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We asked six trailblazing tour operators to map out exclusive T+L itineraries on six continents—and found 14 more ways to travel the world with new eyes.
Safari in Kenya with Journeys by Design
20 Life-Changing Trips
Safari in Kenya with Journeys by Design
Why We Love It: The U.K.’s Journeys by Design, a leader in custom African travel, has a stellar reputation as a responsible luxury-tour operator. Its close work with tribal communities makes travel rewarding for tourists and indigenous peoples alike—Masai and Samburu villages and guides are integral to this trip. The company sets aside a portion of revenues for local charities, renewable energy projects, and their own conservation and development projects in the areas they visit.
Where It Goes: From the border of Tanzania to the big-game–rich Great Rift Valley; north to the semi-arid Laikipia Plateau; and up to the Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust in the Matthews Range.
What You’ll Do: Three days in, you’ll be riding camelback and walking through vast plains and tribal villages. The eight remaining days are yours to fill as you’d like. Highlights: moonlit bush dinners timed to catch wildlife at a watering hole; a picnic on Ol Lolokwe Mountain, believed by the Masai to be the residence of the gods; a hike through the forested Matthews Range, where leopards and thousands of once-threatened elephants roam; and a visit to the “singing wells,” to see a human chain of Samburu warriors descend into wells as deep as 32 feet, chanting ancient songs as they hand up vessels of water for their cattle.
Where You’ll Stay: In an open-air room with a private plunge pool at the eco-minded Shompole Lodge, a Masai-style room with stone walls and earthen ceilings at Tassia Lodge, and a luxury tent both en route to the Matthews Range and at the community-owned Sarara Tented Camp in the Namunyak Trust. Optional while there: a starry campout on wide sand luggas (dry riverbeds).
The Details: T+L Transformation Vacation by Journeys by Design, available on request; 212/568-7639;
Some travel to change their lives, others the world. But, a truly transformative trip has the power to do both. Just ask Claire Russo, who last year spent her holiday vacation with Habitat for Humanity in the La Ceiba, Honduras, where she cleared a site, poured cement and laid the foundation for a home for a local poverty-stricken family. “We were all there because we genuinely cared about helping others, and it was wonderful to connect with both Americans and Hondurans during such a physically demanding experience.”
There’s growing evidence that the Volunteer Vacations trend is blossoming into a bigger phenomena. A 2007 Travelocity survey found that 17.7 percent of respondents had taken a vacation that incorporated volunteering or philanthropy—a number that’s up 13 percent from the previous year and expected to rise even higher in 2008. But tour operators and travel companies, new and old, are one-upping that trend through new programs and products, tapping into the feel-good Zeitgeist and our collective desire for something more from our adventures abroad, and at home.
And that “something more” depends entirely on individual interests, causes, and world view. For some eco-conscious travelers, investigating the Incan environmental practices in Peru under the guidance of Charles Darwin’s grandson may be the trip of a lifetime. For others, a journey to Cambodia’s temples and then to its villages to meet the custodians of the sacred sites is rewarding.
But lest you think the movement is more medicine than pleasure, think again. Today, creative companies are mixing such traditionally appealing activities as biking and wine-tasting in France with classes on biodynamic viticulture in an attempt to broaden travelers horizons even further—and it’s working.
Even something as simple as supporting local economy by returning with a suitcase full of crafts purchased from a local artisan can having meaningful and lasting impact. Ultimately, travelers today are seeking a connection-be it with nature, destination, culture, people—in hopes of returning home with the ultimate souvenir: a memorable one-of-a-kind experience.