Burned out after a lifetime of globetrotting, of visiting practically half the planet (and buying the other half) a different kind of traveller seeks to experience local life – and leaves the selfie stick at home.  

It seems that everyone, from philosophers to exchange brokers, agrees:Travel is an art. Still, in this era of constant connection, in which life is less lived than staged – for Instagram, of course, the idea of travel as an exercise in contemplation appears past its prime. Add to that the uncomfortable reality of travel these days – the procedures, the hassle, the indignity of the whole thing – and you have a perfect storm of travel hell.  

The good news is that it’s possible to escape from travel hell. How? By rowing against the tide, giving the hotspots the widest possible berth, and seeking out immersive, authentic itineraries that immerse you to the history, religion, and culture of your destination. This model of travel sees vacations no longer as a mere parenthesis for rest and relaxation, but a moment of learning and personal development.

Interns at Jikjisa Temple, South Korea. Photo: mariesradicaljourney.blogspot

In South Korea’s ancient Jikjisa temple, you can live with Buddhist monks and completely immerse yourself in the monastery’s time-honored routine of meditation, walks, chants, and prayers. It’s basically the same thing your friend in Copenhagen is trying to replicate at home, with limited success. (eng.templestay.com).

In Italy, two programs that represent the good and the bad of the country’s legendary dolce vita. Umbria’s Villa Tirrena vineyard allows guests to take part in the annual vendange at the end of September, harvesting the grapes that will become the label’s prize-winning wines. Visitors can also take part in the olive oil production process from start to finish, beginning in the fields where the olives are picked, with a stop in the frantoio, the cooperative-run mills where the olives are pressed, and ending in the kitchen, where the oil becomes the base of scrumptious Umbrian cuisine. (villatirrenarelais.com). 

Soak up inspiration, workshop in Florence. Photo: europassitalian.com

In Firenze, art schools offer workshops on the arts of the Romans, providing how-to instruction on everything from frescos to mosaics to sculpture in marble and porcelain with great masters of the techniques in private or group lessons. Getting hands on in the birthplace of the Renaissance is guaranteed to take art history to the next level, filling your cultural void even as you learn a whole new skill set. At the end of the course, everyone gets a certificate that, hanging on the living room wall, is sure to impress. (studiainitalia.com).

Visitors to Jim Thompson's Farm in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Photo: tourismthailand.com

Speaking of hands-on, there’s the immersive – and exhausting – experience that is agro tourism in Thailand. In Chiang Mai, visitors learn how to grow tea and rice at the Royal Agricultural Station Inthanon and the art of silkworm breeding at the Jim Thompson Farm (jimthompsonfarm.com).

Clock Café classes start in the market. Photo: alltheeats.blog

In Fez, Morocco’s most nitty-gritty city, chef Souad shares her culinary skills with curious visitors at Café Clock. Her Moroccan food class is a deep dive into the techniques behind some of the country’s most enduring dishes – think tagine – that gives you the basics and sends you home with a few recipes in hand. The class also includes a visit to the market to pick up ingredients and get a masterclass in the art of haggling from a true masters. (cafeclock.com).   

In South Africa, the Phinda Private Game Reserve, offers conscious safaris, where cameras replace firearms and they can tag along with a team veterinarians as they map, catch and implant microchips in rhinos. Similar models of ecotourism are also on the rise in Rwanda and Kenya, where travelers leaving the smallest possible footprint create revenue for local people and help preserve habitat for local fauna through package tours (puurtravel.com).

Casa Gilardi, in Mexico. Photo: theartblog.org

In Mexico City, design lovers get the chance to visit some of the most iconic houses built by iconic Mexican architect Luis Barragán. At Casa Pedregal, the tour is given by the architect who restored the space, and in Casa Gilardi, the tour guide is Martin Luque, who, along with his friend Pancho Gilari, convinced Barragán to come out of retirement to design what would become his last masterpiece.