About Us

“I’ve been able to travel extensively these past 30 years and like a great Conductor, who can reveal the essence of a symphony, “The Art of Living Tours,” by Marieke Brugman, achieves that same magic wherever you go with her. You are a guest, not just a tourist, as she reveals places, tastes and sights only a true lover of that culture can offer. It is why I’ve done so many of her excursions (South Africa, Normandy, Spain, Turkey and India several times) and had the privilege of discovering the breath and soul of the places she offers to her intimate groups”.

Kenneth Payne


Who we are:

We are a boutique owner-operated agency founded by Director, Marieke Brugman who has over thirty years experience in the hospitality and travel industries.

We specialise in luxury, cultural and culinary vacations and yoga retreats around the globe, hallmarked by meticulous planning and maximum enjoyment for our guests. Our wonderful destinations the last three decades have included Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, France, Turkey, China and Bali.

Our current focus is India in its many guises, Kashmir, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Morocco and about to be launched, Mexico

What We Offer:
We offer an annual portfolio of curated, guided, escorted journeys for small groups bound in their enthusiasm for roads less travelled, by their inquisitiveness, their passion for people, places, art, history, and adventurousness.

We do not offer packages, we create experiences.

We certainly travel in great style and luxurious comfort, but what makes our journeys so memorable are special touches like the most fascinating guides, the more scenic and slow road, that really special hotel and its best rooms, exceptional cuisine and culinary tastes, and an ambience that is conducive to new and lasting friendships.
Our trips peel back the surface layers, so you enjoy the unexpected, have your curiosity ignited, your senses and sensibilities nourished, your memories cherished, your personal freedoms respected, your expectations excelled.

“Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in its frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.” –Freya Stark

What We Do:

Escorted Guided Cultural + Culinary Tours to Exotic Destinations
Bespoke, Expert Travel Arrangements  for Individual Travellers
A Concierge service for DIY Travellers, on an hourly rate
Special Events Planning for Celebrations, Business Meetings, Incentive Groups
Our principal, Marieke Brugman has organised events for two and events for eight hundred.
Yoga and Well-being Retreats in beautiful locations with renowned Teachers both Abroad and in Australia
Special Culinary Events including Private Dining

How We Operate:
We pride ourselves on attention to detail, customer service, and years of experience that has built a large and loyal client base.
To engage any of our services please download this Modus Operandii document so as to understand how we like to work with our valued clients.

Travel agents would be wiser to ask us what we hope to change about our lives rather than simply where we wish to go.
― Alain de Botton, A Week at the Airport: A Heathrow Diary


Experience the Difference!

For thirty years it has been a privilege and pleasure to look after guests, whether they have been visitors to my gourmet retreat, students at my classes or travellers on my journeys.
Most of my life has been in hospitality and this spirit flows into every aspect of my business.

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both. James A Michener

Marieke's story

Marieke is European by heritage, Australian by birth, an art historian by training, a cook and chef by passion, a global traveller by choice and a yoga student and teacher by inspiration.
She left home to travel in Europe at a young age, embarked on an academic career in Fine Arts, then started her first business, aged twenty-four in rural Victoria – a pioneering gourmet retreat where she donned her chef and teaching hat for the next three decades. That retreat, her ensuing cooking school and her first foray into the travel business, all quickly garnered a respected reputation and tremendous following in Australia and abroad.
Gourmet cycling tours of the Australian wine regions and the Flinders Ranges inspired her first ventures into the travel industry and that quickly expanded into cultural and culinary escorted programs overseas.

Marieke oversees every aspect of Art of Living from attentive customer service to the stylish in-depth design and creation of every new tour.


“Marieke is at home in the world as much as the world is at home in her, and at ease across countries, cultures and age groups.”


When not at home or leading a tour, Marieke might be sleeping in 6* star beds or on an Indian desert charpoy, dining with royalty or supping with rural folk, walking the laneways of ancient forts at dawn or riding camels into the sunset, scaling a new mountain or discovering a secluded beach.

