5 destinations to learn new skills in 2016

On December 31st, 2015

With 2016 just a few short weeks away, I find my thoughts turning towards the question: what new skills can I learn in this new year?

Confession: I’m an incurable learner. Starting new projects, learning new skills, reading about new subjects or destinations fill my veins with excitement. When the promise of 12 blank months of learning beckon, I can’t resist.

I want to fill each month with a challenge to learn something new. Toss in the possibility of traveling to a destination to aid that learning experience, and I’m hooked.

Here are five places to learn something new in 2016.

1. Your country of choice: learn a new language

Spending a few months in a new country is a fantastic way to learn that new language you’ve wanted to master.

This technique is called immersion learning. The idea is simple: remove the necessity to speak English and replace it with the absolute daily need to learn and speak this new language.

A study done by Georgetown University Medical Center and University of Illinois found that people’s brains in the immersion training group processed language like native speakers’ brains would.

Also, there was a period of no exposure to this language. Yet, the immersion training group showed more native-like processing than the explicitly trained group [or the non-immersion learning group], indicating that type of training also affects the attainment of native-like processing in the brain.

I can attest to immersion learning.

After only a few days in France, the remnants of my college French classes returned in waves. Also, I could successfully order in a restaurant and understand what the waiter was asking me. If my trip had lasted a few weeks longer, my fluency would have returned.

2. Bozeman, Montana: learn how to fly fish

Is your dream to stand thigh-deep in the middle of a river, mountains a few miles away, while a breeze ruffles your hair and fish swim past?

Your arm reaches back, then tips forward and the fishing line unspools to touch the river’s surface.

Fly fishing has become a huge passion for many people. And it’s a difficult skill to master, combining the right tools with a large amount of patience — both with yourself and with the techniques you’re learning.

But once learned, fly fishing is a type of meditation that can take you all over the world in search of that perfect river from Montana to Alaska. Start your fly fishing journey with the experts in Bozeman, Montana (where the movie, The River Runs Through It was filmed).

Bonus: Yellowstone Park is just a short 3-hour drive away through twisting highways filled with mountain vistas.

3. Thailand: learn muay thai

This style of combat is known as “the art of eight limbs.” You attack with your knees, fists, elbows, and feet in strikes rather than punches.

Not only does muay thai teach you self-defense, it has amazing cardiovascular conditioning and core strengthening benefits.

It is both physically and mentally challenging. And Thailand is the best place to learn it with its variety of camps that range from ones that cater to foreigners to those located in rural Thailand and instructors don’t speak English.

While you’re in Thailand finding your inner fighter, explore the country’s famous sights of Ayuttaya Historical Park, Bangkok’s Grand Palace, and Phang Nga Bay. Or simply meander and find your own adventures.

4. Bali, Indonesia: learn how to surf

Finally, indulge your inner surfer beach-bum by learning how to surf in Indonesia: the surfer’s paradise. This county has beautiful beaches and surf-worthy waves along its 95,000 km coastline.

For your surfing lessons, head to Bali where no reefs or corals line its beaches. So this is one of the safest spots in Indonesia to learn surfing the only way known to man: by repeatedly tumbling in the surf, until you find your balance on that surfboard and magic happens.

5. Buenos Aires, Argentina: learn tango ballroom dancing

You and your partner spin across the wood dance floor like gravity didn’t exist.

At the corner of the floor, your deep backwards dip expresses all the emotion neither of you can say to each other. Yet it’s evident in the curve of your back, how your leg stretches towards his, feeling of his hand on your lower back.

Argentine tango dancing combines a variety of styles that were developed in different regions and areas, then adds in a heavy dash of improvisation to the mix.

You’ve dreamed of learning this expressive dance in a country where the r’s roll and the food makes your eyes tear up. Take a few months and find your inner dancer by learning the Argentine tango in beautiful Buenos Aires — the city that birthed this twisting, sensual dance.

Laura Lopuch is a copywriter, incurable traveler, and blogs at Waiting To Be Read where she helps you find your next great book to read because life’s too short to read crummy books. 

Photo Credit: Sylwia Bartyzel