance company… truly, everything about it calls to me.

After having gone last year as a blogger, I sought a way to go back. I wanted more but I also wanted to contribute to this vibrant community. Seeing that many of the people there are writers and visual artists, I decided to propose that I deliver a special interest course on blogging and social media. My four day session (2 hours per day) was called Art and Audience: Promote Your Work with New Media.

So Chautauqua is one place to go to learn as you travel but there are many others.

First, I’ll offer some tips on how to find places to go and learn, then I’ll share specific destinations in two popular travel and learn categories.

I took a short pottery class at La Bisbal d’Empordà, Spain. Yes, you can Google it which is step one to finding the travel and education opportunities you're looking for.

I took a short pottery class at La Bisbal d’Empordà, Spain. Yes, you can Google it which is step one to finding the travel and education opportunities you’re looking for.

Travel and Learn: How to Find the Classes You Want

  1. Use Google: research “summer abroad programs” or “special overseas courses” or “travel and education” and you’ll find lots of options.
  2. Check out the Solo Travel Deals page and sign up for the Solo Traveler Advisory so that you receive a monthly email of travel opportunities for solo travelers. Here are some examples of the learning opportunities that we have featured:
    1. Idyllworks of Maine. Devote your days to engaging and rewarding art workshops taught by renowned artists and teachers. Join us in Maine to rejuvenate, unleash your inner artist, and make lasting connections with other creative and amazing women.
    2. Spain2Speak. Enjoy Barcelona’s history, architecture, art… and learn Spanish with language tutors as tourist guides.
    3. Wild at Art Scotland. This unique Wild at Art vacation on Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides is led by local artist Nicky Sanderson. Traveling in a small group with the Wild at Art personal touch we bring alive the human and natural history of this unique location to inform our art.
  3. Check out sites specializing in educational travel programs such as Roadscholar.org (for boomers and retirees), companies’ like STA Travel that focus on student and twenty-something travel, and universities that have overseas continuing education programs that are for everyone (here’s the University of Toronto’s page for this).
  4. Use discussion forums for your areas of interest. For example, if you love cooking, go to sites like  Chowhound.com which is organized geographically to find the best cooking schools in an area.
  5. If you’ll be at your destination for a while, use Meetup.com to find people who share your interests and then ask them for recommendations on classes to take.
  6. Check out How to Find Classes when Traveling Solo – 10 tips.

Travel and Learn: Recommendations from Experts

For specific learning destinations I went to Tracey, our food and wine expert here on Solo Traveler and Elena of Creative Elena who specializes in, yes, creative travel. Here are their recommendations.

photo, image, bar

Midfield – one of Tracey’s favorite wine bars in Toronto.

From Tracey, our Editor and Food & Wine Travel Columnist

Perhaps not surprisingly, I am going to recommend some well-known wine regions. Where there’s wine, there’s food. And where there’s food and wine, there are people who are passionate about both, and want to share their local specialties and a bit of their culture with you. And that is one of the greatest joys of travel for me.

Italy. There are a multitude of cooking classes available across the country, from intense, structured programs to relaxed cooking vacations. You can take classes everywhere from wineries to farmhouse kitchens, and the programs can include field trips to visit olive groves, cheese makers, vineyards, and local markets where you can learn more about what is grown and produced in the area.

California. There’s Napa Valley, of course. In fact, just thinking about the fields of lavender, the wild rosemary, and the sunshine that surround the grapevines makes me want to hop on a plane and head there right now. Home to the Culinary Institute of America, not to mention many winemakers and chefs who have become household names, you will find a myriad of learning opportunities here. Don’t miss out on the surrounding areas, though. Tour some wineries in the Sierra Nevada Foothills, for instance, and you will have a very different experience and see another side of California winemaking (not to mention a different pace and price point).

Greece. Perhaps less obvious to Canadians like me who have extremely limited access to good Greek wines, a trip to Greece would make for fascinating culinary learning. With cooking classes on a number of different islands, and a winemaking tradition that dates back 4000 years, I think they’ve probably got it figured out.

Elena's very first creative travel experiences: Happy in Maureen Harte’s garden, who teaches her unique approach to creative handicraft, such as the ancient weaving tradition.

Elena’s very first creative travel experience: Here she is happy in Maureen Harte’s garden. Maureen teaches her unique approach to creative handicraft, such as the ancient weaving tradition.

Creative Elena Gives Us Her Recommendations on Learning the Arts

New Zealand is the home of the Maori culture, unique in the whole world and hence the only place to experience the skill set of this people in terms of creative learning. In New Zealand, as a visitor you can learn all about harakeke flax weaving, traditional bone or jade carving, the preparation of a “Hangi” earth oven to cook your food, and even more modern craft practices such as stone carving, wine seminars and watercolour painting.  I recently wrote “The Year Of My Life: Travelling Aotearoa New Zealand. Today: First Time Exploring Creative Travel“summing up some of my very first creative experiences in this beautiful country.

Then, there is Thailand which strives to promote itself as a destination for creative learning. I have seen and experienced remarkable examples of the local culture: learning how to “bamboo-dance”, how to paint umbrellas, how to create orchid flower sticks and also learned how to ride an elephant! If you are looking for a single destination, I can recommend Sampran Riverside Resort just out of Bangkok which organizes and promotes some of these activities through its Thai village. And don’t let me forget you’ll also find cooking classes there such as this: “Gourmet Trip & Creative Tourism in Thailand“.

Last but not least, and thanks to my own experience in the past couple of years, I would suggest Austria as THE place for creative learning if you want to experience traditional crafts or authentic, regional cuisine. There you’ll find cooking classes and creative craft workshops such as forging, turning, carving, spinning wool, even making your own Dirndl which you’ll learn from master tutors from around the country! The Association Creative Tourism Austria provides direct links with all creative learning partners around the country, and one of its single biggest achievements is that it ties in with the national tourism and marketing strategy, i.e. is actively communicated by the Austrian National Tourism Board.

In Europe, of course there are even more hotspots for creative learning such as “Creative Paris”, “Barcelona Creative Tourism” or creative tourism in North-Eastern Germany: www.kreativsaison.de.

The beach at Chautauqua Lake.

The beach at Chautauqua Lake. Yes, this place also has sailing, golf and many other activities in addition to the lectures, arts and special studies.

  • Mo

    I’ve booked a flight to Athens in August I heard the summer gets so hot as in 35 degrees Celsius that most people are indoors! As for travelling it will be my first time going to Greece so I expect it’ll be pretty interesting just hope the food will be good! Doing some research if you go you really have to pick and choose some places and cut others out. Just looking at how many islands there are to go to is overwhelming slightly would have liked to go Cyprus for the cycling but hey can’t win them all.

  • Jen

    Has anyone traveled to Greece solo
    I am thinking of a trip there in Sept
    Any thoughts, comments, tips greatly appreciated

  • Reine Beryl Masudal

    Hey there, I’ve always loved traveling as long as I can remember. Most of the time, I’ve only traveled with my friends and family. Since my graduation coming up, I was actually thinking going on traveling on my own and i found your blog is very much useful as this is my first time going on adventures on my own. So thank you and I’ll be sure use your tips and advice along my journey.

  • Creativelena

    Dear Janice,

    Thank you so much for publishing and sharing this post and including my tips and recommendations as “Creativelena”, travelling to and writing about creative destinations and interactive culture travel opportunities around the globe. I am happy to hear there is so much more going on, and good luck for your teaching – I am sure it will be amazing!

    Best,

    Elena

  • ESTA

    You will need an ESTA if you are travelling to the US