Who hasn’t been inspired by an imaginative story? Who hasn’t travelled to new places through the pages of a book? Of course, the whole point of many novels – particularly for children – is to spark the imagination, allowing us to travel into new worlds, explore unseen spheres and giving us endless possibilities.
Launching today is an innovative travel offering from Black Tomato, which is based on this very notion. Take Me On A Story is a collection of five immersive – and bespoke – travel itineraries, inspired by children’s stories, and all set in the destinations that form the backdrop to the iconic tales.
The luxury travel company is renowned for its immersive and cutting-edge travel experiences, and comments: “Travel has the power to inspire and educate children of all ages and now, more than ever, it is a perfect antidote to long months of home-schooling and shuttered lives. At Black Tomato, our clients’ needs drive our innovation, and in our mission to unearth meaningful experiences that engage children and reignite a passion for learning, we’ve launched Take Me On A Story.”
Spanning Oxfordshire to Iceland, each journey has been designed to provoke wonder, intrigue and curiosity. Best of all, they aim to bond adventure-deprived families through out-of-the-ordinary experiences, whether that is an interactive, and very mad, tea party, inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, or learning survival skills, dog-mushing and listening for the call of the wild in Alaska.
Here, exclusively for Forbes, co-founder of Black Tomato, Tom Marchant reveals more: “To provide a much-needed reset after long months of leading shuttered lives, more than ever, future travel needs to count,” he says. “For many, the time we’ve spent ‘locked down’ has led people to positively reassess their lives and in turn their desires for travel, and while you cannot diminish the hardships of the past year, I’m truly excited for the new dawn and the meaningful journeys our clients are increasingly seeking.”
“Travel in 2021 and beyond is going to be more focused on how you experience a destination and connect with those you’re travelling with, rather than ticking off a list of places to see. One thing we’ve all missed, during this time of ongoing restrictions, is being able to spend quality time with friends and family somewhere that isn’t familiar to our everyday lives. Similarly, we know that for many, particularly those who have been home-schooling, this has understandably taken its toll and often removed much of the joy from parents and children learning together.”
Out of all the new Black Tomato itineraries, the most timely is perhaps the Take Me On A Story to Oxfordshire. Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, families can go in the footsteps of Alice – from foraging through fantastical forests and discovering how flora can be transformed into extraordinary products to embarking on a river cruise to retrace the famed ‘golden afternoon’, and bought to life by an Oxford historian. Families stay at the iconic Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire. The experience is particularly of the moment, right now, as the launch coincides with the V&A’s 2021 landmark exhibition – Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser – which runs until 31 December 2021.
While the exhibition sets out to celebrate one of the most imaginative and inspiring stories of all time, with visitors able to delve into the origins, adaptations and reinventions of Alice in Wonderland over 158 years, Black Tomato’s experience takes immerses you in the story through travel. It also ties in with Oxford’s The Story Museum, which is due to reopen after 17 May following a £6m revamp, and a visit, with story-telling, is included in the experience.
Tom continues: “We’re thrilled to have been able to take the past couple of years to develop and refine our new ‘Take Me On A Story’ collection, to create our most imaginative and remarkable series of family-focused itineraries yet. As we transport families into the rich, whimsical worlds of classic children’s literature set in destinations which have formed the all-important backdrop to these iconic tales, we know that we’ll instil not only skills, but also memories that last a lifetime.”
He says: “We wanted to harness travel as the most powerful tool we know, to stir creativity and the imaginations of our clients – for both adults and children, and to welcome back the magic of travel in an exciting and most extraordinary way.”
“I firmly believe that providing an experiential edge will be the most fundamental means for travel companies to stand out from the crowd; it’s part of Black Tomato’s DNA and how each trip that our Travel Experts create, cultivates a deeper connection with the destination visited. This has never rang truer and been more integral to our business than today.”
Also on offer is a trip inspired by Jack London’s Call of the Wild, with a voyage into the Alaskan wilderness to experience the pioneering sense of adventure that inspired the novel, first published in 1903. From navigating glaciers by raft to panning for gold with historians; from arriving by helicopters and floatplanes at luxurious, breathtakingly remote lodges and cabins to a custom survival course – the trip is all about capturing that elusive spirit of survival and adventure.
Using the epic Arabian Nights as the starting point, Take Me On A Story to Morocco is a six-night journey which takes travellers through the heart of the Maghreb into the Sahara Desert. Included is a majestic treasure hunt, with families venturing through desert oases on camelback and 4×4, exploring ancient souks with soothsayers, and discovering dramatic landscapes from the High Atlas Mountains to the narrow streets of Ait Ben Haddou.
Take Me On A Story to Iceland, on the other hand, is inspired by Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. On this monumental journey of discovery, families will chart the course of the author’s classic adventures in Iceland, descending dormant volcanoes, sailing across expansive glacial lagoons and swimming into the earth’s crust. Accompanied throughout by an expert guide, riddles and challenges are designed to test physical and mental fortitude. Included is outdoor skill-building, such as fire-making, utilising items collected through the day and geography and cartography, following a specially curated map. Families will decipher clues with experiences plucked from the story in otherworldly settings like lava caves, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Jökulsárlón glacier and the Silfra Fissure.
Finally, Take Me On A Story to the British Virgin Islands is inspired by Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1882 classic. Families will go in search of buried riches with underwater treasure hunts, a private catamaran charter to the Dog Islands and a stargazing bonfire to hear how both sailors and pirates navigate the seas. Learning the tricks of survival Ben Gunn style, experiences include: pirate school, with sword fighting lessons and (non-alcoholic) rum-making; sailing lessons to learn how to set sail and drop anchor, putting skills to the test with a private day charter to uninhabited islands. Later, a cooking class at Rosewood Little Dix Bay, takes place on the resort’s sustainable farm.
“While in development since 2019, now feels like the perfect time to launch after witnessing a huge appetite for multi-generational travel among clients – with a 70% increase in bookings over the past two months and a 55% increase in average spend per family trip,” concludes Tom. “We’re raring to go.”