Next holiday, why not pack your brain in between the sunscreen and John Grisham’s latest bestseller?
What? Oh yes, I hear your concern and share your fear. After all, how does one balance a cocktail, pretend to read while checking out the, erm, scenery on the beach, and learn something at the same time?
Well, I’m not exactly sure…but I’m willing to try anything once.
Learn to be a Maasai Warrior
Which weapon suits your natural abilities? The bow and arrow? A spear? How about short throwing sticks that can crack a skull with one blow, called ‘rungus’?
The answer lies in Kenya, where sandy riverbeds and hiking trails act as classrooms and Morans (male warriors) are your expert guides. The weapons are used to protect family and cattle, but you’ll also learn how to wrestle, how to track animals and which natural medicines cure simple ailments.
Delve into the mysteries of high-jump rituals, spend time with traditional healers and learn how to barter for, herd and tend to the most important part of Maasai culture – their livestock.
Ok, ok, I know this sounds enriching and adventurous, but when does the holiday component come in?
It starts under a canopy of acacia trees, in a luxury safari tent, complete with a four poster bed, hot shower with views and fully catered, locally sourced meals. It ends each night with a bonfire, a few drinks under the stars and cultural story swapping – you won’t even notice your aching, warrior trained limbs.
Live Like a Tuscan
I’m not a cook, but there’s something about eating locally produced, freshly made food and chatting to the ‘mamma’ of a Tuscan farmhouse set on the fringes of an olive grove, that makes me want to be a Michelin star chef.
‘La Cucina Povera Toscana’ (Tuscan country cooking) is the beating pulse of Tuscany and learning this peasant culture tradition is not just an excuse to stuff yourself senseless with Pecorino cheese – it is, quite simply, a way of life.
Passion for the sea, the mountains and the countryside oozes into the regional cooking and you can immerse yourself in the wines, olive oils, cheeses and melons via a stay in a Villa, complete with chef, guides and, most importantly, the ‘mamma’.
Rose of the Winds, in Cortona, is an 18th century restored farmhouse with a traditional wood burning oven, barbecue pits and a swimming pool – aka ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ – to sip your Chianti by. Or, you could try Villa Torremozza, a working farm that produces its own wines and olive oils, but is close enough to Florence to pop in to town for gelato (if your pants can take it).
Writing in Paradise
Or, more to the point, Editing in Paradise. As we are so often told, writing is not for the fainthearted, but this might just be the answer to those mighty manuscript woes.
The term ‘writer friendly’ conjures dreams of quiet spaces, inspirational views, thought-provoking and likeminded company and time to do just that – write. If I let myself get really carried away, I’d also add fully prepared meals, a luxurious home in an exotic destination, experienced editors on hand, wine, fun, laughter and just a pinch of silliness. Let’s face it – all writers are a little crazy, right?
Not this time. Editing in Paradise is a self-editing masterclass retreat program that allows developing writers to learn techniques towards finishing, redrafting and publishing manuscripts. Expert guidance is given by industry professionals who’ve read your work – and your experience is tailored to it.
Destinations include KangarooValley, Bali and South Africa (just incase you were wondering about that all important ‘holiday’ component) and, in 6 days, your time is balanced with workshops, writing, eating, writing, reflection, rejuvenation, writing and the encouraging strength of fellow writers.
If you’re a writing addict, this is a touch of bohemian glamour to take the edge off the hard slog. When you return, you’ll find your mind filled with invaluable tools, your characters bursting with new life – and your manuscript sprinkled with a little bit of fairy dust.
Dance Like a Cuban
Have you ever watched Salsa dancers, in the street, on the big screen, sweating right beside you in a club, and not wanted to join in? Sexy, spontaneous, full of fire – if you can Salsa you’ll find yourself with a one-way ticket to romance heaven, the extra holiday pounds will drop off in a single night and you may just find yourself moving to Havana. So let’s start there…
There’s an array of dance holidays to choose from, where you’ll stay in a Havana hotel with lessons from native Cuban dancers. All skill levels are catered for, so beginners learn enough to dance comfortably for recreation and professionals have the opportunity to adopt the distinctively fluid Cuban style.
Take a city tour over lunch before jumping into the famous Salsa matinee dance sessions, but save some energy for when the sun goes down. With many companies, a team of professional Cuban dancers are on hand to take you to the best clubs, soirees and restaurants, just to help show off your new skills.
By the end of the week, you may be doing little more than lazing by the pool, dark sunglasses covering your bloodshot eyes as you cringe at the thought of another Cuba Libre – but if you can move like a Cuban, the pain will be worth it.