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Tour Operator Goes Over the @#$% Line?

hipster backpacking

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?

Photo by iStockphoto

Eternal Sunshine: EX-PATS Extends its Stay in Panama

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.

Beijing: Taxi Shortage, Peking Duck, and New York–Style China

dining in China

Compared to Shanghai—let along Hong Kong, Singapore, and that summit of culinary summits, TokyoBeijing’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.

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Jackson Hole Gets Big Snow (and Direct Flights)

Jackson Hole

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.

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Wake Up in Paradise: EX-PATS Escapes to Belize

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.

Whole Foods Launches Culinary-Themed Tours

Whole Journeys: Ticino farmstand

Shoppers who frequent Whole Foods in search of organic broccoli and fair-trade coffee beans will soon have another kind of offering to browse: food-related travel itineraries.

Starting this spring, the natural-foods supermarket chain will launch Whole Journeys, a series of international trips geared toward “active foodies.” The small-group excursions, which will combine physical pursuits like biking and hiking with explorations of food culture, range from pedaling through the vineyards and orchards of Provence to trekking along the ancient Tea and Horse route in southwestern China.

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Amazing High Res Image of Machu Picchu

201211-b-machupicchujpg

Machu Picchu is one of the world's most visited ancient ruins with one million annual visitors, yet no one has captured the Incan ruins like this before. Jeff Cremer, photo tour director for the sustainable tourism outfitter Rainforest Expeditions, returned from a recent trip with what may well be the highest resolution (15.9 gigapixels) photo of this man-made wonder ever taken.
 
Head over to www.gigapixelperu.com to see the entire image and explore its remarkable detail by zooming in and out. The photo, shot with a Canon 7D and a 100-400mm f/5.6 lens, consists of 1,920 separate images recorded over the course of nearly two hours. The final image was stitched together on a computer and is 297,500 x 87,500 pixels total. Almost as good as visiting the real thing, right?

Lyndsey Matthews is a digital assistant editor at Travel + Leisure

Photo by Jeff Cremer/Courtesy of Widness & Wiggins PR

Did You Check That Camel's License?

Did You Check That Camel's License?

Good news: Camel safaris have entered the 21st century.

The Times of India reported the other day that officials in Jaisalmer, in India's Rajasthan, are implementing a user-friendly way of booking one of the popular, days-long camel safaris in the neighboring Thar Desert: pre-paying beforehand, the same way you would pre-pay for a taxi at a train station.

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Live the Dream: “EX-PATS” Debuts Fourth Episode on YouTube

If you haven’t checked out EX-PATS, the Reserve Channel’s new series on YouTube, you’re missing out—not only on great al desko daydream opps, but also on some truly inspiring stories of people who’ve dared to leave it all behind for a new life in a foreign country.

The fourth episode takes viewers to a jungle-filled archipelago in Panama, where a surfer and former medical salesman from San Diego, Neil Christiansen, founds the nonprofit organization GiveAndSurf.org to fund a pre-school for the isolated island children from Bahia Honda. Press “play” for a look at his inspiring story.

New Resort Inside Malaysian National Park

201208-b-gaya-island-resort-sapi-and-gaya-islandjpg

This July marked the opening of Gaya Island Resort off the coast of Malaysian Borneo. With 120 villas overlooking the South China Sea, the hotel takes full advantage of their stunning national park space with a resident naturalist and marine biologist, private yacht, and underwater photography classes. This land is as pristine as it gets.

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