1 0 TH A N N I V E R S A R Y S P E C I A L SPAIN D • •
HOW T R AV E L CAN MAKE YO U R
A FA R .CO M
# T R AV E L DE E P E R
W H E R E T R AV E L C A N TA K E YO U
THE HAPPINESS ISSUE RL
AND • COS
LIF FE LIFE BETTER
Spark joy in Bhutan P. 94
FIND THE SECRET TO SATISFACTION IN NORWAY
DISCOVER THE GOOD LIFE IN THE BAHAMAS
Â© MICHAEL KORS, LLC.
M I C H A E L KO R S . C O M
Luxury Jet Expeditions & Custom Travel
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THE GREATEST OUTDOORS
Lisa Abend discovers how Norwegians are living proof that humans are happier when they connect meaningfully with nature.
ON THE COVER
Locals gather weekly in Paro to practice archery, Bhutan’s national sport. Photograph by Frédéric Lagrange
PHOTO BY EMMA HARDY
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DESTINATION INDEX AUSTRALIA 36 BAHAMAS 69 BELIZE 90 BHUTAN 94 CALIFORNIA 36, 50 CANADA 46 COSTA RICA 25, 48 EGYPT 93 FLORIDA 50 FRANCE 25, 90 GREECE 25, 65, 92 HAWAII 25 INDIA 88 IRELAND 25 ITALY 25, 48, 89 JAMAICA 25 JAPAN 46, 82 KENYA 66 MALDIVES 34 MEXICO 25, 90 NEW YORK 34, 36 NEW ZEALAND 25 NORWAY 108 PENNSYLVANIA 22 PORTUGAL 34 RUSSIA 42 SPAIN 25, 75 SWITZERLAND 57 THAILAND 120
AFAR TURNS 10
Put on your party hats— we’re celebrating a decade of traveling deeper.
ASCENT TO HAPPINESS
In Bhutan, wellness awaits. Even if you’re blind and bad at yoga. by Ryan Knighton
PHOTOGRAPH BY FRÉDÉRIC LAGRANGE
SOME CHEFS COOK THEIR BEST AT 30,000 FEET
Products and services are subject to change depending on flight duration and aircra .
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FROM THE EDITOR
TRAVEL HAPPINESS SURVEY
We asked, you answered. Here’s how and why travel makes AFAR readers happy.
JUST BACK FROM
Off the coast of Thailand, an AFAR staffer tries to swim with the sharks.
Six hotels around the world prove that sometimes less is more.
HOW TO TRAVEL HAPPIER
A ROAD MAP TO HAPPINESS
Canadians do what in canoes? Plus four other ways countries find bliss.
DISNEY FOR GROWN-UPS
Ditch the mouse ears. Try the macarons.
Happiness experts share how to cultivate joy before, during, and after your next trip. 10 AFAR
A Bahamas native taps into the islands’ creative energy.
Tokyo cafés elevate the art of making coffee—and have inspired a U.S. empire.
In a medieval Swiss town, the historic art of mechanical timekeeping keeps on ticking.
Best-selling novelist Jacqueline Winspear dishes on how she made her BTFF: Best Travel Friend Forever.
SPIN THE GLOBE
Spain rekindles Mira T. Lee’s love of late nights and quiet moments.
PHOTO BY XINHUA/EYEVINE/REDUX
1979. Your alma mater put you in a position to succeed. Which also put you in a position to graciously return the favor in
You’ve always given back. From donating time when you had more to give than money, to writing checks as your financial ability grew. Now you’re ready to make a more lasting impact. A Raymond James financial advisor can help align your charitable goals with a tax and estate planning strategy, so your gifts can keep giving for generations. LIFE WELL PLANNED.
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From high above, Charleston, South Carolina resembles a beautiful tapestry woven with shades of indigo, marshgrass and oyster shell. Etched with barrier islands and bodies of water, the landscape has a poetic shape. With the perfect combination of beautiful beaches, world-class cuisine, antebellum architecture, and an endless supply of engaging things to see and do, itâ€™s no wonder the Charleston area is consistently named a top U.S. destination.
South Carolina Star t planning your getaway at EXPLORECHARLESTON.COM
5 SMART WAYS TO TRAVEL HAPPIER
Return home refreshed by using these smart tips on your next journey. STEP 1 TIME IT RIGHT
Visit a destination in shoulder season, when the weather’s good but crowds and prices are lower—like Scottsdale, Arizona in the fall.
STEP 2 BOOK A VILLA
Rent a family-friendly villa through a homesharing site; it can be more spacious and less expensive than two hotel rooms.
FOUNDERS GREG SULLIVAN & JOE DIAZ EDITORIAL
SALES & MARKETING
VP, EDITOR IN CHIEF Julia Cosgrove @juliacosgrove
EVP, CHIEF REVENUE OFFICER
EXECUTIVE EDITOR Jeremy Saum @jsaum
Ellen Asmodeo-Giglio @ellenafar, email@example.com, 646-430-9884 VP, PUBLISHER Bryan Kinkade @bkinkade001, firstname.lastname@example.org, 646-873-6136 VP, MARKETING Maggie Gould Markey @maggiemarkey, email@example.com
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Tim Chester @timchester Aislyn Greene @aislynj GUIDES EDITOR Natalie Beauregard @nataliebeauregard TRAVEL NEWS EDITOR Michelle Baran @michellehallbaran DESTINATION NEWS EDITOR Lyndsey Matthews @lyndsey_matthews VIDEO EDITOR Claudia Cardia @chlaupin DIGITAL PHOTO EDITOR Lyn Horst @laurella67 JUNIOR DESIGNER Emily Blevins @emilyroseblevins ASSOCIATE PHOTO EDITOR Rachel McCord @rachelmc_cord ASSOCIATE EDITOR Maggie Fuller @goneofftrack ASSISTANT EDITORS
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AFAR MEDIA LLC
SALES EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, TRAVEL Elizabeth Allerton
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STEP 3 PACK SMART
VP, COFOUNDER Joe Diaz @joediazafar
Bring mix-and-match layers to create multiple looks, plus a scarf to use as a handy coverup at religious sites.
MARKETING & CREATIVE SERVICES
VP, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER Laura Simkins
MARKETING AND SPECIAL PROJECTS DIRECTOR
DIRECTOR OF FINANCE Matt Fenster HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR Breanna Rhoades
DIRECTOR OF AFAR EXPERIENCES
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Flying is very dehydrating, so drink plenty of water before you board and on the flight. Try smartwater!
SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER Rosalie Tinelli @rosalietinelli SENIOR SOFTWARE ENGINEER Yue Weng Mak DATA ANALYTICS MANAGER Chris Pacheco @claquerer IT MANAGER Jonathan Chu STAFF ACCOUNTANT Erika Stallworth EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PROCIRC Sally Murphy ASSOCIATE CONSUMER MARKETING DIRECTOR, PROCIRC
Tom Pesik OPERATIONS ACCOUNT MANAGER Adam Bassano
STEP 5 HIRE LOCAL GUIDES
Well-vetted experts provide the inside scoop on important locales (and can teach you local lingo). Ask your hotel concierge for recommendations.
For more smart ideas, visit drinksmartwater.com.
CONTENT PARTNERSHIPS DIRECTOR Lou LaGrange
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STEP 4 HYDRATE. REST. REPEAT.
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AFAR ID Statement AFAR® (ISSN 1947-4377), Volume 11, Number 5, is published bimonthly by AFAR Media, LLC, 130 Battery St., Sixth Floor, San Francisco, CA 94111, U.S.A. In the U.S., AFAR® is a registered trademark of AFAR Media, LLC. Publisher assumes no responsibility for return of unsolicited manuscripts, art, or any other unsolicited materials. Subscription price for U.S. residents: $24.00 for 6 issues. Canadian subscription rate: $30.00 (GST included) for 6 issues. All other countries: $40.00 for 6 issues. To order a subscription to AFAR or to inquire about an existing subscription, please write to AFAR Magazine Customer Service, P.O. Box 6265, Harlan, IA 51591-1765, or call 888-403-9001. Periodicals postage paid at San Francisco, CA, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to AFAR, P.O. Box 6265, Harlan, IA 51591-1765.
