Learning Vacations: Exploring the Possibilities

03/02/2015 02:20 pm ET | Updated May 02, 2015

I've got a whopping case of travel-envy hearing about my friend Brittany's amazing 10-day trip through southern Italy. Tagging along on her sister's study abroad program through Marymount College, she explored the Amalfi coastline visiting cities such as Positano and Ravello. Along with sampling the exquisite Italian cuisine and basking in the beautiful Italian countryside, she learned about classic architecture, Roman and Greek art and seismology.
Not only did she have a wonderful break from this harsh winter, she had an experience of a lifetime. And she's totally inspired me.
I'm ready for a learning adventure.  In doing a little of my own research, I came across G Adventures which offers a variety of trips and experiences organized by a social enterprise travel company working with small, locally owned businesses (instead of international chains) which keeps your travel costs down. Dollars stay where you spend them to support local entrepreneurs, small businesses, and to strengthen communities and raise quality of life.
For a trip similar to Brittany's jaunt in Italy, check out International Partners for Study Abroad (IPSA), a Worldwide Consortium of Universities, Colleges, and Language Schools, including programs for "Interested Adults." Choose your destination and immerse yourself in the language and culture of your host country.   Whether you study Italian in Florence, or study Spanish in Chile, it's the perfect way to challenge yourself and learn about new cultures and traditions.

Road Scholar, a not-for-profit world leader in educational adventures for lifelong learning has trips for all sorts of interests including birding in Ecuadorian Andes, exploring the National Parks in Hawaii, service learning opportunities in Bolivia or cooking in Tuscany.

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) offers chances to volunteer on organic farms around the world from India, Korea, Australia, Africa and Europe. In the WWOOF Denmark you travel among a collection of hosts, participate in the farm work and get free board and lodging.
Rainforest Alliance's
, is a great resource for any sustainably savvy traveler, where you can find hotels, tour operators and travel experiences all verified by the Rainforest Alliance.  Browse regions from Mexico to the Caribbean to South America, and review their comprehensive listing of tourism businesses that are located in beautiful, biologically rich places, which also make efforts to benefit the surrounding communities.
TripAdvisor recently aligned with Rainforest Alliance to expand listings of eco-friendly hotels and B&Bs, from budget to luxury. They're all committed to green practices like recycling, local and organic food, and electric car charging stations. Just look for the green leaf on your TripAdvisor listings.  
I'm having fun just imagining the possibilities!