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**.
Just downriver from Washington on the western bank of the Potomac, Alexandria has that perfect mix of historic charm—and easy access to the nation’s capital. WHERE TO STAY The 45-room Morrison House is a great choice because it’s small—just 45 rooms—plus there are so many extras, from complimentary wine from 5-6 p.m. to free morning coffee and newspaper. PRICE $165 a night.
LUXE GETAWAY: Baltimore, Maryland
For those who love a good Four Seasons hotel—and really, who doesn’t?—the new Four Seasons in Baltimore is one more reason to visit the city. Plus, the Baltimore Museum of Art just reopened its Contemporary Wing, with works by Olafur Eliasson, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol. WHERE TO STAY The 256-room Four Seasons opened in 2011 in Harbor East, with a terrace, heated whirlpool, and a spa. PRICE $339 a night.
WINE TOURS: Barboursville, Virginia
Two hours southwest of D.C., Barboursville, Virginia, is a serene wine country getaway. WHERE TO STAY The lakeside 1804 Inn is a romantic escape: you’ll sleep in a four-poster bed in this historic inn set between Madison's Montpelier and Jefferson's Monticello. PRICE $240 a night.
The name Singita became synonymous with East African luxury safaris when the ecotourism company took over three properties in Tanzania back in 2006. Now its two latest arrivals push the wilderness-immersion envelope even further. Set in Serengeti National Park’s northernmost tip, close to the Kenyan frontier, the intimate Singita Mara River Tented Camp(pictured) has six canvas tents—complete with carved-wood Shona lamps, retro travel chests, and beds draped in hand-spun natural fabrics—where guests can unwind after wildlife drives and bush walks. Up to eight safari-goers can also rent the new Serengeti House, near the flagship lodge on towering Sasakwa Hill. Inside, you’ll find contemporary African arts and crafts (leather thong chandeliers inspired by Masai skirts; papier-mâché animal-head trophies), while the exterior has a subtler, beach-chic look. The 82-foot-long infinity lap pool is the ideal setting for sundowners while a herd of wildebeests drinks from a watering hole below. After a day exploring, why not let the animals come to you? All-inclusive. $$$$$
Hotel Pricing Key $ Less than $200 $$ $200 to $350 $$$ $350 to $500 $$$$ $500 to $1,000 $$$$$ More than $1,000
As I reported earlier, the UN World Tourism Organization has a new campaign encouraging international tourists to travel more responsibly. There are endless options, ranging from staying at locally-owned hotels to traveling by train and taking part in voluntourism. Then there’s newcomer destination company The Giving Plan. Billing itself as the world’s first philanthropic vacation club, its Getaway 2 Give Collection is aiming to donate $1 billion to charities every ten years.
Sometimes we all need a little more luxury in our life. Maybe even a lot more luxury. That’s what Donna Lennard, owner of New York’s il Buco restaurant group, must have had in mind when she announced her latest culinary endeavor—a food, wine, and ski adventure at private chalets in the heart of France's Alpine resort town Courchevel. This ultra-extravagant vacation is also ultra-expensive (sticker shock: $50,000-$150,000 per chalet per week).
Why so pricey?
For starters, it's in a great location. Courchevel is part of the famed Les Trois Vallées region, which is the world's largest connected ski area and offers hundreds of miles of ski runs that connect three Alpine valleys.
The heady scent of roses and exotic fruit tea is intoxicating as I enter the hotel suite. “We are so happy to have you,” says a smiling Indian gentleman in a perfectly pressed suit. His words are impossible not to believe.
Treating guests like royalty is a lofty goal that many hotels—too many—give much lip service to. Most properties, as we know, rarely live up to the promise. At New York City’s iconic Pierre hotel, which also happens to be the U.S. flagship for India-based Taj Hotels, a new butler service takes the challenge quite literally. Its “Royal Attachés” have tended to real-life kings and queens, as well as a who’s who of heads of state.
On a visit to the Pierre, I had the opportunity to taste, if only for a couple hours, the life of a Maharaja. Offered to Grand Suite guests, this level of Indian-style hospitality is the first of its kind in the U.S. For travelers who’ve experienced stilted, uncomfortably formal butler services near and far, the Taj Royal Attachés are a refreshing change. The overall service is, of course, as considered and detailed oriented as one might expect. But what’s unique—and what caught me off-guard—was the genuine warmth of the staff.
A: While attending the University of Miami in 1973, I worked weekends on the pier at NCL. We delivered and picked up the ships’ mail, assisted guests going through customs, ran errands, and sold baggage insurance. I also worked part time in the mail room.
It’s makeover season in the City of Light—at least for high-end palace hotels. Check into the famed 18th century Hôtel de Crillon(pictured) before it closes this fall for a two-year renovation (set to include the addition of a long-awaited spa). After a sweeping top-down restoration, Le Royal Monceau Raffles became home to a stunning collection of artwork; now, the hotel is expanding into cinema with its film-centric Ciné Brunch and Ciné Snack held every Saturday (hot chocolate, Hermé pastries and popcorn included).