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5 classes you can take while isolating to be a better traveler in the future


(Washington Post illustration; iStock)

In case you need a reminder, you should not be traveling now or anytime soon. But if you’re privileged to have some time on your hands during the coronavirus outbreak and need a new passion project, consider delving into something that will enrich your future travel experiences.

We don’t know when we’ll get to pack a suitcase and hit the road yet, but that day will eventually come. Until then, explore some of the tools the Internet offers to enhance that trip.

If there’s something you’re already curious about — like picking up Spanish or getting better at photography — start there. But don’t be afraid to explore something new, says David Rogier, the CEO and co-founder of MasterClass, an online learning platform known for its world-famous teachers.

“Try something that you would have never thought of trying, and you will learn things and be surprised at how it changes your worldview,” Rogier says.

Learn how to appreciate art

Some of the world’s most prominent attractions are art museums, such as the Louvre in Paris, the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, the Tate Modern in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

For travelers without an art background, visiting these places can be enjoyable but also confusing. How many times have you found yourself standing in front of a piece of art wondering, “What am I looking at?” or “Why is this art?"

Taking an online course on art appreciation now can make trips to museums more meaningful later. Try one of Coursera’s, like its 12-hour ″What is Contemporary Art?” course. Students can study more than 70 works of art, learn about how they’re made and the inspiration behind them, and enjoy the perk of flexible deadlines for coursework.

Learn how to appreciate wine

Eating and drinking elsewhere is one of the most impactful parts of travel. The memory of your first glass of port in Portugal or a perfectly paired malbec with your steak in Argentina can stay with you for a lifetime. Wine enthusiasts can take their imbibing up a notch by enrolling in a wine appreciation class.

MasterClass offers one with wine critic James Suckling, an expert who’s tasted more than 200,000 wines in his career. The class takes students on virtual tours of Tuscan vineyards and explains how to order, taste and pair wine, providing tools and confidence for the next time you’re ordering a glass on vacation or touring a winery abroad.

Learn how to pay for your next trip

Although some people are willing to go into debt to travel, finance experts do not recommend that route.

“It’s pretty much a bad idea to go into consumer debt for anything,” says Jill Schlesinger, a certified financial planner, CBS News business analyst and author of “The Dumb Things Smart People Do With Their Money.”

“Consumer debts are really hard to pay off. The interest rates are so high that the vacation that you thought was going to cost $3,000 over the course of a couple of years may cost you $6,000.”

Invest your self-isolation time into learning the basics of personal finance. Coursera offers a range of personal-finance classes, including a Personal & Family Financial Planning option.

Learn how to be a better photographer

Experts will tell you that you don’t need a special camera to capture beautiful travel moments; it’s about the way you take the photos. Learn to document your adventures better than ever by taking an online class during your self-isolation.

There are a lot of options out there, from enrolling in your local community college’s photography classes to casual courses from Nikon.

Until April 30, the Nikon School is offering 10 of its online photography classes free so future travelers can learn the fundamentals, dynamic landscape photography and more.

Learn a foreign language

If you like going abroad, the most obvious skill you can work on is to learn another language. Lucky for learners, there are about a million ways to jump into the practice, and some of those are free.

One fan favorite is Duolingo, a free app and website with more than 30 languages to study. Thanks to its gamification design, Duolingo feels as much like playing as it does like learning a language.

Don’t focus on becoming fluent in a new language. That lofty ambition will only add more stress to this already stressful time. Instead, Duolingo learning scientist Cindy Blanco recommends taking your language learning in snacks.

“Doing a little bit each day is better than bingeing,” says Blanco. “If you can sit five or 10 minutes or maybe even 20 minutes at home each day, that’s better than doing two hours on a Sunday.”

To get the most out of your language learning at home, Blanco encourages students to always practice the lessons out loud to emulate your future travel experiences and to have realistic goals.

“Your French doesn’t need to be at that level where you’re writing academic essays. Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ask the waiter how they’re doing,” Blanco says. “Don’t be overwhelmed by how much you don’t know. Really focus on what kind of language you need to learn before for your trip.”

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