What better way to experience other cultures than to do as the locals do? Worship, taste, listen and watch. You’ll be surprised what you can learn.

Buddhist MonasteryShutterstock/AkaphabSpiritual & Faith Based Journeys

Hundreds of years ago, before Eat, Pray, Love, people travelled to ashrams in India, or monasteries in Tibet. Places where you could find meaning, purpose or a connection to the divine. In Japan, a handful of Buddhist monasteries offer a place of retreat and the chance to learn about Japanese culture and history. Participate in daily monastery activities like cooking and cleaning; learn the discipline of meditation or zazen. A bonus: monasteries are some of the few places in the world where you can taste traditional shojin cuisine.

TuscanyShutterstock/Natalie AdamovCulinary & Wine Tours

Nonna knows best. And she says one of the best places in the world to eat is Tuscany. Culinary tours like Tasty Tuscany offer a one-stop culinary and cultural adventure. Bed down in a picturesque Italian villa then venture out with your chef/guide to source fresh vegetables, herbs, wines and cheeses and meet local producers. Home cooking never tasted so good. Along the way discover the locals’ home-made and genuine hospitality.

Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio TouHP Studio Tour PRLiterary & Music Tours

There are almost too many places to go to satisfy your lust for literature and passion for music. Shakespeare’s timeless plays and poignant words come alive in Stratford-upon-Avon. Mozart’s perfect music rings through the streets of his hometown, Salzburg. On a more whimsical note, muggles the world over have fallen for Harry Potter, star of one of the largest literary and movie franchises in the past decade. This year fans can book the Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour on the outskirts of London and go behind-the-scenes to view the costumes, props, animatronics and the actual film sets like Hogwarts’ Great Hall, Dumbledore’s office and Diagon Alley. Alohomora.

100th Anniversarygreatwarphoto.com100th Anniversary of World War I

The Great War, as it was called, claimed the lives nine million combatants from the Allies and Central Powers and 21 million casualties during its four long years. Lest we forget, preparations are being made by various organizations and all levels of governments to commemorate the 100th anniversary of its start in 1914. Three museums in particular showcase the sacrifice made by so many and ensure we understand the war’s significance: Museum of the Great War located in Meaux, France which opened in November 2011; the popular Imperial War Museum in London; and the lesser known National World War I Museum in Kansas City. Sadly, World War I was not the war to end all wars.

BirdsShutterstock/Uryadnikov SergeyBirdwatching

Meeting birds is easy in Costa Rica. Spotting them is even easier. Costa Rica boasts nearly 900 species of birds – more than the United States and Canada combined. Even a virgin birdwatcher will like their chances here. One of the best spots to spot is the Le Selva Biological Station, home to more than 300 species. Kayak down the Rio Tempisque Basin for a glimpse at jacanas, the purple gallinule or the umbrella bird. The country’s diverse habitats house a variety of species and its diverse terrain allows you to meet birds while hiking, walking, mountain climbing, kayaking and even ziplining. Or maybe you’ll meet one eyeing your drink at a seaside bar.

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