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first class hydration no matter where your seat is.
AFAR Travel Photography Awards In the Jesús María neighborhood of Havana, photographer Kirstin Schmitt captured drag performer Haila getting ready for a show. The image won third place in the inaugural AFAR Travel Photography Awards, presented in partnership with LensCulture and United Airlines.
“Night Falls Above Jesús María” Third-place winner, single photograph
filmmaker Kirstin Schmitt finds artistic inspiration in people’s everyday lives. “I want to figure out who people are,” says Schmitt, who splits her time between Havana and Berlin. “By getting to know them, I understand their passions.” Through a friend, she began spending time among people in Havana’s LGBTQ and drag communities, Cubans who have only recently been able to live their lives more openly, though they still face discrimination and a culture of machismo. Their lives are documented by Schmitt and her husband, Cuban photographer Juan Aristides Otamendiz, in the project “Arroz Con Mango—The New Men.” Schmitt’s images capture the moments beyond the stage and at home, as in the shot above, which features the performer Haila preparing for a midnight gig at Cabaret Las Vegas in Havana. The photo stood out to the judges for its intimacy. “The personal connection within that private space really came through in the image,” says former AFAR design director Jason Seldon. “It shared a story that hasn’t been told until recently about Cuba.” To enter this year’s photo awards, go to afar.com/photoawards. —SARA BUTTON 16 AFAR
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T We genuinely believe that, together, we can make the world less divided, more open, and more responsible.
Quite a Trip
the 10th anniversary of AFAR. It is a humbling and gratifying occasion for us. When we started AFAR, the world was in the midst of the Great Recession. People weren’t traveling. Businesses weren’t opening. And that went double— OK, quintuple—for print magazines. But we were committed to the idea that travel, when undertaken with an open mind and heart, could enrich people’s lives. And that the more people traveled this way, the better off the world would be. If we could be the voice and inspiration for this mind-set, this way of travel—what a great thing to do with our lives. Thankfully, due to an incredible team of people here at AFAR, the support of many partners, and you, our readership of discerning, global-citizen travelers, we have found our place. Every issue of our magazine is read by more than a million people, and every month, millions more visit afar.com. Through our nonprofit program Learning AFAR, we have helped to send over 1,300 high school students on life-changing travel experiences. And I like to think we have enhanced millions of lives by inspiring and guiding people to engage in deeper and more fulfilling travel. Not only that, the world has become more receptive to our message and values. “Experiential travel” was an arcane term when we dedicated ourselves to it; now it is so widely used, it is almost banal. The number of people traveling has nearly doubled in the last 10 years. This is not too much travel. Far from it. That would be like saying too much living, too much learning, or too much personal growth. But, unfortunately, many people are taking an almost acquisitive approach to travel. They want to see the most popular places, take a picture, share it with their friends, check the box, and move on, without any deep interaction with the locals, without any serious contemplation of what the place is about. So, we see our work as far from done. We are committed to continuing to serve the world’s best travelers: those who are dedicated to traveling the moment they walk out their front door, to searching for the distinctive, and to leaving the world a little bit better than they found it. You are the role models who can help change the outlook of those who flock to the most overrun places, and we genuinely believe that, together, we can make the world less divided, more open, and more responsible. It is fitting that this issue is themed around happiness. Although there is much to be concerned about and much to improve, we remain optimistic about the future. Thank you for your support and for traveling deeper with us for a decade. H IS ISSUE MA RK S
AFAR cofounders Greg Sullivan, left, and Joe Diaz joined the Egyptian Arab Spring celebration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in February 2011.
Cofounder & CEO
WHY THERE’S NOTHING LIKE
The land Down Under is truly unlike anything you’ve experienced before. Wherever you go, you can sample worldclass food and wine, join the welcoming locals, and relax while you enjoy the Aussie way of life. Now go exploring! Whether or not it’s your first time visiting Australia, there’s always something new to do. And thanks to nonstop flights on United Airlines, it’s easier than ever to get there.
Getting There Is Easy (Really) You’ll find a multitude of nonstop flights on super-comfortable airplanes, plus exquisite service, when you travel with United. Choose from 3 nonstop flights to Sydney from Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Houston; or 1 nonstop from L.A. to Melbourne.
Whatever your passion, you can
EXPLORE IT IN AUSTRALIA In a country with so much choice, where do you begin sampling the Aussie lifestyle? Start with these 3 different trip options.
People & Culture
Icons & Wildlife
Head here to compare the modern and ancient Aussie lifestyles.
Explore iconic sites in these amazing natural areas.
• Sydney Do as the locals do and hit the beach to relax, then take a convict history tour of The Rocks. • Kimberley Region See the ancient rock art of Aboriginal people, who have been around for some 50,000 years.
• Great Barrier Reef Snorkel or dive to witness the colorful coral and fish; inland, hike the ancient Daintree Rainforest. • Uluru/Ayers Rock Marvel at this 1,100-foot sacred monolith at sunrise or as you dine under the stars.
• Tasmania Add a trip here to explore dramatic national parks and luxurious eco-lodges.
Food & Wine Combine cuisine with beaches and nature. • Melbourne Discover some of the world’s best restaurants in hidden laneways alongside innovative cafés.
• Perth Delve into this up-and-comer’s food scene; taste innovative craft beers in nearby Freemantle. • Adelaide Sample local seafood in this emerging culinary destination, then explore the surrounding vineyards.
All are on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner—an eco-friendly plane with big windows and hightech lighting—which will help make the 14 hours from L.A. to Sydney fly by. Make it even better by booking United Polaris business class and enjoy chef-designed pre- flight cuisine, cozy sleeping amenities, and pre-flight access to the exclusive United Polaris lounge.
Get more inspiration and download the Australia guide at australiantraveller.com/ AustraliaMagazine Then go! Book your flight at united.com/australia
from the editor
N A R E C E N T F L I G H T to Philadelphia, I was feeling glum: It was my third business trip in as many weeks, and I’d been missing my family since the minute I left my house. I was also sick. But when I landed in Philadelphia, I made a conscious decision to try to enjoy myself. On a whim I went for dinner at Zahav, recently deemed the best restaurant in the United States by the James Beard Foundation. What followed was a spectacular meal of Israeli small plates: fried cauliflower with labneh and mint, fresh hummus served with wood-fired laffa bread, and a beef kebab that I’m still thinking about today. As my food arrived, I started talking to the woman next to me, who, it turned out, was
The Joy of Travel also in Philadelphia on business and who lived near me in California. For the next two hours, we shared our dishes and talked about travel and the meandering path of life. I went to my conference the next day, and afterwards snuck in a visit with my best friend from college. I continued my good eating tour with a fiery arrabiata pizza at Pizzeria Beddia, and enjoyed an uninterrupted hour wandering around the Barnes Foundation, where I was transfixed by paintings by Degas, Renoir, and Modigliani. Had my mood improved? Decidedly so. Was I happy? I was. We’ve devoted this issue—our 10th anniversary!—to happiness, because, well, we know travel makes us feel good. And if you’re reading this, I suspect you feel the same. We sent
writers to Bhutan (page 94) and Norway (page 108 and pictured above), two countries known for national happiness, and talked to experts about how you can make your travels more joyful (page 40). And on page 42, we look at how different cultures define the good life. At AFAR we’ve always believed that when you travel and experience the world, you’re more grateful for what you have, you’re more likely to live in the moment, and your sense of wonder and possibility about your own life expands exponentially. And take it from me: It’s also the perfect antidote for a bad mood. —JULIA COSGROVE Editor in Chief PHOTOGRAPH BY EMMA HARDY
© 2019 Aruba Tourism Authority
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PROUD SPONSOR OF THE FIRST-EVER AFAR TRAVEL HAPPINESS SURVEY.
Plan your happy escape at aruba.com
one happy island
HOW MANY VACATION DAYS DO YOU USE PER YEAR?
HOW MANY TRIPS DO YOU TAKE PER YEAR?
