A curated audience of influencers does not come together by accident. Like loyal religious devotees, the temple of Monocle magazine summoned an eclectic mix of upwardly mobile knowledge seekers from around the world to Berlin, taking part in a whole new kind of pilgrimage that's best described as an "edu-vacation".
This is a burgeoning category of vacation by definition targeting the professionally mobile, and is a new calling for travel agents and tourism entrepreneurs. Adding to this, these "edu-vacation" itineraries aid in bringing together the very currency of doing business, knowledge, and networking in a compelling way. And that's not forgetting obvious advantages of furthering professional development, and assisting with corporate travel cost efficiencies.
And with that I eagerly took flight to Berlin expecting to be inspired, meet lots of like-minded design-primed travellers and of course escape from the Melbourne winter.
Quality, quantity and quantifiables
The publication's annual conference was spruiked across the title's multiple platforms to lure Monocle readers to what was heralded as an exploration of "The Quality of Life". A quick look at the complex and diverse line-up of panelists, supported by promises of exploring design realms with like-minded culture creators, it certainly sold itself as being a purposefully executed, live issue of the namesake magazine and not to be missed. Made additionally attractive as it was staged in a city challenging many norms.
The conference indulged international delegates in the visionary world of Monocle founder Tyler Brûlé, the point where delegates felt like they'd become a cohesive part of his dedicated team of design aficionados and urbanists.
Big ideas take centre stage
As the CEO of Australia's biggest fashion retail-focused event, I sought inspiration from a number of the programmed panels especially a session on The Future of Retail, where Mohamed Haouache, CEO of Storefront, a leading short-term retail space facilitator, boldly claimed "the future retail store will be offered up for free by landlords". This was in context to global developers' continued quest to balance footfall versus cool factor to entice high yielding residential tenants.
A surprise panel discussion titled Healthy Income introduced delegates to Ozden Akyildiz, founder of Komsukoy, who presented ideas around satisfying city dwellers with tactile environmental experiences supporting a reconnection with agriculture, plus many more insightful moments shared by various presenting speakers and Monocle editors. And not forgetting the more bespoke conference experiences including private tours, fashion atelier precinct visits and communal refuelling and feeding sessions hosted throughout Berlin.
Having been stimulated by some deep, and at times some superficial, design-lead thinking throughout the day whilst sitting on oddly appointed deck chairs (another Monocle signature touch), there was ample opportunity to connect and network too. It became really clear while sharing collective wisdom on city builds and priorities of the future, that the delegation was not full of government bureaucrats and city planners, but rather an eclectic bunch of city dwellers with a mindset and desire to make a difference. That felt powerful.
So with a bit of "power to the people" sentiment, enjoyment from being voluntarily curated by the Monocle army, I left feeling educated, inspired and well rested from the intensity of life back in Australia.
If you're planning your own getaway in the coming months, I urge you to consider opting out from the automatic themes of beach towel and ocean views and contemplate a well rounded, stimulating opportunity and be a part of the global conference tourism movement.
Have you taken an "edu-vacation"? Share your experience in the comments section below.