Make the world your classroom in 2015

Many of us spend January optimistically making new year resolutions, setting goals and planning the year ahead.
I like to sketch out my goals, hopes and dreams for the year as I’ve noticed they’re more likely to happen that way. For instance, true to my scrappy drawings, last year I ran my first writers’ retreat in Bali, I took more holidays than ever before, and had a new book published.

I also like to kick off the new year with a look at what trend forecasters say. To that end, I’ve been rifling through the papers, mags and Internet to see what they predict for 2015.

Trend forecasting can be puzzling, amusing, irritating or illuminating and sometimes all at once. It appears to rely less on a crystal ball, more on the facts, open ears, a keen eye and a piecing together of a whole bunch of clues.

Of all industries I’ve noticed that travel folk are incredibly good at surveying, and predicting how their clients will behave. Astonishingly, if 2015 matches their predictions then I will be bang on trend for a change, more of which later.

According to them, we now want more out of a holiday than reading next to the swimming pool of a 5 star resort. (Though in January, I wouldn’t say no!)

Here’s my edited pick of what the top travel trendsters predict:

1. A desire to share experiences and connect with locals
2. A preference for authentic, local-cooked food over swanky restaurants
3. Working our holidays harder: combining a holiday with a wedding or a course for e.g.
4. Using holidays to improve our lives: learn a new skill, write a book, get fit or de-stress.
5. A move away from five stars to more authentic and socially conscious holidays

Time.com describes 2015 as ‘a year of expanding horizons’ predicting that we will ‘visit resorts and travel with companies where the bottom line is measured by how much goes back into local communities’.

The Sunday Times kicked off the New Year with a piece about life-changing travel. They predict a growing desire for more than just an escape from the 9-5 for a beach or luxury holiday. Their travel pages were packed with ‘holidays that lasting benefits that won’t just be distant memories when you’re back at your desk…’ Instead ‘you’ll look back on them as vital experiences that kick-started the discovery of a whole new you.’

We will also be making ‘the world our classroom, attending workshops, salons, and conferences across the globe.’

This all sounds promising stuff. Less of the posh and artificial, more of the real and local, and a burning desire to indulge our passions or to nail new skills.

As a writing retreat leader, I am intrigued by the idea of the world as our classroom and life-changing holidays. There’s been an explosion of goal orientated holidays, where we retreat from everyday life to learn something new, to develop a skill such as writing or to get fit or de-stress.

What is driving this trend? Why it is that we increasingly want to get off the sun lounger to learn as a part of our holiday? Is it that we have simply lost the ability to relax and want to keep moving even on holiday?

Perhaps it because many of us work such long hours that the time we used to dedicate to hobbies and other passions has been consumed by work? Or it may simply be that we no longer want to wait until we retire to pursue our desires and dreams but start now.

And is this a good or a bad thing? Surely we need our down time? There is a lot of talk that we are switched on more than ever before and that this is wholly and unreservedly bad for us, but need it be? If we are doing things that nourish us, that cause no harm, how can anyone object?

I can’t think of a bad thing that comes out of spending more time on the things we are curious or passionate about, especially if that means increasing our knowledge and skills or learning something new.

And what of my claim of being on trend? With a sense that I wasn’t the only one with an urge to use my holidays to grow and improve, as well as to relax and regroup, I partnered with the appropriately named Sharing Bali to run writers’ retreats. And funnily enough, together we tick all the 2015 trend boxes: offering an authentic Balinese experience including ‘hanging with the locals’ and immersion in village life at the same time as setting up a classroom in the tropical breeze.

Ask anyone who goes on a writers’ retreat why they did it and they’ll probably tell you they want to leave everyday life and its distractions behind to try their hand at something they’ve longed to do. What I love about the Sharing Bali retreat is that we can do it in a way that includes locals, the ‘resort’ is part of the village with locals walking through, working the adjacent rice paddy, stopping to chat or dropping produce at the kitchen.

It also gives locals the opportunity to use their full range of talents: mostly traditional talents with a sprinkle of new. At Sharing Bali visitors experience the owner, Wayan’s reclaimed teak houses, design, sculptures and water features; Ngurah’s creativity through his drawing and painting, and flower art; Wayan’s body therapy skills and Arni’s cooking. And not forgetting, co-owner, Karen’s talent for creating simple luxury in a village setting, and partnering with others like myself to offer people time and space to enhance their lives while getting a taste of the real Bali.

If how we holiday is being redefined by the people and 2015 looks set to further our desire to have more deep and meaningful travel experiences. What impact will these trends have on us? Will it mean that we return home, not only refreshed but also having learnt something new or achieved a longed for desire?

There’s nothing quite like making time and space for the things you love to do but don’t find the time for in day-to-day life.  Whether you need to start your book, finish it, edit it or get it ready to send off to agents, I sincerely hope you can carve out some time for yourself to achieve all that you wish to with your writing in 2015.
Jacq Burns

Raised in Adelaide, Jacq Burns moved to London to work at the heart of publishing at Random House going on to found London Writers’ Club and a Noughties style literary agency & publishing consultancy.
She also leads writers’ retreats at Sharing Bali, secluded in a tiny village in the hills above Ubud where it’s all about the writing, as well as hanging with the locals, experiencing village life and eating authentic Balinese food.

To find out more about Writing a Bestseller at Sharing Bali: http://www.sharingbali.com/retreats/writers-retreat/
And http://jacqburns.com/writers-retreats/

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