Our passions connect us with the world in a special way. They bring us closer to the core of humanity and to each other. Join us in discussion with a travel expert who knows all about themed travel. Enjoy the show!

 

 
 

Margaret Manning:

My guest today is Shila Desai. Shila is a travel writer. She has founded a fabulous company called Eat Your Heart Out Tours, and with it she takes people on amazing journeys around the world to explore their passions. It’s great to have you here, Shila.

Shila Desai:

Thank you, Margaret. It’s always exciting to be here on Sixty and Me.

Margaret:

Thank you. We have a fairly large global community now, touching about five hundred thousand women all around the world. They engage on our website and on our Facebook group, and it’s pretty amazing.

It’s interesting that if you have to ask people what is the one thing that they are passionate about in their 60s, when everything is changing, they would almost always say they want to travel. Not only do they want to travel to new places, but they want to do what they love and follow their passion.

That’s one of the things about life after 60. We’ve done our lot where family is concerned, now it’s our turn. So, your business is focused on themed travel. Let’s talk about that, as well as about doing something that you’re passionate about.

Shila:

By the time you reach 60, and over, you have already figured out a few things about yourself. You know what really excites you, what is your true passion as well as what didn’t work for you. Those are some of the benefits of getting to that age.

When you are travelling, you don’t want to leave that knowledge behind. You can take your passion with you and pack it in your suitcase first thing. When you ask yourself, “What do I want to do for the next month of my life?” think about your passion and how it can lead you to explore new cultures.

As humans, we are connected on a universal scale by things like food, textiles, architecture, music and so on. If you have a passion for food, for example, you can go on a journey where you explore food through the lens of a different culture. A whole new world will open up for you because of your passion.

To me, that is the way travel makes more sense. It resonates with my understanding of the world. Then, after you come back from a trip like that, you think, “Wow, my eyes were opened! I loved doing what I did. I was so engaged.” That’s what you get with themed travel.

Margaret:

It doesn’t really matter whether you take a themed trip for a couple of days, a long weekend or like the ones you organize, which are sometimes 10 to 15 days long.

If you are someone who has been fascinated by classical music, for example, and you have been so busy you haven’t been to a concert in 10 years, there are great options for you. You can go to Prague for a weekend, where every other church has a lunch time performance of classical music, usually for free.

Tell us about some of the adventures you organize. I know you have a culinary tour and a desert tour. What else do you do?

Shila:

My particular passion is beautiful, exquisite, handmade, handwoven, handloom textiles. I feel this is a part of human culture that has brought the world together in fascinating ways. It’s almost like a language that has evolved over many hundreds of years in a way that different areas have developed different textiles.

There are almost geographically opposite parts of the world where similar textiles are created. A good example is backstrap weaving in the Netherlands and in Mexico. It’s common in both places because women went off into the farms to tend to their plots.

They carried babies on their backs, but they also took their looms with themselves. Weaving would be part of their off time, when they’d sit together in a group and share stories. When you actually travel to those places and see the women weaving, you tap into your passion, and into their culture. That’s the kind of connection themed travel gives you.

So textiles themed travel is one. Food, obviously, is another theme. I love the places where food is the main event, like India, Sri Lanka.

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Margaret:

What about Italy?

Shila:

Yes, in Italy and Turkey food is a main event. I think different people are endowed with different passions just as different regions of the earth are endowed with a certain main event. The main event of a region is the thing that the place is famous for, what you can get most of when you get there.

For instance, you could go to Patagonia, and the main event there are the cliffs and the glaziers you can go hike. If you go to Turkey, the main events there definitely circle around the cuisine and the ancient architecture.

The region’s main event becomes a theme for your travel. It’s like a frame that gives you focus. Similarly, when you are painting a picture, it can be all over the place. But when you put a frame on it, suddenly you think, “Wow this is great, I get so much more out of it.”

Margaret:

I think cruising is similar. When I was on the Viking river cruise a couple of years ago, I realized our world is connected by rivers. If you think about it, all the major cities around the world were built on big rivers. The reason for that was trade, as this is how goods got in and out of a city.

I’ve been fascinated with rivers. I’d often go on a river cruise or even just visit the towns situated on rivers. I’d stand there, looking at those massive bodies of water and think about where they take people and how they made that place flourish through the ages. Textiles and fur were one of the main things that moved along rivers.

Speaking of cruises, there are themed cruises. So, if you like Jazz or you like the 70s, you can go on a Jazz cruise or a Beatles cruise. I think the first thing you should do is identify your passion and then figure out where is the themed cruise or where is the themed main event.

Shila:

Exactly. Also, if you are following blogs by experts in a certain field, eventually you will come across something they will mention that will spike your interest. They could mention a textile event in Laos or Bali, and that can give you so many ideas on how to structure your travels around the theme.

Margaret:

And so it will help you connect with the universality of human nature. I think that is what travel does for me does anyway. If you are a traveler, why not journey along a theme that brings out the best in you?

Shila:

And not just the best in you. When you take your passion – whether it is food, travel, classical music or something else – and you go to another country, and there you connect with somebody else who has a similar passion, that is when travel magic happens.

Margaret:

You are a travel magician, honestly. I encourage people to visit your site and wish you good luck with all your travels this year. Thank you for sharing your insights and just your passion for travel. It’s wonderful.

Shila:

Thank you, Margaret.

Margaret:

Thank you, Shila.

Have you gone on a themed travel before? What was the experience like? If you haven’t, what is one place you’d like to explore where you’re sure you can discover a new layer to your passion? Please join the conversation!

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