Family of 4 roasts marshmallows over a fire at a camp site

Whet your appetite for travel again with these experiences

Consider some new, unforgettable ways to explore the world as traveling becomes safer and more accessible.

As the world opens up again for travel, choosing where you want to go – and with whom – may become the hardest part. Here are some fun options to think about as you dip your toes back in the water.

Back to school

Traveling in itself is always a learning experience, but if you want to take your thirst for knowledge to the next level, consider traveling with a scholar who specializes in the terrain you’ll be journeying.

In 1829, chemist and mineralogist James Smithson bequeathed his substantial inheritance to found a museum exploring these things in his name. Now the largest museum in the world, encompassing 19 museums and a zoo, the Smithsonian offers journeys exploring world cultures and the natural sciences with renowned scholars all over the world.

Astrophysicists, museum directors, professors of history, TEDx stars, naturalists, medievalists and Egyptologists are just a few of the tour directors who will guide you. Your expert guide may offer lectures, informal presentations and other materials to give context to what you are visiting and seeing, as well as outlines of timelines, bibliographies and resources to learn more.

Experiences can include everything from exploring the pyramids with a professor of Egyptology and author of a book about birds in ancient Egypt to experiencing the solstice in Antarctica with a NASA astrophysicist.

Walk it out

For over 40 years, Country Walkers has specialized in seeing the world on foot. The company organizes travel experiences focused on walking and offers both self-guided tours and tours with expert guides.

Along with a daily trek, you will stay at locally owned hotels and learn about local customs, food and wine from tour guides. Activity ranges from light walking to challenging hikes in rocky terrain, and you can choose the activity level that works for you.

This is exclusively small-group travel only, with up to 18 in a guided group and up to 12 in a private, self-guided group.

Tours are as diverse as walking the Makgadikgadi salt pans in Botswana, strolling through Muir Woods among the redwoods in California or touring a red sandstone castle in Lithuania.

Going solo

Overseas Adventure Travel, or OAT for short, has been guiding curious and engaged travelers primarily over the age of 50 since 1978, and has award-winning solo experiences as well.

OAT provides authentic experiences wherever you choose to go, with small group sizes of no more than 25 and ships that hold between 16 and 175 passengers. Their smaller ships mean they can access ports of harbor and other out-of-the-way places larger cruise ships cannot.

For lodgings, smaller hotels are favored over large chain hotels. And with searches for “solo women travel” up 230% in 2019, OAT’s Solo Women Experience fills that niche. The Solo Women Experience is a program for women who want to travel on their own, with single supplement fees waived for most trips.

Whether you are exploring glaciers in Iceland with a mountaineer or riding in a vintage Fiat 500 to Modica, Italy, you will be experiencing your trip at a local level.

A little help from your friends

Tapooz Travel specializes in making the inaccessible accessible. One of a handful that Lonely Planet endorsed for its travel expertise for those with disabilities, Tapooz deploys a team of adaptive sports instructors, massage therapists and mobility experts along with chefs, winemakers, tribal elders and hot-air balloon operators to create customized travel for those who may have mobility challenges.

A trip to California’s Anderson Valley and up to Mendocino features drives up the coast, “lazy afternoons” in Healdsburg’s town square and dining at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. A trip to India could find you entranced by a love story at the Taj Mahal, gazing at the stars via an observatory or drifting on Lake Pichola.

Unleash your inner artist

Vacation with an Artist (VAWAA) is a mini-apprenticeship where you’ll pay to learn the craft of an artist, with options that range from painting to canoe building. Artist adventures are offered in the U.S. and across the globe, which means you could learn indigenous dyeing and weaving in Mexico or the 400-year-old art of making Buddhist rin bells in Japan. Some experiences include lodging at the artist’s residence as well, making this a vacation like no other.

Check the description of the property for information on stairs and accessibility, or be in direct contact with the artists who can help customize your stay for your abilities.