As I listened to the presentations at the International Luxury Travel Conference in Mexico recently, I had cause to sit up straight and really tune in. “In the new longevity economy, aging will be completely rebranded as cool,” Susie Ellis, the chairman and CEO of Global Wellness Institute told us. Consider this music to our ears. It seems the rest of the world has finally caught up with us. And keep in mind this is in a context of wellness, a key driver that informs your choices, especially when it comes to travel. To wit, resorts, she added, through universal design and a greater variety of amenities, will completely reinvent themselves to align with this middle-aged traveller to better service this moneyed and discerning cohort.
Wellness and its meaning through travel is evolving. A month earlier, while at Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas, I heard the expert travel advisers of this global luxury travel network bring up the idea of “EQ.” Not IQ but EQ — the emotional quotient elevated by travel that involves “genuine interaction among locals that provides a deeper appreciation for the people and cultures they encounter.”
They’re playing our song. We want a vacation from the everyday, yet we want cultural immersion. We want to breathe deeply, to stop, smell the roses – and sip the wine, eat the food, learn the language. Yet, we want to be conscious travellers, be aware of our footprint but still gain knowledge and, ultimately, an understanding of the peoples with whom we share this great blue planet.
Getting out of your comfort zone doesn’t mean jumping out of a plane or eating the latest killer fish. We still want to be excited and fulfilled – but still feel safe. If a destination is LGBTQ-friendly, for example, it’s more than likely to also be female-friendly, visible minority-friendly, family-friendly, solo traveller-friendly – heck, just friendly.
And then there’s the Wellness Sabbatical, where the idea is to take three weeks or more away but include bits of work. The concept may be an antidote to what some of us also consider stressful: the thought of being completely unplugged from our daily life. Some hotel companies are even opening “urban resorts” in major city centres. It may be a newish concept in travel, but a tried-and-true secret to life: everything is balance. Need more reasons to get up and go?
Here are 20 that should get your wanderlust joy on.
1. Because we’ll always have Europe
But we’re visiting the continent in a fresh way: Windstar Cruises, above, is traversing the Corinth Canal in Greece — which also closes one day a year for a stand-up paddle race — while the brand new Ritz-Carlton Yacht is heading to the Greek Isles. Meanwhile, Italy is on the rise for solo Canuck travellers who want to experience the dolce vita. And Croatia, where much of Game of Thrones was filmed, mixes Adriatic coastline with Tuscan-like landscapes.
We’re also keen on Saint-Malo in Brittany, France, home of Jacques Cartier, to learn about the explorer who put Canada on the map in the 1500s. Collette Tours’ France Magnifique tour takes you there. Head there the modern way: Air France flies Airbus A350s on its Toronto-Paris routes (see No. 9).
2. Because you love marking a milestone …
It’s Beethoven’s 250th birthday this year, and Vienna, the composer’s chosen home until his death, is throwing a big party during its “year of music.” But we’ll also take a side trip to Salzburg because we can visit heartwarming locations from The Sound of Music.
Havana is turning 500, although its rainbow-coloured vintage American cars bring you back to the 1950s. And now you can book a five-star stay: the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana has worked out all the new hotel kinks and is celebrating its sophomore year in the city.
3. … and discovering new destinations
Consider Colombia, Peru and Argentina for the wine and the culture – and, when you go south, there’s little to no jet lag. Yes, travellers, most of us are
in the same time zone, but it may take a bit of time to get used to the altitude.
Tip: Heading to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador? Take a few days
in the capital, Quito, to get acclimatized first (see No. 4). All of the above are on our hot list, according to Virtuoso, as is another southern destination, Antarctica, for its active adventure opportunities.
4. Because it’s worth delving deeper into the culture of the city before you hit the country – or the beach
Before the safari, make a stop in Nairobi, Kenya, and book the William Holden cottage at Fairmont The Norfolk, above. For its culinary and cocktail scene and the top-notch hotels – including the brand new Sofitel Mexico City and the classic The St. Regis – sleep over in Mexico City – before any beachside idyll. (We recommend Holbox, the island off the coast of Cancun – book Ser Casasandra for a local luxe stay.) Before Phuket, stay in Bangkok, because MasterCard holders consider the destination, well, priceless, voting the city No. 1 in the world to visit for the fourth year straight.
