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Use time off to explore lakes, landscapes and learning

May, 2010

If you’re looking for a plan this summer that combines learning and travel, check out Exploritas, a combination of the word explore and the Latin word for truth – in its former incarnation as Elderhostel.

This year, their not-for-profit board decided to market their 35-year-old invention into a more age-inclusive mission, eliminating references to age.

Although Exploritas offers a remarkable variety of high-priced learning adventures worldwide – and even uses sailboats, luxurious tents and historic homes for accommodations – this column will feature the close-by and the low-cost.

And it’s no problem if you’re single: They have a matching service for people who share interests. They swear their price includes everything – all you have to do is get to the destination. They also provide a rating system to denote the level of physical activity.

I’ve chosen a sample of tours in New York, Vermont, Ontario and Quebec to give you a flavour of holidays accessible by car or bus, limiting my search to their “most popular” tours, a reliable entry point that affords more date availabilities.

If you’ve lived in Quebec all your life, you’re probably a veteran of its main attractions, like a five-day tour of the history, art and culture of Quebec City. Their Quebec tours seem designed to attract the U.S. market.

Other tours have more potential, like their Eastern Townships Bicycling: Day Trips to Paradise. They promise exquisite landscapes, covered bridges and uncrowded roads as well as discussions on the natural and human history of the area. (Six days, five nights, $742.)

The active retiree can find a program in Haliburton, Ont., called Wildlife, Wolves and Wilderness: A Nature Lovers Guide. It offers a chance to learn about wolves, birds, bats, bears and owls and even come home performing a wolf and loon call. The wildlife reserve is in southern Ontario at the shore of Lake Head. (Six days, five nights, $825.)

In Bayfield, Ont., Advanced Digital Photography: Portraits, Landscapes, and Nature includes a stay on the shores of Lake Huron. (Six days, five nights, $1,100.)

If you’re a bridge lover, you can attend Improve your Bridge Judgment, and Pause … and Experience Nature. It is held at a resort on Lake Rosseau in the Muskoka Lakes region. The “pause” element relates to woods, country roads and historical landmarks. (Six days, five nights, $739.)

Exploritas offers a program in West Dover, Vt., called Humanism: An Ethical World View. Near Mount Snow in the Green Mountains, travelers immerse themselves in the history and philosophy of the humanist movement and are offered the potential to “lead lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.” (Six days, five nights, $649.)

If you’ve never been to NYC and are an opera aficionado, a Big Apple tour promises to envelop you in a program dubbed Ultimate Opera, Two nights at the Met. You will eat, sleep and dream opera. (Six days, five nights, $1,100.)

If your passion runs to current affairs, you might want to check out the Chautauqua Experience: Meeting With Great Minds at the prestigious Chautauqua Institution in NY. They promise a stimulating and vigorous pursuit of contemporary issues with some high-level professionals. (Six days, five nights, $870.)

Equally interesting and longer-term learning experiences – often six or seven weeks – are the hidden gems offered by universities where you can squeak into a continuing studies course.

If a woodlands setting appeals to you, you can undertake a six-week course in a number of creative pursuits for the bargain price of $240 at Bishops University’s Knowlton campus. A six-week stay at a country inn sounds rather appealing.

If exploring city life is more your thing, try the University of Toronto and McGill University. McGill’s Quebec Studies Summer Institute offers courses for around $400. The University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies offers a learning buffet from personal finance to translating.

But take caution: The urge to advance your learning adventures might turn you into what Exploritas calls a “road scholar.”

Check out or, if you prefer to browse brochures, call them at 1-800-454-5768. Keep in touch about your happy trails:



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