Vacational Learning – holidays to last a lifetime

There is no doubt that continuous learning is important. Learning new things, seeing different perspectives and increasing our skill set are critical to building a growth mindset which in turn helps us realise our full potential – individually and collectively.

Much of our training today is delivered in short form, like masterclasses. These are often squeezed in between work commitments, rushing off in breaks to make calls, checking our emails throughout the day and thinking about the work waiting for us back in the office.

We are also seeing the increased adoption of various forms of digital training solutions like online, virtual and augmented reality, with the benefits of reduced time and cost to deliver, but they also have limited human interface and shared experiences.

While these are appropriate for certain types of training and skills development, they may not always be the most effective way to learn and create longer term habits.

There is an emerging category of learning and development – Vacational Learning, or Learning Holidays – where time away from the home and work environment is providing the space and inspiration to develop long lasting skills and connections. It builds on the benefits being experienced by people increasingly participating in Wellness Tourism – which is growing at twice the rate of other types of tourism. It is the yin to the yang of our busy, accelerated lives where we can take the time and space to refresh and recharge, physically and spiritually, in some amazing places.

Where wellness tourism is typically focused on physical, mental and spiritual renewal, Vacational Learning provides an extra, powerful dimension and in particular, is an effective way to build what is considered one of the most essential skill for the 21st century – creativity.

Vacational Learning, as the name suggests, combines the best of both worlds. The inspiration and fun we experience from immersing ourselves in new places and meeting new people, with the time and space needed to learn and build new creative skills.

 This kinesthetic and active learning enables us to be fully present and participate in the experience over a longer period of time which has been shown to build greater retention of what we learn and the chance for more profound, ongoing adoption of new perspectives and skills.

It really comes down to investing our time to truly become absorbed in, and inspired by, our surroundings and to learn and adopt new creative skills – in fact they say that it can take up to 21 days to form a new habit.

In some way, it is a throwback to the past. Like making the time to travel to a new city by car or train rather than plane. Noticing the trees, houses by the rail line, children playing in the parks, and appreciating how we feel and respond along the way. Giving ourselves the time to be curious, to daydream and let ourselves be absorbed and moved by the journey – as opposed to simply focusing on the destination or outcome. It is about exploring thoughts and connections to enable us to see different perspectives.

While Vacational Learning is becoming a growing trend, it has yet to hit the mainstream in corporate L&D departments. Not only could it provide a highly effective learning solution, but it could also provide a more lasting reward for high performing individuals, or as an option for Long Service Leave or Sabbaticals. 

So, while we continue to live our lives often focused on the quickest path to completing the task at hand, your next holiday could be just the chance to creatively recharge by making the time and space to have a holiday that can build new skills to last a lifetime.

Creative Cities 21 re-energises people through 1, 2 and 3-week creative learning experiences in great cities of the world. By combining the benefits of acting, painting, innovation & travel, we ignite your creativity, helping you realise your personal and professional potential.



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On the road to burn-out? This could be just the detour you need – rediscovering your creative spark


On the road to burn-out? This could be just the detour you need. Rediscovering your creative spark.

Burn out, wear out, whatever term we use for it , more and more people are feeling the challenge of balancing busy, always-on lives. In an effort to find better balance, we’ve seen a significant growth in people attending health retreats and the overall market for “wellness tourism” has exploded. But, is there a missing piece of the puzzle?


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How HR can embrace creativity in a life-changing way


How HR can embrace creativity in a life-changing way

The challenge for HR directors today is to find new and innovative programs to guide their workforce, at both executive and middle management level, to maintain focus and strengthen career resilience.


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The most profitable investment

We can all feel the growing speed at which we live our lives, in this digitally super-charged, always-on world.

With “Wellness Tourism” growing at twice the rate of overall tourism expenditure, it’s refreshing to see increasing numbers of people taking time and making the investment in themselves to recharge and reconnect.

A recent article in Lifehacks by Royale Scuderi, noted that “investing in yourself may be the most profitable investment you ever make”. They noted that “it yields not only future returns, but often a current pay-off as well. That the surest way to achieve a better quality of life, to be successful, productive, and satisfied is to place a priority on investing in both personal and professional growth”.

The author identified 3 key areas for continued personal and professional growth:

1. Develop your skills – expanding your skills and knowledge through reading, study and exposure to new thinking

2. Exploring your creative side – unearthing and honing our individual creativity in order to view problems and solutions in different ways including exploration and art.

