8 new skills you can learn while travelling

Acquire a new skill while holidaying this year. You know you made those resolutions…

Acquire a new skill while holidaying this year. You know you made those resolutions…

Want to surf like Keanu Reeves in Point Break, polish your photography skills or how to make cheese? Here’s a pick of eight ways you can stretch yourself this year.

Ride the wave

How about signing up for a vacation on the waves? There are several hotels and surf schools that offer a great stay along with surfing or windsurfing or SUP (stand up paddling) lessons. At surfing schools along India’s coast, your day kicks off with some great breakfasts, yoga/Pilates sessions, massages and lazing around beaches. At the Ashram Surf Retreat in the coastal village of Mulki in Karnataka, you will also get to do some wakeboarding, sea kayaking, stand-up paddling (SUP) on a river or ocean. Or just kick back, detox, unwind, relax, read a book and enjoy the sea breeze. Email here for more for details.

The Soul & Surf overlooking the Golden Beach at Varkala (Thiruvananthapuram) claims to give lessons by India’s first and only ISA-qualified instructors. They have a cafe serving Kerala food, daily yoga, and a host of other activities. From November to April, they run the Papanasam Surf School where you can avail surfing lessons.

Sharp shooters

Next up, a photography holiday. Sign up for a tour with Canon or opt for a Toehold Photography tours. They combine the pleasures of experiential travel and learning in a way that is as fun as it is enriching. Their 2016 calendar includes tours to Kabini, Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, Tadoba, and Ranthambore. You can pick up extensive photography and post-processing skills as well as natural history learning both on and off the field.

Have your cheese and eat it too

Delve into the culinary arts with a cheese-making holiday where you get to know about cheese cultures, microbial coagulants et al. And you get to take home the cheese you make.

Acres Wild is a farm stay in Coonoor which offers short and long courses in the beautifully located B&B attached to the organic farm run by erstwhile filmmaker Mansoor Khan. Cinnabar Farms is a cosy countryside stay in Kodaikanal which offers cheese making classes with bread-making workshops and sessions on harvesting vegetables. Specialties include a yellow cheese and a washed curd cheese, called the Cinnabar Colby.

Dirty hands, clean air

If you love working with earth, growing things, and are prepared to put in a few hours’ work a day, consider being a volunteer at Smell of the Earth, a family farm designed according to Permaculture principles near Shantiniketan. You can pick up the principles behind natural farming, composting. Meals are made from the best organic ingredients. They also run longer hands-on courses on ecological farming and setting up a sustainable farm. Keep a watch on their Facebook page for upcoming workshops.

Fruits of the forest

Learn to pick, process and preserve kokum fruits in the middle of the lush Angadibail forest at BuDa’s Kokum Harvest where you track the journey of kokum from tree to jar. You can even try your hand at making kokum-butter. Food will be vegetarian, community cooking. You will stay at a forest house, visit nearby waterfalls, play folk games and learn folk arts and crafts. For more, click here and here.

Saddle up

If Westerns and cowboys are your thing, choose a holiday on horseback in the backdrop of the Satara hills. Head to the Japalouppe Equestrian Centre, spread over 19 acres in Shankar Wadi, just off the Mumbai-Pune highway. They offer residential horse-riding camps, day picnics, barbeque weekends, etc. You can also book family packages and individual lessons. Treks up surrounding hills (peppered with waterfalls during monsoon and after) are part of the package. Check their website for upcoming camp dates.

Cook up a storm

On most of these holidays, days begin with a visit to the colourful local bazaars to pick up fresh produce and visit local eating joints for great breakfasts. If you choose the Siolim House and Cooking School in North Goa you get to stay in a beautifully restored 350-year-old villa and pick up the nitty gritties of Goan cuisine. Best of all, you can enjoy the state’s sunny beaches, bars and restaurants on your time off. Or try the Monsoon Cooking programme (with Ayurvedic treatments thrown in) at Haritha Farm’s Pimenta Spice Garden Bungalows, near Kochi in Kerala. If you want to really fine-tune your skills, choose their 10-day Chef’s Special Kerala Vegetarian programme.

Take the plunge

Experience the thrills of the deep on your next holiday. The Andamans are a diver’s paradise with translucent waters, white beaches and coral islands. Some parts have shallow waters and fabulous snorkelling amid thousands of different types of coral teeming with marine life. Lacadives, India’s pioneering diving school, operates from Chidiya Tapu in the Andaman Islands, with mainland training centers in Mumbai. Or try the waters off the eastern coast at Pondicherry where Temple Adventures offers diving classes. You can find some others here and here.

AUTHOR'S BIO: Anuradha Sengupta is a freelance writer and founder-editor of Jalebi Ink, an award-winning media collective for children and youth. A compulsive city-walker, she loves exploring urban cultures and is a columnist for NY-based Karta, a collaborative urban mapping project. Her most memorable adventure was in Afghanistan as digital media advisor, setting up citizens' media centres.