One of the perks of round-the-world travel is that you have more time to stop, absorb the atmosphere of a place, and perhaps put your efforts towards learning something new.
There are many classes available to travelers all over the world on a wide range of subjects, from technical to creative. Many of these courses last only a few hours to a day, catering to those who want to take a basic lesson or just try their hand at a new skill. But on a longer-term trip, you can do more than take an introductory lesson. With a week – or two, or three, or more – you can challenge your mind, body, or spirit in a way you can’t when you’re on more limited time
Everyone comes back from a trip with great stories and pictures, but how great would it be to have a new talent or skill as a souvenir from your travels?
Long after your tan has faded, your new Thai cooking skills or photography know-how will continue to enrich your life for years to come.
If you’re looking to hone a new skill while on a longer trip, check out some of these comprehensive courses to take around the world.
Anyone who has ever seen the new Karate Kid (or, like any kung fu movie ever) knows the appeal of learning Chinese martial arts. Kung Fu is about more than just kicking butt, though. It’s a deeply historical art with ties to Chinese philosophy, mythology, and religion. Practitioners learn about Chinese culture and meditation alongside basics, stances, and weapon training.
The most epic place to learn the art of kung fu is definitely the Wudang Mountains in Central China. Wudang is the birthplace of Daoist martial arts and is considered one of the holiest mountain ranges in all of China.
The Wudang Kung Fu Academy offers month-long courses (starting at about 1000 USD including accommodation and two meals per day) and shorter stay lessons in a stone palace built in the 15th century. It doesn’t get much more authentic than that. Their website is a bit old-fashioned.
Most travelers are already amateur photographers, but just think of how much your snapshot skills could benefit from an expert tutorial. Photography is more than point-and-shoot. Composition, light balance, and aspect ratio can take quite a bit of practice to master. With a little instruction, you could vastly improve your shots, making your memories even more vibrant and accessible.
There are many breathtaking areas around the world in which to hone your photo skills. Some companies run vacations catered specifically to photography, but you can also search for a course wherever you happen to be traveling. Check Airbnb for local photography experiences.
Photography School Asia is based in Bangkok and offers travelers 1-on-1 intensive courses, studio courses, and photography tours around Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos.
Not just a trendy form of exercise, yoga is a serious matter in many parts of the world. It combines elements of physicality and spirituality to help practitioners reach a state of mental clarity. With practice, yoga can help you achieve greater fitness and flexibility, relieve stress, and increase emotional well-being. To really master the skills of yoga, you’ll need more than a one-hour fitness class or exercise tape.
The type of course you seek out will depend on your skill and intensity level, but there are a number of great yoga retreats around the world.
What better place to learn than in India, where yoga began? The Ashiyana retreat in Goa offers a variety of retreats, courses, and informal yoga holidays. Week-long retreats start at 245 euros, including room and board. Month-long yoga teacher training courses are also available. Heading north of Delhi to Rishikesh will provide ample opportunities to stay at an ashram and take yoga classes.
Let’s face it: surfers are the coolest. With their golden tans, their awesome boards, and their wave-taming abilities, they are the epitome of beach chic. Plus, surfing is a strenuous workout that tones your entire body. It’s not an easy skill to master, but there are few things more satisfying than catching a good wave.
The Australians are the world’s surfing champions, so head ‘down under’ to learn from the experts. There are places up and down both coasts where novice surfers are welcomed and encouraged.
Northern Queensland is famous for its surf schools. Try Walkin’ On Water Surf School, one of the most popular in town. Group instruction is $50 per day (room and board not available) with private lessons and board rentals also available.
Back in the day, young men on the Grand Tour of Europe would study such subjects as architecture, philosophy, and art. Nowadays, you can follow in their footsteps and use your time abroad to study painting. Let the beautiful and exotic settings you explore inspire you. There are many places you could study painting, but Italy may have inspired more painters than any other country in history. There are multiple stops around the country where you can get in touch with your inner Renaissance artist.
