I love that I come from a generation of ‘experience-seeking millennials’. That’s right: I’d rather spend every last cent of any pay check, small or large, on traveling than consuming. But I feel like travel has become the village bicycle – everyone can take her out for a ride whenever and wherever, and so it’s becoming increasingly hard to discover and explore a place outside of the realms of Instagram/tourism central.
But meet Geetika Agrawal, the founder of VAWAA (Vacation With an Artist), who is on the constant lookout for experiences with local artists everywhere she goes. These experiences are up for grabs and they immerse you in the culture of the place, and take you on an emotional, intellectual and artistic journey. They will also provide you with a completely different way to get to know your destination – regardless of whether you’re a local or a first timer.
If you’re a traveler with an appetite for adventure or an artist who’d like to provide an experience, VAWAA needs to be on your radar.
Tell me more about you, give me Geetika in a nutshell –
In a nutshell, I’m a stubborn optimist, designer, seeker of adventure and beats, creating a life full of stories to tell. I grew up in New Delhi, India. In a country known for doctors and engineers, I took the unconventional route of studying Architecture. That same passion took me to Los Angeles to further my training in Industrial Design and learn the art of designing experiences combining design and technology. I spent the last 13 years working at Disney and various interactive agencies in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York building next generation products and services. While working as a Creative Director at NY based agency R/GA, I took a year off to travel to 12 countries and launch VAWAA.
I am addicted to packing light for my travels.
In your words, what is VAWAA? –
VAWAA is an acronym for ‘Vacation With An Artist’. It represents Adventure + Creativity + Play + Growth. We believe in creating, not consumption.
VAWAA (Vacation With An Artist) is a way to go on creative and immersive vacations in master artist studios around the world to learn a new skill – from calligraphy in Japan to bespoke shoemaking in Czech Republic to street art in Buenos Aires, and everything in between. These mini 4-7 day ‘private apprenticeships’ serve as a unique way to learn about a culture and allow travelers of all skill levels to become part of the artist’s daily creative process. No prior experience necessary.
Can you talk a little about the business side of VAWAA? –
VAWAA is a relatively new platform and we are very encouraged by the positive response from the global traveler + artist community. We are currently in 12 countries and have had people from around the world go for VAWAA experiences – including France, Australia, United States, Singapore, Brazil, Hongkong, Philippines, U.K., India, Mexico.
These VAWAA experiences have led to artist collaborations, new creative businesses and projects, learning and enhancing of new skills, and a lot of creative rejuvenation. You can read some stories here & here & more here.
It’s been a completely bootstrapped operation so far that includes myself, Nate Mortensen leading technology and a small team of freelancers. I curated the first set of artists by traveling to different countries and now we do a combination of that plus receiving online applications from artists worldwide. If you are an artist, you can apply by sending an application here.
We are adding new artists from Italy, France, Portugal, Denmark, Norway over the next few weeks so keep an eye out. We will also be announcing opportunities to work with us.
What has been your biggest challenge and your biggest success since you launched VAWAA in 2015?
The biggest challenge till date has been growing and scaling. We can’t wait to add more experiences for our community and make the existing ones even better. Success is every time we hear our guest stories – their stories of learning, collaborations, connecting with the artist, the place and themselves in a special way.
Can you share an anecdote from one of your trips that has shaped you and VAWAA in any way? –
Many years ago, I was traveling in India when I met someone at a friend’s café. He had very interesting stories to share and offered to take me to a magical place that very few people had seen. He would blindfold me until we got to the place. Since I trusted him, I followed without hesitation. After a short car ride along the beach, through a small town, with smells of sea, eucalyptus trees, people and mud, we arrived at a place that didn’t seem too far from the café we were at. Still blindfolded, he guided me through a few steps bringing me to the exact spot. As he took off my blindfold, my eyes slowly opened and I found myself standing in the middle of a mangrove under a giant 400 year old banyan tree that looked straight from a scene in Avatar. I stood tiny under that tree in awe feeling mesmerized.
That day, if I stayed within my comfort zone, paralyzed by fear and closed heart, I would have never learnt about this place or had this story to share.
- Favorite place you’ve travelled to: Iceland, Japan, Slovenia
- All time favorite book: It changes all the time
- What’s your idea of perfect happiness?: Freedom and good relationships
- What is your most treasured possession?: My family and friends
- What are you excited about?: VAWAA
- What is travel to you?: A school that teaches you how to live
- What’s your current state of mind?: Optimistic
- Travel essentials : Good vibes, warm socks and visas.
Because travel changes lives & art prolongs it.
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Images: Geetika, VAWAA travelers and Natural dying in Vietnam courtesy of VAWAA