Your All-Year Travel Resolutions
Because your resolution... happened when you saw a Snapchat of yourself doing the chicken dance at 2am at the work Christmas party.
It’s easy to spend a week exploring the back streets of Havana’s Old Town, sipping mojitos and watching kids in high-stakes games of soccer, but if you want to take home something other than a Che Guevara t-shirt, sign up for a five-day course at La Casa Del Son. For two hours each day, you’ll sway your hips to the beat and learn some of Cuba’s traditional dances, including the rumba and salsa. Even if you’ve got two left feet and failed to master the basics of square dancing in primary school, these private lessons will have you skimming across the dance floor in no time at all.
About US$120 for 10 hours of private dance tuition.
Because your resolution... is to mount a horse like John Wayne and learn to live off the grid.
If your travel dream is to feel at home on the ranch, an internship at Estancia Ranquilco, a huge property in the northern Patagonia region of Argentina that stretches all the way to the High Andes and the border of Chile, will have you ridin’ and ropin’ like an old cowpoke. The two-month course, taken in summer between January and March, is a crash course in living on the land, with connection to the outside world almost non-existent. Expect to leave not only having mastered the basics of horsemanship, but also able to pack a mule, butcher a goat, tend to the garden and cook for a crowd. After all, when you’re this far from the big smoke – it’s a three-hour ride to the nearest city of Zapala – it’s not like you can duck to the supermarket or local cafe.
About US$3300 for two months in a shared room, including meals.
Because your resolution... is to make something with your own two hands for a change.
More and more people are taking to the bike paths of our cities to save themselves time and money and do their part for the environment. Add a notch to your green belt by taking a weekend to construct your own bamboo bike during a London sojourn. At James Marr and Ian McMillan’s Bamboo Bicycle Club in Stratford, you’ll choose your materials then be guided through how to cut and shape the bamboo tubing, create mitre joints and complete your bike frame. You can custom design any style of bike you fancy, from a racer to a tandem bike. While there’s an alternative weekend workshop that focuses on the finishing, you can also get a guide to fit the final components at home. Now, that’s a souvenir worth saving room for in your luggage.
About US$590 for the workshop and materials for the bicycle frame.
Because your resolution... is to add a creative, yet vaguely useful, arrow to your quiver.
One of the things most travellers mention when they return from a trip to Turkey is their carpet dilemma and how many cups of mint tea they consumed in the process of either negotiating a price or a way out of the shop empty-handed. For a richer experience, sign up for a week-long carpet weaving course. You’ll stay in the village town of Gokpinar, not far from Bodrum, visit the beach and markets, and spend time at a cultural centre with local women learning how to make a small carpet in the traditional manner. Then it’s up to you to take those skills home and create your own masterpiece.
The week-long experience costs US$950 a person, twin share, including accommodation, meals, transfers from Bodrum airport, classes and some excursions.
Because your resolution... is to get on the tech train but avoid the inside of a badly lit university lecture hall.
From US$3460 for 10 days, inclusive of accommodation, meals, airport transfers, course materials and ongoing support, and daily activities.
Because your resolution… involves exploring the high seas, but doing it the way you’ve always wanted.
Picture this… You’re on the deck of a luxury yacht sailing from one picture-perfect destination to another. You can go wherever you want – within reason, of course – because you’re in charge. That dream can become a reality when you sign up for Sunsail’s RYA Day Skipper Practical Course. After five days, you’ll graduate with the skills – navigation, passage planning and yacht management – to take charge in familiar waters. Best of all, you can do the course in the stunning Greek islands from the base at Lefkas. Oh, before you sign up you’ll need at least 160 kilometres of sailing (and four hours’ night sailing) under your life vest. The same course is also available in Croatia.
The cost of the course is about US$885 a person, twin share, including transfers, accommodation on board the training yacht, and breakfast and lunch.
Because your resolution... was to never be disappointed in your holiday snaps again.
Imagine returning home from a trip and having your family and friends actually excited to come around for slide night. On this 15-day tour of Georgia, you’ll not only explore the historic cities and captivating landscapes of this former Soviet republic, but also have a local photographer along for the ride, advising on capturing postcard-perfect shots. Take images of traditional weddings, Tbilisi at night, colourful markets and local shepherds as you explore monasteries, Stalin’s steelworks in Rustavi and seventeenth-century fortresses. There’s a wealth of opportunities and you’ll learn how to take advantage of each and every one.
