London, Paris, Rome… Dream destinations for some and “been there, done that” for others. Popular destinations are popular for a reason. They’re easy to get to, and there’s a slew of information and advice from fellow travelers who have been and can tell you the best things to see and do. Their shops, restaurants and museums are well documented and the lines to see them can be legendarily long. But what happens when you feel like you’ve already been everywhere or you’re simply uninspired about your next destination? Enter the travel industry buzz-term d’jour, ”emerging destinations”.
Emerging destinations are not new places to visit. They’ve been there all along but for various reasons haven’t been popular for tourist travel. Perhaps getting there was difficult or a reputation for being unsafe kept them off your bucket list. Maybe they’ve been easy to reach and safe all along but have just been standing there like the shy girl against the wall at a school dance…afraid to speak up and be noticed for the great beauty she is. Shy no more, emerging destinations are speaking up by investing in infrastructure, advertising, safety and getting the word out about why you should visit.
The list of places considered emerging is quite long, but let’s focus on three generating a lot of buzz.
Cuba. The lady of the hour. You’ve heard a lot about Cuba lately but it’s still technically illegal to visit unless you’re on a sanctioned trip for one of about a dozen reasons. Airlines and cruise ships are making it easier, helping with the proper paperwork to ensure you stay out of trouble with the government. For the time being, visiting Cuba with visions of lounging on the beach is still illegal and tourist feedback is mixed. Some delight in seeing the lavish but crumbling architecture, the meticulously maintained classic cars and interacting with the Cuban people. But others say there’s still an uncomfortable political tension permeating the air and that the tourist infrastructure simply isn’t ready for American expectations. Kempinski Hotels, a luxury leader in Europe and around the globe plans to change the perception that Cuba has no luxurious accommodations with the opening of the gleaming Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana. We're visiting soon to try her out on her promises.
Colombia. Business breeds business and Colombia’s entry onto the list of hot places to visit is partially fueled by business travelers going for work in one of South America’s most thriving economies. When they aren’t working, they’re taking notice of what Colombia has to offer from spectacular colonial cities, to beach towns busting with culture and nightlife. Most people don’t realize the often snowcapped peaks of the Andes Mountains reach well into Colombia offering a vastly different landscape from the perception of palm trees and sweltering temperatures. Big cities like Cartagena on the coast and Bogota in the mountains are luring travelers in increasing numbers year over year. The luxury Four Seasons hotel chain believes in the country so much, they recently debuted two new properties. The Four Seasons Bogota and the Four Seasons Casa Medina.
Romania. The dark seductress of Europe. Romania suffers from a perception problem but this is a land of villages that look plucked from a fairytale and the Carpathian mountains, home to legendary Vlad the Impaler, AKA Dracula (perhaps part of that perception problem). In a short amount of time you can travel from the Danube river, to the capitol city of Bucharest and out to the Black Sea, taking time to stop in medieval towns and visit storied monasteries once viewed as safe havens from the clutches of the vampires still rumored to come out at night. Romania is a striking country with fascinating architecture stemming from being at a crossroads of eastern and western Europe. If you’re seeking a chance to seemingly step back in time…Romania will delight without hurting your wallet.
These are just a few examples, but emerging destinations offer an exciting opportunity to see new places and experience things that your neighbors haven’t yet. Don’t rule them out when thinking about your next trip. Just remember that although they are trending, they may not have the creature comforts you expect, like a Starbucks on every corner. But with an adventurers’ spirit and open mind, a trip to an emerging destination might be the greatest journey you’ll ever take.
There are vacationers and there are travelers. There is a difference. Vacationers look to get away while travelers seek meaningful connections to the people and places they visit. Vacationers come back refreshed while travelers come back changed. Robin Zappacosta is most certainly a traveler. When we last left off, Robin’s tale of her first trip to Africa began, volunteering at a hospital in Zambia. But there was another side to her journey and Robin was about to get her “African wings”.
It was time to head out into “the bush”, the side of Africa we picture in our heads. It’s said to be magical, mystical and beyond imagination. The local legends seem too wild to be true for modern sensibilities, but those legends, well, they’re what African dreams are made of.
My doctor friend felt that I needed to get away from the hospital and see the other side of Africa. So, we journeyed to Lake Kariba on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
While exposed to modern religion, the culture is still dominated by local legends and gods. One of the most revered gods is the Nyami Nyami, the Zambezi River god who occupies Lake Kariba with his wife. In the 1940’s a dam under construction between the river and lake was damaged by massive flooding. Many of the foreign, white workers helping build the dam died and their bodies were missing. Legend has it, the Tonga people said the Nyami Nyami, was cut off from his wife, and he was angry so he took the bodies as “payment”. The families of the workers wanted answers…and their loved ones remains. So the Tonga elders decided a sacrifice to appease the Nyami Nyami was in order and a black calf was left at the river’s edge. The next morning, the calf was gone. The river IS crocodile infested but nonetheless, the calf was gone and magically the missing bodies its place.
