Thomas Stanley, head of Cox & Kings, The Americas and a well-seasoned traveler himself, gives us his picks for the top experiences, travel styles and destinations to look forward to in the coming year.
"Ends of the Earth" Journeys – Intrepid travelers have always had a yen for far-flung sojourns, but are now looking beyond the more obvious alluring destinations like Thailand and South Africa for their exotic escapades. “More and more, modern travelers are craving locales that are way off the radar – and in most cases, that actually means ‘under the radar’” says Stanley. “These include rarely visited European countries such as Albania and Serbia, the Russian Far East, and Greenland; Central Asian spots such as Uzbekistan; and offshore destinations such as the Falkland Islands and Papua New Guinea.” These quirkier, off-the-beaten-path destinations provide a more thorough and intimate look at remote corners of the world – not to mention afford the traveler a more unique story upon return.
Mind, Body & Soul Vacations Travel insiders see a rise in holistic vacations, attributing the trend to travelers’ shifting perceptions of personal growth. “True luxury is an experience that will last a lifetime, and destinations that offer these transcendent journeys provide exactly that," explains Stanley. Take the Ananda Spa Resort in the Himalayas (pictured above), for instance – situated in the foothills of these Nepalese giants and near the mythological cities of Haridwar and Rishikesh, guests can indulge in restorative relaxation as well as learn new meditation techniques and yoga poses. Even popular tourist destinations such as Bali have much to offer in the way of serenity due to the Indonesian island’s notable emphasis on proper nutrition and health; more than endorsing a diet, the Indonesians are extremely supportive of cultivating an entire lifestyle, one that links the heart to the senses. For those seeking a more spiritual journey, there are countries such as Laos and Myanmar; Cox & Kings offers a journey to the latter called “Spirit of Burma” wherein guests can energize their chakra by visiting ancient Buddhist temples and the Mahagandayon Monastery, where over a thousand Buddhist monks live and study.
"Your Money Matters” Travel – It is a common (and unfortunate) world view that travel is overindulgent and wasteful, but with regards to the conservation of wildlife and preservation of historic sites around the world, travelers’ dollars truly go a long way – and we’re not even referring to great value, although there is that, too. “Most Americans do not realize that their tourist money goes towards such noble efforts as the maintenance of the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia or the protection of endangered wildlife in African game parks,” notes Stanley. “It is important to travel to these places not only to learn about them, but also to instill a personal responsibility towards protecting these world wonders for the enjoyment and inspiration of future generations.”
Ancestral Travel – American audiences received a glimpse of this emerging trend with the hit NBC television show, “Who Do You Think You Are?” which profiled celebrities as they ventured to the root of their family tree, with often surprising conclusions (Gwyneth Paltrow is part Barbadian, for one). According to Stanley, this form of travel – extremely popular amongst families – is more common than many realize, with many American-born individuals traveling to countries such as Russia, the Baltics, China, and Japan to explore their legacy. “Jewish-American guests, in particular, seek this mode of traveling; their culture states that in order to move forward, you must know your past,” says Stanley. Other popular root-travel destinations include Lebanon and West Africa, two regions that are substantially influential in American culture.
Second-Chance Cities – For frequent travelers, particularly of the business variety, there are always the cities they think they know but, upon a closer look, discover there is always so much more to explore. Stanley recently spent a week in Madrid, a place he’s passed through many times before but has only just begun to appreciate. “Madrid is a foodie city and is perfect for art aficionados and shoe shoppers – an extremely modern metropolis with rich museum-hopping and food market-sampling,” he says. There are also gateway cities such as Stockholm – “the capital of cool” – and Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest cosmopolitan center and the contemporary culture capital of Africa, notable for its distinctive musical tradition of kwaito and active sport life.
Off-Season Travel – When weighing the pros and cons of purchasing that $500 roundtrip ticket to Europe in January, travelers should always consider the benefits of journeying somewhere when no one else would think to go. A few of Stanley’s favorite trips include India in May (“the prices are great, and the temperature is in the 80s – and there are few visitors at the sites”); Botswana during the “Green Season” (“wonderful birding after the “Big Rains”); Brazil and Turkey in October (pre and post tourist seasons); Moscow during Christmastime; and China in March and April (“decent weather and few visitors”). When exploring every nook and cranny of a destination is your goal, it is great to keep far from the madding crowd.
Supporting Evolving & Recovering Societies – “Rather than fear them, travelers should support countries moving in the right direction, particularly those implementing dramatic improvements to their democracies,” says Stanley. “Superb and enriching travel experiences can especially be found in societies during this time. Visiting countries that are recovering from a national trauma – such as Norway or Japan – which only makes people stronger and more determined, is so appreciated much like those who visited New York after 9/11.” Places of note include Colombia, Egypt, Tunisia, Japan, Mozambique, Norway, Croatia and Rwanda.
The BRICS – An acronym for the emerging powerhouses of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the BRICS are a rapidly evolving group. Stanley strongly encourages travelers to explore these countries as the world grows more and more connected. “It’s a wonderful time to venture to the BRICS countries now as these cultures are rapidly changing due to the speed of globalization and economic growth,” observes Stanley. “Each of these countries has their own special rhythm, from the contemporary design culture in São Paulo to the dynamic art scene in Shanghai.”
Travel with an Expert – For those seeking a more insightful – and at the same time, highly individualized – experience, travelers should consider small group travel with a best-in-industry expert wherein guests can traipse through destinations with the highest caliber of detail, intimacy and comfort. Cox & Kings is soon launching its “Dream Trips,” wherein a member of the Cox & Kings staff has the opportunity to lead a specially designed itinerary – one modeled after the adventure of their dreams.
Top Destination Picks – "Travelers are always seeking where to go next, and based on significant changes in the industry, as well as emerging travel opportunities around the world, here are my picks.” For hot countries, Stanley’s picks are Indonesia (“it’s not just Bali”); Ghana; Malaysia; Nepal, Romania, Iceland and Abu Dhabi. For hot cities, Stanley predicts a surge in South American travel, with São Paulo, Brazil; Salta, Argentina; and Lima, Peru all leading the way, along with Beirut, Luang Prabang, Hyderabad, Stockholm, Tallinn and Mostar.
For more information on Cox & Kings and the itineraries listed above, please visit www.coxandkingsusa.com.
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