Marieke does not leave home or board a plane without:

A 1 litre water bottle that is filled immediately on boarding
Aesop’s Ginger Flight Therapy roll-on
Traveller’s Friend Citrus Extract in case of a troubled tummy
Portable mini speaker for music in hotel rooms
Natural Indian incense or scented travel candle
A large pashmina shawl bought in Kashmir
“No-Jet-Lag”, a New Zealand homeopathic jet lag prevention that really works for long-haul flights
A small bottle of eucalyptus oil sprayed onto a muslin scarf and an Elanra Air ioniser
Bacterial wipes to wash all the surfaces on her seat

Creative Reccomendations

We are often asked where we eat, what we have read or seen, where we shop, who we follow.

It is a pleasure to share these favourite things regular updates will be found on our blog.



Timeless Style

Favourite Designer: Martin Grant, Marieke’s friend from childhood days when his grandmother Nancy taught her to sew and inspired Martin’s creativity, is now feted as one of Paris’ leading couturier. He was honoured with a retrospective of his work at the National Gallery in Melbourne and recently re-designed the Qantas uniforms. Martin creates exquisitely crafted, understated, timeless, elemental clothes that are superbly constructed, eminently wearable and desirable the world over. You visit his charming atelier in a lovely hôtel particulier in the Marais quarter. Otherwise just feast on his immaculate designs on his web site.

Contemporary Indian Textiles:
Hailing from an illustriously creative line of siblings (“Little” Nell and blockprint artist Cressida), Sally Campbell enjoyed a significant career as a set and costume designer before Home Textiles was launched in November 2005. Sydney homewares guru Melissa Penfold called Sally’s first collection museum worthy.

 Sally produce exceptional contemporary and practical textiles that utilize and respect the hand created techniques and the morés of traditional lifestyles. Sally designs a diverse range of home textiles, which have been profiled in the Sydney Morning Herald and Vogue Living. She specialises in reversible quilts, hand-woven in remote villages of West Bengal. Each stage of production from spinning, fabric dyeing, weaving, and stitching is done by hand, so every finished item is unique. Sally’s aim is to combine her sense of contemporary design with traditional craft skills.

Like other Western designers working at grass roots level in India, Sally helps provide sustainable income to craftspeople whose livelihood has been endangered by industrialisation. Her website offers a superb range on line and Sally also exhibits new collections in galleries around Australia.

Favourite Mags

Marieke’s Favourite Mags are those you cannot board a long-haul flight without:
Harper’s Monthly Magazine (published out of the US since 1850) brilliantly scrutinises current affairs and events;
The New Yorker (published since 1925) is densely intelligent and wise;
Vanity Fair for its irresistible chronicling of contemporary culture;
The Monthly (published out of Melbourne by Morry Schwartz since 2005) is Australia’s only national magazine with an independent voice

Favourite Dining Experiences

New Travel Books


Words without Borders: a dangerously spellbinding site (you may get lost there) that gives access to a vast scope of stories, poems and essays translated into English from truly international literature, rarely found on booksellers shelves.

Slow TV: A free internet TV channel delivering interviews, debates, conversations and public lectures about Australia’s key political, social and cultural issues.

Louisiana Channel : Weekly videos on art, literature, architecture, design, music produced by Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.

Arts + Letters Daily: Philosophy, literature, ideas, criticism, history, art, music from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Brain Pickings: An inventory of cross-disciplinary interestingness, spanning art, science, design, history, philosophy, and more. One of my favourite.
Favourite cities: Paris and Istanbul. New York has just been added!

When at Home

When at home, Marieke starts her day with a warm citron pressé, devotes some time to her yoga practice, takes a walk along wild windswept sand dunes, swims in the sea each summer’s afternoon, tends an organic fruit and vegetable garden that provides most of her food and derives the greatest pleasure cooking delectable meals for her family and friends. She is also an avid reader and film-goer and loves sharing her myriad passions with guests

Useful Links

Travel Agency
Travelcall MelbourneThough fully licensed Travel Agents, we opt not to handle the ticketing of airfares ourselves. I have appointed Cher Roscoe of Travelcall to handle all ticketing for our clients. This she and her company does with great efficiency and highly knowledgable customer service. Cher at Travelcall can be contacted directly on 03)9867 1800 or Fax 03)9867 1822. Email