Through the Accademia del Giglio, you can take classes in sketching, watercolors, and oil painting. Beginner, intermediate, and individual courses include 30 hours of lessons.
One of the best parts of traveling the world is the endless variety of delicious food. It doesn’t have to end there though. By taking a cooking course, you can obtain the skills to make your favorite foreign dishes anytime you want.
Popular courses include Thai, Mexican, and Italian cooking. It was hard to pick just one cuisine to recommend, but the most classic idea would be to learn the world-renowned skills of French cooking. After all, it worked for Julia Child.
The International Kitchen offers a variety of classes all over the world, including several week-long courses in Paris, Burgundy, and Bordeaux. A six-day Burgundy cooking class costs $3700 and includes four classes, all meals, and accommodations. If you’re not looking to spend a fortune, there are a bounty of cooking schools all over Southeast Asia and Latin America where you can learn to cook your favorite cuisine for a fraction of the price.
Okay, it may not be the most practical skill to bring home, but glass blowing is a unique practice with beautiful results. Artists use extreme heat to turn sand and colors into beautiful glass bowls and objects.
The Roman Empire pioneered the technique of glassblowing, and artisans in Northern Italy are famous for their talents to this day. There are glassblowing courses available in England as well.
Vetraio Anch’io in the Dolomite Mountains offers courses on several different glassmaking techniques from glassblowing to stained glass creation. Courses range from 3-5 days with 5-6 hours of instruction each day; prices start at 300 Euros for the course only.
When it comes to the ocean, the most interesting and beautiful activity lies beneath the surface. Scuba diving gives you a chance to explore this hidden corner of the world in a way that surface swimmers and snorkelers can never hope to reach.
Southeast Asia and Central America are probably the most well-known spots for inexpensive dive lessons. Thailand is one of the most beautiful low-cost places to get your certification. A favorite spot is the island of Ko Tao, which has very clear water and a plethora of marine life.
There are many dive shops on Koh Tao but Scuba Junction has won awards for its safety and service. A three-day open water certification starts at around $310 US. Accommodation at the onsite resort is extra and starts at about $10 US on course nights.
Have you heard of Vipassana? It’s an ancient course of serious meditation and austere living, meant to lead to self-observation via intense introspection. A course will usually consist of 10 days of complete silence, a vegetarian diet, and meditation. It’s not for the faint of heart, but people who complete the course report a greater feeling of peace and well-being.
There are Vipassana courses offered in many places around Asia as well as in the United States. India is one of the leaders in Buddhist spirituality, which makes it a perfect place to attend a Vipassana retreat.
The Vipassana International Academy in Igatpuri, India offers 10-day courses for men and women (separately). The courses are free and run by volunteers, but students must complete an application for acceptance.
Tango is a dance that is so historically and culturally ingrained in Argentinian and Uruguayan culture that it has been recognized by UNESCO. Tango takes its influences from European and Latin cultures, with complex footwork and an intimate embrace. It is elegant and sensual and a great workout.
The DNI Tango School in Buenos Aires offers daily tango lessons as well as yoga and other dances. They are divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Private and group lessons are available, priced per class at $70AR and up (about $5 US) with discounts for every ten classes.
Have you ever dreamed of being Indiana Jones, or maybe just Howard Carter? It takes many years of school to become an actual archaeologist, but if you find the right program, you can pretend for a couple of weeks. There are several different digs all around the world that offer programs for amateurs scholars to assist on a dig and maybe even uncover an artifact or two.
Everyone is curious about learning more of the mysterious Mayan civilization, and you can help at this dig site in Belize via the Archaeological Institute of America. Two week classes start at $1750 (including room, board, and transport). College students pay $1500 for two weeks and may receive academic credit.
Check out this trip on Indie, BootsnAll’s multi-stop flight booking engine, that follows these courses around the world.
Read more about learning while you travel:
- Budget Language Study- 5 Alternative Locations
- How to Take Your Yoga Practice on Your Travels
- Guide to Taking Classes on Your RTW Trip