There are a number of ways older adults can benefit from the warmth of the Caribbean Islands as well as those in the Pacific.

I’ve enjoyed a few days away now and then to simply read, have fun with friends and family, and savor the local foods. There are any number of resorts that will cater to your needs as you let the cares of the world wash away.

Another way to spend some time away is digging deep in a topic or study that you find worthwhile or intriguing. I just experienced one of these on my first visit back to the Caribbean in many years.

My recent week away on the French island of Guadeloupe included a study covering the topic of the Slave Trade History in Post-Colonial Guadeloupe.

This was a week that gave me a deeper understanding of the complex, violent past of many islands in the area. I also learned a bit about the plant life and topography of this beautiful island, much of which I would have overlooked had I chosen a more passive vacation.

On a much earlier trip to Hawaii, just by chance, I happened upon an announcement in a local windward side free newspaper. A local civic historic group was offering a tour of ancient sites in the area.

I was surprised that despite the myriad of tourists on the island of Oahu, I was the only non-Hawaii resident taking this tour. It was a magnificent opportunity to learn about ancient fish ponds and sacred burial grounds, and take a drive to some cliff locations that mark the historical changes of power on Oahu.

Being a proponent of both the get-away-and-be-pampered vacation and the thought-expanding vacation, I’ll provide my ideas on what makes the latter a success.

Prepare with Advance Reading

If you are reserving a specific study tour, prepare well for the subject or territory you will be exploring. In my recent case, before my arrival to Guadeloupe, I sought out fiction and non-fiction literature to give me a basis for the history and a sense of the place. Ask your tour contact for their suggestions for advance reading.

Look Out for Local Tour Opportunities

If you are not on a specific study tour, keep an eye out for information, both on the web and in print, that may be offered by local groups such as the one I ran across in Hawaii. Generally, they know their subject matter well and are eager to share their knowledge.

Don’t Limit Yourself to Hotels

Consider a trip that includes a homestay, at least for a portion of the time. My trip to Guadeloupe did.

I stayed in the home of a professional young woman and came to understand much of family life, residential architecture designed for the lifestyle and the climate, and the favorite restaurants and home cuisine that are preferred by the locals.

Get More Information About Your Tour Guide

Learn in advance who will be your guide and who will be providing information of the credentials of your primary guide. If you are doing a study tour, the background of the leader should be available to you. Is he or she an educator, a resident or former resident, a frequent traveler to the area?

Ask About the Group Size

What is the maximum size of your group? A smaller group can move more efficiently and sometimes have access to venues not available to larger groups. It also offers more opportunity for individual questions and discussion but may cost a bit more. There are always trade-offs.

Factor in Some Time to Simply Rest and Enjoy

Will there be downtime to digest information and enjoy time with your host or fellow participants? Simply taking a drive for the mountain view, enjoying a warm walk on a sunset beach, or following up on a lead of a wonderful local eatery can provide a break and add to your memories.

How do you dig for more information on your vacations? Have you tried a vacation exploring a specific topic or engaging in a homestay with a local? I’d love to hear your experiences.

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