Along the bush of Lake Kariba, I took my first game drive, pulling up to a large herd of Cape Buffalo. Camera in hand, I hopped out of the vehicle, snapping away mere feet from the massive beasts. My guide, in his fantastical white safari hunter’s hat yells, “Get back in this vehicle NOW! THIS is not a zoo and WILD animals charge!” Safari 101: Stay in the vehicle, Robin.
Next I ventured to the majestic Victoria Falls. I can’t imagine a safari that doesn’t include a visit. My accommodations were a luxurious tent fitted with electricity and a bathroom. You must find inner peace to sleep, knowing a herd of giant elephants roam free throughout your encampment and canvass walls won’t stop them if they get spooked and charge.
Call me a reluctant angel, but there in Victoria Falls, I got my “African wings”. A pilot, me and a flying lawnmower called a Microlite set off to fly over the falls. I had a headset so the pilot could hear my screams but his reassurance that while the seatbelt was flimsy, gravity would hold me in place didn’t make me feel any better. Fear melted away as we glided over the plains, seeing elephant below, and over the magnificent, gushing falls with their mist filling the sky. It’s called the ‘smoke that thunders,’ and that was truly a once in a lifetime event.
More adventures continued with white water rafting, more game drives, animal encounters and lots of local beer. On one of the final drives I remember passing antelope, elephants and eventually three rare, white rhino. There was a huge fallen tree and I got out of the vehicle once more (yes, I know. Safari 101). Sitting on the tree trunk, quietly observing the rhino, I realized that although this trip was ending, my lifelong love, and journeys in Africa were just beginning.
Written by Chip Barker
Originally written for & published in Bayside Living Magazine
Exploding volcanoes, “Sneaker Waves” that can drag a beach goer out to sea forever, icebergs and glaciers that collapse under your feet, and slippery hot springs with scalding mud that can burn you to a crisp. Sounds like a place to steer clear of, right? Well, no. All those dangerous and scary things are just a few reasons why Iceland is a seriously hot travel destination.
Did you know, beer was illegal in Iceland until 1989? We know, another reason to question a visit to the “Land of Fire and Ice”. But don’t panic, the beer situation has been remedied and with all that ‘danger’ lurking around every corner, you might find a warming shot of schnapps more appropriate and in tradition with the local ways.
Iceland is a country of extreme contrasts. It’s home to some of the largest glaciers in Europe, and some of the most active volcanoes in the world. In 2010 the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier erupted, sending an ash plume into the atmosphere that brought European flights to a standstill for 6 days. Iceland is also the land of light and darkness, where summer days bring nearly 24-hours of sunlight and winter days bring no more than dusk-like light, the entire day.
Thanks to the Gulf Stream, winters are milder than you’ll find in New York and when the temperatures hit 68°F in summer, Icelanders soak up the sun at outdoor cafes and beaches. Yes, that’s crazy talk to a Florida dweller but the tradeoff in cooler temperatures for the experiences you’ll have is worth it.
No matter the weather, you’ll want to bring your swimsuit as visits to Iceland’s thermal pools are on the top of most travelers lists, and a visit to the spectacular Blue Lagoon is a must!
Iceland is also hot with Hollywood. Scores of movies film in Iceland and the popularity of HBO’s Game of Thrones has driven visitors en masse to see the other worldly landscapes that are anything but make believe. If you are a fan of Westeros and Game of Thrones, then hop on a tour of the movie sets and filming locations. You never know, you might just catch a glimpse of the Mother of Dragons.
It’s not all glaciers and volcanoes in Iceland. Iceland is also home to the elusive Northern Lights, dramatic fjords, Viking history and archeological explorations. After a day of sightseeing, put on your dancing shoes and enjoy the bustling nightlife in the capital city of Reykjavik where the party doesn’t get started until midnight.
Ready to see for yourself just how hot Iceland is? Visiting Iceland is about to get easier than ever. Icelandair Airlines studied the US market closely and selected Tampa International Airport to host nonstop flights between TIA and Keflavík International Airport starting September 7, 2017. So, as the locals say, “on with the butter!” or, as we would say, “Move your butt and get going.”
We're going places and so are our clients.