Excavation vacations

By Sean O'Neill
October 3, 2012

"Dig for a day" programs enable you to pick up a trowel and help archaeologists search for buried treasures, such as pottery shards, animal bones, and--occasionally--clay tablets.

In Israel, Archaeological Seminars is an organization that is excavating a site at the National Park of Beit Guvrin, which is about a half-hour drive from Jerusalem. Each "Dig for a Day" event includes a rundown of the site's history and an explanation of rudimentary excavation techniques. Then you dig in. Organizers say you have a good chance of finding an artifact because the site was the equivalent of a garbage dump centuries ago, with countless items scattered underground. Your discoveries actually enhance the historical record because cash-strapped archaeologists depend upon the work of volunteers to help them with their research. The price is $28 per adult, and $23 per child between the ages of 5-14. About 30,000 people participate each year. Details here. (Photo of the Beit Guvrim Dig by Pointing via Flickr.)

Other archaeological sites offer dig for a day programs:

In Utah, you can dig for Anasazi ruins. Learn about this and other trips at

In Poland, you can dig for a medieval cemetery. Learn about this and other trips at

Meanwhile, the U.S.D.A. Forest Service runs a Passport in Time (PIT), an archaeological program that offers dozens of volunteer projects throughout the U.S. each year at old mines, former African American slave community sites, and Native American mounds. The program is free to join but volunteers must pay for their own way. (Think: transportation, food, and lodging.) Details at the PIT website,

Related link: You'll find our round-up of museums that let kids sleep-over for the night by clicking here.

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Travel inspiration from The White Stripes