Travel + Lifestyle Publications
Travel + Leisure
Conde Nast Traveller
Lonely Planet
Love Travel Guides, exceptional insider guides to Indian cities
Wallpaper City Guides for all travellers who consider themselves hip
Alastair Sawday’s Special Places to Stay
Matador an independent online travel mag
Haus Publishing’s Armchair Traveller series, a brilliant, praiseworthy, charming and highly recommended series for people researching a new destination, wanting to recall memories of a beloved place already visited or simply for those readers who do not want to vacate the comfort of their chair to be intelligently engaged have their inquisitiveness aroused or to discover a perfect antidote to the usual pedestrian style of travel writing

Travel Newsletters + Subscriptions
Gallivanter’s Guide for travellers with deep pockets
Paris Notes for those who adore the City of Lights
Harper’s Hideaway for those for whom luxury in hotels ranks first

Travel Books
Travelscene Guide Books online

Food, Wine, Cooking Classes + Cooking School Guides
campion + curtis
Saveur Magazine
Shaw Guides
Slow Food

Food Blogs
London Times ’09 Guide to the 50 Best
Rosa Jackson’s Edible Adventures

Health + Safety
smartraveller Australian Foreign Affairs and Trade
Embassies and Consulates
Travel Doctor

Google Maps
Google Earth

Weather + Time
World Clock
World Weather
Yahoo Weather

Currency Conversions
FX Convertor
ANZ Foreign Exchanges

Travel Photograpahy
tewfic el-sawy Constantly being refreshed, this is truly an inspirational site of exceptional quality and interest.
Telegraph Travel pics
Michael Wolf fascinating china and asia portfolios
National Geographic Winners
Steve Davey’s Unforgettable Places
Taylor Davidson

Offset Your Carbon Footprint
Global Carbon Exchange

Luggage + Travel Accessories
Magellans a thoroughly comprehensive range of almost every imaginable travel requirement
Luggage Professionals
Luggage Store
Travel Books + Travel Gear

To try is to risk failure. But risk must be taken because the greatest hazard of life is to risk nothing. The person who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing, is nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, live, and love”. Leo Buscaglia


Royal Rajasthan Barbie Mark

Hi Dear Marieke, how often we have thought of you and our wonderful Rajasthan trip! Thank you so much for sharing all your wonderful knowledge of India, shared with such a heartfelt passion that it was impossible not to come away sharing a little of that passion!  That to me is an indication of a very well thought out and loved tour, so thank you for taking us on the journey with you!
How wonderful to meet Durga also, a beautiful character and a great addition to the experience. Thank you again Marieke,

Royal Rajasthan Jono

Hi Marieke,
Oh yes, I am definitely back with a bang and trying desperately to keep some sort of ‘Karma’ about me… 
Where to begin….from our magical tented camp in Jodhpur that still sends shivers up my spine….to our picnic in the Aravlli hills with VB and his very elegant mum.
Our wonderful Indian food and desert fires at night. One of my most treasured feelings of India will always be the memory of Durga each morning wearing his beautiful turban and genuine warm smile….. such a lovely, lovely man is our Durga and what a privilege to spend time with him in his homeland.
You really do complement each other beautifully.  It certainly was a special time and only hope it won’t be our last.
Please keep me in the loop for new tours as we would all love to do another group holiday together.
A big hug and kiss from Jono and I xxxxoooo

Royal Rajasthan Lisa Brad

Dear Marieke ,
Thank you for the email and welcome home !
We really loved the Indian adventure Marieke and Durga style and felt we did experience so much more with the tented camps that were a favourite and all  the superbly chosen hotels  sharing some of the essence of India.. Every detail was thought about and the cuisine delicious. I have now stocked the pantry with The Very Best Basmati and have already attempted to make Indian dishes for the family, although not quite the Thali yet . I did love my yoga class with you on the rooftop at Deogarth and particularly loved the small town and our lovely Kashmiri boys at the turban shop. We loved our proud aristocratic Rajput Durga with a wonderful art of storytelling and a great sense of humour. You will be pleased to know that Brad and I are back to yoga once a week and Yin is our new experience .Brad is glued to Indian Summer and I am loving Nine Lives and am able to understand so much more regarding Hindu Jain and Muslim religion with a lot to learn. Thank you for such a wonderful experience in India and we will be back .We already miss the busy street life and the smiling beautiful faces .
Lots Love Lisa and Brad xxx


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