IN AN IDEAL WORLD, HOW MUCH WOULD YOU TRAVEL?
WHEN I TRAVEL, I PREFER TO . . . 14%
Leave my schedule open so I can go with the flow
68% 5-9 days
Have some main spots in mind, but nothing concrete
I’m happy with how much I travel
Have a planned itinerary
More than 20 days
I don’t have official vacation days
I wish I could travel more 7-9 trips
More than 9 trips
I’m on the road too much
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WAY TO CAPTURE YOUR TRIPS? 67% Photography 2% Journaling 1% Scrapbooking 1% Blogging 20% Posting on social media
6% I don’t do any of those things 3% Other
How does travel make you happy? In our first-ever happiness survey, presented by the Aruba Tourism Board, we turned that question over to you. More than 15,000 of you replied: Turns out you love to connect with new people (big surprise) and you’d rather leave room for spontaneity than have a completely planned trip. Explore the results on these pages. For more, including videos inspired by readers’ happiest travels, visit afar.com/happy. INFOGRAPHICS BY VALERIO PELLEGRINI
WHICH TRIP WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO TAKE?
THE TOP 10 HAPPIEST DESTINATIONS, ACCORDING TO OUR READERS The crowd favorites? Tropical holidays and European getaways.
A luxurious multinight train trip
1. Italy 2. Hawaii 3. Mexico 4. France 5. Costa Rica 6. Spain 7. Ireland 8. Jamaica 9. Greece 10. New Zealand
A cycling trip through the countryside
A relaxing beach trip to a tropical island
WHAT’S YOUR HAPPIEST TRAVEL MEMORY?
A cross-country road trip
A hiking trip through the mountains
Thousands of you shared powerful stories with us. Here are two of our favorites.
The Magic of Mexico
HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU USUALLY SPEND ON SOCIAL MEDIA WHEN YOU’RE TRAVELING? I’m constantly checking and posting
I check about once per day
I check once every few days
I completely unplug
ARE YOU HAPPIEST TRAVELING . . .
WHEN TRAVELING, WHAT TENDS TO MAKE YOU THE HAPPIEST?
A Georgian Song
With your family
4% 20% 61%
With your significant other
Meeting other travelers
With a group of friends
Sharing my experiences with people back home
Getting to know the locals
With a friend
Unplugging and connecting with nature
My husband and I spent the night on the beach at Cabo Pulmo National Park while road-tripping through Mexico. As we set up camp, we were startled by the sound of stomping hooves— we turned to see a small herd of wild horses on its way to the water. They washed their dusty coats in the waves for 20 minutes as the sun set, before nibbling on some grass and then strolling away. The scene will be imprinted in our memories forever. —JULIE DAY THOMAS
My cousin and a friend and I hiked to the David Gareja monastery on the border of Georgia and Azerbaijan. After lunch, we paused to take in the mountains and valleys, the butterflies dancing around the wildflowers, when I heard the faint, rhythmic singsong of a monk praying inside a cave. It was surreal— the sounds, sights, and smells of the mountain all coming together in one beautiful moment. —ADRIENNE TOUMAYAN
Live where nature canâ€™t be tamed
but curiosities can be captured.
Stay for a little or stay for a lifetime, it never leaves you. Follow our story at palmettobluff.com. For real estate inquiries, call 855-437-1493. For bookings at Montage Palmetto Bluff, call 866-309-5398.
Obtain the Property Report required by federal law and read it before signing anything. No federal agency has judged the merits or value, if any, of this property. This does not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation of any offer to buy where prohibited by law. The complete offering terms are in an offering plan available from sponsor. File no. H-110005
Jacqueline Winspear Writer Friends in High Places p.64
Emma Hardy Photographer The Greatest Outdoors p.108
Mira T. Lee Writer Spanish Lessons p.75
Melissa Alcena Photographer Paradise Islands p.69
Ready to party: “In Crete one day, my friend and I found a little family-run restaurant. We stopped to get a drink. Next thing we knew, they’d dragged us into the family birthday party. We couldn’t speak a word of Greek, but it made their day to have two Englishwomen there who were game for it.” Essence of travel: “It’s about connecting with a place and growing as a person, those moments that you’ll have forever. Cameras and journals are great, but memories live on in your heart.” Find her: on Facebook @jacquelinewinspear
Sweet serendipity: “The Norwegian concept of friluftsliv (outdoor living) built on itself while I was in Norway. I saw kids swimming in a lake, young people with horses, an old lady walking through a meadow, all embodying the energy I wanted to capture.” Natural by nature: “Norwegians seem pretty lowkey about the country’s beauty. Their life revolves around nature because that’s what’s revolving around them. But they do appreciate that they live in a land of abundance.” See her photos: on Instagram @emmahardy7
Change of plans: “Sometimes you have to give up on your to-do list. You have to find a balance between seeing the things that are only available in that place—like La Sagrada Família in Barcelona—and also letting go of the checklist and allowing yourself to wander.” Finding a common language: “I do not speak much Spanish, but it didn’t matter on the night I ended up at a salsa club. While I was there, I didn’t have to speak any language. All I had to do was dance.” Follow her: on Twitter @MiraTLee
Say cheese: “I was cracking up at my subject Theodore’s on-cue smile. When you photograph people, you see their face getting tired after a while. But every single time I said, ‘Ready?’ Theodore’s smile was so authentic.” Pride of the Bahamas: “People outside the Bahamas might have a limited view of what Bahamians may be. I think often people associate ‘island’ with ‘third-world country.’ Being able to showcase somebody in a sophisticated space in the Bahamas is a really great thing.” Check out her work: on Instagram @melalcena
PHOTOGRAPH BY EMMA HARDY
ILLUSTRATIONS BY SAM KERR
A New Decade Of Discovery
LET’S CELEBRATE OUR PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE. For ten years, we’ve been sailing right to the doorstep of Earth’s most hidden gems. Bringing you deeper into the heart of local culture, and continuing to evolve with over 1,700 land programs. Now, it is time to honor our past and awaken a new era of going further. Join us as we celebrate at our Ten Years Further historic event, when our three sister ships meet in Koper, Slovenia, for a once-in-a-lifetime Grand AzAmazing Evening® – a special night of cultural immersion. Embark on any of our three exclusive voyages to commemorate this milestone. Explore Further SM
3 SISTERS MEET VOYAGES 12-Night Amalfi & Dalmatian Coasts Voyage | Azamara Quest® | Departing: September 28, 2020 7-Night Amalfi To Dalmatian Voyage | Azamara PursuitSM | Departing: October 3, 2020 7-Night Adriatic Wonders Voyage | Azamara Journey® | Departing: October 3, 2020
Call 1.855.AZAMARA, your Travel Advisor, or visit www.Azamara.com to book today. Azamara® is a proud member of the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. family of cruise lines. ©2019 Azamara. Ships Registered in Malta.
HERE, THERE ARE STORIES of champions and LEGENDS yet to be told.
LIFE IS BETTER IN THE BLUEGRASS Sipping a handcrafted bourbon. Watching a graceful Thoroughbred race down the homestretch. Spending a day on the lake or venturing below-ground for exploration of “Mammoth” proportions. These are a few of the things that make us happy – and they’re all waiting for you in Kentucky.
their own particular blends in working distilleries, where guests can walk the grounds and see the process in action. Restaurants and bars statewide celebrate this signature spirit through inventive dishes and specialty cocktails.
This is, after all, a state where the thunder of hooves is almost a religion. Lexington is known as the “Horse Capital of the World” due to its rolling hills and countless farms where stallions gallop and breeders raise the next champion. The iconic Kentucky Derby runs on the ﬁrst Saturday in May before a colossal crowd at famed Churchill Downs in Louisville.
Ready to play outside? Natural wonders include Mammoth Cave National Park, home to more than 400 miles of underground passages making it the longest cave system in the world. Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley in the southwestern region of the state are great places to kayak, sail, splash and play. In southeast Kentucky, the famed Red River Gorge is a rock climber’s and outdoor lover’s paradise.