5. Because travelling for coffee (not just wine or whisky) is a thing
Coffee plantations are creating tourism experiences in Puerto Rico, while Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic features coffee houses and roasters in the heart of North America’s oldest city. Staycation Splurge Toronto’s Ritz Café at the Ritz Carlton serves a unique cup of java. The beans for its Black Ivory Coffee experience, refined by Thai elephants through their digestive tracts (yes, you read that right), are hand-ground and brewed tableside, with proceeds going to the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation. Invite a friend, because at $50 a pot (serves two to three), it’s a good caffeine fix and a great way to give back.
6. … And so is travelling for chocolate
Satisfy your sweet tooth in Switzerland (and if you like to really get down with the locals, there’s a Swiss yodelling festival in June 2020). You can also see how the sweet stuff is grown and processed in St. Lucia. There’s even a Hotel Chocolat, above, where you can also benefit from the combination of long-distance water views mixed with mountain vistas, both said to have a special positive power on our psyche.
7. Because conservation awareness through travel is working
Let’s start with the human touch: In late 2019, ME to WE, the Canadian company founded by Marc and Craig Kielberger, was honoured with a World Tourism Award at the World Travel Market in London, where it was recognized for “providing more than one million people with clean water, building 1,500 schools overseas and empowering children with access to education; and, of course, providing volunteer travel to those looking to change the world.”
Insight Vacations’ Luxury Gold, in partnership with ME to WE, has an Imperial Rajasthan tour to India that offers a deeper dive into the culture as well as some voluntourism to help local communities gain sustainability as part of its Treadright Foundation charity.
By travelling with &Beyond tours, you help support its Rhinos Without Borders relocation program, which aims to move 100 animals at risk of poaching from South Africa to safety in Botswana. And it’s been a success: By September 2019, the relocated herd had given birth to 30 calves.
In ocean conservation, you can see seahorses returning from near extinction in the waters off Thailand and coral reef replanting blooming in the Mayan Riviera, Mexico, and the Maldives. Canadians are doing their part at home, helping with Air Canada’s beach clean-up campaign in partnership with 4ocean.
8. Because, contrary to belief, flying is getting better
Cathay Pacific celebrates its 25th year flying from Toronto to Hong Kong with the launch of the Airbus A350 airplane, while Ethiopian Airlines is also now flying the A350 from Toronto to Addis Ababa. The plane is said to consume 25 per cent less fuel and emit 25 per cent less CO2, and features lighting to combat jet lag, better air quality and increased cabin humidity. Air Canada and WestJet are introducing more Dreamliner airplanes, with similar in-flight features. The top spot to fly these dreams from Calgary and Toronto? London, England! We’ve got some royal watching to do.
9. Because hotels are the new beekeepers
The Fairmont hotels across Canada, the Shangri-La Hotel Toronto and the Chelsea Hotel Toronto all produce their own honey in their rooftop gardens – and use it in dishes and cocktails. Staycation Splurge Speaking of cocktails, do try the low- to no-alcohol trend, with Shangri-La Vancouver’s bar manager Gianluigi Bosco leading the charge with zero-proof creations, botanical-infused waters, aromatic wines and hydrosols – herbal distillates known to be therapeutic.
10. Because the future is female
In Rwanda, GAdventures supports women-only and women-led co-ops focusing on traditional food, fashion and design through education and funding from its Planeterra Foundation and G for Good, which travellers contribute to through their trips. Meanwhile, gorilla conservation got a boost from Ellen DeGeneres, who donated the money to build a new campus for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund near Volcanoes National Park, site of legendary gorilla safaris.
Staycation Splurge Take a tour of Oliver and Osoyoos wine country in B.C. at the southern tip of the Okanagan Valley, where three female oeno-experts are making waves: Melissa Smits, winemaker-vineyard manager at Intersection Estate Winery; Severine Pinte, winemaker at LaStella Winery; and Gina Harfman, owner-winemaker at Oliver Twist Estate Winery.
But it also comes down to female buying power. According to solo travel specialists Just You, 87 per cent going it alone are women.
11. Because travelling to hurricane-ravaged regions helps their comeback
The Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica (where you can find whale whisperers) and Los Cabos, Mexico – where boat tours allow you to hear the “tenors of the whales” (whale song). Our visits help fuel these economies.
