Road Reads: 'Immersion Travel USA'

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

WHAT: "Immersion Travel USA: The Best and Most Meaningful Volunteering, Living, and Learning Excursions," by Sheryl Kayne (Countryman Press, $19.95)

TARGET AUDIENCE: Anyone interested in being more than a tourist.

Earn money while traveling? An appealing idea, and one this book could make possible. The author worked as a cook on a Wyoming ranch one summer to go horseback riding. Then she scouted the country for opportunities that pay a wage or stipend, or that let guests barter services in exchange for room and board; she also looked for free experiences. The result is a guidebook to "open up new doors of possibility." However, many places listed do charge a fee, which can be hefty: Alaska glacier kayaking costs $483.50 a day; the Skip Barber Racing School one-day high-performance-car program is $1,799.

Contacts are given for places that hire seasonal help: ski resorts, cruise ships, organic farms, a wooden boat company. Some, such as the family-owned Oakland House Seaside Resort in rural Brooksville, Maine, provide housing and salary. And if you've fantasized about operating a bed-and-breakfast, learn how before you quit your day job during workshops ($275 to $500) at Wedgwood Inn in New Hope, Pa.

There's a hodgepodge of listings (surf camp, rock climbing, farming, meditating, gold prospecting, dog-sledding school, cave tours, even falconry classes) often accompanied by vignettes from travelers. Some listings merely note admissions and tourist itineraries. Accommodation information is spotty. Another quibble: The index doesn't list places or opportunities by state or activity, which would facilitate gleaning.

Still, this book is a handy starter that will save hours of research for anyone looking to travel where they can learn, volunteer or live like a local. If you can't find something that makes you want to go, check your pulse.

-- Sue Kovach Shuman

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