Travel and music are two of my favorite topics. So my ears perked up when I recently heard the rumor about The White Stripes and their summer concert schedule. The buzz on the Internet was that the famous rock band was going to visit every province and territory in Canada as well as every state in America. The 50-state claim turned out to be false, but the Detroit-native duo still plans to do our northern neighbor proud by visiting roughly a dozen Canadian cities and towns, starting in June. (For a list of tour stops, click here.) Curious about the delights that could be found along the tour route, I did some research. I found that many of the stops seem worth visiting--even for folks who aren't interested in the White Stripes or their upcoming album, Icky Thump. Here are highlights from a few of the most intriguing places: Edmonton, Alberta; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. --Lindsey Ramsey EDMONTON, ALBERTA Date of show: June 30 Visit North America's largest mall: It may not be the most "indie" way to spend time before or after a concert, but you're bound to find something interesting in a mall that has about 800 stores and attractions, including an amusement park, a water park, a deep-sea adventure area complete with performing sea lions, an NHL regulated ice rink, two miniature golf courses, and a seasonal petting zoo. For adults, the mall has two nightclubs, three cinemas, and a casino. 8882 170 St., 800/661-8890, Check out some handmade goods: For 105 years, downtown Edmonton has had a city market. Every Saturday from May to October, you can wander through the dozens of vendors selling everything from baked goods to bedding. The market relocated to trendy 104th St. in 2004, putting it right in the middle of the revitalization of the area. On 104th St. between Jasper Ave and 103rd Ave, 780/429-5713, Put some spice in your step at Khazana: Before the show, sample some authentic tandoori at this well-regarded restaurant. Located in the Warehouse District, Khazana offers simple curries and vegetarian dishes. But if you are in the mood to splurge, try the tandoori salmon, which is grilled in a clay oven and marinated in yogurt and spices. 10177 107 St., 780/702-0330, tandoori salmon, $17 Have a "morning-after breakfast" at the Highlevel Diner: For almost 25 years crowds have chosen the Highlevel Diner for a pick-me-up after nighttime festivities. The diner's local artwork and antique wooden tables add to the always-busy atmosphere. Try the classic blueberry buttermilk pancakes or one of several egg dishes, such as huevos rancheros served with refried beans and rice. Afterward, walk off the meal by visiting the nearby bridge that has the unusual feature of a 150-foot-long, man-made waterfall pouring into the North Saskatchewan River. 10912 88 Ave, 780/433-0993, pancakes, $7 SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN Date of show: July 1 Cruise the town: You can toast the scenery with a drink from the bar onboard the The Saskatoon Princess, which departs from the Mendel Art Gallery dock near the University Bridge. The cruise takes visitors down the river under four of Saskatoon's famous bridges, giving views of several fancy residences and immaculately landscaped parks. Cruises leave at 1:30, 3:00, and 4:30 daily, with dinner cruises available in the evening. Spadina Crescent near University Bridge, 888/747-7572,, cruise, $13 Hear Huckleberry Finn speak with a Canadian accent: Since 1991, the Barn Playhouse has been hosting some of Saskatoon's best community theater. The theater is attached to the original 74 year-old barn. July 1 is the last day to catch the production of the classic Huck Finn tale. Prior to show time, the farm has booths selling food, live music, and wagon rides. 15 miles north of Saskatoon, off Hwy 12, 306/239-4600,, 8:000 p.m., $14 Catch dinner before the show at The Barking Fish: Asian and Californian-style tapas dishes should fill you up before heading over to TCU Place for the show. Located in the spot of a former beloved pub, The Barking Fish serves up a vast cocktail and wine list along with dishes such as Ahi tacos, wontons filled with seared tuna, and an Asian ginger salad. 154 Second Ave S, 306/665-2220, tacos, $7 Head to Caffe Sola for breakfast: Concrete floors and slate tables complete the ambiance at this hip cafe that offers numerous baked goods along with its fair trade and organic coffee. Along with its full menu of Mediterranean-style dishes, it serves worthy breakfast items, like a breakfast panino filled with egg, prosciutto, pesto, and asiago cheese. 38 23rd St. E., 306/244-5344,, breakfast panino, $4 CHARLOTTETOWN, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND Date of show: July 11 Take a trip back in time: For a dose of Canadian history head to Founder's Hall. The interactive museum tells the story of Canadian history from the country's inception. Visitors become part of a simulated TV show that reports on historical events as if they were breaking news. Ask for a walking tour led by a guide in 1860s attire. If you dress up like Jack or Meg White, you'll have the perfect photo opportunity. 6 Prince Street, 800/955-1864,, $6 Stroll along the waterfront: You'll pass several shops and cafes as you admire the Victorian architecture of Charlottetown's seaside boardwalk. Poke around Peake's Wharf and local yacht club. Follow the blue line painted on the path to track down the Victorian mansions on West Street. Or else visit the beautiful Victoria Park, which is 37 acres of exquisitely maintained parkland used for swimming, tennis, or simply for enjoying views of the harbor. Great George Street at Confederation Landing Park Catch dinner before the show at the island's only brewery: The Gahan House Pub & Brewery is the perfect place for pre-show brew, offering Sir John A's Honeywheat Ale, Ironhorse Brown, and Cole's Cream Ale. Dishes such as fish and chips battered in the Honeywheat Ale and pizzas with Ironhorse Brown-infused dough should fill you up before you rock out. You might consider ordering a Little Buddy--a looming tower filled with six pints of beer, complete with you own pour spout. 126 Sydney Street, 902/626-2337,, fish and chips, $9 Eat breakfast at Linda's Coffee Shop & Restaurant: Locals crowd the counter and tourists fill the booths at Linda's due to its coffee shop feel. Located near the Delta Prince Edward hotel, you won't need prince-like funds to try a veggie omelet filled with mushrooms, green peppers, and cheddar cheese--served, with home fries and toast. 32 Queen St., 902/892-7292, veggie omelet, $6


