Painter with an easel painting Crockett Lake

An Island Eduvacation – Part 1

Combining travel and learning into an “eduvacation” is an increasingly popular idea as people search for personal growth and relaxation.

by Jack Penland

Resolutions

Heading into a new year is a traditional time for resolutions. Two common goals are to, “Relax more and enjoy life,” and to, “Learn something and improve myself.” At first, those seem at odds with each other, but here, they work hand in glove when you take an “eduvacation.”

Whidbey and Camano Islands are full of real learning opportunities, and, when combined with the opportunities to relax, enjoy the scenery and generally hide out from the world, a visit can both challenge and restore.

The idea is to play, of course, but also to learn. The vacation is a combination of dining on great food, and chewing on new ideas, of exploring new places, and exploring new ideas.

An Island Eduvacation – Part 2 (Serious Bread)

Washington State University’s Extension Program offers occasional classes on Whidbey Island. The latest was by their Bread Lab, which attracts chefs from all over the world.

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A World of Teachers

Did you know that people come from all over the world every year to teach and to learn on Whidbey and Camano Islands? Hidden in plain sight are world-class learning opportunities on subjects as varied as painting, marketing, weaving, writing, and food.

Two of the oldest are the Pacific Northwest Art Institute and the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. Tucked away on a Coupeville side street, the art institute boasts a line-up of teachers you’d expect to see in San Francisco or New York. The literary institute sponsors an annual writers conference that pulls in writing professionals from all over. They both offer classes year-round. More recently, the Whidbey Fine Arts Studio started offering art classes with some of the best art teachers in the country.

The teachers are attracted by this unique place and, in turn, both the islands and the teachers attract the students.

One and two-day retreats, workshops and seminars are sprinkled through the calendar and likewise bring in people from all over. On one of my first shared rides from Sea-Tac airport to Whidbey I rode with a woman flying in for the annual writer’s conference. I’ve attended seminars in Langley on marketing that brought people from Boston, and Toronto, some to teach and some to learn. And, most recently spent two days learning about whole grain bread, and what someone can do at home to create a healthy loaf of bread.

Learn and Play

Many attendees do come from Seattle or Vancouver, and often they’re the people who make sure to tack on an extra couple of days to the trip, sneak in lunch at Greenbank Farm, a stroll on the beach, or an afternoon of exploring shops along Pioneer Way.

Those who didn’t add an extra couple of days almost always wish they had. They glumly catch their ride to the airport vowing to come back at next year’s event and really see the place.

Hedgebrook, the writing retreat for women, set on a farm overlooking Puget Sound’s Useless Bay,best exemplifies this idea of advancing through a retreat by hosting writers who are given the time to focus on their craft while surrounded by other writers and by Whidbey Island’s nature.

Imagine spending part of your day focused solely on whatever your interest is. Some of the island’s lodging is so near the classes, you might start your day by walking to class. How long has it been since that happened? If you drove, the experience is nothing like the stress-filled scrum of downtown big-city convention centers. And what happens after class? Antiquing awaits! Kayaking anyone? Whose up for pie, a winery visit, fishing for salmon, or sneaking off to a spa?

Unique Learning

Then, there are the education moments that are uniquely Whidbey. Learn to kayak in the open ocean or dig for clams on the beach. Chase away the winter cobwebs with “Sound Waters,” an annual day of environmental education that should be required for anyone thinking of living in and around Puget Sound.

Yes, theme parks and sin cities will always be big vacation attractions. But, as you plan your “me time” for the upcoming year, give yourself a chance to fill your vacation with moments that matter with an “eduvacation” on Whidbey and Camano Islands.

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