After a long day of work and parenting a toddler, I could easily just collapse on the sofa and escape into soul-petrifying television, and all too often I do. But on the rare occasion that I rouse myself to do something creative, such as baking or sketching, not only do I find that I wake up, I also have something to show for my time.
Image by Antti Pietakainen
It’s a practice I want to apply to my holidays. In theory, there’s nothing more relaxing than lazing on the beach all day, but more often than not, I simply end the day sunburnt and groggy. (And slightly tipsy too, depending on how close I am to the bar.) By the end of the trip, I’m nagged by the suspicion that I could spent my time and money more wisely.
I’ve decided that my salvation lies in lining up a year of learning holidays. They’re a great way to take a break from your usual routine, learn or enhance a skill, and meet people. And if a change is as good as a rest, a change and a rest is surely the best!
Inspired by the back-to-school vibe of September, here are the 5 learning holidays I want to book right now.
Ghenghis Khan Warrior Training, Mongolia
I’m not saying that this is the sort of new skill that will come in handy in my everyday life, but you never know. Who wouldn’t want to learn to make a bow and fire an arrow from it whilst galloping on a horse across the wild steppes of Mongolia? Fortunately, Responsible Travel has arranged it so you can do exactly that. I have already fallen off a horse in Mongolia, so there’s a strong urge to beat my own demons influencing my choice here. Plus I happen to know first-hand that the Mongolian countryside is one of the most soul-soothing, deeply moving places in the world, populated by some of its kindest people, and I can’t wait to return.
Creative Writing, Urban Writers’ Retreat, Devon, UK
There’s nothing organised about this one. Being told what to do and when raises my hackles, so this pared-back format from Urban Writers’ Retreats really appeals to me: no timetables, no workshops, oodles of space and time to write. I could write in the peace and quiet of my own room or try to tap into the collective creativity of the shared workroom. Plus, the host provides food and a sympathetic ear when the words won’t come. Bliss.
Husky Safari, Finland
When you have to drive your own team of huskies through an icy wilderness for five days, you learn how to mush pretty damn quickly! This is an exercise in Arctic survival and tuning in to our four-legged friends. This trip, run by Artisan Travel, would see me whooshing through the snowy forests and frozen lakes of Pallas-Ylläs National Park in North West Lapland, said to have the cleanest air in Europe. All that fresh air and the distance from civilisation as I know it can’t fail to recharge my batteries.
Channel and long-distance swimming, Mallorca, Spain
This has been on my bucket list for a long time. I love to swim but I’m mostly restricted to the local swimming pool. The few times I’ve taken a dip in open waters have been a revelation. SwimTrek has put together this intensive week-long training course in the warm waters of the Mediterranean surrounding Mallorca. The long-distance swimming training is supported by video analysis of your technique, and you’ll be in the company of other serious swimmers. There are other swim training courses too, as well as swimming holidays , which don’t have the emphasis on improving your technique.
Yoga Retreat, Yorkshire, UK
It’s the location of this one that does it for me. There are thousands of yoga holidays to choose from, but not many of them take place in an abbey still in use by Benedictine Monks. Add to that the beautiful countryside of the North York Moors National Park on the doorstep, and you’re on to a winner. And that’s before you’ve even sampled the monks’ line in beer, cider and spirits…
Of course, there’s still a place in my life for unbridled lounging; it will just be guilt free from this point forth.
Do you want to go on a learning holiday? Find like-minded women travellers to go with you here! https://www.thelmandlouise.com/en-gb/travel-buddy/