Why volunteering is better than traveling

The following post is from our guest-blogger, Steve Jackson, who lives in Granada, Nicaragua. Have you ever had that look from a local when you're new in a foreign town? You know the one. A mixture of weariness and eyes-to-heaven exasperation. You know their unspoken words. The first one is unprintable here. The second one is "tourists!" What provoked it? Well, maybe you were haggling over a price and, well, perhaps you don't really know what that price should be. You don't really know what the item is worth but thought you'd give it a go. They do haggle here, right? Or perhaps you thought that the new ethnic togs you bought from that hillside shack were just the thing. If you want to bargain, then dressing like the locals has got to help, right? So how come they're all laughing at you? The truth is, perhaps dressing like the shopkeeper's country cousin's Grandma won't earn you that much respect. So what does? In truth you're never really going to blend in. The sooner you realise that the better. That seems to me one of the first lessons of a long stay in a country. Cut out the clothes that will insult, don't try to be something you're not, and anything in between should be fine. Much the same rules can be applied to you behaviour. You may not know local customs but as long as you show respect you'll get by. It's these things you learn when you live and work overseas. Previously I had taken a year off to travel and loved it. But I was just another rich westerner with a backpack. Shamefully I parroted this horrible expression: "If you pay the man too much then he will come to expect it and you'll ruin it for other backpackers." Later, when I worked for a charity restaurant, I read customer complaints form querying our very reasonable prices. It stated: "There should be more cheap food on the menu. I should not be expected to pay these prices as I am a backpacker." Now since when did backpackers become a charity? Trust me, if you can afford a flight halfway around the world, then financially you can look after yourself. It's an attitude that often pervades budget travelling. An ugly victim mentality, despite being surrounded by real poverty. Take a little time to live in a country and you start to change you views. When I saw a western girl in hot-pants in Hanoi, I thought, "Ouch." She is not going to have a fun day. When I saw dreadlocked travellers, arguing to the point of anger, with a shopkeeper to get five cents knocked off the price of their illegally-copied DVD, I cringed. Other times, when I was putting up notices in hostels for upcoming fundraisers, I saw the TV room packed with people watching American Idol. You come here and you do this? Volunteering was the single best thing I did with my life. Vietnam is such a bizarre confusing place that I will never understand its culture. Not even after two years. But I least I knew that. I didn't pretend that wearing a shirt made by the Hmong tribe of Sapa, while supping noodles on a street corner, made me an expert. Volunteering is about ups and downs. They say your lows are the lowest and the highs are off the chart. It is true. Without your family and friends you sometimes just want to crawl into a hole. Your work challenges and your private life can conspire to tip you over the edge. (For example, see my blog post here.) But that's the whole point. Who wants their life to be steady? On the day of my leaving do I got to say goodbye to the wonderful KOTO trainees. I bear-hugged a dozen of them at once. We sobbed together. Later when my eyes had dried the staff and I went out for a few drinks. My phone rang and I started to receive call after call from young people who had graduated from our program. They couldn't be with me because they were working. They were working in jobs that KOTO had trained them for. Only a year or so earlier they had been living on the streets. The next day, when I returned to clear out my desk, I was given this. How can you ever go back to travelling after that? I don't honestly know how much I really helped. But somehow I managed to touch these young people's lives. That has to beat sucking down banana milkshakes and sleeping till noon. Doesn't it? I just read this post from Rachie in Living for Disco. She once wrote that reading my blog had inspired her to volunteer. I am very proud of that. It sounds like she too has endured those high and lows and has had to reassess her life in the wake of it all. Another link here: 10 Reasons why Volunteering is Better than Travelling, which is an article I wrote for Brave New Traveler. From a personal point of view the best thing I can say about volunteering is how lucky it makes me feel. Lucky in so many ways. I may have been on a subsistence wage but I was a high earner by local standards. I was born into a family that was comparatively wealthy. I have two supportive parents. I am healthy. In that respect I was born lucky. But the real luck was just the chance to do this. To be in places like Vietnam and now, Nicaragua and to live like this. What did I do so right to deserve this? I feel like the luckiest man in the world. Now who wouldn't want to feel like that? See Steve's blog post from yesterday, "How I Wound Up Living Overseas," by clicking here. You can find Steve's blog at, where he talks about life, love, and his work as a fund raiser for a non-profit project called CafeChavalos.


North Korea puts on a show

More than 100,000 Korean gymnasts take part in the Arirang Festival's Mass Games, a tightly synchronized performance reenacting the country's history--or its Communist leaders' version, at any rate. This year's first installation, held in a giant Pyongyang stadium, concluded on May 15, but you can catch the one-of-a-kind spectacle when it returns August 1-September 10, 2007. While North Korea has agreed to grant U.S. citizens visas for the event, trips must typically be arranged through a government-sanctioned tour operator. Companies such as Geographic Expeditions, New Korea Tours, and Koryo Tours are among the options. Be prepared for little, if any, freedom of movement within the country and for the sense that you've been transported back in time. You can get a sneak peek at what exactly the capital of North Korea (part of the "axis of evil"!) looks like by checking out our slide show of photos from Charlie Crane's new book, Welcome to Pyongyang. (The picture above is of a bride and groom posing in Mansudae Fountain Park.) You can read an excerpt from the introduction here. For more on the freedom to travel, read an editor's letter from Erik Torkells and our recent article To Boycott or Not to Boycott. And if you've ever been to North Korea, share your impressions!


City of Light...and good food

This week, Clotilde Dusoulier tours the U.S. to promote her cookbook Chocolate & Zucchini. Mademoiselle Dusoulier won fame and fortune by creating a food blog (see here). And she won our hearts in 2005 with her Budget Travel article "My Paris is Better than Yours" Find out if she'll be visiting your city by clicking here. Meanwhile, on June 6, Dusoulier will answer your questions about Paris and food in a live online chat at