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The Garden of Earthy Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch

The Garden of Earthy Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch

If you have a passionate interest in a particular topic — it could be just about anything — you’re a prime candidate for theme travel.

In my younger days, I was obsessed by the paintings of the 15th-century Flemish fantasist Hieronymus Bosch, and trekked all over Europe attempting to see every one of them; I fell a little short, but had a wonderful time and my  dedicated  purpose gave my journey added meaning.

I was traveling by myself, but theme travel often involves going with like-minded people who share your passion. Take theme cruises, for instance.

The Lure of Theme Cruises 

For six years I wrote a regular theme cruise column for Porthole Cruise Magazine, which chronicled the adventures of folks who are crazy about the most wide-ranging subjects imaginable:

Birding cruises….mah jongg cruises…vegan cruises…vampire cruises…marathon (running) cruises…goth cruises…knitting cruises…ballroom dancing cruises…political cruises…motorcycle cruises…ukulele cruises…paranormal phenomena cruises…poker cruises…pirate cruises…jazz cruises…soap opera cruises…

Pirate cruises are a popular feature of Maine Windjammers.

Pirate cruises are a popular feature of Maine Windjammers.

There were 36 in all, and every one of them had a few things in common with the others:  many of the passengers might never have gone on a cruise of any type had they not had the theme cruise option. (And many had taken multiple theme cruises but no other kind.)

Another common element was that  their most lasting memories of the cruises were not the ports of call, the amenities on board, or the food (except maybe for the vegan cruises), but the similarly passionate people they met and bonded with over their love of quilting, golf, or Star Trek.

So, even if you think you’d never want to take a cruise, see if there’s a theme cruise out there that may be right for you.

I’d be glad to supply any reader with more info on what’s out there — just email me at, or leave a comment at the end of this post.

Themed Summer Camps for Adults

Whether you’re nostalgic for the summer camps of your youth — or you never got to go to summer camp at all and want to make up for it —  you can now live or relive the experience of sleeping in cabins or tents (or even lodge rooms) in the great outdoors, learning new skills, and sitting around the campfire — with singing and wine optional.

At  adult summer camp (no kids allowed) you can either opt for the fully traditional camp experience — swimming or kayaking in the lake, doing arts and crafts projects, hiking and roasting marshmallows — or go the themed route.

Yellowstone is a location for one adult summer camp. Photo from

Yellowstone is a location for one adult summer camp. Photo from

Let’s say you want to learn gourmet cooking — there’s a camp for that. Another summer camp teaches you all about wine, while others take a more adventurous approach: rock climbing, whitewater rafting, zip-lining and the like.

Locations range from scenic and mountainous to more urban settings, depending on the camp’s focus, but they all take you out of your back yard and into a different world for a week or a weekend.

One camp even takes you off the grid for a few days — no cell phones, laptops, digital cameras, tablets, watches — and no work talk or alcohol. They call it “digital detox.” Instead, you’ll indulge in “playshops” like yoga, sailing, nature hikes, creative writing, and crochet.

Note that while adult summer camps don’t admit children, most do admit ages 21 and older, so a lot of your fellow campers may be much younger than you are.

Some camps, though, are strictly  for folks 50+, so  if you’re concerned about being the oldest person at an adult camp filled with 20-somethings, you can search these out.

I’ll have more on adult summer camps in an upcoming post.

Nostalgia Theme Travel

Nostalgia extends well beyond longing for a return to summer camp.

How about putting together a music-themed  trip from the 50s or 60s?

You might swing by the original Woodstock site in the Catskill mountains of Bethel, New York, or pay homage to Elvis at Graceland and Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.

Woodstock Memorial at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Richie Havens' name appears first. Photo by Clark Norton

Woodstock Memorial at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Photo by Clark Norton

Branson, Missouri, is now the permanent residence and performing venue for a number of old-time country stars.

Detroit cries out for a Motown tour.

If you’re in London, England, you can hook on with a Beatles tour — and maybe pop over to Hamburg, Germany, where the Fab Four got their start.

Cultural and Educational Themed Travel

If your passion is archaeology, astronomy, English literature, Italian art, or Victorian architecture, you can find an organized tour to follow it, wherever it may lead — or simply put together your own self-guided tour as I did with my Hieronymus Bosch obsession.

You can also engage in the rewarding experience of voluntourism — volunteering to help on an archaeological dig in Egypt or Utah, for instance, or for spending two weeks helping to build a school in Kenya or Fiji.

Yes, you have to pay for the privilege of working on your vacation, but chances are the insights you’ll gain and friends you’ll make in other locales and cultures will remain with you much longer than impressions of a tropical beach.

But whatever you choose in the way of theme travel, be sure to make it something you’re passionate about and will have fun with.

It will almost certainly rank among your most memorable travels.

Up Next: Baby Boomer Travel Guide: Transportation



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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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