Travel is one of the best ways to broaden your perspective and build meaningful connections. Through visiting somewhere new, you’ll be introduced to different foods, cultures, people, traditions, art, and ways of living, while leaving your comfort zone and embracing new things.
One way to enhance your travels is to plan a cultural-learning trip. A cultural-learning trip can look like volunteering, attending workshops hosted by community leaders, learning a new language, or doing a homestay. Essentially, they are trips designed to teach travelers about the culture and communities of the destination they are visiting, while allowing them to also appreciate the local landscape, food, traditions, and more.
Ready to get inspired to start planning your dream trip? Read on to find the perfect cultural-learning trip to add to your travel bucket list.
Why take a cultural-learning trip?
Cultural-learning goes beyond the typical vacation visit; it’s part of cultural tourism.
The World Tourism Organization defines cultural tourism as a “type of tourism activity in which the visitor’s essential motivation is to learn, discover, experience and consume the tangible and intangible cultural attractions/products in a tourism destination.”
So whether you’re spending a week doing Spanish and salsa lessons in Cuba, or helping with marine surveys in Bali, you’ll be sure to return home with a new appreciation for everything you learned and tried, and all of the people you met while traveling. It’s an exciting blend of learning and adventure – which is the ultimate way to travel!
Top reasons to plan a cultural-learning trip:
- It’s a great way to meet new people: If you’ve always wanted to visit somewhere, but haven’t found the right group of people to travel with, why not travel with more like-minded people, passionate about learning new things or making a positive impact? Look, you already have that in common!
- Improves adaptability and independence: Things happen while traveling. Learning a new language may be more challenging than you expected, or maybe you read your map wrong and get lost in a new city. You’ll learn to quickly adapt, trust in yourself, and move forward.
- You’ll learn beyond the textbook: Sure you can read your global studies textbook from front to back, but it doesn’t compare to hearing stories directly from community activists, seeing historical sites or learning about events right where they happened, or trying the national cuisines cooked by locals.
- Helps the world become a better place: Being a global citizen means understanding that we can work with others to be kinder to our planet and leave a positive impact on communities. Lending a hand whether it’s by promoting biodiversity conservation or volunteering with youth development projects, can really make a difference.
Learn Spanish and take dance lessons in Cuba
🗺️ Great for travelers interested in: language-learning, dance, history, cultural immersion, family-friendly travel
💰 Program cost: $495 USD/week
📝 Age eligibility: 18+, but families welcome with an adult chaperone
Want to improve your Spanish, while trying new foods, making friends, and doing fun, hands-on activities? With Corazon Cuba’s Learn Spanish, Dance & Adventure in Havana & Viñales program, participants embark on exciting excursions and day trips, while learning Spanish!
Over the course of this 1-4 week long Spanish immersion program, you’ll take daily group Spanish lessons, attend salsa dancing lessons, go on group excursions like a guided museum tour, and spend your weekends relaxing and exploring the sandy beaches of Havana. Whether you’re a solo traveler, or traveling with your family, this program is perfect for anyone interested in going beyond the typical Havana vacay, and instead, leaving their comfort zone to learn something new!
“I couldn’t have asked for a better week! My Spanish teacher was better than I expected and I really appreciated being put in an appropriate level. The dance classes were a dream, I couldn’t get enough!"
Visit temples and learn to make sushi in Japan
🗺️ Great for travelers interested in: sightseeing, history, food & cooking, pop culture, traditional arts and crafts, solo travel, first-time travel
💰 Program cost: $2899 USD
📝 Age eligibility: Minimum age of 18
Whether you’re a history buff, anime fan, cooking foodie, or all of the above, INTRO Travel’s Japan Adventure Trip takes you on the ultimate 13-day trip through Japan, perfect for any type of traveler. You’ll visit cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto and participate in cultural activities, from rolling your own soba noodles and learning to make sushi, to even attending a samurai masterclass. Travelers will also learn the history behind many of Japan’s iconic landmarks, temples, shrines, and parks as they visit each destination.
This trip is great for solo or first-time travelers especially, since you’ll have an enthusiastic tour guide leading the entire trip, a comprehensive itinerary, and the chance to make new friends along the way. You’ll also room and stay together in different accommodations, like hostels, a ryokan, and even one night in a temple.
“I had the best time ever on the Intro Japan tour! I got to tick everything off my Japan bucket list like seeing some epic nature and tasting the many Japanese cuisines. My most favourite was the samurai class where I wielded a 400 year old sword.”
