By Thecla Vis, Atlas Travel Vacation Specialist
We all cherish the idea of a relaxing holiday, but for many of us the essence of a vacation is not idleness but a stimulating change from our normal routine. Sightseeing is the best-known vacation activity, but there are many deeper and perhaps more enriching pursuits that can be undertaken as part of your travel experience. A unique holiday can be built around structured learning opportunities.
I just returned from the picturesque village of Harrogate, located in North Yorkshire, England, where part of my vacation consisted of movement, music and merriment. I had enrolled in a course given by the Nonsuch History and Dance performance company, an organization that preserves several centuries of European cultural heritage. The emphasis of this class was immersion in the music and dance of a bygone era, exposing the student to a sampling of techniques and styles from the 15th to 19th centuries.
From dawn to dusk, I was on my feet learning and memorizing steps and movements that were routine for our forebears but clumsily rendered by a non-dancer like myself. Bassadanza, quadenaria, saltarello, and piva—the vocabulary was just as challenging for my brain as the movements were for my muscles. Fortunately, I was among fellow baffled participants trying to take in the deluge of new information and choreographic memorization; the class was composed of twenty people under the tutelage of three instructors who were attentive to our different levels of ability. I tripped, I bumped, I forgot my steps, yet I laughed, I learned and I made new friends because of it.
This class is just one example of the multitude of exhilarating educational opportunities available to travelers. You can learn culinary arts by taking classes in any country from Italy to Indonesia, skills you can bring back home with you. Imagine letting your friends experience the flavor of your vacation instead of just looking at pictures!
The language of any culture is best learned in the place where it is natively spoken. Including language classes in your vacation will deepen your connection with the location and the people. Younger family members will thrive on hands-on experiences such as mask-making in Venice, yielding a precious, unique memento to take home with you. My friend’s father, a railroad enthusiast, actually went to Wales for a class in steam locomotive driving!
In Harrogate, we got into character by wearing period costumes. On one day, I played the part of Queen Phillipa with all the accoutrements. For me, the experience lives on not just through memories but in the heightened appreciation I gained of the intricate and stylized movement that characterized Renaissance era gentility. Now, when I watch period film and theatre, I am aware of details that had previously gone unnoticed. Much more than memories, I was Queen for a day. I have some new skills, some new friends and some firmer muscles!
To work with Thecla on your next vacation, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 508-488-1109.