As if travel wasn’t rewarding enough already, there are destinations that will also inspire your creative streak and help you give back to the local community.
From designer campsites that you construct as a group to an artist commune sprung from an earthquake-destroyed Italian village, here are the top creative and communal travel experiences out there.
Bussana Vecchia, A hilltop commune in Italy
Bussana Vecchia was a ghost town before a community of artists settled here
Ever since an earthquake in 1887, the Italian village of Bussana Vecchia was a ghost town, its buildings abandoned and rubble covering the cobbled streets. But in the early 1960s, a group of idealistic artists started settling the village and rebuilding the ruins into studios, galleries, small shops and homes. You can visit this thriving community of international artists remains in the village today and head up to the ‘Relax Zone’, a hilltop al fresco space where you can lie in a hammock enjoying the view and chat to locals about the town’s unusual history and ethos. You’ll be greeted with a drink and homemade, wood-fired pizza fresh from the oven; though it’s all offered in generosity, you’ll no doubt be so enchanted by the commune you’ll want to drop a little something in the contribution box on your way out. Have breakfast on the sunny, beach-side terrace of Blue Beach before heading off to explore Bussana Vecchia.
Gotland, camping and creativity in Sweden
Camp on the remote Swedish island of Gotland and help the local community
The Swedish island of Gotland is the largest island in the Baltic sea, draped in forests and lakes and scarcely populated. The locals welcome volunteers to help with everything from farming to language practice, offering lots of opportunity for contributing positively when you travel. There’s also a new commune concept on the island that’s inspiring creatives from all over the world is called Designers on Holiday and it brings together enterprising designers who will create a self-sustaining campsite that they will then live in together as a co-operative over the summer. Since the project’s inauguration four years ago, the collaborating designers have built a wood-fired bread oven, a pink clay symbiotic hot tub, a couple of saunas, an outdoor cinema and more. While you have to apply to be chosen as one of the lucky designers, the campsite also welcomes helping hands from holidayers as well as locals, in an attempt to be as inclusive an event as possible. Extend your camping holiday with a stay at Almedalens Hotell, 3 minutes from the beach on the island of Gotland.
Tamera, sustainable rural life in Portugal
Witness a totally self-sufficient commune in Tamera, Portugal
What started as a group of 30 people who moved to southern Portugal in 1995, aiming to live autonomously off the land, has grown to a community of 200 people. The land itself has been transformed from barren dust to fertile farming land with a lake in the middle, using strategies of water retention and a lot of hard work. Guests can stay in a dedicated centre in Tamera, run by a small team from the community, and be included in communal, organic (and mostly vegan) meals, communal work, and sleep in communal dormitories. Surrounded by National Park and minutes from the beach, Herdade da Matinha Country House is also close to Tamera.
The Karoo, environmental work in South Africa
Though you can still spot wildlife here, life is harsh for native fauna so volunteering is key
The Karoo wilderness has a desolate beauty, with its plains of bright yellow wattle, succulents and sparse shrubbery, stormy sky overhead and the Karoo Koppies (‘koppie’ meaning ‘hill’ in Afrikaans) in the distance. Though you can still spot black rhinos, lions, zebras, kudus and various flora and fauna, environmental factors have made this region even harsher, so assisting the local Cango Wildlife Ranch and Conservation Centre is a great way to make a difference while you travel. For 28 years, the centre has worked to conserve endangered species in the area, and welcomes volunteers to help them in their efforts, provided you are 18 or over. Even if you don’t apply for their volunteer program, you can still pay them a day visit and stay at the nearby AfriCamps Klein Karoo, where roomy, canvas tents are equipped with kitchens and bathrooms and have a sun deck and bonfire spot for evenings outdoors.
Casa Mermejita, land art and turtle conservation in Mexico
Create land art while sitting by Casa Mermejita’s infinity pool
This creative eco-hotel, sat on a hill overlooking the sea, invites guests to create land art from earth, sand, wood and other natural materials. Creating a space that blends contemporary art with nature is therapeutic and rewarding, and Casa Mermejita is in a tropical setting in Oaxaca, where you can take a tour with the local fishermen and chip in at the turtle conservation centre. Book a stay at this eco-hotel and look forward to lazing on the terrace by the sensational infinity pool just a few metres from the sandy beach.