Interested in music, textiles or painting? Travel with a group of compatible adventurers.
When you travel with a group of people where your passion resonates and you’re in a beautiful mind-blowing environment, the common thread creates friendship unlike anything else, and everyone helps each other out.
Imagine joining an intimate group of classical music devotees on a guided tour into the lives of the great music composers of Europe, creating textiles with a group of like-minded souls in India, or learning to paint watercolours beside a river in Japan. Creative tours, run by passionate operators with fascinating stories, are the latest in travel adventures for those not so keen on climbing Everest, white-water rafting, or cycling across France.
Sydney-based Jennifer Richardson set up The Create Escape 12 years ago and is planning a tour in October this year that will reveal the “heart and soul” of the great composers of Europe. She will show classical music lovers where greats such as Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were born, where they lived and what influenced their work.
Some mobility is required, though travellers are escorted on a bus to each location. The tour will visit Prague, Vienna, Salzburg and Munich and look at the lives of other famous composers including Johannes Brahms, Franz Schubert and Max Steiner. Jennifer’s own journey, from a career in graphic design and marketing to tour guide, began during a self-healing process after the death of her 17-year-old son, who had been chronically ill for many years with cystic fibrosis.
Singing had always been an interest and Jennifer began singing with refugees. After seeing the joy it could bring, Jennifer decided to give up her full-time job and set up The Create Escape to combine her passion for music with travel.
“At the time, no one else was doing anything like that. There weren’t really any specialist tours of this kind where you could travel with like-minded people, so it sold out within three months,” she says.
“We had a lovely lady who was going through chemotherapy at the time, and she just had such a fantastic experience, her face was glowing at the end.
“When you travel with a group of people where your passion resonates and you’re in a beautiful mind-blowing environment, the common thread creates friendship unlike anything else, and everyone helps each other out,” Jennifer says.
Fiona Wright and her husband Praveen Nayak, from Gresford in the Hunter Valley, NSW, combined their talents and launched Creative Arts Safari 12 years ago. She’s a teacher in textile and design and he had spent 30 years in the tourism sector, so the fit seemed natural. Their small-group tours focus on textiles and culture and include hands-on experiences in villages and studios in Northern India.
Fiona and Praveen also operate a textile workshop called The Stitching Project in a village in Rajasthan, where they create work for around 100 home-based women. The aim of the tours is to create a relaxed feeling that allows people to travel together without the headache of day-to-day logistics, transport, accommodation and meals, says Fiona.
“We want to show the popular sights for sure, but also find the real places where the locals live, so we look for homes, studios and out-of-the-way corners to visit. We spend a great deal of time and effort on our research and contacts, and we will tweak tours from one visit to the next with our latest discoveries.
“Textiles is a special interest of ours and affords lots of hands-on opportunities. But often, when partners or friends join the one with a textile interest, they tell us they enjoyed the experience more than they had expected.”
Travelling the region is by minibus and requires some mobility to walk from various sites, but Fiona says only a gentle walk is required. The next tour to Rajasthan is planned for October 2016.
A Brush with Beauty
Melbourne-based Glen Saunders takes art tours across South-East Asia and Japan. Participants pack up their sketching equipment and stroll to quaint locations to capture their experiences on paper or canvas. There’s no trekking required.
“The idea is that it’s a holiday for art lovers and while we go somewhere to sightsee, we sit down and do sketches. We go to little wooden houses along the river, temples and mountains and really get to see the real Japan,” Glen says. His business, Painting Holidays, began eight years ago after a conversation with the head of a painting group he had joined.
For his upcoming Japan tour in November 2016, Glen has partnered with award-winning watercolour and acrylics artist Craig Penny, who will take a group to Kyoto and Osaka during the autumn season, when the colours are spectacular for sketching.
“We stay in quality accommodation that reflects the traditions and feel of the area, and have local guides show us around, while the accompanying artist from Australia can inspire and support guests’ efforts to sketch and draw what they see and find interesting.”
Glen says specialised tours are catching on as a great way to pursue your passion while on holiday. “There are such diverse tours now, whether it’s yoga, health, writing. Basically anything you can think of as a pastime is now incorporated in a tour or a holiday. It is driven by the variations in generations now travelling, and it’s showing no signs of slowing.”