Janet Waters was on South Plaza Island in the Galápagos, painting a watercolor of a land iguana, when it hit her: “The whole holiday came alive,” says the Nottingham, UK, native who’s been on more than a dozen interest-based trips to destinations around the world. “I was taking in the feel of the place, its special character, its beauty, its wildlife and I was creating a piece of art, expressing all that I saw and felt.”
Sarah Carter was on the same painting tour through the Galapagos with Art Safari, a 15-year-old company that runs guided, painting-based tours around the world. She says the trip helped her connect with the locals, as well as her surroundings. “[Painting] helps you get under the skin of the area and enables you to make contact with the people who live there, who are usually curious about what you are doing,” Carter says. “For example, when we were in the fish market in Puerto Ayora, we could stand for ages sketching and painting while surrounded by wildlife and the people working in the market who were interested in what we were doing.”
“A trip like this makes me more observant of my surroundings,” Waters adds, “helping me to see through different eyes. I feel that I’ve been in the place and part of the place, and I go home with a wonderful visual diary of my experiences.”
Waters and Carter are not alone. Thousands of travelers take interest-based trips around the world every year. These are not retreats or camps. These are guided trips tailored to facilitate the practice of your interest or hobby: You travel on an itinerary that’s crafted to help you hone your skills, share your passion with locals, and see and experience a place in a deeply personal way.
While we’ve all heard of photography-based trips or bird-watching trips, the world of interest-based tours is much more diverse than that. Name your hobby—whether it’s weaving or calligraphy, belly-dancing or gardening—and there’s probably a trip for you. In addition to Art Safari’s painting tours, here are three more interest-based trips that caught our eye.
1. Authentic Adventures offers a range of interest-based trips, but its Natural Voice Acapella Singing Holidays are about as niche as they come. Tours, led by accomplished singers, are offered in Bulgaria, Sri Lanka, Spain, Italy, and Malta—and they’re open to singers at all levels.
2. Swim Trek has been offering tours centered around open-water swimming since 2003. Its motto is “Unpack. Swim. Escape,” and swimming enthusiasts can now choose from more than 40 global destinations. Lead by swimming coaches and monitored by piloted safety boats in the water, trip participants literally dive into their destinations.
3. Geo World Travel offers geologist-lead trips around the world that focus on rocks and geology, including tours to understand the volcanic and glacial effects in Antarctica, looking for trilobites in Morocco, exploring the Mustang Valley in Nepal, and investigating rocks in the Canadian Rockies.