3. Nurture our minds and bodies – nurturing both your mind and body for greater physical and mental agility.

And when it comes to the best approach for exploration and learning there is a wealth of data on the benefits of learning by doing. Data from the National Training Laboratories in the USA identified that learning by doing increased retention rates from 10% for lectures and reading to as high as 75% when we “learn by doing”, or “active learning”. Moreover, the American Psychological Association noted that incorporating physical movement into a learning experience can also greatly enhance our ability to learn.

At Creative Cities 21, we believe our vacational learning programs deliver the next wave of skills development and personal fulfillment.  Through active participation in acting, painting and ideas workshops, with time for reflection and exploring an incredible city, we help people rediscover the power of their creativity.

It might be a great way to take a short sabbatical, use some long service leave or perhaps approach your current employer regarding incorporating the CC21 experience within their learning and development budgets. Depending on your employment circumstances, you may also be able to claim a tax deduction.

It really is about allowing yourself the time and investment to explore and experience in a way that has immediate and longer-term value for you and can enhance the impact you make in your personal and professional life.

Click here to find out more about how you can join us this August for our Creative Cities 21 New York Program.

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Is this the no.1 predicator of success?

As early as 2012 there was increasing discussion on the benefits of creative thinking and the role creativity plays in building a happier and more fulfilling life.

A study that year conducted by Adobe “Creativity and Education: Why it matters”, shed light on the role of creativity in career success and the fact that unlike some earlier wisdom, creativity is not just a personality trait, but a skill which can be learnt.

Some 85% of the 1,000 people surveyed agreed that creative thinking is critical for problem solving in their careers. They defined creativity as the ability to think outside of the box or to come up with innovative ideas.

What was also interesting was that 57% thought creativity would be important in their career while they were at college or university, but this grew to 78% when they were asked during their working years.

In 2016 Adobe expanded the study to over 5,000 participants. In that study titled “State of Create“, 70%, of people acknowledged that being more creative is valuable to society and economies and that it makes people better workers, leaders and parents. The study highlighted that people who are more creative are happier, feel more fulfilled, energized and successful.

Late last year in an article in Business News Daily, Cade Miles daughter of Gatorade inventor Dr James Cade and President of the Cade Museum and Ron Ben Zeeve, founder and CEO of the World Housing project, talked about their belief that creativity is the one attribute that should be valued above all others.

They argue that creativity is a bigger predictor of success than intelligence and the combination of both convergent and divergent thinking is what delivers creative breakthroughs.

In their view, creativity can be learned and creative thought processes can be improved and strengthened. New skills and hobbies can lay down new neural networks and learning a new art form can create problem solving skills as it requires divergent thinking. That through creative collusion – the ability to connect two distinct areas – we can translate potential solutions from one field to an unrelated area.

They also recognised the importance and contribution of the ability to learn and observe from others to not limit yourself to your own experience. That often it is the collective power of the group that can unearth the best solution.

In his best-selling book “Think Smart”, author and neurologist Richard Restak acknowledges how critical creativity is in solving problems and that we can always learn new techniques to be more creative.

One of these is to devote time to simply sitting with our thoughts. To give some space to our imagination. How often do we find the answer to a well-trodden problem in the quiet of the night, or while daydreaming, relaxing or enjoying nature?  

So, as we think about learning and development and the human endeavour of building more fulfilling and happy lives, there is a growing body of evidence that a key focus needs to be on making the space and time for experiences that can build our creative muscle. That by immersing ourselves in new environments and creative activities and opening ourselves to inspiring people who bring different perspectives we can truly unlock the best versions of ourselves.

Its not surprising then that one of the world’s great innovators and creative thinkers, Albert Einstein acknowledged the power of creativity when he said, “Logic will get you from A to B, Imagination will take you everywhere.”


At Creative Cities 21, our 3-week vacational learning programs are at the forefront of the next wave of learning and personal fulfillment. By combining a passion for travel, creative exploration and learning, and getting to know new and inspiring people, we can help build your creative confidence and communication skills. 

Click here to find out more about how you can join us this August for our Creative Cities 21 New York Program.

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The only investment that matters

The only investment that matters.

Let’s cut to the chase – it’s you.

