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Spend Your Vacation Trying Out What Interests You

Tourists Ride On An African Safari, Take Vacation Excursions That Interest You

Danita Delimont/Alamy

Consider taking photos in Namibia or try another educational and fun excursion on your next vacation.

The 20th-century industrialist Henry Ford was onto something when he said, "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young." The rejuvenating power — not to mention sheer joy — of lifelong learning has spurred a boom in adult educational travel, both guided and independent. Elderhostel's Road Scholar program, for example, now offers some 5,500 educational tours in the United States and abroad, and there are loads of other learning vacations on the market. Here's a small sampling of the diverse educational opportunities you can choose from (note that none of the prices include airfare).

1. Food History in Chicago

Road Scholar's "A Taste of Chicago's Food History" leads participants on a five-day exploration of the Windy City's many ethnic enclaves and their culinary specialties. Included are meals and snacks of foods both iconic (Chicago-style pizza) and less well-known, a chef-led cooking lesson, a presentation by a local restaurant critic and a behind-the-scenes peek at Green City Market, Chicago's only year-round farmers market. Price: $1,075 per person, double.

2. Photography in Namibia

Photography-focused educational trips abound, but this 13-day excursion from National Geographic Expeditions in June may be among the most exotic. With National Geographic photographer Chris Rainier at their sides, participants hone shutterbug skills as they encounter cheetahs and leopards in Okonjima Game Reserve, capture the early morning desert light in otherworldly Damaraland, and meet the semi-nomadic Himba people. Price: $8,595 per person, double.

3. Surfing in New Zealand

Hang 10 at the subtropical northern tip of New Zealand on these five-day surf trips offered by New Zealand Surf 'n' Snow. Participants — mostly beginners to the sport — stay at a private lodge on Shipwreck Bay and surf a variety of local beaches. There's some instruction in surf theory, but most of the learning takes place during eight surfing sessions. Included are boards, wetsuits, food, dorm-style lodging (upgrades available) and transport to and from Auckland. Price: NZD $799 per person, October through June.

4. Southwest Indian Art in New Mexico

National experts in Native American pottery, turquoise jewelry and other art forms accompany this six-day May 2014 tour through northern New Mexico organized by the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. Participants learn about the region's lapidary and silversmith techniques, the weaving of Navajo rugs and the evolution of Pueblo pottery. In addition, there are gallery visits and meet-ups with some of today's most innovative Southwest Indian artists. Price: $3,620 per person, double.

5. Italian Design in Milan and Como

Taking place in spring 2014, this seven-day Smithsonian Journeys trip immerses participants in the wealth of design that for decades has poured out of northern Italy. The trip itself is pricey, but included in the itinerary are visits to museums and galleries, to fashion houses Missoni and Dolce & Gabbana, to racing-car design firm Zagato, contemporary furniture maker B&B Italia and household products firm Alessi. Meetings with industry professionals and artists enhance the trip, which includes an entire day in Chiesa Rossa, Milan's burgeoning arts and design district. Price: $6,495 per person, double.

6. Ballroom Dancing in Utah

For more than 30 years at Brigham Young University in Provo, a five-day, summertime Adult Ballroom Dance Camp has drawn everyone from beginners to veterans looking to conquer the dance floor. Headed by a pair of championship ballroom dancers, the workshop includes up to seven hours per day of professional instruction in both international and American styles, a mid-week banquet, and a closing dinner showcase featuring performances by all participants. Price: $499 per person, excluding lodging and all but two meals.

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