Højskole Rejser: Taking the folk high school spirit on the road
Text: Signe Hansen | Photos: Højskole rejser
If you believe that travelling is about more than ticking sights off a list and trying to memorise dates, names and places, Højskole Rejser (‘folk high school tours’) might be your kind of travel company. Taking the Scandinavian folk high school experience out of the classroom and onto the road, the company brings its participants to the less explored parts of Europe and up and close with the people and culture of the areas.
After 16 years of experience as a folk high school educator and travel planner, Torben Egeris decided to put his vast network and knowledge to use in a new kind of venture – a travel company that takes the folk high school out of the classroom and onto the road. “Normally, with a travel folk high school, you spend the first four or five days at the school getting to know each other, singing, and learning about the region you’re visiting, and then the trip itself is more of a traditional group holiday. But that’s actually not the way it should be; it’s when we’re on the tour that we should be connecting, singing and learning about the region through the people who live there. A folk high school is not about the school; it’s about an ideology, a way of being together, and that’s what I wanted to take on the road, directly into the world.”
Founded three years ago, Højskole Rejser arranges around 12 yearly tours with a maximum of 16 participants on each. Most tours are guided by Egeris and a like-minded colleague, and, of course, the folk high school songbook, a travel piano and a guitar are also sure to come along on the journey.
Away from the tourist zone
Having arranged and guided tours in Europe for almost two decades, Egeris has a vast network of contacts and a broad knowledge of the areas he visits. He puts this to use not to achieve the most efficient travel itinerary, but to create authentic experiences with time for dialogue and physical, mental and cultural exploration. “Of course, we also visit attractions, but it’s very important to us that it’s an authentic experience; we stay away from the overcrowded tourist destinations. Instead, we for instance visit artists who no one else would find. We visit them in their homes, talk to them, and eat with them,” explains Egeris.
For the same reason, when possible, Egeris organises his trips to beautiful, unspoiled locations where he collaborates with the owners of small hotels or even private homes to create authentic experiences for his guests. In Piemonte, Italy, for instance, his guests will stay in a tiny village at the family residence of the Danish consul, where they will enjoy the home cooked food of the consul’s sister. “With hotels, we aim to find places where we can book the entire place so that we’re free to sing and invite people to join us, without worrying about disturbing other guests,” says Egeris.
Travelling in good company
Højskole Rejser’s destinations include the less explored parts of Tuscany, Sicily, Sardinia, Croatia and Piemonte, as well as destinations in Southern France and Spain. “For instance, we go to La Gomera; it’s a tiny island, part of the Canaries, but unlike the other islands it doesn’t have mass tourism as there’s no airport. It’s a community-based eco-tourism destination with small lodgings and yoga studios created by the hippies who first discovered the island in the ‘60s,” Egeris explains. “In Southern France, I’ve found this French-Danish couple, who built their own place far out in one of the canyons. These are the kinds of places I love finding; it’s the opposite of the biggest, cheapest and most popular.”
But while new and authentic locations are a must for Egeris, it is the connection between humans, within and outside the group, that is the heart of his company. This also means that the trips have been especially popular with senior singles. “80 per cent of our guests are single, many women who have lost their husbands or divorced. They might have been on group travels before, but still felt alone, because most don’t have anything organised when it comes to the social aspect,” says Egeris, and rounds off: “That’s what it’s all about – being together, being present and being open to new experiences and new people.”
Facts: Højskole Rejser has 12 tours scheduled for 2020. All tours include a maximum of 16 participants. Tour guests are always transported in two minibuses, allowing for flexibility and changes to the schedule. Web: www.hojskolerejser.com
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