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Imagine yourself on the trip of your dreams: a palm-ringed island, the beauty and history of Paris, the intoxicating allure of the Napa Valley. Now imagine that with only a pen, a camera and a little curiosity, all of these incredible travel destinations are within your reach.

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I’m speaking at a conference in Long Beach, CA this weekend on four ways you can get paid to travel:

1. travel writing

2. photography

3. import/export

4. creating your own tours and workshops

I have to tell you: The more I discover about the tour and workshop element — which is new to our program this year and what I’ve been occupied with this week — the more I understand just how expansive the opportunity there is.

You wouldn’t believe the kinds of tours that exist today. Interesting niche tours you could not only enjoy… but get paid to take…

In fact, I was so amazed at some of them, I couldn’t resist sharing a few with you. Here are 14 of the strangest tours and cruises I found inside and around the U.S. —

** 1. My favorite — The Illegal Immigration Tour

In Mexico, you can sign up for a tour that simulates an illegal run across the border. You’re “shot at” by fake police. You have to hide in the bushes in hopes of dodging border patrol. And in the end you’re told stories about the many men and women who’ve tried to move their families across the border (some successfully… some not so).

Other strange and unique tours include:

** 2. Slum tours where you visit the slums in Africa, India and Asia

** 3. Prison tours where you can stop in (and sometimes talk to) real prisoners

** 4. Illegal vodka tours where you visit illegal vodka-making factories

** 5. Karaoke ghost tours

** 6. Hot glass blowing tours

** 7. Buried treasure tours

** 8. Underwater tours — by submarine and/or by scuba

** 9. Pet tours — walking tours where attendees bring their dogs and portable water dishes

** 10. Pet casket factory tours where you can tour a real pet casket factory and arrange for your pet’s funeral services

** 11. Chess cruises where the entire boat is a competition

** 12. Polka cruises (Can you fill an entire boat full of polka lovers? I guess you can.)

** 13. Armchair tours where you don’t ever actually leave your chair, you just watch presentations of the places you could go

** 14. And plastic surgery tours that take you to other countries and help you through different surgeries abroad.

Of course there are many others. In fact, there are so many others, we’re gathering our favorites in a book we’re putting together right now, titled: “101 of the Strangest Tours and Cruises You Can Use to Create the Ultimate Adventure.”

Transvestite-led tours… bird-watching tours… scrapbooking tours… night-vision penguin tours.

They’re all inside.

In keeping with our “strange travel” theme, stay tuned tomorrow for eight of the strangest hotel and travel discounts on offer today.

And in another strange — or, really, maybe it’s just counter-intuitive — turn of events. With the economy in the toilet, now may just turn out to be the best time to travel. I’ll explain why tomorrow.

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]

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