About US$1900, including 15 nights in two- and three-star accommodation, travel arrangements and local photographer guide.
Because your resolution... is, unlike most other people’s, to drink more and not feel guilty about it.
Take a gap year with a difference. Head to Bordeaux’s Cafa Wine School and train to become a sommelier. You’ll learn about tasting techniques, study vineyards from around the world, get the lowdown on cellar management, pair drops with suitable dishes and negotiate all the other skills you’ll need to get a job that relies on the grape. For the first 17 weeks, spend your time in the classroom – lessons are conducted in English – before completing a six-week internship, either in France or beyond, and returning to do your exams.
About US$7700, including tuition, tastings and field trips.
Because your resolution... is to give your office job the flick forever and namaste the shit out of the rest of your life.
It’s no huge surprise so many high-flying, stressed-out corporate types gravitate towards yoga. Regardless of the style practised, it emphasises mindful movement, controlled breathing and being in the moment. If you’ve ever wanted to make the most of your power poses and sun salutes, head to Costa Rica, where Anamaya Resort, overlooking the ocean near the beach town of Montezuma, is the dream destination to take your downward dog to another level. For 28 days, you’ll live and learn with your classmates, finishing with a yoga teaching qualification and, no doubt, a completely different outlook on life.
From US$3890 for dorm accommodation, all meals and training (double and single accommodation also available).
Because your resolution... is to go deep, deep down into the ocean powered only by the breath you can hold.
Ask any freediver and they’ll tell you the freedom of finning alongside the creatures of the ocean – manta rays, sharks, turtles – is like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Of course, it takes a bit of practise. Or you can sign up for a two-day course at Apnea Bali, located in the small fishing of Tulamben on the island’s northeast coast, and let the professionals show you how to do it properly and safely. You’ll learn, both in the classroom and the water, the skills you’ll need to get to a depth of 20 metres on a single breath, with all courses adapted to a student’s ability. The jewel in the crown of your two days in the ocean is a freedive on the wreck of the USAT Liberty, a cargo ship that was torpedoed by a Japanese sub in 1942 and now rests in between four and 30 metres of water.
About US$150 for the two-day course.
Because your resolution... to impress dinner guests has been ramped up to Massimo Bottura levels.
Making cheese isn’t that hard – all you need is whole milk and a little patience. But making good cheese is a different ballgame altogether. It can take a lifetime to perfect the craft, and the best way to get a head start is to book a five-day course with Sapori e Saperi in Tuscany. Giancarlo Russo, consultant to Slow Food Italy and cheese buyer, judge and stagionatore (ager), leads the classes along with five local makers, who will reveal the secrets behind traditional methods of creating a range of formaggio, including ricotta, pecorino and stracchino. At other times, you’ll have dinner at the home of a truffle hunter, learn to milk a goat and taste homemade salumi. Expect to stay at beautiful farmhouses and a castle, and return home so inspired you’ll be looking at dairy herds within days.
About US$1675, including four nights’ accommodation and all meals.
Because your resolution... is to nail the Portsea Swim Classic once and for all.
It’s one thing to swim untold lengths of a pool day after day, but a completely different kettle of fish to take to the open water. If you’ve ever dreamed of giving it your all during the Bondi to Bronte Ocean Swim or the Rip View Swim Classic at Port Lonsdale, you’ll need to do some serious training out in the waves. During the European summer, head for the spectacular Spanish island of Mallorca and Swim Trek’s six-day coaching event. You’ll dip in for swims lasting up to six hours – that’s a qualification swim for anyone wanting to tackle the English Channel – have your technique assessed and attend seminars about nutrition, training and mental preparation. We’re not saying it’ll be easy, but the perfect turquoise ocean and Mediterranean landscape make it all worthwhile.
About US$1110, including five nights’ accommodation, breakfasts and lunches, seminars and fully guided swims.
Because your resolution... is to overcome your fears and never get vertigo on an escalator again.