Earn your diving certification in Bali
🗺️ Great for travelers interested in: diving, marine biology, conservation
💰 Program cost: Starts at $2,000 USD
📝 Age eligibility: Minimum age of 20
If you’re passionate about working in conservation or ever wanted to earn your divemaster certification, why not take the leap and sign up for the Indo Ocean Project’s Dive Master and Research Diver Internship in Indonesia? Depending on the project and the base location, you’ll have the opportunity to contribute to research about coral reef conservation, marine policy, manta conservation, and more.
Their programs also cater to a wide range of experience levels and fields, with packages designed specifically for beginners, advanced divers, and even rescuers and researchers. You’ll learn from a team of dive professionals and marine biologists, there to support you throughout the program.
“It's crazy to think how much I learned in such a short amount of time – whether it be about diving or marine life, you are fully immersed in the project's mission and surrounded by others who have the same passion. I can't wait to use these new skills and knowledge in my future profession.”
Attend a writing retreat in Colorado
🗺️ Great for travelers interested in: creative writing, sustainability, outdoor adventure, domestic travel
💰 Program cost: $2,750 USD
📝 Age eligibility: 18-24
Yes, it is possible to seek self-growth and adventure, even without leaving the country. All you need is a change of scenery, a shared goal, and a passionate group to support you along the way – which is what you’ll get during your time at The High Desert Center’s Writing Retreat program in Paonia, Colorado.
You’ll sleep under the stars (if you want!), take plenty of hikes, share your stories and feedback with other writers, and write anywhere that charges your soul – whether it’s on the farm, in a swimming hole, or at one of the small town’s local coffee shops. Wherever your writing takes you, you’ll be surrounded by gorgeous mountain views, fresh air, and a tight-knit community of writers.
“The HDC writing retreat is a fantastic experience for people who are looking to broaden their horizons, spend some time living a rustic life up in the mountains, and of course, write as much as you want. If you want to meet fellow writers from all over the country and get familiar with a small Colorado town and its community, I can't recommend this retreat enough.”
Help conserve elephants and sea turtles in Thailand
🗺️ Great for travelers interested in: wildlife, beach conservation, sustainability, outdoor adventure, volunteering
💰 Program cost: Starts at $3,000 USD
📝 Age eligibility: Minimum age of 18, but GVI offers other programs for 15-17 year olds and family programs for 14+ when accompanied by a guardian
If the thought of visiting white-sandy beaches everyday, eating delicious home-cooked Thai meals, and meeting eco-conscious change-makers like you sounds like your ideal adventure, then GVI’s Elephant and Endangered Sea Turtle Coastal Conservation program should be added to the top of your bucket list.
You'll work closely with conservation experts to contribute to the preservation of elephants and endangered sea turtles in two different regions of Thailand. From cleaning to feeding, you’ll learn the proper ways to care for these animals. Outside of volunteering, you’ll have opportunities to visit many of Thailand’s turquoise-blue beaches and vibrant temples, take hikes, try different Thai cuisines, and participate in activities like muay thai. Program lengths are also customizable, so whether you want to stay for 2 weeks or 2 months, it’s all up to you!
“Ultimately, the two weeks I spent in Thailand were genuinely life changing. I was able to meet some of my now closest friends and enjoy some of the most beautiful sights in the whole world."
Practice yoga and meditation in India
🗺️ Great for travelers interested in: spirituality, traditional arts & crafts, outdoor adventure, community development, volunteering, academic credit
💰 Program cost: $14,700 USD
📝 Age eligibility: 17-22
If you’re looking to disconnect from your typical day-to-day routine, engage in thoughtful discussions, and go far beyond your comfort zone, consider joining Carpe Diem Education’s India & Nepal Semester: Spirituality & Climate Change program.
Through exchanges and workshops with the community, participants will explore concepts such as the roles of spirituality and religion, the effects of climate change, ways to protect natural resources, and the conflicts affecting ancient traditions. During the 2-month journey, participants will also experience a week-long yoga and meditation week, as well as learn traditional arts and crafts from local artisans.
“[Visiting] India was a dream of mine for a while and to have such an amazing trip is a blessing. The itinerary was beautifully thought out and we did so many enriching activities.”
Work at a rhino sanctuary and take a safari in Kenya
🗺️ Great for travelers interested in: outdoor adventure, sustainability, agriculture, community development, volunteering, wildlife conservation
💰 Program cost: Starts at $15,000 USD
📝 Age eligibility: 17-20
Whitewater rafting through the Nile River, working at a rhino sanctuary, and taking an exhilarating safari through Maasai Mara National Park are just a few of the many exciting adventures on the itinerary for ARCC’s East Africa - Uganda, Kenya & Tanzania program. This semester-long journey offers participants a wide range of community development, conservation, and health care projects, plus unique hands-on excursions and activities.
