By Rhonda Briggs

Every vacation has a purpose. Rest, relaxation and rejuvenation are usually at the top of the list of reasons we take time off from our everyday activities. Scenic locations draw us in. Unexplored cities excite us. And the promise of new adventures sends us off with suitcases packed.

If the thought of lying on a beach sipping fruity drinks doesn’t excite you maybe you should try a vacation where you challenge yourself to learn or explore something you never have done before. That’s where learning vacations come in. Whether you want to learn about boat building in Maine, ecosystem preservation, wildlife conservation or photography, you’ll get the opportunity to learn more about yourself in the process.

Think this type of vacation might be for you? Write a list of things you’ve always wanted to learn or places you’ve wanted to explore, then begin your search through a variety of websites or travel companies.

Photography classes are one of the most popular learning vacations. Depending on your location choice, you’ll enjoy beautiful scenery and the ability to hone your photography skills. Professional and novice photographers will get more than expected when going on one of Steve Kozak’s Photographic Adventures ( This master photographer will take you off the beaten path and lead you into picturesque locations such as Ouray, Colorado or The Outer Banks of North Carolina, showing you how to capture the beauty of the scenery through your camera lens in ways you never imagined.   

As an active board member of both the Texas Professional Photographers Association (TPPA) and the Professional Photographers

of America (PPA), Kozak’s approach to teaching is low key and allows you to feel comfortable asking questions and advice about photography. He gives one-on-one instructions to help you learn photography tricks to improve lighting, angles and composition of future shots. As the week progresses, if you’re a novice photographer, you’ll gain confidence using your camera with techniques such as dragging the shutter and framing a shot.

If picking up a paintbrush motivates you, aspiring artists may want to consider a creative holiday in Caceres, Spain at Las Paulinas ( No need to worry about carrying your art supplies along on your travels. All supplies necessary to create paintings in oil, acrylic and watercolor or drawings with pencil, charcoal or watercolor pencils are included in the cost of the adventure.

Settle into the quiet Western Spanish countryside and enjoy the instruction by artists Carmen Vega and Granda Munoz as they immerse you in the local culture and artistic opportunities. Each student will receive personalized instruction to help further his or her skills during a minimum of 22 hours of class time. At the end of the week artistic creations can be shipped home if all they don’t fit in your suitcase.

Culinary enthusiasts have a wide variety of options for cooking adventures. No matter what type of cuisine you want to explore, you can find a school that will help you expand your cooking skills to a whole new level. Learn how to cook lobster in New England, experience farm-to-table in Tennessee, test out Cajun flavors in New Orleans or create Thai dishes while in Thailand.

Local farms, private chefs and restaurants offer cooking classes for the weekend enthusiasts. For those who want to experience the world without traveling out of state, sign up for a course at the Culinary Institute of America ( San Antonio is the nearest location, so the next time you’re enjoying a break near the Riverwalk, sign up for a one-day class and challenge yourself to learn something new.

In these hands-on classes you will learn how to prepare dishes from Spain, Italy or Bangkok. Classes that highlight local vegetables or Texas flavors are available as well as classes that help you improve your kitchen skills or explain how to prepare the perfect party treats. When it’s over, you’ll come away with a few new recipes, a full stomach and your own CIA apron.

Writers who enjoy traveling and want to learn from experts in the field can attend one the Great Escape Publishing’s ( weeklong travel writing events, which are held in different locations throughout the United States and the world. This year’s event is being held in Washington, D.C.

Writers, magazine editors and professional photographers spend time teaching attendees about what it takes to become a successful travel writer. They also offer many photographic expeditions to exotic places like Tanzania
and Thailand. Spots fill up quickly but you can add your name to a priority alert list and receive information early about upcoming trips.

Learn how to research a destination, find your niche, pitch a story idea to an editor and successfully land perks that make being a travel writer that much sweeter. During each event you will find time to practice what you have learned during the workshops, testing out the new techniques, and have the ability to ask questions of the experts right there on the spot.

If you need some inspiration and are unsure what to learn and do, check out the Creativity Workshop (
Created in 1993 by an educator and a writer, the organization is dedicated to teaching individuals and groups about their creative processes no matter their profession.

Schedule a workshop in New York or plan one abroad in a variety of cities including Barcelona, Prague, Istanbul, Provence, Florence, Crete, Dublin, Paris or Singapore. While the prices vary, they are not out of reach. Tuition ranges from $800 to $1300 depending on the city you choose. You plan your own airfare and hotel.

Once you pick your destination you will spend over three hours each morning in class having fun with your imagination. The rest of the day is open, giving you the chance to visit museums, take walking tours, eat fabulous meals, write in cafes or sketch the locals. You can choose to spend your time on your own or go exploring the area with other members of the workshop. The creative exercises will enable you to see the city in a whole new light and learn to challenge your creativity.

For your next vacation, consider a trip that gives you an opportunity to expand your skills. Contemplate studying with a professional in a field that interests you. Whether you make your living with your passion or are simply a hobbyist who wants to develop your skills, a creative vacation may be the perfect get-away for you. Find a friend who shares your interests or go alone. Either way, you’ll come home refueled and refreshed and hopefully planning for your next creative vacation adventure.

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