Give Me Some Ideas About Working or Active Vacations
March 4, 2014 10:26 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for vacations in which somebody else is in control and I am actively taking part in it. For example, taking a trip to an archeological dig and taking part in the dig itself. Or learning how to be a crew member on a yacht. Burning Man is also an example in that I am taking part of the event. A cowboy cattle-drive. Yachting would be cool. I am also intrigued by NASA though I am not sure if they have anything like this. Creating art. Cooking vacations. Stuff like this. Please let the ideas rip. No holding back :)
posted by goalyeehah to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Rafting trip through the Grand Canyon
posted by exogenous at 10:31 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Earthwatch Institute runs a lot of these. Here's an archaeological expedition, for example.
posted by vacapinta at 10:32 AM on March 4, 2014

My sister and niece recommend Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. The two of them go there each year to volunteer for a while.
posted by janey47 at 10:40 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Go climb a mountain with a guide service. In some cases you can have zero experience and they'll do pretty much everything for you except carry you. You can also do week-long seminars at places like Mt. Rainier where they'll not only attempt to get you to the top but also practice things like glacier rescue and ice climbing during the week. Or you can just do the two day cattle drive.
posted by bondcliff at 10:40 AM on March 4, 2014

Space Camp has programs for adults.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:42 AM on March 4, 2014

Is there a specific geographic area you're interested in? There are a lot of volunteer archaeological digs in the US and in England, for a variety of times/skill sets. There are a lot of paid digs too, but those are generally very expensive, require more intensive applications, and are longer. On the other hand, if you don't really like dirt and careful handling of soil, I don't know if it's the best idea. There is at least one paleontological dig in the US that lets you keep smaller fossils.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:43 AM on March 4, 2014

Science Ranch
posted by bq at 10:49 AM on March 4, 2014

posted by mochapickle at 11:04 AM on March 4, 2014

In archaeology, the term you're looking for is field school. In the US, new archaeologists are expected to pay for their training and you too can get trained on a real dig as long as you're willing to go camping with 20-somethings for 6 weeks at a stretch. Costs and conditions vary widely, as a layperson you're much better off finding a field school that doesn't grant college credit. It can mean the difference between paying $600 and $6000 for the same experience.
posted by TungstenChef at 11:10 AM on March 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I used to work for the Sierra Club, which runs really great multiday hikes/other outings, both in the US and internationally. I haven't been on one, but I've only heard good things.
posted by lunasol at 11:14 AM on March 4, 2014

Guided kayak trips are awesome for this. They give you a gear list and plan/pack the food and logistics and tell you what to do. We did a nice week-long thing in the San Juan Islands in Washington last year.

See also pretty much anything on REI's travel page or Alaska Geographic's course list.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:48 AM on March 4, 2014

Greenheart Travel has lots of options if you're looking for guided volunteer-type experiences around the world.
posted by picopebbles at 11:55 AM on March 4, 2014

Ok, I feel like I am always recommending this, but G Adventures runs sailing trips in Greece and Croatia that might be up your alley. Those trips are on 50' yachts with 1 skipper and up to 8 guests. You can help raise/lower/trim sails and assist with mooring (like raising/lowering the anchor, tying off lines). The downsides are that it will be at the whim of your skipper (some like to teach more than others) and also the weather...if there's no wind there's no sailing, just motor. These are more vacation than anything, but it's a fun time and could whet your appetite for more sailing experience.

I've been on 3 of these trips and it was just enough exposure for me to decide I wanted proper sailing instruction, so I am considering a course from a place like this where you can get certified to charter your own yacht during an active sailing trip.
posted by cabingirl at 12:19 PM on March 4, 2014

Outward Bound is a nonprofit outdoor adventure organization that leads groups of people on week-long to semester-long guided tours with all kinds of different adventuring activities, like backpacking, rock climbing, canoeing, rafting, sailing, etc.
posted by shortyJBot at 4:26 PM on March 4, 2014

Seconding mochapickle's suggestion. WWOOF has links all over the world so you'll have a lot of options. You'll actually be doing stuff (I learned how to make a watermelon blossom grow into a symmetric/spherical fruit, amongst other things). And the people I've been with have been friendly, interesting and fun to be around.
posted by Tara-dactyl at 3:19 AM on March 5, 2014

For example, taking a trip to an archeological dig and taking part in the dig itself.

I think Archeology Today (or one of those populist archeology magazines) always had a section devoted to digs you could join.

And you might be able to do something through a local university. I once took a summer archeology course through a state university and ended up digging two different local sites that summer: a 19th-century European settler farm site of historical significance and a Native American site. We would pile into a van every morning, drive out to one of the sites with our tools and packed lunches, and get to work shoveling, scraping, brushing, and carefully drawing everything while the professor and a couple of TAs looked on. We learned how to knap chert (and recognize chert tools, tool fragments, and tool manufacturing debris), how to stake out a site and plot everything found in it, etc. And it was a regular course, so we got transferable credit for it.

If you want to do that, figure out where you are going to be (or want to be) and then see whether there is a local university that offers a summer dig course.
posted by pracowity at 4:36 AM on March 5, 2014

You could take a guided bicycling tour through the Adventure Cycling Association.
posted by crLLC at 7:22 AM on March 5, 2014

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