If you’re finding yourself with, er, time on your hands from a layoff, here’s a way to start your year making lemonade out of your pink slip. Courtesy of this 15% special ‘layoff” discount from the folks at Intrepid Travel, it may be that just chilling a while isn’t a bad strategy before jumping back into the fray. Call it a midlife sabbatical - or an opportunity to tap into some of the life-changing insights your right brain has been waiting to download for just such a moment of your down time. But if the impulse for wanderlust and the unexpected describes your travel style, then a time-out to feed your Inner Intrepid Self for a while may be just the ticket.

Specializing in off the beaten track travel with small groups for over 20 years, Intrepid is a company with a Think Globally, Act Locally philosophy. They believe travel should be enlightening, entertaining and life changing, and they design trips for people who want to “make a difference to the world, not just hang out in it”. Their guiding principle is to stay close to a region’s culture, to meet people, learn, stay and eat in small-scale locally-owned establishments, explore, volunteer and just get out and have fun – and in the process, break down prejudices and build cross-cultural understanding.

Sometimes making a difference for others in greater need than your own is just the thing to regain perspective. With their Volunteer Travel trips, you can contribute to an African or Asian village, and help to build a community center, or teach in a youth development project. If a more inner-directed retreat for contemplation to calls, a yoga and meditation Lifestyle Getaway to center and re-balance body, mind and spirit, may fit the bill.

However, if you’re still employed and looking for a company that will arrange opportunities for you to stay in the home of Thai villagers, a polar expedition, or to take a Peruvian mountain trek, Intrepid also offers a 20% discount for last minute travel. You can get in shape at a Bali fitness boot camp or an Urban adventure. Intrepid also offers LGBT tours.

Intrepid works with reputable local operators in over 90 countries who are passionate and enthusiastic about their countries. Accommodations and other service choices are based on friendliness as well as facilities, character as much as convenience. Their over 600 trips are offered in many comfort and price ranges, with tours generally accommodating ten travelers. They also build in freedom and flexibility to go off on your own when you hear the call.

Another guiding motto – that “Half the fun of travel is the traveling itself”, they want getting from A to B to be a highlight of your trip, not a chore. You will likely take public transport, and possibly other more weird and/ or wonderful options, from the familiar to the downright bizarre. You might find yourself riding an elephant, a bicycle or a bamboo raft as well as boarding a bus or an airplane. Among their Quirky Accommodations trips they offer an experience in a Tokyo Capsule Hotel, and a Sphere Accommodation - i.e. a tree house, in an old growth forest on Vancouver Island.

Intrepid is also committed to becoming a carbon neutral company by 2010, supporting sustainable tourism wherever possible. They also have a community building donation program, and will match your contributions dollar for dollar to fund a local development project.

Whatever you do with that pink slip, make 2009 a year worth remembering.

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