Then there is bourbon. Kentucky is the prime producer of this internationally adored corn-based whiskey, making 95% of the world’s supply. Famous makers craft
From outdoor escapes, to horse racing fame, bourbon tours and everything in between, there’s an adventure waiting for you in Kentucky.
IS KENTUCKY’S HORSE HEADQUARTERS Ready for horsepower and horse play? Get close to horse racing’s stars at Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm. Share our love of all things equine at the 1,200-acre Kentucky Horse Park. See an automobile built from the ground up at the largest Toyota Manufacturing plant in the world. Uncover the unbridled fun of history, shopping, dining and small-town charm. georgetownky.com advertisement
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A WORLD OF HAPPINESS
In Italy, happiness is “dolce far niente,” sweet idleness: the second scoop of gelato, the strong caffè, the time with family and friends. To learn more about the Italian art of relaxation and to discover other countries’ takes on what makes life worth living, turn to page 42.
SIMPLE PLEASURES Hotels around the world are discovering that when it comes to sparking joy in travelers, sometimes less is more. by Lindsay Lambert Day
1. Santa Clara 1728
2. Kudadoo Maldives Private Island by Hurawalhi
Maldives Opened in the Lhaviyani Atoll last December, this allinclusive eco resort, with airy rooms framed by warmtoned woods, has 15 Japanese-inspired overwater villas, plus a bi-level spa and a restaurant. If the endless Indian Ocean vistas and uncrowded serenity don’t offer quite enough bliss, a deepbreathing session in Lonu Cave, the Maldives’ first Himalayan salt chamber, can do the trick. From $3,100. kuda doo.com
3. Sister City NYC
New York Guests checking in to this Lower East Side hotel won’t find anything in excess. There’s not even art on the walls. The first venture from Atelier Ace—the team behind the Ace Hotels—focuses on Scandinavianinspired spaces where furnishings fold up and out of the way. The lobby soundtrack is by musician Julianna Barwick, who created a system in which a camera on the roof captures images— sunlight, clouds, a passing bird—that trigger a mix of ambient sounds in real time. From $259. sistercitynyc.com
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: FRANCISCO NOGUEIRA, ADRIAN GAUT, COURTESY OF KUDADOO MALDIVES PRIVATE ISLAND RESORT
Lisbon, Portugal The six suites that occupy an 18thcentury residence in Lisbon’s old cultural quarter have linen curtains, gleaming white subway tiles, soothing gray walls, natural wood furnishings, and precious little else except peace and quiet. A communal dining table fosters intimate conversation among guests, and an interior garden offers a fine meditation space, perfect for reflecting on the well-loved landmarks—such as Santa Engrácia Church—that lie just minutes beyond the front door. From $451. silentliving.pt
Words donâ€™t do it justice.
Some things in life just canâ€™t be described. And to truly understand them, you must experience them yourself.
Join us for our 10th Anniversary on the beautiful Palos Verdes Peninsula, a hidden gem on the Los Angeles Coast.
4. Shou Sugi Ban House
5. Nobu Ryokan
Malibu, California Japanese ryokans helped to define minimalism in hospitality, but travelers don’t have to cross the Pacific in order to enjoy their spartan beauty. At this boutique inn, Japanese art accents 16 uncluttered guest rooms that open onto Carbon Beach or offer views of a Zen-inspired garden. Tranquility awaits in the teak soaking tubs and on the oceanfront Brazilian ipe-wood deck, an ideal spot to sip a cup of steaming green tea. From $2,000, two-night minimum. nobu ryokanmalibu.com
Mornington Peninsula, Australia Inky-black walls, black leather upholstery, and moody lighting converge at this dramatically dark retreat an hour south of Melbourne. The aesthetic is austere but not without luxurious touches, such as suites with panoramic vineyard views, private wine cellars, Japanese stone soaking tubs, and daily champagne and caviar service. The hotel’s art collection features globally recognized works, such as Random International’s Rain Room installation. From $471. jackalopehotels .com
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: COURTESY OF FREDRIKA STJÄRNE/SHOU SUGI BAN HOUSE, NICOLE FRANZEN (2), TREVOR TONDRO/OTTO
Water Mill, New York This three-acre spa and retreat is inspired by wabi sabi, the Japanese philosophy of embracing imperfection. A stay in one of the 13 tranquil rooms is an immersion in a wellness program that emphasizes seclusion, connection, and healing through nature. Noma cofounder and chef Mads Refslund crafted the inn’s seasonal, hyper-local, plant-forward menu. Three-day retreats from $4,650. shou sugibanhouse.com
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10 Reasons Why French Polynesia Makes Travelers Happy Simply uttering the names of Tahiti and Bora Bora is enough to trigger visions of idyllic tropical serenity. And the best way to make those visions a reality is on board the m/s Paul Gauguin—the highestrated and longest continually sailing luxury cruise ship in the South Pacific, built specifically to navigate these waters. Come celebrate the cruise line’s 10th anniversary and discover your own bliss in French Polynesia. 1. Scenery You’ll cruise through turquoise lagoons and pass craggy volcanic islands covered with lush tropical foliage that cascades down to perfectly white sandy beaches. 2. People Happy locals make for happy travelers—and you’ll find Tahitians to be genuinely warm, welcoming, and excited to make connections. 3. Wildlife Clear water provides a window to life undersea. Catch sight of beautiful creatures like dolphins, giant turtles, barracudas, and manta rays. 4. Private Islands The only thing better than a secluded island is
a private island, like Paul Gauguin Cruises’ Motu Mahana. Snorkel, kayak, dine, and relax among the solitude. 5. Family-Friendliness French Polynesia is perfect for the entire clan, especially with Paul Gauguin Cruises’ Moana Explorer program, which lets kids go on adventures with naturalists and enjoy fun activities. 6. Hub of Inspiration Paul Gauguin the artist was moved by the islands, as were others like Zane Grey and Robert Louis Stevenson. Come feel the inspiration for yourself. 7. Water Sports Warm tropical water makes this an activitylover’s paradise. Go snorkeling, diving,
standup paddleboarding, kayaking, and more. 8. Comfort and Service You’ll enjoy luxurious amenities, refined service, and expert guides aboard the m/s Paul Gauguin. 9. Culture The islands’ 3,000 years of history have brought forth amazing songs, dances, and craftsmanship. Explore the beautiful traditions of this rich culture. 10. Food Fresh-caught seafood is the basis for many Tahitian dishes, including its national dish, poisson cru. And don’t miss the amazing pineapples, either.
Come feel the happiness in French Polynesia with Paul Gauguin Cruises at
All-Inclusive TAH IT I FR EN CH P O LYN E SIA FIJ I S O UT H PACI FI C
We've got the cure for wanderlust
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For more information contact your Travel Advisor, call 877‒440‒6119, or visit pgcruises.com/AFAR
HOW TO TRAVEL HAPPIER
Whether it’s trying new things or appreciating our surroundings, we can all do more to connect with the places we visit. Here, two experts in happiness theory explain how to craft meaningful experiences and live your most fulfilling travel life.
Create Better Travel Memories Meik Wiking is an author and the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, a think tank based in Copenhagen. His newest book, The Art of Making Memories: How to Create and Remember Happy Moments (HarperCollins), is due out October 1. He shared his tips for cultivating joy while on the road and after you’ve returned home.—Lyndsey Matthews
1. Go to a new place every year “Travel is about being brought out of your routine,” Wiking says. “It’s experiencing new things, new culture, new food, new people. And that’s the quick route to [making] memories: novel experiences. There’s nothing wrong with going back to the same place over and over again. But if we want a trip to stand out and be memorable, we have to seek out new experiences.”
2. Leave your comfort zone The right kind of stress can help cement details in our memories. As Wiking explains, “People remember emotions. When they do something that frightens them a little bit, it gets the adrenaline pumping.”
3. Engage all your senses “Experiences that stimulate several senses have a better chance of making a memorable moment,” Wiking says. “Listening to stuff, smelling stuff, and tasting stuff— they are crucial memory triggers. Recording sound from a special place can help us remember it.”
