Alternative Island Fantasies

Kourtaliotiko Gorge at Moni beach in Crete.
Kourtaliotiko Gorge at Moni beach in Crete.
The iconic Galapagos Giant Tortoise
The iconic Galapagos Giant Tortoise

By Nicole Rosenleaf Ritter

While the image of island travel usually involves four-star resorts, beach chairs and Ricardo Montalban, it is possible to have a “fantasy” island stay without ever hearing “Ze Plane!” Here’s an eclectic list of vacation and longer-term alternative travel possibilities on some very different islands around the world:

Here’s an eclectic list of vacation and longer-term alternative travel possibilities on some very different islands around the world:

Learning in Cuba

OUR LATEST TRAVEL VIDEOS
OUR LATEST TRAVEL VIDEOS

More and more Americans are traveling to Cuba, despite the American-government-imposed barriers to travel there.

Aerial view of the City of Trinidad in Cuba
City of Trinidad

One of the best programs for thoughtful travel to Cuba is Cross-Cultural Solutions’ Cuba Insight Program.

Participants explore cities and towns throughout Cuba and have the opportunity to meet Cubans where they work, study, and live. www.crossculturalsolutions.org

Ecotravel in the Galapagos

The Galapagos Islands, with their uniquely preserved flora and fauna, are anatural draw for travelers and tourists. However, the popularity of the islands has made degradation of the islands’ precious natural resources almost inevitable.

However, the popularity of the islands has made degradation of the islands’ precious natural resources almost inevitable.

Espumilla Beach and Buccaneer Cove seen on 14 day cruise.
Espumilla Beach and Buccaneer Cove as seen on 12-day cruise tour.

Sensitive travelers will want to consider Galapagos Travel, a tour operator focused on providing insightful, environmentally friendly travel to the islands. www.galapagostravel.com

Research Expeditions

Why not get something more than a tan on your next trip to Hawaii? Earthwatch offers several expeditions in exotic locations. Help the environment, learn some basic research techniques, and contribute to the fantastic work that Earthwatch does around the globe. Trip fees are usually tax-deductible. www.earthwatch.org

Build an Artificial Reef

Also see:   Global Good: Volunteering Your Way Around the World

The Reef Ball Coalition has a kind of clunky name but a very intriguing concept.

Image of Scuba Diver in previously destroyed reef in Indonesia.
Image of Scuba Diver in a previously destroyed reef in Indonesia.

They organize trips where travelers can help the coalition make and then place reef balls in areas best suited for artificial reefs.

On your vacation, you’ll not only have a chance to swim with parrot fish and sea stars, but the opportunity to restore their habitat. www.reefball.org

Dig in the sand in St. John

The U.S. Virgin Islands National Park encompasses about three-fifths of St. John’s Island, protecting its pristine beaches and offering an off-the-beaten-path means of experiencing the Caribbean.

Rustic Cottages at Cinnamon Bay Resort & Campground in the Virgin Islands National Park.
Rustic Cottages at Cinnamon Bay Resort & Campground

Camping facilities and rustic cottages are available at Cinnamon Bay Campground, as is the opportunity to work as a volunteer archaeologist and assist an ongoing excavation of the area’s pre-colonial history.

Photography in Crete

Steve Outram, a travel photographer, and instructor, offers guided photo workshops to Crete that promise to “reach behind the façade” of the island. Outram, who is a resident of Crete, knows both the country and the techniques necessary to help travelers take the photos of a lifetime. www.steveoutram.com

Working for Club Med

Never thought you’d see Club Med on GoNOMAD, did you? While it’s true that Club Med vacations are not exactly typical GoNOMAD travel, working as a GO (gentil orginasateur) for the French company can be. Club Med resorts are located on some of the most beautiful places in the world — including islands like Bali — and a six-month stint as a GO will teach you about living and working in an international environment. www.clubmed.com