Travel Expert: Boarding Passes are the New PhD’s

Boarding Passes are the New PhD’s

By Nancy DePalma of and Buttoned Up’s Travel Expert

Who says that learning has to be confined to a classroom? It’s been more than a decade since I’ve sat in a lecture hall, written a term paper, or taken or final exam, but I’ll admit that I miss the experience. I don’t miss the late nights or the cramming, but I do miss the wonder of learning something new. One of the reasons travel is so exciting is that it opens your eyes to something different. Whether you’re tasting a unique flavor, practicing a couple of phrases in a different language, or exploring ruins from an ancient civilization, it’s all a little bit like getting a Masters in Life. September is just around the corner, the kids are snapping up their new pencils and pens, and the teachers are readying their classrooms. Why not join the party and head out into the world to learn something new?

For Culture Vultures:

National Geographic Expeditions

You can go it alone, but when you have the resources of National Geographic behind you, why would you? Whether you want to trek Nepal and Tibet with Peter Hillary, the son of famed Everest climber Sir Edmund, or marvel at Morocco with an anthropology professor, these trips offer so much more than the typical vacation. Take your pick from virtually any destination around the world. Me? I’m drooling over the Galapagos Islands Expedition led by a marine biologist and one of Time Magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet.”

Academic Arrangement Abroad

These trips are for the seriously intellectual but if you love art, ancient civilization, and culture, they have you covered. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of their clients, so you can travel with the Met and their experts to a number of places. Want to travel to Venice, tour privately owned palaces and befriend their owners, then travel on the Orient Express to Prague, where you’ll learn more about art and architecture than you did while sitting through a college art history lecture?

For Bon Vivants:

Learn to Cook Like Nonna in Italy

Didn’t have an Italian grandmother to teach you the family’s secret sauce recipe? That’s ok, since you can hop a plane to Tuscany and spend one week learning from the region’s best home cooks. Staying in the charming farmhouse is exciting alone, but imagine learning the trade secrets of the ladies of Tuscany? They cover all the bases – from a Michelin-starred chef to home cooks – but you’ll be whipping up feasts after a week here.

For Beach & Water Lovers:

Sail off into the Sunset

Who says there is no educational value in a Caribbean vacation? Sure, there’s the beach (and the frozen drinks) but you can still try your hand at something new while shoeless in the sand. Many resorts offer lessons in everything from scuba diving to sailing, but for the ultimate boating primer, head to the Bitter End Yacht Club, where they’ve been teaching sailors the ropes for decades. This isn’t your average resort course, since this posh getaway has its own US Sailing Association-approved facility and coursework. Learn the basics or brush up on your skills, but you can do it all from the deck of a boat off Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.

Semester (or just a Voyage) at Sea

Didn’t get the chance to study abroad during your college years? Hit the deck. This program isn’t just for college kids who want to booze while they cruise anymore. Join the ship as a special ambassador and travel with undergraduates or sail on one of the adult-only Enrichment Voyages for a similar experience without the partying.

NANCY DEPALMA has been telling people where to go, what to do, and where to eat or stay for almost a decade while writing extensively about travel and fine dining. She has authored or contributed to eight books and has been featured in a variety of magazines and websites. She writes about travel at her new website and blog, Email her at