4. Go ahead, buy that souvenir Objects that remind us of a time and place relieve our brains from having to remember everything. “It’s good to ‘outsource’ some of our memories—the photos, the soundtrack,” Wiking says. “Souvenirs are an easy fix. And I don’t mean a tacky Eiffel Tower; it can be a really nice vase you bought in Paris.”
5. End your trip on a high note Psychologist Daniel Kahneman developed the Peak-End Theory, which posits that we remember experiences by their most intense moment and how they ended. “So you might want to finish a trip on a high,” Wiking says. “For some, it might be [eating your last meal] at a luxury Michelin restaurant; for others, it might be skydiving.”
Plan Your Best Trip In 2018, Yale professor Laurie Santos launched “Psychology and the Good Life,” a course meant to help stressed-out students live happier, more satisfying lives. The class quickly became the most popular in the university’s history. The concepts Dr. Santos teaches in her twice-weekly lectures—mindfulness, slowing down, socializing—can also make you a happier traveler. —Aislyn Greene How do you put what you teach into practice on the road? When we travel, we’re not taking part in our routines, so it’s easy to try out new behaviors that can improve our well-being. We’re also faced with new places and experiences, so it’s often easier to be mindful and notice things. I try to savor the moment when I travel, because it’s easy to stay present in a new restaurant or place. I also like to savor the time affluence—free, unscheduled time—I get on trains and planes. I sometimes take breaks from work when I’m flying just to enjoy the time and be present. I like watching the world go by and paying attention. There’s nothing I have to get through on the plane the way I do in normal life.
Why is unscheduled free time so important to our well-being? There are studies showing that people who have unscheduled time, and who commit to unscheduled time, tend to be happier overall than people who don’t. Overly scheduled time can make us feel anxious. Unscheduled time allows us to have more of a journey. There’s also research suggesting that when we have more open time, we tend to be more social. When you’re running from meeting to meeting, you don’t take the time to talk to the barista at the coffee shop—and those simple social interactions bring well-being, too. And because social science shows that we’re happier when we connect with others, I try to talk to new people during my travels. When flying, I’ll talk to anybody who happens to be near me. Also, that time after you’ve landed and are waiting to get off the plane can be super boring, but having a little social interaction with somebody can really make the time fly by and make it more enjoyable. How do you suss out if people want to talk or not? There’s a study coauthored by behavioral scientist Nicholas Epley called Mistakenly Seeking Solitude, which examines the idea that people think that no one’s going to want to talk to them. But, in practice, people do want to talk to you—and they find it really enjoyable. It’s another one of these cases where our mind lies to us about the things we need. We think, “Oh, talking to this person
next to me will be awkward or it won’t be that fun,” but in fact that’s just a mis-prediction. It’s always better than we expect.
and they’re on their phone, seemingly checking email. I want to say, You’re missing it. Don’t miss it.
How would you describe the American attitude toward free time? And how does it compare to other countries’? Americans seem to hate time affluence. As a country, we developed along the Protestant work ethic [which emphasizes industry and discipline]. Even people like Benjamin Franklin were kind of angry about people who were idle—they almost saw it as a sin. But the psychological data shows that’s an incorrect notion: You get a lot more out of free time than you expect. Going abroad can make you realize how much more it is valued in other countries. So when you’re traveling, try to drop that American mind-set. Linger a little longer in that restaurant, or take a siesta break.
Why do you think Americans tend to overpack their travel itineraries? Part of it is that we think we’re going to miss something. What we forget is that serendipity is what we’re really missing—it’s the things that aren’t on our itinerary that are important.
When you observe other travelers, what advice do you want to give them? You try not to do it in a judgmental way, right? But I definitely see people who I think are doing it wrong [laughs]. You’ve seen it: People are at this beautiful beach,
I feel like social media really gave rise to that: FOMO, as well as people wanting to visit the places they’ve seen on Instagram. Do you have any advice for combating that? My husband’s uncle was in town, and he’d recently visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He said it’s hard to get close to the tower, or even see it, because hundreds of people are around it, pretending to push it for their Instagram posts. And it’s like, really? Does every single person who goes to Pisa need that photo? When you’re taking that, you might be missing the accents around you, or the smell, or other things. Photos can enhance our memories of an experience, but we miss out on all the stuff we’re not taking the photo of—things that can be some of the most powerful parts of the experience.
ILLUSTRATIONS BY CLARE MALLISON
A ROAD MAP TO HAPPINESS
What makes people satisfied is different in every culture. Your passport can be a tool for understanding those unique types of contentment. In her new book The Atlas of Happiness: The Global Secrets of How to Be Happy, U.K.-born, Denmark-based author Helen Russell takes readers on a roundthe-world trip—not to the usual tourist attractions but through distinct concepts of happiness that have evolved in 30 countries. She illustrates each via locals’ personal experiences. Here, Russell walks us through five of the book’s lesser-known— and often misunderstood—happiness ideologies, with practical advice for channeling them on your next trip. 42
1. Azart What it is: “Russia is a tough,
cold place, so Russians grab at happiness with both hands,” Russell says. Azart (or “ardor”) is the burning urge to lunge at everything life throws your way, no matter the consequences.
How to find it: “[In Russia]
there’s this idea that you’re seeking heat all the time,” Russell says. That desire combines with a willingness to suffer, which explains Russian bathhouse culture. A bathhouse session is not only about sweating pro-
fusely but also about smacking yourself with birch twigs and running outside afterward to cover yourself in snow. The Yamskiye Bani bathhouse in St. Petersburg, said to have been frequented by Dostoyevsky and Lenin, is a good place for travelers to start. Russians also chase heat in conversation: They skip the small talk and immediately dive deep. In their homes they call this posidelki, or “kitchen talks.” Vodka can help facilitate the kind of noB.S. conversations Russians seek and excel at. As travelers are not likely to be spontaneously invited
into a stranger’s kitchen, they can shoot for razgovory v poezde, or “train talks.” And not on just any train—the Trans-Siberian Railway, where everyone is crammed together on a multiday journey across the sprawling route, sharing food, sharing space, and swapping stories. It’s a surefire way to experience the distinctly Russian combination of excitement, risk-taking, and suffering that leads to happiness. “It’s hard to explain,” Russell says. “It’s not a comfy, cozy kind of feeling. [It’s] more like you feel really alive.”
ELENA CHERNYSHOVA/PANOS PICTURES
by Billie Cohen
bermuda is a water wonderland Whether you’re playing golf, having dinner, or just walking around, the shimmering Atlantic that surrounds Bermuda is a constant companion. Here’s how to enjoy. Beaches. Bermuda’s famous stretches of pink sand are perfect for activities like swimming, catching sunsets, and doing yoga. See four gorgeous beaches by following the dramatic South Shore walking trail from worldfamous Horseshoe Bay Beach to Warwick Long Bay Beach.
Water sports. Get the adrenaline ﬂowing with kiteboarding, jet-skiing, parasailing, ﬂyboarding, stand-up paddleboarding, and kayaking. Snorkelers and scuba divers can look for 300-plus sunken vessels, as well as sea turtles and spotted eagle rays.
tradition—or go out for a sunset party cruise.
Dining. Add an ocean view to Bermuda’s world-class cuisine. Enjoy fresh snapper surrounded by panoramic windows at star chef Marcus Samuelsson’s upscale restaurant Marcus’. Or sit down to authentic Bermudian Boating. Anglers can sample some of the best deep- ﬁsh chowder at local favorite sea ﬁshing in the Atlantic while Wahoo’s and soak up the vista from its waterfront patio. casting for marlin, blueﬁn tuna, and wahoo. You can also go sailing—a favorite local
Hiking/Biking With a View. Take in stunning ocean views by traversing the 18-mile Railway Trail. This abandoned railbed, revamped and designated a national park, winds past stunning rocky coastline. Check out more amazing adventures at GoToBermuda.com.
OUT HERE, INTRIGUE IS ALWAYS IN SEASON. Warm breezes and turquoise waters are calling this fall. Escape the hustle for tranquil trails and secluded beaches. All just a 2-hour ï¬‚ight from the East Coast.
