Travel Tips. Volunteer service overseas . . . deluxe African safaris . . . crawl into the saddle at a dude ranch
Star in your own video. It may not replace postcards, but now you can actually have a VHS or Beta tape of yourself giving a personal commentary in front of the White House -- or perhaps your poetic impressions of the cherry blossoms around the Jefferson Memorial. Reel Life Video Studio in Georgetown is the first in the nation to offer a 10-minute video of you with up to 21 of the major sights of Washington, D.C., in the background. Don't worry if it's 10 degrees below zero and snowing! Everything is taped under the roof of a warm, dry studio. You don't even have to have seen the tourist site you're filmed in front of. If that doesn't appeal, you can really excite Mom and Dad by putting yourself in a space-travel video or becoming a star in an MTV music video. For more information contact Reel Life Video Studio, 1015 Wisconsin Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C., 20007; (202) 342-1985. International volunteers. Young adults over 18 who are willing to offer their help in a challenging, stimulating environment may want to consider the Council on International Educational Exchange Programs. Volunteer programs lasting from two to four weeks are offered in Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, West Germany, Great Britain, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and the United States. Projects include everything from an archaeological dig in Kentucky, to restoration of castles in Europe, to working with senior citizens and handicapped children. Volunteers are responsible for their own transportation costs as well as a $100 program fee. Application deadline for international projects is May 1. Write to Council on International Educational Exchange, 356 West 34th Street, New York, N.Y. 10001; (212) 695-0293.
Into Africa. From the land that brought you ``Out of Africa'' come deluxe safari packages from Micato Safaris, which offers everything except Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. This 20-year-old firm has put together state-of-the-Ritz tours of some of the best-known game reserves in Kenya. In Nairobi you'll stay at the new Mount Kenya Safari Club, and you'll cope comfortably in the bush at Governor's Luxury Tented Camp and Salt Lick Lodge, among others. A crane's-eye view of the Great Rift Valley via twin-engine plane is included. A hot-air balloon ride over the heads of the rare reticulated giraffe, long-necked gerenuk gazelles, and other wildlife is an additional $225. For a real ``Out of Africa'' experience, you can tour Karen Estates, home of Danish author Isak Dinesen. Programs designed for special-interest groups, including art collectors, senior citizens, ornithologists, religious groups, agronomists, scientists, etc., may be worked out. Price, including air fare from the US, is $3,097. Write Micato Safaris, 57 East 11th Street, Suite 912, New York, N.Y. 10003; call 800-MICATO-1 or your local travel agent.
Visit Maine for peanuts. Fifteen years ago, Poland Spring Inns offered a weekend in Maine for $25. Now it's still doing so. And, according to Mel Robbins, proprietor, there have been many improvements over the years, but the price has remained the same. What you bring, Mel says, is ``everything from soap to books to help us keep our prices low.'' The 1986 season offers something new this year -- country music -- as well as the usual square dancing, cabaret, floor shows, costume parties, ethnic weekends, and much more. ``We know we could make a lot more money by building more rooms,'' Mel adds, ``but what we want is to slow our growth and offer an even better vacation with more facilities and activities.'' For a brochure and reservation form, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Poland Spring Inn, Poland Spring, ME, 04274.
Back in the saddle. Out west, a ``dude,'' by definition, is one who comes from outside and pays for lodging, food -- and the use of an able horse. ``Dude ranches'' are those home-run places where these amenities are available. A better term may be ``guest ranches.'' The atmosphere is folksy, warm, and untainted by television, busy traffic, and commercialism. The Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association has a colorful booklet that lists 40 such places to stay. Here, under the brim of a 10-gallon hat, you get a chance to kiss your Ford Mustang goodbye and live for a week or more as a real cowpoke -- well, sort of.
Although the summer months are the most popular, they are the most expensive. Many guest ranches are open throughout the year. Some stay open only for the October hunting season. Riding, sitting around campfires, cookouts, fishing, or just snoozing by a swimming hole are popular ways to while away the hours. Other ranches offer panning for gold, trap-shooting, and yes, even tennis. Rates are mostly between $300 and $500 per person, per week. For a helpful booklet, write Wright Catlow, Executive Director, Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association, PO Box 300, Tabernash, Colo. 80478; (303) 887-3128.