Acrophobia affects about 7.5 per cent of the population, making it one of the most common phobias. For some, the fear of heights stop them conquering Sydney’s BridgeClimb, while others have a problem with staircases. But you can overcome it when you sign up on a two-day course at Will4Adventure. You’ll start inside, discovering the reasons for acrophobia and using neuro-linguistic programming to retrain your brain. Then it’s out into the beautiful Peak District National Park to take on some graduated challenges, from walking up a rocky hill to abseiling down a cliff. For those wanting to take a few more steps, head to the follow up session in Snowdonia where you can reach your height goals. At any point you can choose not to take part, but if you manage all the exercises, you’ll enter a new fear-free stage of your life.
About US$255 for the weekend course, and an extra US$180 for the follow-up session.
Because your resolution... is to be more Bodhi and ride a wave that never ends.
You’ve mastered Bells Beach, cracked your board at Teahupo’o and you’re now on the hunt for the next great conquest. OK, so the standing wave at the Lachine Rapids on Montreal’s Saint Lawrence River may not be anywhere near as challenging as Waimea Bay, but it is very different. Cresting at up to two metres, this half pipe-style break just goes on forever. But this is Canada, and after a couple of minutes, surfers will drop off the wave to let someone else in. If you’re a beginner and find yourself in Canada during the summer, book a day-long lesson that will take you from the nearby bunny wave to Habitat 67 (named after the building in the background). Everyone says this is the easy way to become acclimated to board riding, so nail it here then take your surf skills on the road.
About US$105, including surfboard, helmet and life-jacket hire.
Because your resolution... is to prove you’re at least 50 per cent harder than Bear Grylls.
The Namib Desert is a landscape like no other, where seemingly desolate sandy plains and granite mountains shaped by ancient volcanoes are inhabited by wildlife that ranges from elephants to dik-diks. The San Bushman have lived here for about 70,000 years, tracking and hunting animals to survive – they’ve been known to chase kudu for two to five hours until the animal drops from exhaustion. Learn their skills on Wild Human’s seven-night Wild Namibia tour, led by two guide from the team and accompanied by two San Bushman trackers. You’ll combine running and tracking with desert bushcraft, all while staying in a wild camp and sleeping beneath the stars. This is a chance to develop skills that are part of every humans’ DNA and practise the real reason we can all run (you won’t, however, do any actual hunting). If you’ve been seeking a trip that’s both challenging and memorable, you can stop searching now.
From about US$1575.
Because your resolution... is to make yourself a more well-rounded individual while helping someone else.
Plenty of people head overseas to immerse themselves in a foreign language, but you’ll get more than an advanced grasp of Spanish when you enrol in the immersion course with Pop Wuj in Guatemala. As well as spending five hours each day conjugating your verbs one on one with a tutor, you’ll stay with a local family in Quetzaltenango – Xela for short – and can opt to volunteer for one of Pop Wuj’s community projects that focus on medicine, social work and education. Regardless of how you spend your spare time (there are some fantastic hikes in this volcanic landscape), feel content in the knowledge that the dollars you spend at the school assist in keeping these projects viable and allow families in the city to sponsor Mayan children so they can stay in school.
About US$210 a week, including tuition, school activities and full-board
Because your resolution... is to pummel something really hard while avoiding jail.
Beating things senseless is an excellent way to diminish stress and it can be a lot of fun, too, especially if it’s a drum you’re banging with large sticks. In Tokyo, the Taiko Center is the place to wrap yourself in a kimono and make a lot of noise during a drop-in drumming class. You’ll get to know a little about the history of the taiko, learn the basic techniques and master a simple, traditional song, all in the space of an hour. There are two studios – one in Aoyama and the other in Asakusa. If you book for the latter, you’ll be able to bolster your new sense of peace with a visit to the famous Senso-ji temple.
About US$60 for an hour-long group class.
Because your resolution... is to fly free, like a bird, without crashing into the side of a mountain.
Sure, you and all your mates have done tandem skydives, but now it’s time to take the next step. From the cliff tops of Cape Town, you can spend 14 days perfecting your piloting skills and become a licensed paraglider. You’ll take in-depth theory classes but the pièce de résistance is launching from somewhere like Lions Head, where magnificent views of the city and ocean will have your eyes popping as you ride the thermals. You’ll complete 35 flights over 14 days (it can take one to six months to do them all), and pass a written examination before your licence is handed over.
The course costs about US$1240.