2. Wabi Sabi What it is: Wabi translates to
“simplicity” and sabi means “the beauty of age and wear.” Together, they convey the idea that happiness is achieved by appreciating imperfection and transience. Observing the changes of the natural world— growth as well as decay—is one way to tune in to wabi sabi. How to find it: “Wabi sabi is a tool to reset ourselves,” Russell says. We can’t change that we are busy and stressed, but we can take time to recharge in nature. Forest bathing is such a respected activity in Japan, there’s an online database of prime spots (fosociety.jp). Bathing in an onsen is another way to unwind. In the Shirahama hot spring resort area in Wakayama Prefecture, visitors can muse on time and nature at the centuries-old openair baths. In the capital, travelers can catch their breath at the Institute for Nature Study, a Tokyo park where creeks wind though tree-covered vales.
have coined the phrase, which means “joy of living,” but Canadians are better at finding joy in everything. It doesn’t matter how much snow is on the ground or how far they have to drive, Canadians’ particular brand of joie de vivre says, we’re open to anything, anyone, and any weather—we’ll try it all. How to find it: Start in Montreal, the City of Festivals. Grab a beer and study the Québécois approach to celebrations: Here, events aren’t cozy or small. They sprawl across the city, and locals fill the streets for every imaginable reason—jazz, heavy metal, grand prix, Pride, poutine. Then there’s our northern neighbors’ openness to embracing the outdoors in all seasons and for all activities. Russell laughs and explains: “I couldn’t find any statistics on it, but every Canadian I talked to [about where to find joie de vivre] was like ‘ice hockey and, oh yeah, canoe sex.’ ”
3. Joie de Vivre What it is: The French may
Beautiful with a Chance of Perfect Things are warm and wonderful on the gracious side of Diamond Head. The Kahala is a secluded, private world, only minutes from the excitement of Waikiki and all that Honolulu has to offer. No wonder experienced travelers who spend time with us once choose to do so again.
live the kahala life
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Kaha l aRe s ort .com
4. Dolce Far Niente What it is: “Dolce far niente, or
the sweetness of doing nothing, is about savoring the moment,” Russell says. “Rather than fretting about big issues, Italians laugh at the chaos of the world and say, ‘Who cares?’ They let it wash over them and focus instead on creating moments of bliss that are within their control.” How to find it: Although the phrase for happy languor is not commonly used by Italians, the attitude is widespread: It means eating decadently, going for 5 o’clock drinks religiously, and 48
not letting work take over your life. The point is to savor doing nothing of importance. Russell’s suggestions: Linger over coffee and a cornetto in Rome’s Centro Storico; eat a second helping of fettuccine with artichokes and pecorino at Flavio al Velavevodetto restaurant; and then relax into the abbiocco, that post-meal drowsiness. As Russell points out, “The sweetness of doing nothing is that it’s passive. You’re just letting life happen and enjoying that, and it feels quite revolutionary.”
5. Pura Vida What it is: Pura vida, or pure life,
is not just a tourism marketing slogan. It’s an embodiment of the concrete steps Costa Ricans have taken to prioritize what’s important to them. In Costa Rica, the government funds education, health care, and conservation instead of a military, and family and friends come first. How to find it: Pura vida is accessible to visitors because socializing is such an important part of the culture. “When a Costa Rican meets you for the first time, they’ll be friendly,” Russell
says. “The second time you meet, they’re hugging you, and the third time you’re friends for life.” Beaches are ideal spots to find new friends. “If you go surfing, you are bound to start a conversation with like-minded people,” she says. Bars offer similarly social atmospheres, so Russell recommends grabbing some chifrijo (a classic Costa Rican bar snack of rice, beans, and crispy pork) and making conversation. As she says, “To come to grips with the culture here, you have to get into an open-hearted state.”
Young Italian men find their dolce far niente by jumping from the Scala dei Turchi cliff on the Realmonte coast in southern Sicily.
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DISNEY FOR GROWN-UPS
How midcentury design lovers, gastronomes, and, now, Jedi masters can find their happy place in the Happiest Place on Earth.
Elevate Your Eats Disneyland’s most famous snacks may be Dole Whips and churros, but what some visitors don’t know is that the menus have expanded beyond traditional theme park fare. Visitors can now find lobster
Dial in on Design When Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California, in 1955, the style we now call midcentury modern was all the rage. Many of those retro touches remain. After entering the park and passing under a plaque that begins here you leave today, check out vintage posters for such classic rides as Jungle Cruise, Matterhorn Bobsleds, and Autopia. Take a dizzying spin in a 50
cup on Mad Tea Party, a ride that sports the same clean lines and pastel hues that it did on opening day; drift by boat through It’s a Small World to revel in mid-mod sunbursts and geometric designs; or glimpse a nuclear family of superheroes as you shoot through neonlit tunnels on the Incredicoaster ride at Disney’s California Adventure, the theme park across the plaza from Disneyland.
Use the Force Marvel at a full-size replica of the Millennium Falcon, dodge a Stormtrooper, or build a functional R2D2-style droid at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Immersive Star Wars–themed park expansions recently opened in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Instead of marquees broadcasting where lightsabers
mac-and-cheese at Harbour Galley outside Haunted Mansion, pork belly skewers with shredded daikon at the Bengal Barbecue on the way to Indiana Jones Adventure, and a hockey puck– size French macaron filled with raspberry
mousse and fresh berries from Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe at the end of Main Street, U.S.A. Guests can also head to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and try Braised Shaak Roast (pot roast and kale on cavatelli pasta) with a glass of blue milk.
and food are sold, spare signage written in Aurebesh (the fictional language of the Star Wars universe) requires guests to translate the text with the Play Disney Parks mobile app. Or they can just duck inside to
see what surprises await. Whether piloting the ship on the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run ride or telling a Stormtrooper where to find a fugitive rebel, you are more than a visitor here—you are a de facto citizen.
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1: MARIAH TYLER, KARYN MILLET. 2: RACHAEL WRIGHT, ANGELICA VASQUEZ, LUKE & RICH, COURTESY OF KENT PHILLIPS/DISNEY PARKS, N AZLIN SHA/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM. 3: KURT SIMONSON, STEFANO BUTTAFOCO/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM, COURTESY OF JOSHUA SUDOCK/DISNEY PARKS, COURTESY OF RICHARD HARBAUGH/DISNEY PARKS, COURTESY OF DAVID ROARK/DISNEY PARKS, NICOLE ANTONIO.
by Nicole Antonio
Death Valley is a misnomer for one of the friendliest, most stunning destinations in the West. Outdoor enthusiasts, hikers, and travelers looking to immerse themselves in the beauty of an otherworldly landscape will revel in the magic of this photographer’s paradise. From a stretch of pink- and goldcolored mountains known as Artist’s Palette to miles of mesquite sand dunes, colors are alive in Death Valley. Nestled in the heart of this vast desert is The Oasis at Death Valley, a lush resort that blends authenticity with tranquility. Formerly known as Furnace Creek Resort, one of Death Valley’s best-kept secrets has been completely reinvigorated by a well-deserved $100 million renovation, infusing this historic property with fresh energy. An elegant hideaway since 1927, the resort’s Four Diamond Inn at Death Valley is the perfect place to restore your senses as you relax near the always87-degree spring-fed pool, stroll through the palm gardens, or enjoy a cocktail on the Stargazer’s Deck. This luxurious escape blends seamlessly with its natural surroundings, thanks to a new wellness area and dining room, as well as guest rooms that complement the tranquil atmosphere. The grounds, too, have been transformed to highlight the resort’s sweeping views of Death Valley National Park, while towering date palms infuse the air with a calming scent. Your ideal trip may involve exploring the area’s dramatic topography, from Death Valley’s salt ﬂats and chiseled canyons to Badwater—the lowest point in the Americas. After a hike, relax back at The Inn with a swim, sauna, and massage at the new spa. Your senses are sure to emerge with as strong a feeling of renewal as the newly revitalized Oasis at Death Valley. Plan your stay at oasisatdeathvalley.com
IN THE MIDDLE OF
YOU’D RATHER BE.