At dinner parties around the world you will hear plenty of chatter about investments. How your Retirement and Super Funds are performing, what bank has lower fees and better rates, and whether it is time to sell or invest in the housing market.

But as a society we are increasingly understanding that the most important investment we can make is in our ourselves.

It sounds like an inherently selfish statement, but at the end of the day focusing on our physical, mental and spiritual health brings a richness and joy not only to our own lives but to everyone we come in contact with, whether family, friends or work colleagues.

“Wellness Tourism” is growing at twice the rate of overall tourism expenditure as more and more people experience the benefits of taking time to recharge and reconnect, and adopting these principals and practices into their daily lives.

We recognise the importance of people investing in their physical and emotional well-being, yet we also want to provide the opportunity to complete the puzzle through creative exploration.x1

At Creative Cities 21, we believe our vacational learning experiences are at the forefront of the next wave of learning and personal fulfilment. By combining a passion for travel, learning, and getting to know new and inspiring people, we can help you unlock and build creative confidence and communication skills.

This could be reconnecting with a creative outlet you once enjoyed or discovering a new one, improving how we communicate and connect, or by exploring new thinking, new ideas and new opportunities.

This can all happen while enjoying everything that a great city like New York has to offer.

It might a great way to take a short sabbatical, use some long service leave or simply make a holiday so much more than seeing the sites. The beauty of our vacational learning program is that you can live like a local, be a tourist and benefit from a learning program all at the same time!

The program is structured so there is plenty of time for your own mindfulness opportunities with the best yoga, Pilates, gyms and life coaches in NYC, or seeing some American sports including the US Grand Slam tennis, watching shows on Broadway, concerts in Madison Square Garden, enjoying fine food and wine, or the must-see tourist spots in and around NYC. It’s all there for you.

Come with a partner or friend who can join the program, or they can simply enjoy the city as a tourist, joining you for our partner activities and still have plenty of time together to spend exploring outside the program modules.

Whether you are someone who has already experienced the benefits of taking time out for yourself, or is looking for the next adventure it’s a priceless investment.

Click here to find out more about how you can join us this August for our Creative Cities 21 New York Program.



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Tall poppy or short poppy, everyone has ideas

Tall poppy or short poppy, everyone has ideas.

Two of my aims of the trip were to paint a red apple to proudly hang on the kitchen wall and complete the Meisner acting course – did I mention my brush with Robert De Niro? The third was to be inspired by the city of New York and it’s melting pot of diverse and talented people.

Whether it was with born and bred New Yorkers, visitors like us, or those that had also chosen to take a more creative journey through the “city that never sleeps”, Angie and I set ourselves the task to meet one new person for each day of our vacational learning experience.

There are so many opportunities to meet new people every day; to learn, be inspired, share ideas, to reflect, to laugh with, but back home time always seems so limited. So our immersion in NYC provided us with the time and space to celebrate the diversity of thought that comes from this melting pot of experience and I could also put into practice all the authentic communication skills I was learning through my acting course.

It was also a great way to see how these skills might unearth some new ideas that I could build and develop as I explored the impact of immersing myself across these creative pursuits. I knew from the years of work I have done in the innovation sector that so much of the confidence and support we need to solve problems, or unleash new ideas comes from those around us.

Whether it was helping people on subways, sharing a seat at the bar – often the source of all wisdom – getting my hair cut, or smiling and saying hi, we realised there are so many opportunities to meet and be inspired, simply by being an active and present listener.

We got to know so many creative people, from dancers to musicians to actors, often juggling multiple jobs to keep their dreams alive. Business people from small start-ups to multi-billion-dollar businesses. People who had lived through the personal impact from 9/11, or a foreigner looking to support her child with special needs, to someone investing in a Hollywood movie. And many entrepreneurs working tirelessly to make a great idea come to life.

There are also so many people who have moved to New York for new beginnings, or to make an impact and many are fellow Australians. We were staying in Nolita and there was a wonderful park down the road that was like an oasis in the high-density jungle of NYC. They showed old films on a Wednesday evening under the stars to a relaxed crowd of 50 to 60 people, sipping wine, enjoying snacks in the warmth of a summers night. But the local authority wanted to close the park down. A group of local residents had come together to fight to keep the park from being developed into a housing project.  Through this group, we met Poppy King – the Australian “Lipstick Queen” who also lives in Nolita and was also on the save the park team. Angie loves her and her lipstick and we had a quick chat about her business and how she has reinvented herself after selling to Estee Lauder some years earlier.

