Even by my own rather peripatetic standards, 2014 has started off to be a year of much travel. It is the first of July, and in the first six months of the year I have covered 89,500 miles, and during those wanderings have been as far distant as North Korea, Adak in the Aleutian Islands and now to St. Helena in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean.
I travel only partly for personal pleasure; one of the joys of owning a travel company that specialises in travel to the more outlandish parts of the world is the requirement to get out and see for one’s self before marketing programs to our clientele. While this may seem to be a wondrous job, and indeed I get many notes asking if I need assistance with my bags, it is actually work.
The role of a travel company, once its boundaries and mission have been established, is to provide its clientele with travel experiences that will satisfy their interests, style and curiosity. There are many fine travel companies the world over, and it is with the global cooperation of a vast network of businesses and individuals that the travel industry can continuously refresh itself, and offer new destinations to the world’s wanderers. It is through this vast network that we are able to find and meet partners to help us bring ideas to vacations.
Of course, people globally do not travel to the same places at the same time. This gives the opportunity for destinations to grow, to become more sophisticated and to evolve as their market becomes more diversified and grows into a mainstream destination.
Of course, there are many who are not looking for that sophistication, or homogenisation. Increasing numbers of travellers are seeking a more “raw” experience. Not hard-core adventure, but at least the feeling that they have travelled to a foreign country, and not simply another “global brand” location. And so our quest for our clients takes us to new and exciting destinations, and more often now to exciting and unexplored parts of better-known lands.
I am often asked where my favourite destinations are, and where I think are the “new” locations for folks to look at as they plan their vacations, and I am happy to offer a few here, and in a couple of subsequent blogs. They are, of course, highly subjective, but do bear in mind that as I am a “professional” traveller, my living is made by being right, and if I am wrong, I stand to lose a lot of money and time!
Georgia the country and not the state is one of my favourite destinations in the world. It has evolved from the Rip Van Winkle era of Soviet depression fast, and the tourist industry is one economic sector that has seen investment, development and success. Based on the country’s inherent attractions, its landscape, culture and above all its people, Georgia has started to become a popular destination with regional and European tourists, and slowly but surely, it is making its mark with North Americans.
Montevideo, the quirky capital of Uruguay, is another favourite. Less brash than Buenos Aires, it sits on the far side of the River Plate welcoming all who visit (except, perhaps vegetarians; Uruguayans appear to consider a chicken as a sort of vegetable). It is a city in need, some would say, of a coat of paint, but frankly I love the patina that it has. Evocative of a time when South America was embracing immigrants from Europe, live was good, fun was everywhere, the candombe music of the region was and remains infectious and the city’s wonderful location on ocean and river was everything; truly fine place to spend a few days or a few weeks.
Les Isles du Salut in French Guyana are the most extraordinary day trip that I have ever taken; three islands, formerly part of the brutal French penitentiary system, they lie partly fading and partly alive. To feel the isolation, deprivation and sheer helplessness of life here is impossible to describer, but after a day’s visit, or perhaps longer as one island now houses an auberge, one can readily understand the anguish of their former residents.
The Great Barrier Reef, and in particular spending a day out with the catamarans of Passions of Paradise, is an astonishing way to understand this wonder of the world. They head to a quiet reef, the number of passengers is small and the attention is amazing; all too many tours in the world’s most iconic destinations are being ruined by volume. The Barrier Reef is in places, but not from Cairns with Passions!