You don’t come to Death Valley because abundant life ﬂ ourishes here. Which is exactly why a 4-diamond resort in the middle of it is so special. Join us to experience two unique hotels in one amazing location: North America’s only authentic desert oasis.
connect S ep temb er/O c tob er 20 19
Tokyo takes its coffee seriously—and nowhere more so than at Café Bach, a traditional coffee shop known as a kissaten. For the past 50 years, the café has specialized solely in pour-over coffee made with beans sourced from around the world. Turn to page 81 to discover how this dedication inspired one of America’s biggest coffee brands. PHOTOGRAPH BY KO SASAKI
s i h t o t d e s u t I could ge . s s e n i p p a h f kind o THERE ARE MANY LANGUAGES IN THE WORLD. OUR SMILE SPEAKS THEM ALL.
In northern Switzerland, travelers can learn the secrets to what makes great watches tick. by Victoria Gomelsky
the Swiss city of Schaffhausen go to explore the Old Town—a bastion of baroque, rococo, and late Gothic architecture on the Rhine River—or to see Rhine Falls, Europe’s largest waterfall, which is just a few miles south of town. Watch lovers, however, may recognize the city of 36,000—a 40-minute train ride north of Zurich—as the home of the 151-yearold International Watch Company, or IWC. One of Switzerland’s venerable horological brands, IWC was founded in 1868 by Florentine Ariosto Jones, an American watchmaker eager to manufacture components for pocket watches using Swiss technology and the river’s hydropower. The company still maintains its headquarters in the riverside building Jones built years after arriving in Schaffhausen. Located a short walk from the Old Town, the four-story HQ also houses the IWC OST TRAVELERS TO
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ÉRIVER HIJANO
Museum, where a display of the company’s timepieces—beloved by watch connoisseurs for their elegant, minimalist aesthetic—offers an intriguing lens on Switzerland’s role in 20th-century history: Oversize wristwatches designed for pilots share space with a replica of a pocket watch gifted to Winston Churchill, along with a letter he wrote in 1945, thanking IWC for “the very fine gold watch which you have so kindly given me for my 70th birthday.” Travelers can book a full-day tour of the watchmaking operation, which begins at the museum before moving on to the main event: a visit to the $43 million manufacturing center, SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019
located on Schaffhausen’s outskirts and Visitors enter the two-story 145,000opened last year to coincide with the watchsquare-foot facility through a high-ceilinged maker’s 150th anniversary. lobby composed of steel, glass, and concrete. Most Swiss watch brands secure their The contemporary vibe belies the old-fashworkshops like nuclear weapons labs. At the ioned technology powering the company’s new facility, IWC is intent on doing the oppowatches, represented in the entrance hall by a site. “We’re looking forward to welcoming 30-foot-high model of IWC’s groundbreaking 10,000 guests a year and giving them the inperpetual calendar wristwatch. The timepiece, depth experience of how our watches are which requires no adjustment until the year made,” says CEO Christoph Grainger-Herr, 2499, was created in 1985 by Kurt Klaus, the a former architect who helped master watchmaker who, at age design the new building. It takes 84, continues to serve as a brand only 10 minutes to drive to the spokesperson. Clockwise from top left: new factory from the city center, The next stop on the tour is An IWC customer; a watch component; the but when you see its soaring modthe ground-level small-parts 16th-century Munot ernist frame, which rises from workshop, where computerized Fortress looks down the countryside like a gleaming machines that resemble Brobon Schaffhausen; a worker at the new manluxury yacht cresting a grassdingnagian kitchen appliances ufacturing center; the green wave, you feel as if you’ve carry out the bulk of IWC’s autocenter’s lobby; a boat nearing Rhine Falls. leapt centuries forward in time. mated production. Machines 58
here make some 1,500 parts out of brass, steel, and copper, including bridges, oscillating weights, levers, and springs—the tiny components that, working in unison, create and release enough energy to push the hands of a watch around the dial, or face, with reassuring precision. Once assembled, these parts are known as a movement or a caliber. Movements will eventually be fitted onto metal discs known as movement base plates, which are also made in the small-parts workshop. But first the plates will be shuttled to the decoration department, where engravers and stone setters adorn the metal discs using centuries-old artisanal techniques such as perlage, a process of creating a series of fine overlapping circles, or Côtes de Genève, grooves that give the appearance of vertical stripes. Even though these decorative elements embellish the insides of the watch, and may be visible only through a small crystal opening on the back, the amount of time devoted to their finishing helps explain why IWC watches retail from $4,600 to $220,000 (and even more for customized timepieces).
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connect workshop In the movement-assembly room, automation gives way to hands-on labor. This is where all those parts are put together—a job still too complex for computers. Before entering the vast space, workers must pass through a blindingly white room that looks like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey, where they change shoes— Clockwise from left: A watchmaker uses Birkenstocks appear the perlage technique to be a favorite—and to decorate a movedon white lab coats. ment plate; employees must change shoes (Face powder is before entering sensverboten—“because itive areas; the new dust particles in the manufacturing center. movement are a big enemy in watchmaking,” says tour guide Jutta Haeller.) They then settle into one of the many stations on the assembly line (anywhere from 10 to 30, depending on the watch being produced). Each specialist wears a loupe strapped over one eye, pirate-style. As the movement makes its way down the line, each specialist painstakingly sets watch pins or oils components. It takes as many as 30 people to build
even one beating heart, which may go on to power models such as the Portugieser, one of the brand’s most iconic timepieces. Meanwhile, a flurry of activity is taking place in the basement, where workers make the cases that will hold the finished movements by molding rods of metal—gold, steel, platinum, bronze, titanium, or a newfangled alloy known as ceratanium—into round or tonneau forms. Then the movements and cases are sent back to headquarters in central Schaffhausen, where employees fasten on hands and dials, mount the movements into cases, and prepare the watches for their final
inspection. The last step? Attaching straps. In a world where digital devices are favored, IWC has maintained its foothold by mixing its traditional technology with more modern designs, always with an eye to how those designs will weather the years. For example, the company’s new pilot watch, developed in partnership with wristwatch publication and e-commerce site Hodinkee, is a contemporary take on an IWC classic. “For us not to be too fashionable but to stay at the forefront of innovation—it’s a careful balancing act,” Grainger-Herr says. “We’re in an industry dealing with eternity.”
How to Visit the IWC Factory Take a train from Zurich to Schaffhausen, usually a 40-minute ride, and walk 10 minutes to Baumgartenstrasse 15. IWC is open
Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. A full-day tour begins at its city center headquarters. Visitors can register for tours—which
include a guide and gift bag—by emailing email@example.com. Individuals can join tours held on select Fridays (dependent on bookings) for 150
Swiss francs (about US$151). Groups of up to 12 people can book their own tour for 600 Swiss francs (about US$605). iwc.com
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FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES
JOE SCHERSCHEL/THE LIFE PICTURE COLLECTION VIA GETTY IMAGES
Novelist Jacqueline Winspear and her roommate Corinne clicked on their very first training day as flight attendants. Once they started traveling together, their friendship really took off.
