An incredible experience to say the least! You know those rare moments in your life where reality exceeds your actual expectations.. my first experience with VAWAA and my Holland vacation with Linda will be one of those precious memories for me.
So, why did I decide to do this?
I was in the middle of a job switch and it so happened that I had an unexpected mini-break between the two jobs. I wanted to do something that would push me out of my comfort zone (a bit) and yet be relaxing. Soul rejuvenating kinds and an opportunity to feel a sense of wonderment. All-inclusive vacations, or just going to somewhere close seem to be the only widely popular options on the internet but they didn’t seem appealing enough to me at that point. I like to describe myself as an engineer with a creative streak and somehow I ended up googling ‘vacationing with a local artist’ and came across VAWAA. I loved their story and the website along with the artist profiles gave me the confidence to try them out. As a solo female traveler, no matter how ‘adventurous’ my spirit feels, my cautionary alter-ego still tries its best to ensure I do enough research to watch out for myself. With time constraints, I could not analyze to the extent I wanted to, but the Netherlands as a ‘safe, amicable’ country & VAWAA as a channel gave me a lot of confidence to not let the lack of my ‘ideal’ planning level deter me from having a trip of a lifetime.
I got prompt responses from Jenny & VAWAA crew to all my questions within hours & Linda was super gracious to accommodate my last minute request, and within ~48 hours after having confirmed with VAWAA, I was on my flight from Canada to Holland!
My experience in Holland with Linda
Linda is a rare gem of a person and a fabulous artist. She is an inspiring mentor & an extremely genuine individual, topped by her fun side which is a tad bit unconventional for artists. She has the ability to guide with pearls of wisdom & a non-judgemental openness that comes when a person has been steeped in some really tough times and still unstoppably achieved what she has achieved. Right from the very start, she was there to welcome me at the station with this cutest welcome gift package with Dutch goodies that she had made as if welcoming an old friend.
She has a very busy schedule but not for a moment did she let go of her Dutch hospitality.
Getting to stay with her at her place and shadowing her at the studio answered a lot of my questions that I didn’t even know to ask. I absorbed invaluable insights on how much work goes behind the scenes to run a studio as an artist & was privy to the deep sense of satisfaction that it brings despite the long hours & struggles. Having read up on it previously, I can share it’s tough to really ‘get it’ like you would unless you experience it first hand by doing such an apprenticeship or some other such opportunity.
Days at her studio gave me this amazing window that I would never have otherwise to interact with other students of various age groups, experiencing more local culture & different art styles by direct friendly conversations. From encouraging me to trying out printmaking & spray paint for the first time to numerous palette knife techniques, how to approach portrait and figure art pieces & much more, Linda painstakingly ensured that she was sharing as much as she could with me with regards to what I had shared about previously through VAWAA on what I was seeking.
I would highly recommend not only signing up but also taking this opportunity to stay with her since a lot of deep discussions even happened after the studio was over, sitting in comfy sofas in her living room. Her passion for sharing art knowledge with those interested, positive mindset & never-give-up attitude is infectious!
Schagen is this magical, small town where you can have true Holland experience. I was lucky to see the last day of the local parade at the Farmer’s market where the volunteers are dressed in traditional attires, putting up a realistic image of what it would have been back in the day. Be prepared to hear & see menus & place names only in Dutch, but everyone is mostly super kind and tries their best to accommodate in English. Unless you are acquainted with it, embrace yourself to feel a bit ‘lost’ as your head spins initially trying to make sense of a foreign language, unpredictable dutch weather with rain and sun, mentally wishing to eat more cheese than you can possibly devour in your short time and long days since you will not want to end it! It was fantastic to have Linda share local stories & also be my tour guide driving me around to see the dikes, sea, take me to the museum Kranenburg and the awesome little artistic town of Bergen where we both had a blast with a local music band as well. From picking me up to seeing me off at the station, I’ll never forget how wonderful & welcomed Linda made me feel and all the lifetime memories & lessons that I bring back with myself. Artists like her are like hidden treasures, you have to show the courage to seek them out & when you do .. you will come back with so much more than when you started.
I spent a couple of days after Schagen in Amsterdam and that was a beautiful experience as well. It will stay with me as – a city that I would love to get lost in – there is so much to see & experience with the beautiful canals, architecture, deep history, culture, art & definitely interesting to expose yourself to a bustling city that is willing to tolerate different societal aspects.
In a nutshell, this journey reminded me what the true essence of ‘travel’ is about — at the end of the day, you experience a world different than your routine bubble and you are left awestruck when you still experience more similarities in what makes us all human once you look beyond the differences in language, culture, etc. Of course, it helped tremendously that I had a lovely, friendly Dutch guide, translator & friend with me to help navigate it.
Holland for me will always be extra special because of how I got to experience it.
Overall, can’t thank VAWAA & artists like Linda enough. Together, they help create ‘magic’ by giving people all over the world an opportunity to gather lifetime memories like I did. It gives me a sense of achievement to have ventured out of my comfort zone, trusting in my gut and believing that I can do amazing things for myself. Traveling & exploring foreign lands with an artist brings out your vulnerable side & helps you find more about yourself as an artist & an individual. This will be a lesson reminding me to enjoy the journey, the process itself since life goes beyond your fears & sense of control, beyond successes or failures. A desire to pursue your artistic desires & exploring your creative side may or may not get you anywhere, but if it’s a ‘gift’ no matter how big or small, it’s worth letting that part of you breathe free without expectations and making the most of the ‘human’ experience you are blessed with.