So, what did we learn through all these wonderful experiences and conversations?

So much of our creativity, inspiration, our ability to think differently and solve problems, our ideas, comes from the energy, passion and diversity of the people we meet every day. Everyone has a story to tell – that can inspire and make you think.

The techniques in the acting classes helped with my ability to listen to other people’s views, thoughts, ideas, then be able to articulate and communicate my own ideas.

The painting classes gave us the perspective to accept different interpretations, not right, wrong, good or bad and to be confident and bold to express our own creative thoughts and ideas.


Then there was time. Our immersion in NYC gave us a rare chance to reach out, to put our new friends more to the centre of thought and to reflect.

These experiences helped us create the third element of the Creative Cities 21 program, our Ideas and Inspiration Hub. In the next few weeks, we’ll explain more about how this element is going to stimulate your creativity through a supportive and interactive environment, whether it is for solving a problem, identifying and capitalising on an opportunity, perhaps unleashing a new business idea, or simply enjoying your new found creative skills.


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Every picture tells a story

Every picture tells a story

“Jeremy, are you an engineer by any chance”, Jake politely asked with a knowing smile on his face?

“No one needs to build anything from your picture – just get the acrylic paint on the canvas and go wild with your own thoughts and interpretation. The paint will dry quickly so it can be layered and changed as you go”.

Only an hour before, I had arrived at the art studio, in the leafy upper west side of Manhattan.  The walls were covered with paintings in various stages of completion showcasing a kaleidoscope of colours, subjects, shapes and textures.

This was the beginners class in acrylic paint and Jake was our Canadian born teacher.  My wife Angie is a wonderful painter and she had encouraged me to include painting as part of my creative immersion experience in NYC. I let Jake know he was dealing with a novice whose previous experience had been in interpretive finger painting in Mr Rowe’s prep class. Being goal oriented, I did say to Jake that I wanted to paint a red apple by the end of the course. He seemed more confident than me which was very reassuring.

With a colour wheel on my lap and some primary colours squeezed out on my palette, I got to work on my first piece, using  a contemporary picture of the Manhattan skyline as a guide, just to get me to work on colour mixing, to get the feeling of paint on the canvas and to experiment with different brushes and brush strokes. After an hour where my skills were challenged he assessed my work noting that my bias seemed to be towards scale, shapes and accuracy, like one would tackle the detailed design of a 54-storey mixed office/residential/commercial tower. 

Jake’s gentle but well-aimed comments immediately made me change tack and I applied the back colour in 10 minutes. It felt good, enjoying the creative freedom and confirmed why I had included the painting class as part of my creative immersion in NYC.
It was soon time to start my red apple that had to be good enough to hang on the kitchen wall. Angie had found a guide picture that looked great and on first glance, quite manageable for the beginner.

The other students were a range of ages and a mixture of professionals, college students, stay home partners and retirees looking to learn new skills and enjoy new experiences. We had great chats during our work, supporting each other, talking about art, influences, goals and experiences. Our respective work was diverse in style, technique and subject matter but we all saw this as an opportunity to express ourselves without judgement.

My apple progressed quickly in shape, and I quickly realised there must be 100 different shades of colour in this red apple. There was also transitioning and textures.  Mmm, how come I had not seen this before? So, with a flurry of layering and detail and with a great sense of satisfaction and pride, I put my name on my first piece of art. The Red Apple is now framed and sits on the kitchen wall. If you stand 10 meters away on the angle, squint and close one eye, it looks like an apple – or a tomato as one of my friends said.  Ah well, the tortured artist.


Not only did I walk away with a fantastic experience with a diverse and amazing group of people but I was able to enjoy the freedom to create without fear of right or wrong, good or bad and celebrate different styles and approaches. Through the class, I realised there is so much in the detail and it is important to stop and appreciate the depth, shade, textures and transitions along the journey both as a painter and as a lifelong learner.

Join me next week as we discover ideas and creativity in the local community.


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Lights, Cameras, ….Actions can speak so much louder than words.

Lights, Cameras, …Actions can speak so much louder than words

“You are off to do an acting course? Did you know Robert DeNiro is on this flight, let me see if he will sign your book”…

And so began the first step of my vacational learning experience, that included acting and painting classes and a commitment to share ideas with a new person for each day I was in New York City. So in preparation for my acting classes based on the renowned Sanford Meisner technique, I am reading his book whilst sharing a flight with one of the greatest actors of our time and a kind flight attendant returns with both a signature and inspirational message from Mr De Niro.

