Time was that leisure travel focused primarily on sightseeing in several destinations during a land tour or cruise. Today’s leisure travelers, however, are more interested in experiencing the destinations they visit, and an increasing number desire total immersion in the local culture by spending more time in fewer destinations.
Guests seeking an authentic cultural experience in Tuscany might join in the grape or olive harvest in the fall.
Responding to this trend, several tour operators now include opportunities to dine with local families, or “where the locals eat”, while staying longer in accommodations that embody the local culture. In fact, some tours overnight in the same location and give day trips to other towns and villages across the region. Tour guest also unpack only once during this type of tour.
Theme itineraries on European river cruises focusing on local wine, beer, Christmas markets or tulip time, as well as Jewish Heritage itineraries, have grown in popularity recently. An expert on the theme subject usually joins the cruise and excursions off the ship focus on the special interests of guests onboard. Each experience offers a richer travel experience by immersing guests into the local culture.
Even ocean cruise lines have recognized this trend and responded by adding late night departures or overnights in select ports of call to afford guests a greater opportunity to savor the local flavors.
Other ‘experiential’ leisure travel options might include spending time in a rural region that holds a special attraction for you. For example, owners of a Tuscan estate, passed from one generation to another since 1625, offer guests an opportunity to experience agritourism. The estate family has updated several 17th century structures to 21st century standards creating an authentic glimpse into the lifestyle in southeastern Tuscany. Guests may take part in the grape harvest in September or the olive harvest in November, enjoy local wines and explore the nearby region.
Similar travel opportunities exist in France, Spain and Portugal, as well in many other parts of the world, for visitors seeking a richer cultural experience when they travel.
Following such an experience, you surely will return home with magical memories and a longing to return. Diving into a local foreign culture, you also will learn much about yourself and make new life-long friends.