Forget the beach, it’s time to take off on a travel and learn holiday

By: Colin Kennedy

You’re standing in the driest place on earth where the temperature is comfortably below 0 °C, and taking in the beauty of some of the highest mountains on earth – welcome to your summer holiday, in Antarctica.

If this is your idea of fun, you’re going to love taking a ‘travel and learn’ holiday which, says managing director of Hamilton based Calder & Lawson Tours, Rosanne Matheson, is likely to be anything but forgettable.

"Travel and learn holidays will take you to some of the remotest, or most unusual locations on earth – they’re holidays that are far off the beaten track," says Rosanne. "Very often the holiday tour will be led by an expert in a particular subject."

A good example is the Antarctica tour which featured daily shipboard lectures on the geography and history of the ice continent before holidaymakers actually set foot on the Antarctic Peninsula or the ‘seventh continent’.

"I work in travel, but Antarctica was a trip of a lifetime for us. Travellers were struck by the romantic history and the courage and resourcefulness of the continent’s early adventurers and explorers, but also the sense of absolute isolation and the pristine environment. It is a harsh and unforgiving environment, but stunning in its beauty," says Rosanne.

Another example of a ‘travel and learn holiday’ is a walking trip through Japan, specifically to explore the Edo period (or Tokugawa period) which took place between 1603 and 1863, when the country was ruled by the Tokugawa shogunate and his 300 daimyō (feudal lords) – in the time of the Samurai.

"Travellers were led by an expert on the Edo period. They stayed in traditional Japanese Inns and ate the kind of food people ate in those days, to get a sense of what life was like in that time," says Rosanne.

A similar holiday would be a walking trip in the Kingdom of Bhutan in the Himalayas, where the itinerary is put together by the locals. A landlocked country located on the ancient Silk Road between Tibet and India, the Kingdom of Bhutan is led by its spiritual leader Zhabdrung Rinpoche.

Geology focused trips to Iceland, a train journey from Sweden up the inland spine to Lapland and a ‘trains and boats and planes holiday to the UK (led by a guide knowledgeable about Britain’s transport heritage), are also featured.

"Travel and learn holidays will almost always be led by a New Zealand expert on a particular subject, and they cover far less distance than most holidays – you get time to immerse yourself in a place, absorbing the local culture, traditions, history and food."

"There’s no rushing from one point to another or having your luggage ready at 7am because you have to hurry off on the tour bus somewhere. The groups are small, there’s a strong learning component and longer stayovers. The pace of travel is definitely slower."

"Holidaymakers tell us that their experiences are culturally enriching, and there’s no undue rush or pressure. It’s about experiences, and people and less frequented destinations," says Rosanne.

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