One Week Paid Time off Work - What Should I Do?
September 18, 2011 5:15 PM   Subscribe

What is a great, inexpensive experience I could do for one week?

My company is instituting a "use-it-or-lose-it" vacation policy this year, and I have one week of paid time off left that I don't want to go to waste. I've already been on a few vacations this year and don't really have the budget to afford another one, but I don't want to sit around my apt for a week either. I have a ton of airline miles and could fly somewhere for free. What should I do? Are there any great one-week volunteer or class opportunities? I'm based out of Chicago, but would be able to swing traveling as long as it would be on the cheap. I am active and in my late 20s.
posted by jmugrapler to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
More information about your interests and any place / region /county preferences would be helpful.

WWOOF came immediately to mind, though.
posted by ryanshepard at 5:23 PM on September 18, 2011

Go spend time with family and/or friends that have moved away. Guaranteed good times.
posted by Murray M at 5:27 PM on September 18, 2011

Go camping in another state in an unimproved campsite and make stuff like this and master cooking over an open fire.
posted by codswallop at 5:48 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Habitat for Humanity?
posted by bq at 6:02 PM on September 18, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses so far! Overall I am interested in doing something productive to "better myself" I guess you could say. I really like the WWOOF suggestion a lot, and I would also be interested in helping people (kids, poverty-stricken, etc, but I am a wimp when it comes to medical stuff!). I enjoy cooking, studying French, digital marketing, and art to name a few ideas. Also I am a female so if I was to travel somewhere, safety would be a concern. Thanks!
posted by jmugrapler at 6:14 PM on September 18, 2011

My one piece of advice: don't go volunteer for a week (unless its for something that's designed for short-term volunteering, like Habitat for Humanity.). People who parachute in for a week of volunteering are usually more trouble than their worth for the organization involved - especially if you want to actually do something that feels rewarding, like working with kids/seniors/etc.

If you want to use your airline miles, may i recommend a week in Guatemala. Its a pretty small country, so you can see a fair amount in a week, and its pretty cheap, and you can fly direct. Or go visit Quebec City and Montreal, and practice your french (although it'll be as expensive as travelling somewhere in the USA.)

How about taking an intensive improv course at Second City? Or french at Alliance Francaise? Or a bunch of art workshops?
posted by Kololo at 6:29 PM on September 18, 2011

How about helping to rebuild trails with the Washington Trails Association? Check out the available destinations, many with spaces available.

I did a volunteer vacation for one week at Lake Chelan in the spring of last year, and it was a fantastic experience. We removed deadfall, regraded trails, removed foliage - and were fed wonderfully. Highly highly recommended.
posted by seawallrunner at 6:32 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're looking to improve yourself and you enjoy studying French, perhaps you could take a trip to a French speaking part of Canada?
posted by telegraph at 6:40 PM on September 18, 2011

You could allow yourself to wander around the stacks of 5 or 6 of Chicago-metro area libraries. (Don't forget The Newberry.)

Make a plan or make a game out of it. Look up topics that have interested you for years, but you never had the time to dip into. Take the time to pick out a few books at random for the share joy of learning about something you never expected to learn.

And if you want to help most libraries you can meet some homeless person you could help directly.
posted by ?! at 7:06 PM on September 18, 2011

The Central Texas Trail Tamers is a volunteer organization devoted to building and/or maintaining trails in national (I think state of Texas also) parks. They have an annual gig in October (16th -- 22nd) out in West Texas, in the Big Bend National Park (named after that big bend in the Rio Grande), which is set in the Davis Mountains, which is spectacularly beautiful in the autumn. (Quite frankly, I think it's beautiful all year but it does get warm in the summer months.)

It is raw, it is rugged, it is perfectly beautiful, it is West Texas at its best, IMO. You'll work hard out there, eat well, sleep like the dead. I've not done it -- yet -- I've had a couple friends do it, and rave about the fun in it. There used to be a bus that ran from Austin out there but I'm not seeing that on their website; if you're interested you can contact from any of the info there.

Texas isn't all George Bush-like, there is much to recommend it. Some of the canyons down on the border are pretty as anything you'll see in Arizona or New Mexico.
posted by dancestoblue at 8:57 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bicycle tour?
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:07 PM on September 18, 2011

Spend time at Heifer Project International's Learning Center in central Massachusetts. It's designed for short-term volunteers like yourself. More about HPI's mission to fight world hunger here.
posted by knile at 1:01 AM on September 19, 2011

Learn to really drive, take a high performance driving course.
posted by kanemano at 1:21 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

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