12. Because Golden-age Hollywood-style nostalgia allows you to really watch the world go by
May we suggest travelling by rail. Try the Orient Express, which, incidentally, is about to open its first hotel in Bangkok; the Belmond Grand Hibernian through Ireland; or the Royal Scotsman through Scotland. Lochs and a wee dram, anyone?
Sailing the Atlantic between New York and Southampton, England, on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, may finally inspire you to write your novel or memoir on the week-long crossing – Bill Bryson, Mark Twain and Wes Anderson have all done it. There’s a Canadian connection, too, since Samuel Cunard was a proud Haligonian.
13. Because slow travel, defined as moving at the speed of humans — walking, hiking cycling, riding — is on the rise and is good for you and for Mother Earth, too
Forest bathing throughout the West Coast of Canada pretty much means taking a nice long stroll through the trees, breathing deeply. Word has it that the cypress and redwoods in western North America emit compounds, such as phytoncides, into the atmosphere that can help us fight viruses. Call it nature’s flu shot.
14. Because sometimes the ship is the destination
AmaWaterways AmaMagna, the company’s ground-breaking new double-wide river cruise ship (with a cinema and a roof-top pool), sets sail on the less-charted waters of the lower Danube from Budapest (another top city we can’t get enough of for its history and architecture and a bigger bang for our buck) to Bucharest. www.amawaterways.com
15. Because in Maui, from November to April, the humpback whales can be spotted from the beach
Book on the west side, at Ka’anapali resorts, where you’ve got a baker’s dozen of properties to choose from – from high-end luxe to family-friendly. We like the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel for its authentic Hawaiian feel. Mahalo!
16. Because there is an art to doing nothing
You’ve heard of hygge and fika. Allow us to introduce you to “liming,” a term coined for socializing in the Caribbean that means doing nothing, as long as you do it with a couple of friends. This ethos has been adopted by the new The Liming hotel in Bequia, above, where R&R is key. Add in food, drink and laughter, another hallmark of Caribbean cultures. Anguilla ticks the box too, with its languorous villa lifestyle, mellow music scene and easy afternoon cookouts on little islands. Just go from boat to beach. In other words, just hanging out. Social networks, people. They’re key to our mental longevity.
17. Because you can be part of the solution with sustainable travel
Norwegian expedition cruise line Hurtigruten operates its vessels with liquefied biogas (renewable fuel from organic waste) and, for the first time in cruise history, battery packs. In addition to authentic expedition experiences through locally sourced food, excursions and cultural interactions, expedition guests have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of climate change and pollution, assist in marine research, participate in beach cleanups and other sustainability activities. Consider a Hurtigruten expedition to the Arctic, the Norwegian coast or North, Central or South America, and leave a footprint you can be proud of. —Ming Tappin
18. Because places you thought you might not be able to venture to are more accessible than you think
Dreaming of zip-lining over the rainforest canopy of Costa Rica but thought you never could? The country is already hosting people of all abilities. Walking sticks, walkers, wheelchairs, all ages for split-gen travel – grandparents with their grandchildren – are the new wave of travel demands being accommodated. Plus, you’re learning in nature’s classroom. If a pilgrimage to the Holy Land is more your passion, Israel is also committed to accessibility to some of its most historic sites for those with limited mobility.
19. Because American music and traditional cuisine really do mix
We’re heading to Louisiana, where perennial hotspots like New Orleans and Lafayette haven’t forgotten the cultural influence the Acadie-Canadians have had on them. A little bit of jazz and blues and a whole lot of Cajun and Creole food help get the good times rolling.
20. Because We The North
Poised to be the new but more remote Iceland, the Torngats in Newfoundland and Labrador and its Torngats Mountain National Park (shown here) is an adventure traveller’s destination. For the sporting events alone, consider Toronto. Book a room at Le Germain Hotel Maple Leaf Square and be right above the big screens and the action at Jurassic Park for the Raptors games, which switches to a sea of blue and white for the Leafs Fan Zone. And because we said it once, we’ll say it again – you need a good night’s sleep. Look for hotels that feature a sleep therapy program such as that at Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler, B.C., which includes kundalini massage and sleep therapy pillows made in Austria to aid in a deeper sleep. Which means a much nicer you in the morning. See, travel really can make you more Canadian..
And because we’re going, too!
We’ve created the Zoomer Travel Club just for you, where we curate itineraries with the Zoomer reader in mind. In partnership with Go Ahead tours, for example, see our special itinerary for travel in April, featuring Vienna, along with Budapest and Prague.