You’ll begin the group trek in Uganda to track and monitor rhinos and then learn traditional farming methods in the rural community of Luminyere, before heading to Kenya for a female education project. You’ll also cross over into Tanzania to lead community development and health-care projects, before ending the journey on the sandy beaches of Zanzibar!
“This is the greatest thing I have ever done in my life. Everything I saw and did, (scenery and service projects) will stick with me forever. I gained a whole new perspective on life/myself.”
Snorkel and learn to surf in New Zealand and Australia
🗺️ Great for travelers interested in: outdoor adventure, marine conservation, sustainability, camping, hiking
💰 Program cost: $16,495 USD
📝 Age eligibility: 17-22
Looking for an exciting, culturally-immersive adventure on both sea and land? Look no further than down under, with Pacific Discovery’s Australia & NZ GAP Semester Program.
Over the course of this 10-week long program, you’ll work on different conservation projects, ranging from bush regeneration on Australia’s coast to helping park rangers protect Tawharanui Regional Park in New Zealand. You’ll also have plenty of opportunities to try exciting outdoor activities, like scuba diving, surfing, snorkeling with turtles and fish, mountain biking, and backpacking – just to name a few!
“On the program, you'll embody the traveler's spirit, always on the move and never staying in any one place for more than a couple of days. You'll learn about sustainability, culture, and the unique environment on these islands, but more importantly, you'll learn so much about yourself.”
Hike the Andes Mountains and visit the Amazon Rainforest
🗺️ Great for travelers interested in: outdoor adventure, language learning, history, conservation, community development, academic credit
💰 Program cost: $16,950 USD
📝 Age eligibility: 17-22
Looking for a trip that has it all? From rowing through clear blue glaciers to trekking tropical rainforests, Where There Be Dragons’ South America Semester: Andes & Amazon program allows participants to experience the beauty of Bolivia and Peru, while also learning Spanish, understanding the locations’ rich history, and meeting local communities.
On top of the multi-day treks, this 3-month long program includes personalized language lessons with local teachers, homestays, and opportunities for community-led service projects like sustainable agriculture or youth development. Participants can also choose to focus on a concentrated subject and learn from a local expert for a plethora of topics such as Andean spirituality, Bolivian cooking, dance and music, and much more.
The program was beautiful, challenging and an opportunity to become a better person. I made new friends, tried new food, and visited places I would never have discovered without the program.
Explore your creative side in Ireland
🗺️ Great for travelers interested in: arts & crafts, art history, sightseeing, cultural immersion
💰 Program cost: $18,000 USD
📝 Age eligibility: 17-22
During Irish Gap Year’s Irish Arts and Culture program, you’ll be able to fully disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the world, and instead, channel your inner artist while visiting Ireland's coolest towns and villages.
You’ll live in a quaint village with 15 other participants, attend daily art workshops led by professional artists, and master your craft until it's ready to present at the Le Cheile Art Expo. Along the way, you’ll make new friends, try new art forms, and visit many inspiring sights such as castles and museums.
“All art lessons are done in a beautiful old house with windows that look out over the ocean and green grassy fields. This program has given me the space to explore my creativity in a space free from pressure or judgment, which has been quintessential to my personal growth as an artist.”
Ways to fund your trip abroad
There are many different ways to fund your cultural-learning adventure overseas. From scholarships and grants to raising money, here are a few ways to start:
- Apply for the $5000 Study Abroad Re-do Grant, hosted by Packs Light! If you've always wanted to study abroad, but never had the chance to, this grant is the perfect opportunity to make that adventure happen! Plus if you win, all of the trips in this article are eligible to be funded by the grant!
- Apply for scholarships! Here at Go Overseas, we love to help our community travel by sharing plenty of active scholarships, and every year we award a lucky traveler with a $5000 scholarship, as part of the USA Gap Year Fairs.
- Try fundraising – this can look like a lot of different things! You can ask campus organizations to sponsor you, try to sell used items like furniture or clothes, or take up a part-time job to help fund your trip.
- Browse the web and take advantage of resources! There are plenty of scholarship databases available. Plus, the program you’re traveling with may even have their own scholarship to help participants fund their travels. Doesn’t hurt to ask!
Start planning your cultural-learning trip!
Wherever you go and decide to do, it's sure to be an adventure you'll never forget. You'll learn a lot, maybe fall in love with a food you've never tried before, and ultimately, return home inspired and with a new perspective!
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