Re: Enough of Redmond, I want to make the switch, but all the flavors & choices leaves me lost...
If you really want to make the switch, as opposed to just having a play with Linux to see what it looks/feels like, I'd suggest that you buy a new (or second hand) SSD of 32GB (or more) and use that for a standalone installation. That way, you can play and explore to your heart's content and try what you like without risk of borking a dual boot setup.
I'd 'caution' you that Linux (of whatever flavour) is very, very, very flexible and modular and so it offers you so many possibilities that you'll be tempted to experiment and thus make many mistakes. That's fine because you'll learn a lot and you can always restore from previously made system backups. (No licensing or internet activation hassles, etc).
Linux Mint is a very good starting point because it's been developed with ease of use in mind and the Mint forums are well populated with useful discussion topics. Since it's based on Ubuntu, the Ubuntu forums are also a very useful source of help and information. If you have a problem, someone else will have had it and the answers (or suggestions) will be out there.