When traveling on the cloth road, chances are high you’ll be traveling with other kindred spirits. But how do you determine the right-fit textile travel tour for you? ClothRoads has always been very selective about who we note in our list, limiting it to those who offer textile-specific trips and are focused specifically on cultural and traditional techniques, meeting with artisans, and off-the-beaten-path locals. But over the years, we’ve added a few travel companies who have textile tours as one of their product offerings. Lately, ClothRoads has been receiving requests from tour companies or tour guides who want to be listed in our textile resource list or highlighted in our monthly textile calendar. So last week, we added an “*” by the companies who we have traveled with or know personally, and who meet the textile standards we would want on a trip. Whether you’re an avid traveler or saving for a very special textile journey, how would you vet our list?
A Few Travel Questions to Consider
These topics are in no specific order nor are they complete. They’re just what came to mind.
Do you want a small group experience? A small group can be under 15 people but you may want even less, so ask ahead of time what the group limit is. The smaller the group, the more time you have to dig in and explore, and you won’t come to blows snagging a special textile. But it also means the tour could cost more or the accommodations may not be to your standards. Do your research.
Do you travel alone or with a friend? This is a tough question. It’s always nice sharing experiences as well as lodging costs with someone you know. But if you’re traveling on your own and you don’t want a single supplement, you better know how much personal time/space you need, your sleeping patterns, and your overall tolerance for sharing with a yet-unknown person. I’ve seen roommates become fast friends and others who, well you know. Take into consideration that you’re with people all day long and sometime grueling conditions, so do you need a break from that?
Are you comfortable being uncomfortable? Flexibility is absolutely the key. A road could be washed out due to a rainstorm, or going from one town to another may take many hours, or as is the case with my trip in Uzbekistan last year, travel plans had to change (the Uzbeki president made a last-minute trip to where we were also traveling but he got first dibs for the train, leaving us to take a very long bus ride instead.) When traveling to countries where tourism is developing, you’re there at a perfect time to experience the “undiscovered” riches but it also means the infrastructure may not be in place to accommodate the masses.
Do you want hands-on experiences? If you’re particularly interested in some hands-on learning, whether a short workshop or just a demonstration, see if the tour offers that. Most textile tours offer this but there are varying degrees of hands-on so make sure you ask ahead of time. If a non-textile person accompanies you on the trip, make sure they are aware of this aspect so something else can be planned during this time. (and planned ahead of time). Or, if you want to take an immersive class, you may need to arrange this separately and be expected to pay extra.
Have you researched your guide(s), both your tour operator and in-country experts? You want to travel with a textile expert: one who knows the country, the artisans, the traditions. And you want them to have an enduring relationship with the in-country tour operator because when a problem arises, the operator knows who to call, where to go, how to get a work-around. Plus they know their country, the politics and religion, the terrain, the do’s and don’ts. Never take this lightly.
A Recommended Country for Traditional Textile Lovers
Recently I’ve been asked by friends where they should go on their next textile travel. Well Uzbekistan is an absolute highlight (see my blog). In case you missed it, Uzbekistan was included in the New York Times 52 places to go in 2019 which means in the next five years, it will probably have an influx of tourists so as a textile lover, go soon.
I looked at three of our recommended textile tours for the upcoming few years. Cynthia LeCount’s Behind the Scenes Adventures is already full. But there are two other great small-group recommends: Christine Martens is taking reservations for her 2022 tour. Christine is trained as weaver and has an MFA in fiber. She began researching the textile and traditions of Uzbekistan in 2001 and yearly trips continued in the Central Asian republics, Mongolia, and Xinjiang. Her Uzbekistan in-country guide is Raisa Gareeva. Ms. Gareeva was the Central Asian foreign expert for Aid to Artisans in Uzbekistan, guiding artisans in the revival of traditions and honing of skills which had been forgotten during the Soviet era. There are many private visits with artisans inclusive of suzani embroidery, block printing, feltmaking, silk spinning, ikat masters, and so much more. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The International Folk Art Market offers Passport to Folk Art Trips. These are life-changing opportunities to meet master folk artists in their home countries; experience rich histories, cultural heritage, and traditions firsthand; and connect with the artists who are creating a better future for their communities through folk art. You’ll meet many of the artisans who have been to the folk art market over the years.
ClothRoads’s Textile Travel Resource
Visit ClothRoads’s Textile Travel for many other possibilities. Send us your recommends and tell us why. Share this blog on to others who have the travel itch or just want to armchair travel along with us. We’re sure to cross paths while traveling the cloth road. And, as with all travel, we are not liable in any way for your own personal experience.
Download our Textile Travel Guide: 10 Tips to Be a Star Textile Ambassador. (You will be asked for your email and the download will become available once that is provided)