Preserve and Celebrate Through Travel
Bringing the world’s cultures and natural sciences to you
Discover diverse cultures as you Journey with Smithsonian. Whether your dream vacation calls for a backpacking trip through any one of the seven continents or a personalized tour of ancient ruins or Japan’s centuries-old temples, Smithsonian Journeys’ primary goal is to bring the world’s diverse cultures and natural sciences to you by way of travel.
If you’re on the Smithsonian Journeys mailing list, I’m sure you’ve found the journey offerings exciting and intriguing, to say the least. I reached out to Paula Swart, Smithsonian Journeys travel expert and Karen A. Ledwin, Smithsonian Travel vice president, program management, for details about destinations and adventures that will stir your inner traveler.
Scroll down to see their answers.
Paula Swart’s primary role is to provide a relevant educational component to the trip experience.
Tell me about your most recent Smithsonian Journeys trip. Where did your travels take you?
Most recent trips, twice to Vietnam (overland and cruise) and one trip to Japan, the Inland Sea.
Where and when will you embark on your next Smithsonian Journeys trip?
Barge trip through Holland & Belgium September 21-29. Being a native of Holland and having traveled many times to Belgium, I have lectured several barge trips since 2013, usually in April/early May to see the flowering bulb fields.
How did your relationship with the Smithsonian evolve? How many trips have you taken on behalf of the Smithsonian?
I was approached in late 2016 and this will be my fourth Smithsonian trip. I have been involved in educational trips since the early 80s after studying for two years in China.
What attracted you to Asian art, culture, and history and how have your experiences helped to prepare you for your trips, i.e. what do you find most fascinating about Asia?
Growing up in The Netherlands with our colonial history in Indonesia, I experienced Asian culture from a very early age through food, art, literature, puppet performances, and storytelling, and in my professional life, I became a Curator of Asian Studies working in various Canadian museums. I am foremost interested in art, archaeology, and history, but it is always the people connections that give meaning to the travel experience. Visiting the same country on many occasions over a long period of time provides the opportunity for a deeper understanding, which in turn can be conveyed during my presentations, or if the opportunity arises to write articles.
What are a few of your goals for your upcoming adventure?
Reconnecting with the countries to be visited and to provide insightful presentations to the travelers.
What languages do you speak?
Dutch, French, German, English, Chinese…in addition, I studied Japanese, Tibetan, and Spanish.
Karen A. Ledwin
What is the overall goal for each of the tour directors and experts you enlist?
The goal of Smithsonian Journeys tour staff is to deliver the high-quality experience our travelers expect and to ensure that Smithsonian’s mission of “the increase and diffusion of knowledge” is infused in the talks, discussions, excursions and other tour activities. See our difference on our website and the Backgrounder document for more details.
How do you choose a destination? What are the criteria?
Smithsonian Journeys has been operating cultural and educational tours for nearly 50 years and offers tours and cruises on all seven (7) continents in a variety of travel styles, including Classic Land, Cultural Stay, Small-Ship Ocean Cruises, River Cruises, Special Interest, Active, Family, Private Jet, and Tailor-Made. With such a long history in enrichment travel, a significant part of our portfolio is selected when our travelers tell us where and how they want to travel, both through sales and in their post-tour evaluations. In addition, new tour selections will often be centered around an anniversary (Leonardo Da Vinci’s 500th anniversary) or event (Chile Total Solar Eclipse) where we know our curious and worldly travelers have an interest.
What are a few of the activities your travel guests can expect to enjoy while on a Smithsonian Journeys trip?
Smithsonian Journeys tours and cruises are infused with talks, discussions, excursions and other activities – all delivering against our promise of in-depth learning and enrichment.
Do you offer opportunities to visit museums, shop?
While not the focus of our trips, during the free time people will certainly shop.
Do the trips allow time for participants to enjoy water activities or experience the peoples and cultures of a particular location, etc.?
Yes to all. One important and distinguishing feature is the inclusion of a Smithsonian Journeys Expert throughout the tour or cruise. One exception is on multi-generational Family Journeys where the focus is on interactive activities for the whole family from learning stage fighting at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, to drawing al fresco in Tuscany. Another exception is found on our new Active Journeys where the act of walking and biking in small groups takes our travelers to smaller towns and villages, where local experts join the group in the evenings for a talk and/or the group visits their atelier, weaving center, or similar.
What are a few examples of trips that uncover the “authentic culture of each destination, providing access unavailable to most travelers?” Would you describe Smithsonian’s signature travel experiences as “off the beaten path?”
Some of our Cultural Stay Journeys are based in small towns like an Andalusian Parador in the small, picturesque town of Antequera from which our travelers explore the region. And our three week Living in Provence program allows travelers the opportunity to live like a local in an Apart/Hotel and to participate in different enrichment tracks. We find that travelers want to see the iconic sites when they visit a destination but they also take delight in combining this with an off the beaten path stop or stops along the way. For example, on many of our journeys, we stay in small, distinctive accommodations that may be family-owned, and the family treats our travelers as one of their personal guests.
For more information about upcoming Smithsonian Journeys, call 855-330-1542.