By Amy Preiser
March 29, 2016
Courtesy of Lotta Jansdotter Workshops

A working vacation is no vacation at all. But a vacation centered around learning, collaborating and christening your most-liked Instagram photo ever: now we’re talking.

Enter the creative retreat, a travel trend that’s taking (mostly) women in (mostly) their 30s through 50s on the kinds of adventures once resigned to Pinterest boards. And leading them all? The bloggers, stylists, and designers that have built up their online communities so robustly that they’ve been able to build them in real life.

On these trips, small groups of travelers are led through exotic places, from Marrakech to Barcelona to Jaipur, by experts who not only serve as travel guide but also a sort of next-level camp counselor. These leaders arrange lodging and meals; teach food styling and photography (complete with personal chef, whipping up delights that participants eat after capturing, of course), wine-making, or block-printing; and stir up a communal creative environment that sends guests back to reality refreshed and inspired.

And then there are the unexpected perks: a renewed drive that causes participants to return to their craft or business fired up and armed with new skills, and bonds with fellow travelers based on the shared experience. Feeling inspired? Check out the three big players in the industry. We’re spotlighting their international trips, but U.S. vacations are certainly on offer as well.

Annette Joseph Workshops

Courtesy of Annette Joseph Workshops

Gwyneth Paltrow said it best: the Atlanta-based Joseph is “one impressive lady,” one with 25 years of experience as an in-demand producer, author, and stylist. Driven by her love of mentoring, travel, and the desire for yet another creative outlet, Joseph started her style+photo workshop series devoted to prop styling, with an additional emphasis on photography and social media components (she brings in experts in each field).

Expect a mix of creative professionals looking to strengthen adjacent skills—photographers looking to improve their styling, and vice versa—entrepreneurs seeking visual solutions to further build their brands, and, yes, novices looking to dip their toe into this world.

“It’s very zen to have creative discussions all day—we’ve had people describe these workshops as ‘life-changing’ and we take that very seriously,” says Joseph. “We’re true professionals in the styling and photography worlds, but we’re also extremely nurturing of our guests’ skills and confidence."

In addition to the lessons and practice, the trips feature one-of-a-kind experiences orchestrated by Joseph like an Italian pizza party on the beach (complete with handsome pizzeria proprietor), or a guided photographic tour of the secret gems of Marrakech’s central market. Workshops are kept to around 10 people.

Next up in 2016: the Italian seaside town of Alassio in June, Berlin in October; 2017 brings the return of the Marrakech trip. Prices are around $3,300 for 4-day trips; everything but equipment rentals and air travel included.

First We Eat Workshops

Courtesy of First We Eat Workshops

A collaboration between Eva Kosmas Flores out of Portland, Oregon, and Carey Nershi out of Burlington, Vermont, the First We Eat Workshops play off of the women’s styling and photography skills, as well as their popular blogs and social followings (between the three of them, 170k Instagram followers). The workshops are attended by a mix of bloggers and photographers—beginners as well as high-powered executives.

“The workshops offer a special type of networking that's good for growing your creative business,” says Flores. “But also for making friends with like-minded people who are equally passionate about food and travel.” The team prides themselves on local connections by way of food bloggers, as well as trips to under-the-radar wineries, like the 500-year-old one they’ll visit in Barcelona; guests will also be blending their own wine there.

While the locations they visit spur different activities—landscape photography in Iceland, truffle foraging in Croatia—the organizers strive for a balance between cultural exploration and home-based creative lessons. Workshops are capped at eight people. Next up in 2016: Barcelona in March and Croatia in September; 2017 brings Costa Rica and Australia. Prices are around $2,200 for 4-day trips; everything but equipment rentals and air travel included.

Lotta Jansdotter Workshops

Courtesy of Lotta Jansdotter Workshops

You can purchase Brooklyn artist Jansdotter’s elegant and organic-feeling products at from places like Wayfair and The Land of Nod, but come to one of her retreats for an up-close experience with the artist—and the chance to learn her techniques and share in her inspiration. These workshops are focused on creating patterns, printing techniques, and visiting with local artisans, whether you’re in bustling Tokyo or the peaceful Åland Islands in Scandinavia, Jansdotter’s birthplace.

“It’s meaningful to make things by hand,” Jansdotter tells us. “My parents did it because they had to, but these days you have to select it. In a way, making things is a form of mindfulness.”

Expect a crowd of creatives—potters, textile designers, photographers, and general travel- and food-lovers looking for a major change from the everyday. In addition to studio time with Jansdotter, travelers have the opportunity to explore the locale in free time, as well as convene with fellow participants in the communal environment—the last trip to Åland included spontaneous ukulele concerts, singing in the sauna, and folk dancing in the barn. Workshops range from 12-24 people, depending on location. Next up in 2016: Åland in July, India in October; 2017 brings an Africa trip. Prices are around $3,000 for 4-day trips (8 days, in India); lodging and most meals included, travel to locale is not.