This post was contributed by Elena Paschinger of CreativElena. She is the author of The Creative Traveler's Handbook.
What do you like to do? Hobbies? Crafts? Maybe, you want to try something new. That's one of the best reasons for creative travel.
When was the last time you did something for the first time? If “too long ago” is your answer, then you might be in need of the very inspiration creative travel can provide.
But what is it and why should you include creative activities in your travels?
The simple answer is: Creative travel allows you to experience the soul of your destination. Learning local crafts and methods, using local resources, being taught by local experts, takes you into your destination in a unique and powerful way.
You can read more about great destinations for solo travelers here.
What is Creative Travel?
Creative travel is:
- carving my own unique piece of pounamu of New Zealand greenstone, with the help of a traditional Maori tutor.
- learning how to dance the tango in Buenos Aires in a typical Casa Milonga.
- cooking a three-course meal with charming French chef, Marthe Brohan in her private home in Paris.
Experiences such as these have the power to change you forever.
Creative travel goes beyond the typical boundaries of a fleeting “been there, done that” tourism exchange. It is the warmth you feel when you enter a family home anywhere on the planet and cook and share a meal with locals. It is the heat of the tango as you try to keep up with the pace of your instructor. It is the leap of joy when you finally wear your hand-carved souvenir round your neck. It is absolutely mind-blowing.
Here Are My 10 Tips to Travel Creatively
- Change “I cannot do this” into “I never thought I could!” What sounds like the utmost barrier to expressing your own creativity while traveling – the fear of failure – is actually the greatest opportunity you have. After all, who is there to judge you when you travel solo? Your tutors, the local people, will cherish you, and you will find that the happiness of achieving something “you never thought you could” is simply overwhelming. Not to mention the admiring looks and the recognition you get from your friends and family back home, when you reveal your new skill with a child-like sense of pride on your face!
- Social media makes it easy to research creative travel opportunities in advance and stay in touch. It has been almost a decade since I first started creative traveling around the world. The Internet, with blogs and social media in particular, has made researching creative travel organizations and tour operators easy. It has also made it very easy to stay in touch with creative people you meet on your travels. You can continue networking, sharing, and exchanging ideas.
- Let the locals guide you to achieving your full, creative potential. There is one common trait in all the creative people I have met with over the past few years on my creative trips around the world: they all share a passion. They live to tell their story. Very often, they are the story, and invariably, as a solo traveler, you will be drawn into the magic of writing your own story with them. Local tutors are there to facilitate your individual experience, to provide the setting for creativity to happen and express itself, so that you become a part of their story in return. As such, the experience you have has the power to transform you – the single greatest achievement you can have on any trip.
- Join a festival with lots of art and creativity on display! One way to overcome any misconceptions you have that you’re “not creative” is to explore the local art scene as part of a cultural event or festival where creativity is celebrated. This could be anything from interactive workshops with local people teaching you everything from crafts, pottery, weaving, or cooking to designing your own jewelry, making music, or joining a wine or beer tasting. It is a way to blend in with the crowd and experience firsthand the benefits of creative travel.
- Organizing your creative trip well minimizes risk and unexpected outcomes. Though I only spent six days in the city of Buenos Aires, I spent almost six weeks researching and organizing my creative stay in the city, including everything from a street art graffiti tour on one day to a cooking class and tango lesson on another. I did this via email and social media, contacting all partners beforehand. The other option I had was to contact a specialized tour operator such as ANDA Turismo Responsable. Reassurance from operators and prior organization always pays off, especially when it comes to new destinations or unfamiliar experiences.
- Birds of a feather flock together: Creative travel helps like-minded solo travelers meet. Creative travel not only allows you to meet unique local personalities, it also connects you with other solo travelers who have similar interests. Do you have an interest in learning how to carve a wooden statue using a chain saw? Perfect: Creative Tourism Austria provides exotic, hands-on workshops such as these. Do you want to dig deeper into traditional Aboriginal art? Then connect the dots by doing your own dot-painting workshop at holy Uluru (Ayers Rock) mountain with a group of Aboriginal artists.
- Take a fresh look: Use creativity to change your perception of an established travel destination. You might have been to Austria, Thailand, or New Zealand before and found amazing scenery, warm-hearted people, and delightful cuisine in all of them. But have you taken the time to really engage with the people you met and what you saw? Creative travel is so much more than our stereotyped, classroom learning. It is a way of understanding and engaging with the local culture and its people in the most authentic way possible – by active participation in the unique skill set of people in your host destination. Why not take a watercolor painting course, sketching in the Salzburg mountains as part of an organized hiking tour, cooking on the waterside balcony with the chef of your hotel resort in Thailand, or harvest the very Paua shells you are to carve into a unique souvenir at a New Zealand beach?
- Allow creative travel to challenge stereotypical thinking. Your attitude is key. Do you think that the Tango is only for machos wanting sex with any woman traveler? Forget it: real tango goes way beyond its common misconceptions of eroticism, and is a most beautiful dance. Do you think all Austrian women dance to the Sound of Music in Dirndl dresses? That's a film. The reality is that women often make their dresses and you can learn how to make one as well. Experiencing the creative side of a culture gives you a real feel for what it is like to be in a particular place, contributing to the positive economic and social forces tourism can have on the societies we visit.
- And finally, if everything I’ve written above doesn’t move you, here is my last tip: Dare to be different. Go solo to a creative destination. Honestly, please do. You are never really on your own. There is nothing to fear when creating something new. And there is no better way to connect with new travel companions than a hands-on, entertaining, creative workshop that also makes a difference to the locals you meet by respecting their cultural beliefs and supporting their economy.
Follow Your Interests
Follow your passion. If you love art, try making some. If you are wild about wine, take a course on tasting, go and work in a vineyard, or learn how to make quality wine yourself. If you're passionate about food, take a cooking course in the origins of your favorite cuisines.
Follow your inspiration. Who, after watching the film Ghost, didn't think that pottery would be a hobby to take up? Film, books, poetry: all of these can inspire one to a creative trip.
Where to Find Creative Travel Opportunities Around the World
“So tell me this, Elena: Where can I do creative travel around the world?” This is the tip you have all been waiting for. Now, if there was to be a complete directory of all creative destinations around the globe, I would be certain to share it with you right away! As the concept is still evolving there is no such directory but a good starting point is the International Creative Tourism Network. It includes destinations from Morocco to New Mexico, Brazil to Cyprus, Spain to Quebec, and more.
You see, creative travel really is for you to enjoy! Last but not least, I have these wise words for you:
“I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” (Confucius)