Mark Lakin and Marc Chafiian believe that travel can not only change a person, but the world. Longtime friends and world travelers, Lakin and Chafiian saw a major hole in the luxury travel market: High end packages that combine philanthropy with luxury. Together, they created Epic Road, a New York City-based luxury travel boutique that creates customized holidays combining adventure travel with charity and conservation work in Africa and the Arctic.
We sat down with the Lakin and Chafiian in their photography-filled gallery in Greenwich Village to talk about distributing solar powered lights to locals in Africa, transformative travel, and running from wild elephants.
What makes Epic Road different from other travel boutiques? We try to blend experiences. Our clients will go on an incredible safari, and then on top of it they’ll have a humanitarian or conservation experience that’s meaningful for all parties. We find that people get very excited about it. Our real hope is that our clients' trips become a catalyst for understanding, for empathy, and that we can create a movement for the issues we’re addressing when clients come home. Our thing is about positivity. It’s about going into a place and having fun, having an adventure.
Ever wanted to book a trip to a destination featured in T+L? Starting in June, we've made it easier than ever. We're announcing a new promotional partnership with luxury adventure operator Cox & Kings. Here's how it works:
• Every month, T+L editors work with Cox & Kings to develop two trips inspired by destinations we love. • Each itinerary is designed to offer insider access and unique experiences—whether it's a stay at an exclusive hotel, a behind-the-scenes tour, or dinner in a private residence. • Limited-time savings for T+L readers.
Zambia The Highlights: A walking safari in South Luangwa's National Park; night game drives in the remote Chamilandu Camp; and spotting crocodiles in the Zambezi River. The Details: 10 days and 9 nights, from $10,565 per person—includes intra-Zambia airfare**
Croatia The Highlights: Tour the vineyards of Hvar Island and the beaches of Korcula; explore the cobblestone streets of Dubrovnik; and head to Ston for taste of the local dish—oysters plucked straight from the Adriatic. The Details: 7 days and 6 nights, from $4,795 per person**.
This summer, Ritz-Carlton guests will have more to look forward to than just sunbathing. The luxury hotel company will expand its ecological program, Ambassadors of the Environment, to three of its properties. The program, created by award-winning environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau, emphasizes education and sustainability through various Caribbean eco-adventures.
In the summer and fall of 2009, Emmy-winning director, writer, and veteran mariner Sprague Theobald took on one of travel's greatest challenges: sailing through the fabled Northwest Passage, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Arctic Circle. Only 24 other personal craft have completed the harrowing, often ice-bound journey since explorer Roald Amundsen did it in 1903. Untold ships and hundreds of lives have been lost in the attempt. So when Theobald and his crew set sail in the 57-foot trawler Bagan on the five-month, 8,500-mile sea-trek from Newport, Rhode Island, to Seattle, there were no guarantees that they would succeed--or even live to tell about it.
Sure, officials don’t provide any actual numbers, only saying that the visits have grown since 2000, and markedly so since 2009, with the biggest spike coming from European visitors. Tourists are dazzled, the news agency claims, by the range of “shining, socialist accomplishments” credited to the ruling Kim family.
No doubt, the typical hipster might not be fired up to go on a backpacking tour after looking at a brochure with pictures of people who look like his Uncle Larry and Aunt Karen.
Geckos Adventures totally gets that, bro. The tour operator just released a new brochure that, to plenty of travelers, might seem refreshing: According to a post on Travel Mole, it uses photos taken by actual customers—like their target audience of ages 18 to 35—and speaks in a language that, Geckos assume, their clientele understands.
Actually, pretty much anyone can understand it. One part of the brochure reads, “may your heart be light, your step swift and your stories @#$%ing epic,” except, well, they didn’t use the funny symbols found on more family friendly travel sites.
While some industry folks are already raising eyebrows, the company defends its strategy: "We are not trying to be controversial for controversy's sake,” says the tour company’s managing director. “Our new branding has been carefully thought through to speak to our travelers openly and cutting out all the usual marketing fluff."
Fair enough, but the danger here—beyond offending a few Uncle Larrys and Aunt Karens out there—is that those coveted 18-to-35-years-old might just see it as a bit of calculated marketing... Hey, “just sayin.’” (That is what the @#$%in' cool kids say, right?)
What do you think: Is this campaign smart, or will it f-bomb?
While most people take a vacation to escape their jobs, the Reserve Channel’s new YouTube series, EX-PATS shows how an island retreat can turn into a full-time position.
In the sixth episode, former Wall Street lawyer KC Hardin is so inspired by the vibrant culture of Casco Viejo, Panama that he tosses his career to help revitalize the neighborhood. Now founder of the organization, El Conservatorio, KC’s days are spent restoring the eclectic architecture of this 350-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Host Savannah Jane Buffet follows KC and his wife, Patrizia, as they renovate music halls, plant community gardens, and pour tall glasses of wine at their home’s rooftop. Press “play” to watch the inspiring tale.
Maria Pedone is a digital editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.
Compared to Shanghai—let along Hong Kong, Singapore, and that summit of culinary summits, Tokyo—Beijing’s fine dining scene still has a long way to go. There’s a lot of mediocrity swimming in a sea of pretense and new money. At the end of the day, Beijingers are a rough-and-ready lot who prefer Sichuan hotpot in a hole-in-the-wall. We recently ate at S.T.A.Y.(pictured), three Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alleno’s outpost at the Shangri-La Beijing. The service was good, the food above average, but the room was utterly dead—we were one of four tables.
But back to the Sichuan hotpot: Beijing has a pretty comprehensive array of restaurants serving regional cuisines. Ten years ago, most Chinese food fanatics would have told you Taipei and Hong Kong were the best places for Chinese food, Beijing being littered with restaurants that served greasy gristle. (Communism plus Cultural Revolution equals abysmal food.) Since we moved here, I’ve had some solid Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Cantonese, Nanjing, Xinjiang, and even Taiwanese meals here—in nice settings, surrounded mostly by Chinese people.
The mountain is open at Jackson Hole and eager skiers who’ve been watching the Wyoming weather (to summarize: snow and snow and more powdery snow) will be happy to hear that getting to the Tetons is easier this winter. United is flying directly from Newark and San Francisco and Delta has added direct flights from Minneapolis, bringing the number of cities with direct service to the valley up to nine.
Intermediate skiers (me!) get a little love from the notoriously Black Diamond-heavy resort, too. A recently completed detachable quad lift opened last week to sweep Blue Trail skiers (me!) up to mid-mountain in just three and a half minutes. The Casper trail network has been expanded and buffed and more than half the blue trails are open, even this early in the season, because of the benevolent snow gods have dumped over 130” so far—more than at any other Rockies resort.
EX-PATS, the Reserve Channel’s new YouTube series, showcases people who've abandoned the home front to pursue their passions in a more exotic culture.
In this next episode of EX-PATS, host Savannah Jane Buffet takes a trip to Placencia, Belize to visit Pam and John Solomon. After living the fast life in New York City, the couple decided to resign to paradise, packing their love for food and drink, and opening RumFish y Vino restaurant in this Belizean fishing village.
Now parents, Pam and John are thrilled to be raising their daughter, Libby, in a country where farm- or sea-to-table is the only way to eat. Press play to catch the island breeze.
Maria Pedone is a digital editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.