Shanghai urban planners rival their New York real estate agents in their imaginative renaming of neighborhoods. Some have been flops: Sinan Mansions and the South Bund are still largely deserted, the latter despite the industrial-chic Waterhouse and a solid restaurant by Jason Atherton. I’m now hearing that the area around the Rockbund Art Museumis shaping up to be an emerging ‘hood. (It’s called, rather unimaginatively, Rock Bund.)
Last month, we introduced you to a new series on YouTube’s Reserve Channel called EX-PATS that took viewers to St. John, in the U.S. Virgin Islands in its premiere episode. This month, those daydreaming about moving to a foreign country can look forward to another great story from a neighboring island, St. Croix.
We here at T+L know that our readers are the savviest around. So when I decided to go to South Africa essentially on a whim with three weeks’ notice, I decided it would be prudent to leave the trip planning to the experts. And if Micato Safaris’ impressive showing in our annual World’s Best Awards is anything to go by—they were voted Top Safari Outfitter for the ninth year running in the 2012 survey, out in the August issue—they must be the best.
The Micato experience begins before you’ve even boarded your flight, with the delivery of a mammoth safari bag filled with a bound itinerary, helpful packing list, and some gifts (a handy flashlight and a stylish passport holder), all wrapped in animal-print tissue paper to get you in the safari spirit. But even for someone like me, who likes to plot out every detail on my trips, it was nice to surrender myself to someone else’s expertise for a week and let them handle the logistics.
If you’ve taken the plunge in London for the Olympics and are thinking you might need a quick break from all the festivities (or are just looking for an easy getaway from England’s largest city), Black Tomato’s Tom Marchant has four fantastic 48-hour European getaways that will leave you rejuvenated and ready to re-join the party on your return.
Venice The romance, the glamour… the paddling? The water-based city is full of majestic cathedrals, beautiful squares, culture, carnivals and top-notch cuisine. A private kayaking tour is a great way to really experience the canals—the arteries of the city. Flights from London are very frequent and no more than 2 hours, making it an ideal weekend break.
The idea of chucking it all and decamping to a new exotic land has surely crossed many a world traveler’s mind. This is a passing daydream for some, but for others, it’s a calling—a chance to truly immerse oneself in a foreign culture and community, and to reinvent one's life.
If you’re interested in what the experience of being an ex-patriot is all about, the risks and the rewards, we invite you to watch the new web-series EX-PATS on YouTube’s Reserve Channel. Created in cooperation with Travel + Leisure (our editors are advisors on the show), the series takes viewers around the world to profile ex-pats who’ve made the move and have some wild and wonderful stories to share.
Skip guidebooks and Google searches, and grab your snorkeling gear and hiking boots—there are new ways to learn about, and explore, Puerto Rico.
Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Oceans Future Society, an organization dedicated to preserving the environment, is opening a Puerto Rican branch of their award-winning environmental education and adventure program, Ambassadors of the Environment.
Located on the Ritz-Carlton Dorado Beach Reserve, the program will weave knowledge with experience. Participants will learn about Puerto Rico’s coral reefs, wildlife, wetlands, and Taino culture via snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, archaeological exploration, and other activities.
Travel really can transform your life, and these are a few of the trips that will make it happen.
Globe Aware Volunteer Trips
A volunteer vacation in another country can help you put your life into perspective. Globe Aware, for instance, operates trips in 15 countries, from Costa Rica to Cuba, Brazil to Vietnam. You’ll assist in rural schools, build wells, and deliver supplies to orphanages, teach English and computer lessons, or distribute fruits and vegetables to low-income families. Travelers come home and say that every aspect of their week was meaningful, and that they felt that they were able to give back to the community. Rates range from $1,140 to $1,390 per week depending on the trip. Cost covers meals, accommodation, and on-site travel (but not airfare).
Anyone with an SLR camera knows there are about a million cases to choose from to lug around your camera, lenses, and accessories. But recently, I was shown a couple of cases from Lowepro that I absolutely love. The Flipside Sport (pictured above) is a backpack-style case that’s perfect for outdoor/adventure photography. It fits securely over your shoulders, but also has an extra strap that clasps around your waist. Plus, since it’s made for outdoor activity, there’s a special H2O compartment on the side that’s designed to allow a sports straw to feed through, so you can rehydrate without digging through your bag. On the other side? A convenient spot to store a modest-sized tripod.
Dutch airline KLM has recently launched Meet & Seat, a program that ensures that you’ll probably LIKE your seatmate, even before takeoff.
Meet & Seat allows passengers with reservations to view the social media profiles of other passengers who’ve already selected their seats and who have opted to share their Facebook or LinkedIn info. The service is not yet available on every KLM flight.
I can think of few instances in which I would employ Meet & Seat: Say, if Viggo Mortensen were flying coach and decided to identify himself via Facebook. Not likely, right? I guess I will continue to use airplane time to read novels and trashy magazines and not chat with my seatmate until the landing gear has been engaged.
Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure.
Travel + Leisure's March Trip of the Month is an adventure in the far north with U.S.- and U.K.-based tour operator Black Tomato. In association with Travel + Leisure Elite Traveler, our travel club for deals on hotels, cruises, and more, the Trip of the Month offers T+L readers exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime itineraries from the world’s top tour operators.