5 Ways to Get Cultured in 2012

It’s easy to get caught up in doing what everybody else does. And the urge to “keep up with the Frommers” can be even greater when traveling, especially if it’s an experience abroad. We all want to write home about our first visit to the Louvre, or the day we spent floating blithely in Maya Bay, but what about the myriad possibilities to explore the lifestyle, language and culture of a place? And why not take a moment to understand the traditions, food, and ethos of the locals?

If you’re someone who’s craving to venture beyond the Spanish Steps and the Empire State Building in 2012, we think we might just have some ideas that will satisfy the culture-ist in you.


1. Attend Spanish language school in the small town of Sucre, Bolivia

This Spanish language school in Bolivia will not only improve your conversational skills, but allow you access to some fascinating cultural sites and national parks. Located in Sucre, a beautiful colonial city adorned with museums, old churches and parks, the school encourages students to explore other parts of Bolivia by taking advantage of the inexpensive flights from the city to virtually every part of the country.


2. Hang out with the indigenous Embera tribe of Panama

Southern Explorations’ Panama Highlights tour will take you on a journey to visit the indigenous Embera Indian tribe–a semi-nomadic people living on the banks of the Changres river. The tour begins with a boat ride in a piragua along the Changres River followed by a hike through the forest with a native guide where you’ll learn about the culture of the local people. Upon reaching the village, you’ll get a glimpse of daily life within the tribe. The Embera hunt wild fish and game, with snares, blow guns, bows and arrows, and occasionally, firearms. An essential part of their diet is the poisonous root Manioc, commonly known as Cassava, which must be pressed before cooking onto flatbread.


3. Visit the nomadic tribes of Eastern Mongolia

This tour will take you to the Buddhist temples and museums of Ulaanbaatar; fly you to the heart of the Gobi desert where you’ll camp, search for dinosaur bones, ride a two-humped camel and visit the Yol Valley in the Altai Mountains’ Gurvan Saikhan region; whisk you to Lake Khovsgol, where you’ll explore “a wilderness of clear lakes, lush meadows, and forested mountains,” and perhaps meet some of the area’s Tsaatan people–nomadic reindeer herders who resolutely practice shamanism. The tour ends with a trek through the softly rolling, forest-draped hills of Gorkhi Terelj National Park.


4.  Find enlightenment in India

Don’t let the cheesy name of this tour trick you into believing it’s anything but an authentic cultural experience. On the 18-day “Eat, Pray, Love” excursion, you’ll stay at an ashrams in Delhi and Rishikesh practicing Raj Yoga and meditation against the backdrop of the Holy Ganges River, and participate in several pilgrimages to holy monuments and sacred historical sites. After connecting with your spirit at the ashrams, you’ll “cruise down the Ganges at dawn by boat, visit the ancient ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri, tour the Taj Mahal, stroll through the park where Buddha taught the Dharma after his enlightenment, and travel to Manikarnika Ghat to witness beautiful death rituals and rites.”


5. Experience the culture of Italy through it’s food – work on a small farm through WWOOF

Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms Italia officially became a volunteer organization in 2001.  Providing experiences on a budget such as volunteering on vineyards and olive groves in Riparbella, or beekeeping in Piedmont, the organization enables you to connect with the local people, horticulture, culinary traditions, and the bucolic countryside of Italy.


Photo by: flckr/jkuba!

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