Educational vacations became very popular in the late 90’s and early this century. Americans thirst for knowledge, combined with the excitement of seeing sites first-hand was irresistible. And to be able to attend lectures by world renowned archaeologists, writers, professors and political figures could make a good trip, extraordinary. Educational travel is going strong and has even more to offer these days. And now, you can experience this exciting trend right in your backyard.
I recently had the opportunity to attend a day of educational stimulation at the Fairmont Scottsdale. The series called “Season of Personal Discovery” took place on various weekends this fall and allowed guests to participate in lectures, discussions and question and answer sessions by world renowned authors and experts in a variety of fields. This special series was divided into themed weekends including “Living Your Best Life,” “For The Love of Books,” ” Ultimate Girls Getaway Weekend,” “Food & Wine For the Soul,” “Cloak & Dagger,” “Literary Stew” and “Small Change for a Big Change.”
I attended the last two of these which allowed me to participate in lectures and discussions with best selling novelists Ridley Pearson, author of No Witness and Chain of Evidence and co-author of Peter and the Starcatchers; Pulitzer Prize winning writer Dave Barry, syndicated columnist and author of Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys, Dave Barry’s Only Travel Guide You’ll Ever Need and co-author of Peter and the Starcatchers; and best selling author Scott Turow, author of Reversible Errors, Presumed Innocent and the soon to be released sequel, Innocent.
Dave Barry and Scott Turow – photo by Carole B. Rosenblat
Scott Turow spoke of his natural progression from criminal attorney to author. “Being a criminal attorney is storytelling,” he says. Make it a complete story without putting the jury, or the reader, to sleep. When asked about the future of writing and writers in relation to new technology he replied, “Storytelling will go on regardless of the technology.” Still, he dreams of holograms incorporated in storytelling’s future.
Dave Barry joined Ridley Pearson at his morning talk to explain how a humor columnist joined with a crime novelist to create a children’s series, Peter and the Starcatchers. They spoke of the creation of this trilogy (which is now inexplicably comprised of four books) and how the idea came from Mr. Barry’s now nine year old daughter. While reading Peter Pan to her one night, she questioned how Peter met Captain Hook. That led to Mr. Barry questioning the origins of Tinkerbell, as well as Neverland and Peter’s ability to fly and never grow-up. He called the least obvious person to partner with him on a children’s book, a crime writer. But partner they did and their best-selling series is now being developed for the stage by Disney.
Mr. Barry and Mr. Pearson spoke, and showed photos, of their literary rock band comprised of both writers as well as writers Stephen King, Amy Tan and Mitch Albom. In Dave’s words, “they are not musically skilled, but they are extremely loud.”
The afternoon “How to Give” Philanthropy Workshop included presentations by Wendy Smith, author of Give a Little: How Your Small Donation Can Transform Our World; Jacqueline Novogratz, author of The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World; and Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva.org. While the audience for this afternoon session was smaller, those who chose to stay were touched and inspired by the stories of these philanthropists. Following this session many in the audience were conspiring with others about how they could, “change the world.”
Most of the authors attended the pre-dinner cocktail and hors d’oeuvres reception as well as the gala dinner, which was hosted by Mr. Barry. He spoke of the future of journalism and creative writing in a computer and internet guided society. He believes that newspapers are on their way out but writing, creativity and journalism are most certainly not. They will just adapt to new forms. He also shared his humor explaining that humiliation was the most effective form of discipline when raising children (any parent who’s child is embarrassed by them can relate) and the intricacies of living in Miami.
Photo by Carole B. Rosenblat
I had the honor of sitting next to Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry at lunch and sitting next to Mr. Barry again at dinner (hhhmmm, perhaps he’s stalking me). The conversation was stimulating, not only due to these great authors’ company, but my fellow attendees which included people from a variety of backgrounds including a former broadcaster for the BBC as well as people from a various other professions.
Other speakers participating in the “Season of Personal Discovery” included cookbook authors and restaurateurs, Jamie and Bobby Deen, chef and restaurateur Michelle Bernstien, National Public Radio music critic and author of 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die Thom Duffy, best-selling author Lisa See, and top mystery writer Steve Berry.
The Season of Personal Discovery was not the only creative series hosted by the Fairmont Scottsdale this year. This summer, the Fairmont Scottsdale partnered with National Geographic to launch its “Explorers Camp” for Kids. The camp was filled with fun, discovery-based activities for children ages 5-12, with added events for the entire family. Amping up the excitement, eight world-renowned National Geographic explorers spoke at camp events on special Saturdays throughout the summer. These speakers included Reptile Expert and TV Host Brady Barr, Primatologist and TV Host Mireya Mayor, NASA Engineer Kobie Boykins, and Biologist/Inventor/Filmmaker Greg Marshall.
Due to the success of both of these series, the Fairmont Scottsdale will definitely bring back the “Exploerers Camp” and is in negotiations to bring back Literary Stew. Both series offered daily admission pricing as well as packages which included room, food and beverage credits, admission to events as well as other gifts.
Whether you’re looking for a fun and educational vacation with the family, or an inspirational, intellectually stimulating weekend away, the Fairmont Scottsdale might just be the place. Check back here for updates on next year’s series offerings.