Last September, my husband and I embarked on a road trip in Iceland, which took us west to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula (which I wrote about here), around the Golden Circle, and east to the glacial lake of Jökulsárlón. On our last day before heading back to Reykjavik, we stopped in Hvolsvollur and surrendered the driving to Siggi, the founder of South Iceland Adventures.
On a quest to learn the ways of the Laotian mahouts, Henry Alford discovers that few experiences offer a lesson in humility like learning to ride an elephant.
When you’re sitting on an elephant’s neck, you see him differently: 4½ tons of quivering muscle, capable of reducing all within his reach to dust-breathing rubble. Which is exactly the vibe I’m getting from Bonsou, a.k.a. Lady Boy, the 56-year-old bull I’m riding through the woods near an elephant lodge in Laos. Bonsou is blithely tugging vines and saplings out of the earth like a bored socialite rejecting fabric swatches. Honda, a giggly former monk, is teaching me to be a mahout, or elephant herder, and tells me that the command for “Stop that!” is, strangely, “Ya, ya!” So I yell this counterintuitive instruction, sure that I have woken up on Backwards Day.
Live like an Eskimo would for a day, but with a luxurious twist. The German company Iglu-Dorf is in the midst of opening their annual igloo villages along the Alps and Pyrenees, offering a unique winter getaway experience for all ages. From the outside, the igloos appear to just be a big pile of snow, but walk through the icy entrance to find a frozen paradise.
As a frequent visitor of Seattle, I have a special place in my heart for Mt. Rainier. When you grow up in the New York City area, you just don’t see snowcapped mountains—especially ones that mingle among the skyscrapers in your cityscape photos.
I arrive in Sydney with three very important items on my agenda: Eat some of the best breakfasts in the world, swim like a saltwater fiend in the city’s gorgeous outdoor pools, and hug a wombat. That furry, bewhiskered marsupial—third fiddle to the koala and the kangaroo—has been on my to-hug list since I was a kid rifling through the W volume of the encyclopedia.
All it takes is one safari to get a visceral sense of the importance of conservation in Africa. You feel it in your gut: the twinned awesomeness and fragility of the continent’s wild places. That’s why so many travelers give so generously to the parks and reserves they travel through. But how do you activate this protective instinct for place a few travelers have seen—and in a country as fraught as the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been riven by conflict and exploitation since the days of King Leopold? Give documentarian Orlando von Einsiedel a hand for finding a way to distill (but not diminish) these complex issues into the riveting Virguna, which premiers today on Netflix and in select theaters in New York City and Los Angeles.
That travel can be a life-changing experience is no revelation, but as Bruce Northam eloquently proves in his newly released "The Directions To Happiness--A 135-Country Quest for Life Lessons," sometimes travel epiphanies can sneak up and bite you in the ass. And the closer you are to the people of your destination, the more likely are those discoveries to land in your lap. "As opposed to traveling as a tourist, I propose traveling as a poorest," he writes at one point. And it is indeed that low-impact style that leads the author to so many simple-but-true learnings.