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The art of travel

THE ASIAN AGE. | VANESSA VIEGAS
Published : Dec 28, 2018, 12:00 am IST
Updated : Dec 28, 2018, 12:00 am IST

With 600 artists in 17 countries, there’s a vacation with an artist for every type of traveler, at any skill level, from beginner to advanced.

Percussionist Alvaro from Spain
 Percussionist Alvaro from Spain

From practicing street art with a top muralist in Buenos Aires to producing stone sculptures in Tanzania, the concept of a vacation with an artist is changing the way we travel.

The most refreshing and enriching experiences a person has in his or her life is often by travelling to new places, learning new cultures, meeting with new people and sampling cuisines and tipple from all over the world. Whether you are a tourist who sticks to popular attractions or a footloose traveller who assimilates into the local subculture, the pursuit of travelling is always to engage the mind and break free from routine. And one such immersive experience that’s changing the way we travel is the joy of vacationing with an artist. Whether it is a four day vacation with a Malaysian chef in Penang, an engaging five day literary experience with a renowned author in the mountains of Hanoi, practicing street art with a top muralist in Buenos Aires, learning calligraphy from a Sensei in Kyoto, mastering the art of tattooing from an artist in Barcelona, producing stone sculptures in Tanzania, and learning with India’s finest ceramist, the choices are varied. There’s something for every traveller, at any skill level – the only thing required is “the willingness and curiosity to learn,” stresses Designer Geetika Agrawal who comes from the same school of thought, is a through and through traveller.

Travelling to 45 countries so far, she is on a mission to humanise travel and make it an immersive opportunity for deep personal growth through her unique initiative called Vaccation With An Artist (VAWAA). Geetika believes that our hyper-digital and extreme work lives are detrimental to our existence. The constant lack of mental engagement is stripping us of creativity and dimming our lives, “People are craving slow, rich and deeper experiences that bring meaning to our lives, but options are limited,” she shares. With 600 artists in 17 countries today, this idea has now turned into a sort of a commune of avant-garde craftsmen spread all over the globe.

The experience of taking this trip though is starkly different from registering at a one-day workshop with an artist. These experiences are far more personal though that doesn’t mean it’s all work and no play on vacation. As explained in an FAQ on their website, “each trip typically averages four hours in the studio per day, meaning the rest of your time is free to use as you wish.” From a Belgian restaurateur who “spent her days sipping tea, listening to music, and making her own set of ceramic bowls” with an artist in the Alps of Slovenia to a high school student from Bangalore who “discovered the art of Mandala making in Spain”, The testimonies of various travellers on their website is proof of how travellers are looking forward to assimilating such experiences.

With VAWAA Geetika is trying to overhaul the travelling space by adding a new dimension to regular travelling. Her initiative is the first globally curated marketplace, where people can experience one-on-one interactions with local artists from around the world through a three to seven-day apprenticeship. "It is an opportunity for people to break from routine, learn new skills and be completely immersed in a cultural experience," she writes.  Interestingly, the story of VAWAA begins at home in India where Geetika was born and raised. It was here that she discovered her love for learning and travel in college while pursuing architecture. In the course of her studies, she spent her summers working with local artisans in the small towns of Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.

As she began travelling around the world, she sought similar experiences to immerse herself into the local culture, seeking inspiration to create something out of her own hands. Thus the idea of ‘Vacation With An Artist’ was born, in 2015. To set the ball rolling Geetika took a one-year sabbatical to travel to 12 countries in 12 months while starting work on VAWAA. In each country she set foot, she curated a roster of local artists, gradually learning about their creative journey and craft.

The entrepreneur personally picks artists from all around the world either with help from the Internet or through personal contacts and by actually visiting artists. On an average, “the cost of a  trip ranges from $295 - $2000” depending on the place and the length of your apprenticeship and level of skill.

Booking an artist is simple. You either pick an artist of your choice from the website or if you can’t find an artist in the city you are visiting, Geetika and her team will make sure to find one that matches your needs.

The designer currently lives in New York “surrounded by inspiring friends”. Apart from designing enriching experiences for travellers, Geetika also sees VAWAA as an opportunity for the artists to earn extra income and display their work to global audiences. Geetika not only wants her initiative to become the new inspiration for a vacation but also wants it to become a platform for knowledge sharing for all the wanderers who seek recourse in travelling.

Tags: vawaa