Urban Adventures’ At Home trips transport clients to faraway cities to learn from passionate local guides and connect with their cultures. Abra Dunsby joins a virtual trip to find out more.
After an hour and fifteen minutes of gentle breathing, stretching and meditating, guided by professional yoga teacher and Delhi resident Afsha Shaik over Zoom, the clamour of my mind quietens, and I feel a surging sense of inner calm and positivity.
Not only does Afsha’s class leave me feeling more zen than I have been in months, I also gain a newfound respect for the art of yoga as Afsha cheerfully explains some if its teachings, from the eight pillars that support it – including postures (asana), breath control (pranayama), concentration (dharana) and meditation (dhyana) – to the 196 sutras: short verses that serve as a guide to attain wisdom and self-realisation through yoga practice.
My Online Delhi Experience: Yoga & Ayurveda Class is one of many virtual trips currently being offered to travel agents and their clients by city tours specialist Urban Adventures during the pandemic.
The Urban Adventures At Home virtual trips were launched halfway through last year, and there are 20 inspiring options to choose from, from a Frida Kahlo painting class in New Mexico to a traditional Pierogi cooking class in Krakow.
The tours offer agents and their clients a fascinating, exciting local perspective into a city during a time when international travel has been difficult or impossible. Crucially, they also help support local guides who have lost vital income during the pandemic.
Klaudija Janzelj, managing director of Urban Adventures, explains further: “We designed these online experiences to support local guides whose livelihoods have been impacted by the pandemic and to connect with our travellers since we were not able to see them in person.”
Feedback from attendees has been “excellent”, thanks to the enthusiasm and expertise of the guides, she adds. “All the virtual tours have had five-star reviews from customers. Our guides have done a great job of adapting to online hosting. They have so much enthusiasm and joy to be connected to travellers and be able to share their culture, heritage, and stories. They are becoming proper online stars!”
With her striking tattoos and long dark hair that reaches her calves, Afsha certainly looks like she’d be a hit on Instagram, and her class is just as captivating.
She talks me through calming techniques such as sun and moon breathing. By breathing evenly in and out of one nostril while closing the other, and then swapping, you are rebalancing the “sun” and “moon” sides of yourself – with the sun associated with warmth and energy and the moon with tranquillity – to achieve a sense of calm and balance.
She also talks about the three dosha elements – vata (air), pitta (fire) and kapha (earth) that are found within each object and person, and how through exercising and eating we can redress imbalances within us.
It’s all very accessible too, with gentle yoga moves interspersed with friendly, lighthearted chatter that would also be suited to clients with families.
There are plenty more newly added virtual trips that cater to families, says Janzelj.
“We launched these in time for the half-term holiday in February to connect families with local tour guides and their families around the globe.
“These experiences take the customers into a local guide’s home and offer a hands-on activity such as cooking, painting or yoga.”
She adds that the family virtual tours have gone down well with kids, who greatly enjoy meeting local children and taking part in activities together. “At a time when we are all missing human connection, children have the opportunity to interact with kids in other countries, ask questions about their lives and learn about the local culture and traditions.”
While travel agents can attend the virtual trips themselves to gain insight into Urban Adventures’ product, they can also promote the experiences to clients as a handy customer engagement tool, says Janzelj.
“For example, one of our larger agent partners hosted an online experience in Mexico City for their clients. It went live on all their social channels and we had more than 800 people join the experience.
“It’s a perfect way to get clients excited about travelling again when it’s possible to do so.”