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Don't Settle for an Ordinary Vacation -- Go for Extraordinary

By: Dan Farrell

You work hard all year long, and look forward to your vacation. So why settle for ordinary, when you could do something different this year and create memories that really will last a lifetime?

Today there are so many more choices than just taking a regular cruise or guided tour. If you're willing to think outside the box, and put a little effort into planning it, your vacation can be extraordinary.

First of all, think about your interests or passions. Is there something that you've always wanted to do like learn to paint, try skydiving, or scuba diving?

What about some place that you've always wanted to visit like Venice, Paris or Tahiti?

What do you love to do in your spare time? Visit art galleries, read or go to flea markets?

If you've always wanted to be a painter, why not choose Paris? But instead of staying in a hotel, and making the rounds of the usual tourist attractions, check into renting a flat or participating in a housing exchange program. (You can find several reliable companies on the Internet.) On the money you'll save on the hotel and restaurants, sign up for art classes at one of the cultural centers near where you'll be staying. And instead of signing up for a guided tour, visit the tourist attractions with your paints and easel. Live the life of an artist in Paris for two weeks!

Interested in living dangerously? You can find several adventure programs that are created around the extreme sports you're most interested in -- such as skydiving, white water rafting or rock climbing -- and they are available almost everywhere in the world -- from Africa to Istanbul to the Arctic Circle.

Want to do more than lay around on a tropical beach and work on your tan? What about visiting another country and helping to build a home for a low-income family? Rebuilding a community after a natural disaster? Or working with orphans in a third-world country? Check with your local United Way or faith-based organization. Many nonprofit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity or the Red Cross organize special trips for people who want to make a difference.

Or, if you've always wondered what Green Peace Volunteers do or wanted to work on a scientific exhibition digging up fossils or exploring the ocean, why not give them a call, to see if you could spend your vacation as a working volunteer?

What about learning a foreign language? (Your local community college probably offers "immersion" vacations as a member of a language class. During your vacation, you stay as a guest in someone's home, and have the opportunity to live like a native. You'll become totally immersed in the country of your choice, having the chance to speak the language with your hosts, learn the best places to visit, and getting to eat home cooked meals.)

If you have an idea for the "perfect" vacation, or there's something you've always wanted to do, but don't know where to start to make it happen, call your local travel agent. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by what she can help you arrange.

Whatever your interests, hobbies or passions, if you've got unfinished items on your "things to do before I die" list -- why not figure out a way to start putting a checkmark in front of some of them, by incorporating your dreams into your next vacation?

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