Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Ultimate Family Gift: A Themed Vacation

Here we are in the midst of the holiday season. Are you still looking for that perfect family gift to remember all year long? Consider a themed vacation in a sunny place.

Winter doldrums will hit, but there are a number of ways to benefit from the warmth of the Caribbean Islands and those in the Pacific as well. I’ve enjoyed a few days away now and then to simply read, enjoy friends and family, savor the local foods, and of course, run.

There are any number of resorts that will cater to your needs as you let the cares of the world wash away. There is another way to spend some time with family: dig deep into a topic they would find worthwhile or intriguing. I just experienced one of these on my first visit to the Caribbean in many years.

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

Ruins of a colonial prison

I came away from my week in Guadeloupe with a deeper understanding of the complex, violent past of many of the islands in the area.

Historian interpets signage at a slave rebellion site 

I also learned some about the plant life and the topography of this beautiful island, much I would have overlooked had I chosen a more passive vacation.

We also had opportunity to enjoy the many beautiful and varied beaches of Guadaloupe

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 with the myriad  of tourists on the island of Oahu, we were  the only non-residents of Hawaii taking the tour. It was a magnificent opportunity to learn about ancient fish ponds. sacred burial grounds and a drive to some cliff locations that mark the historical changes of power on Oahu.

As 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.

1.Prepare well for the subject or territory you will be exploring. In my recent trip, I sought out fiction and non-fiction literature to give me a basis for the history and a sense of place. Ask your tour contact for their suggestions for advance reading.

2. If you are not on a specific topic 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.

3. Consider a trip that includes a homestay, at least for a portion of the trip. 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 locals.

4. 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?

5. 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 be a bit more costly. There are always trade-offs.

6. 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.

7. Will the tour be age-appropriate and of interest for your entire family? Will there be recreational time for those less interested?  

Do you search for something more intriguing for family vacations? Is there a topic or activity your entire family enjoys? Have you tried a vacation exploring a specific topic or engaging in a home stay with a local? I’d love to hear your experiences.

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