How an R/GA Designer Dreamed Up a Way for Anyone to Take the Most Creative Vacation

Geetika Agrawal launches 'Vacation With an Artist'

Does your idea of the perfect vacation involve doing absolutely nothing, with your feet in the sand and your paws on a piña colada? Please move along. There's nothing to see here.

If you are, instead, a restless creative type who wants to learn a new skill while on holiday, Geetika Agrawal has a great solution. Check out the R/GA New York creative director's new business, Vacation With An Artist (VAWAA), which she dreamed up while on her own 12-month sabbatical/journey away from the agency.

Agrawal, whose background is in experience design, was one of 75 people chosen last summer to travel with a program called "Remote Year" and experiment with a lifestyle of traveling and working remotely. She is spending a month in each of 12 different countries, and using the time, in part, to find artists with whom travelers can learn a skill through the VAWAA program.

Among the artists in the program so far: a bespoke shoemaker in Prague; a wet plate collodion photographer in Slovenia; a leather shadow puppet maker in Malaysia; a creative writer in Vietnam; and a bamboo bicycle maker in Bangalore. As she travels, Agrawal has been personally curating the artists, with whom travelers can book studio sessions through the site.

"This is an idea I noodled on for a while, as I always used to struggle finding such creative experiences for my vacations," she tells AdFreak. "However, the busy routine life of an agency and client deadlines never gave me the mind space to make it real. So when the opportunity came to travel and work, I knew this was the time to get it off the ground."

She adds: "My routine looks quite different now. I travel every month to a new country, meet artists in the morning, work from a cafe/co-working space, go scuba diving in the afternoon, work on the website in the evening, hang out with locals at night. The creative rush during this sabbatical has been unexpected and exciting."

AdFreak asked Agrawal more about the origins of the program and how it works.

AdFreak: What was your original inspiration for this?

Geetika Agrawal: I discovered my love for learning and travel during early college days, when I spent summers working with local artisans in small towns of Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu in India. As I traveled to countries around the world, I sought similar experiences where I could immerse myself into the local culture, make things with my hands and get inspired by learning something new. I noted that there were others like me expecting the same from their travels, but there was no easy way to find local artists and designers.

Those who know me well, know my obsession for experiential travel, so I thought it would be fun to start a company that curates these artistic experiences and helps people find and book them easily.

What did you want to get out of your sabbatical from R/GA?

I wasn't looking for a vacation. I was looking to get in touch with my own creativity, find a new challenge and do something about VAWAA. In March 2015, I heard about a new program called Remote Year that would select 75 people from around the world and help facilitate their travel to 12 countries as each participant worked remotely on their own projects/jobs. Woo-hoo! I got my sabbatical idea! I was going to do what I love most—i.e., travel and build my new business idea.

On June 1, 2015, I put my things in storage in New York and took a one-year sabbatical to travel to 12 countries in 12 months with Remote Year. I was going to get VAWAA off the ground, build another passion idea, Food for Thought, and give design talks at schools and conferences in countries I visited.

Explain what a VAWAA "studio session" is.