My goal, unlike Mr De Niro, was not to be treading the boards on Broadway or star in a movie coming to a cinema near you anytime soon, but to learn some techniques to enhance my communication skills. While I think I am a pretty active listener, I believed that there was value in honing my communication skills further on the journey to becoming a more authentic, compelling communicator.

There is a common perception that acting is about YOU taking center stage and learning to become someone else, and yet what my classmates and I found was that learning to focus on the other person takes the emphasis off you which ultimately makes you more relaxed and authentic.

The course included repetition exercises to help focus on the words and emotions of your partner. A “door” technique to develop acute listening and sensing of emotions via participating in an active dialogue while also undertaking an intricate task.

Creative storytelling to bring to life the power of movement, expression, and emotion; and sessions on voice and movement to understand the powerful role of words and actions to tell a compelling story that draws in your audience.

Each session had individual, partner or group activities and my fellow classmates were from Canada, USA, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Belarus. This diversity brought different perspectives and helped create an incredibly supportive, honest and fun environment. Whether it was being there for each other by sharing stories, celebrating our achievements, or, on the odd occasion, blowing our lines together, we developed an amazing camaraderie which enabled us to learn and be inspired by each other, forming a bond that connects us today.


For me personally, I would like to think that I have become a better listener, something my wife Angie and friends old and new have positively commented on since we returned. But the most powerful lesson I took away was that authentic communication is often found in the silence, in the ability to focus on the other person and let our actions speak just as loudly as our words.  

Next week: Every picture tells a story.


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A creative awakening in a city that never sleeps

A creative awakening in the city than never sleeps.

I love to travel. Let’s face it many of us do. It’s exciting, challenging, and brings new perspective by opening our eyes to new cultures, new ideas, and new experiences.

Over the last 10 years of my career, I have been fortunate to be focused on innovation and supporting and harnessing this to make life better for communities and in turn for businesses. I firmly believe that innovation is the key to unlocking potential, for each of us as individuals and within our home and working environments. 

In 2017, I took some time out to focus on what innovation, creativity, and reinvention might mean for me personally and what impact that might have on what I can contribute as a husband, father, friend, leader and colleague.

Where better to do this than in New York – the city that never sleeps. It’s where creativity can mean some of the world’s best street art, leading acting and painting studios, new businesses and iconic venues that host some of the world’s most renowned art.

And so I put together a program that enabled me to be both a tourist and learner, a learning holiday, experiencing the sites and sounds of New York City through painting and acting courses and ideation sessions with local business leaders and new friends.

So let’s start with the acting. I should make it very clear that this was not about becoming the next Robert De Niro (although I do have a Robert De Niro story I will share with you, but that is for another day). It was an appreciation that this was a course that could help me become a more authentic communicator. That by learning how to focus more on the other person, how to really listen, the influence of variation in your own voice (and silence) and the power of subtle movement, we can improve our connection, understanding, and impact in all of our relationships.

I know for many people speaking at a business event or personal celebration can be very daunting. Most of us have heard the stat that public speaking is up there in the top 3 fears, and yet by doing the course one of the most surprising take-outs for the group was that by improving our connection with our audience, by really appreciating their words, silence, movement and emotions, you actually take the emphasis off yourself, making you a more relaxed and authentic communicator.

The second element I weaved into my adventure was the painting workshops. I had included these to be truly free of formal process, right or wrong, to develop another string to my creative bow. I had set myself a goal – to come home with a red apple painted in the big apple.  What our class learnt was the power of personal interpretation, of letting our imagination run a little wild and trusting our instincts. And the apple – well it might not be gallery quality but it very proudly hangs in our kitchen!

And lastly, but certainly not least, the final element of the immersive experience was a chance to tap into the tapestry of ideas, experiences of new friends and new confidence gained from the acting and painting classes. Most days we spoke about opportunities and challenges, inspirational new businesses, people and trends, and brainstormed some new ideas to take to the world.


Finding the time, confidence and energy to try new things and to immersive yourself in a creative city or environment is rare. I’m looking forward to sharing more of the journey, and perhaps inspiring you to take the time to let your creative voice sing a little louder!



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