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Talking travel with founder of globorati.com
globorati has covered some pretty over-the-top vacation packages. Are such experiences becoming more prevalent. What are some particularly extravagant ones coming up?
Most of what globorati covers is focused on useful, up-to-the-moment stories that capture the thrill and beauty of travel. But every now and again we'll run something on a big-ticket, through-the-roof, ultra-luxe experience. The sort of stuff I call "sick travel" - stuff like a $700 breakfast at the new Ritz-Carlton Moscow, or a $30,000 private-jet expedition to Antarctica, or a $50,000 one-night package at the Four Seasons Miami (the massage uses lotion infused with ground diamonds). The other day, we ran a story on a $1 million vacation to Dubai. You can file that one under "vacations for the cash-rich, sense-poor traveler."
What's been the cushiest trip you've ever splurged on?
Sounds like an odd thing to say, but I'm a professional traveler: I normally get paid to travel and experience different cultures. The most singular journey I've ever taken has to be the Concorde. The experience was a thing of beauty: the captain invited me to sit in the cockpit, and from my seat, at 60,000 feet, I saw a panoramic sky that was an incomparably richer, darker blue than anything I'd seen at subsonic altitude. And at 23 miles-per-minute, I could make out the curvature of the earth. For the foreseeable future there's absolutely nothing in commercial aviation that will come close to the Concorde.
There's been a rise in luxury accommodations in some very unexpected places: Easter Island, Antarctica, Bhutan. Are there any particular cases that come up in your mind?
Welcome to "extreme luxury." We're seeing the term used more and more now, and by some measure it relates to those once-in-a-lifetime adrenaline adventures that come with the pampering and the personalized attention usually reserved for five-star experience. Some of the set-ups that have caught globorati's attention are the no- to low-footprint projects sprinkled throughout the world's remote destinations. Malikha Lodge, for example, is Myanmar's only upscale retreat in the foothills of the Himalayas and backs on to Asia's largest tiger reserve. Perfect Earth Tours has a hideaway in the Yukon, which touts "the world's first organic canvas teepees," with queen-size beds and private bathrooms. Abercrombie & Kent - which has a whole new program dedicated to extreme adventures starting this fall - has even created the world's first wilderness camp in Antarctica.
Glamping, jetrosexuals, flashpackers, and of course, Globoratis. Can you help us sort out these demographics?
It's funny how fixated the media is on the new buzzwords of luxury travel.
Our first big media splash was a New York Post piece that interviewed us about glamping, and since then, that's normally been the first thing people ask us! globorati.com is though, I concede, part of the circus too: I concocted the name as a way to allude to a new breed of luxury traveler who values the experience, not the price tag, of the world's best travel possibilities. You've got the glitterati, the literati and now the globorati - whom I like to think of as stylish, intellectually curious world travelers rather than big-ticket consumers.
Tell us a bit about how you came to start globorati.com. You already landed your cushy gig at CNT right?
I still wear my contributing-editor cap for Conde Nast Traveler and, even after 10 years, it's a privilege to be given the resources and trust to explore a destination so thoroughly. But there's no escaping the fact it's a monthly magazine. The world of luxury travel moves much faster than that and so I wanted to find a voice that spoke to those travelers searching for a daily scoop on the world's hottest new hotels and travel experiences. Before globorati there was absolutely nowhere for people to go for this.
Speaking of cushy gigs, how did you get your start in travel writing? I heard that you've never accepted a guide book commission. Is that an overrated path to cracking into travel journalism?
I wrote my first paid travel story in college, when I was the editor of Oxford's magazine, Isis - I got a university travel grant to hitch-hike from New Hampshire to New Mexico and write about the experience. But there's this misguided notion that the path to travel writing is routed through travel. I believe the key is the lonely, exacting, painstaking discipline of writing. And rewriting. And rewriting.
If we're talking about getting into and learning the craft of travel journalism, I'd say guidebook writing isn't so much overrated as it is pointless. (The fact it's poorly paid is a separate issue altogether.) The craft of quality travel journalism is based on the same writing and reporting rudiments common to all feature journalism, and there's little way to learn that from filing a book full of listings (of course some guidebooks offer more than this but the foundation of all guidebooks is really the listings element).
What's the next big luxury destination/region?
Peru has lain for a long time in the shadows of its two sexier neighbors, Brazil and Argentina. But now the smart-set is waking up to Peru's riches beyond Machu Picchu.
What about three trends you see in this upscale market?
The growth of green travel and the rising cost of air travel will be even bigger stories in 2009. But what's interesting is how these two factors have sparked the romance of train travel again. The Eurostar has dramatically reversed the air-domination of journeying from London to Paris. And just look at Spain: the new high-speed train from Madrid to Barcelona has already stolen one-fifth of Iberia's business. In the luxe market, we're seeing more and more one-of-a-kind train journeys - often billed as overland "cruises" - which pile on the pampering and customized services but without the guilt of longhaul air travel. This includes the new Danube Express, the Great Brazil Express (Brazil's first ever luxury train), and Australia's coast-to-coast Platinum service on Great Southern Rail.
And lastly, what are some tips you have for pulling off a luxury trip without breaking the bank?
Isolate which is the one experience you value most when you travel: where you eat or where you lay your head or how you get there or whatever... and then splurge on that one thing as you tighten the budget everywhere else. For my first time in Venice I decided I had to book a romantic room right on the Grand Canal, despite the cost. But we ate cheap, walked everywhere and ditched the gondola option. It was heaven.
Filed under: Talking Travel