Heraklion, the largest city in Crete, fizzy with the excitement of being in a new place. Corinne, my flatmate, and I had no plans, not even a guidebook. The year was 1978, and we’d chosen our destination at random, drawing upon our perks as flight attendants. Just six hours earlier, we had arrived at London’s Gatwick Airport with nothing but one bag each and a week’s vacation. Within 15 minutes, we had chosen our destination, received our tickets, and headed for the gate. Now, as we walked out into the sunshine, we were about to do what we’d done from the moment we’d begun traveling together: Wing it. I’d met Corinne on our first day of training to be flight attendants. I was 21, fresh out of college in London, with a desire to see the world. As an insolvent graduate, I wanted someone else to pay for the travel, so I searched for employment that would meet the demands of my wanderlust. Corinne had been working a desk job for the travel agency Thomas Cook and was experiencing that same urge to seek adventure minus the cost. So, there we were, one day learning how to serve coffee without scalding a passenger and the next launching ourselves down emergency slides into a swimming pool. We also learned that, should an aircraft crash in the Arctic Circle, eating polar bear liver was to be avoided—it’s highly toxic. I remember glancing across the room of young women in red-and-black uniforms, wondering if I was the only person suppressing laughter. Everyone else was taking notes—and then I caught Corinne’s eye. We both started to giggle, and I knew that she, too, was visualizing herself in wild pursuit of a polar bear somewhere in the Arctic. We found a flat together near our base at Gatwick, and from our first flight we knew that travel together would be a blast. It was evident the moment we dropped a box containing 30 airline meals while trying to secure it in a locker. Most new flight attendants would have been mortified, but we couldn’t stop laughing as we scraped lurid red Jell-O off individual servings of chicken and coleslaw. After discovering that for many air crew, being “down route” meant hanging out in a bar— which didn’t appeal to either of us—we started requesting matching flight schedules so we’d have someone to adventure with in a new city. E L ANDED ON
On that first afternoon in Crete, we ambled around Agios Nikolaos, watching locals prepare for the Easter holiday as the sun beat down on whitewashed houses and market stalls dense with fresh produce and olive oil. We stopped to watch women clustered around the back of a van, waiting while two men brought out a fresh tuna and began chopping away with a cleaver. We moved on, listening to the holiday buzz in the air, people calling out to each other. As dusk fell and the traders began to pack up, we thought we’d stop at a tavern for a bite to eat and a glass of wine. We’d only just sat down when two men settled in beside us and introduced themselves as Greek shipping magnates. Shipping magnates? We weren’t falling for that story. It became clear that they were trying to separate us. We exchanged glances, and I knew Corinne was feeling the same discomfort. It was time to leave. Five, by the door. From the time we became flatmates, there was always a party to go to in London, but we’d made a rule that we would always leave together, and that as soon as one of us wanted to leave, we would both go. And we had our special signal: Whoever wanted to depart first would catch the other’s eye and hold up a hand, fingers splayed, then give a nod toward the exit. That meant, “Five minutes, by the door.” Then we would chug home in my old blue VW Beetle, the car I had to park facing downhill in case I needed to pop the clutch to start it.
In the noisy tavern, I nodded toward the ladies’ room and told the “shipping magnate” that I would be back in a minute. Weaving through a cluster of people, I detoured toward the exit, where Corinne joined me. “These Greek blokes are all on the make,” Corinne said. As we walked away from the tavern, we heard one of the men shout after us, and then they moved in our direction. It was dark now, but we acted fast. I looked back and saw them pulling out a scooter. There was a staircase leading to the beach a few yards away, so we ran and clambered down, hiding in the lee of the seawall, listening as the men zoomed back and forth on their scooter along the road above, searching for us. When all was quiet, we felt confident enough to emerge from our hiding place, freezing cold. As soon as we were back at our guesthouse, the peril behind us, we laughed until we cried. It was in Crete that I realized just how good Corinne was at getting free stuff, a skill that has continued to serve us well. (My skill? I’m the one who remembers the way back to a hotel after a walkabout—or after hiding under a seawall.) Corinne had met a lovely British woman who owned a hotel with her husband and who had invited us to use the pool and enjoy a free lunch. Great! Except that, in return for this golden opportunity, Corinne had volunteered us to be “models” for a photographer working on the new hotel brochure. This
Now, as we walked out into the sunshine, we were about to do what we’d done from the moment we’d begun traveling together: Wing it.
entailed Corinne languishing on a sun lounger with a cocktail in hand, while I throttled back and forth in the pool, looking up only when the photographer yelled, “Smile, Jackie!” We set ourselves a limit of only two years in the air before we’d figure out what we really wanted to do in life. In the meantime, we made the most of our benefits, traveling throughout Canada, the United States, the Caribbean, and Europe, as well as venturing to other parts of Britain, becoming travelers in our own country. Inevitably, we transitioned to our chosen careers, immersing ourselves in work that left little opportunity to travel. In time, I would move more than 5,000 miles away to live in California, and Corinne and her husband would raise two daughters in Yorkshire, England. Yet at some point we resumed traveling together, slipping into our old pattern with ease, planning trips without any dithering or dissent. Corinne is better at finding hotels we like, and I’m good with flights—15 minutes after we decided on four days in Marrakech, everything was booked. And that’s when we dusted off a pact we’d made in our early 20s—in an insouciant moment, we’d promised that, when we reached the grand old age of 60, we would commit to a travel adventure every year until we could no longer drag ourselves aboard an aircraft, train, ship, or bus. Time whipped around, and in 2015, soon after we entered our 60s, we traveled to Costa Rica, followed by Alaska the next year, and then Kenya, a place we’d dreamed of visiting for years. As the small aircraft circled a rough landing strip on Kenya’s Maasai Mara, I nudged Corinne to look out the window. A boy on a motorbike was racing around the grassy area, driving away grazing antelope so we could land. We were on our way to Mahali Mzuri, the tent retreat founded by Sir Richard Branson. Every day seemed to thrill us more than the day before, as Betty—one of only a handful of female guides working on the Mara—took us out on safari. Over dinner each evening, The late photojournalwith the calling of ist Joe Scherschel capwild animals in the tured these images of Eastern Airlines flight distance, we slipped attendants while on into reminiscing. assignment in Puerto Rico in 1958. Perhaps it was 66
being in Africa that made us reflect upon those early days of clambering aboard planes, ready to go wherever a free ticket might take us. We talked about what we had hoped for when we embarked on our travels years ago. We had a desire to learn more about the world and its people, to experience wildly different places that would force us to grow as we gained knowledge of cultures beyond our own. Along the way, we learned to be worthy travel companions—and to respect each other’s needs and preferences. I’ve long since forgiven Corinne for using the hair dryer several times each day, and I know she tolerates my need to sit as close
to the front of an aircraft as possible. On the day we left the Mara, we watched the boy on his bike shooing away antelope so our aircraft could whisk us away from a land we didn’t want to leave. But we knew that we would be traveling again soon, honoring an intention forged all those years ago: to render life as big as we could possibly make it. Jacqueline Winspear is the author of the best-selling Maisie Dobbs series. The 15th and latest book in the series, The American Agent (HarperCollins), was released in March 2019. This is her first story for AFAR.
JOE SCHERSCHEL/THE LIFE PICTURE COLLECTION VIA GETTY IMAGES
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Fashion designer Theodore Elyett finds inspiration in the Bahamas’ rich history, colorful architecture, and culture of entrepreneurship.
as told to Ashlea Halpern
and raised in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. Art and fashion were always important to my family. My dad painted and drew as a hobby, and my mom ran a sewing factory. Every day after school, my mom or dad would pick me and my older sisters up and take us to the factory. I was eight years old when I made my first dress. I used a heat-press machine to put a tiger face decal on the front of it and gave it to my sister, but it didn’t fit, because I didn’t know anything about body measurements. I eventually learned how to sew through trial and error and by watching my mom and her employees. WA S BORN
PHOTOGRAPHS BY MELISSA ALCENA
My grandmother used to sew as well, and every summer my sisters and I would use her fabric scraps to put on a fashion show. My professional career started at age 13, when I designed a dress for my best friend, who was entering a modeling competition. The costume was made with the same burlap used to create coconut sacks, and it was inspired by Junkanoo, a big part of Bahamian culture. It goes back to the slavery period, when [plantation owners] would give their slaves time off around Boxing Day and New Year’s Day and [the enslaved African Bahamians] would have a parade. We still celebrate it. And that’s how my career took off—some girls in the Miss Bahamas pageant saw that design and hired me to make their costumes. Growing up in the Bahamas definitely influenced my aesthetic as a designer. Island
life moves me. My inspiration comes from the beach, the waves, the bougainvillea and other vegetation, and just the warmth and friendliness of the Bahamian people. Sometimes I pass certain buildings and the color coordination inspires me because the homes are painted in such vibrant colors: orange and yellow, lime green and blue. Of course, the Bahamas have changed a lot since my childhood. The islands used to be more laid-back, with smaller-scale boutique resorts. At Bon Vivants, a café and bar in the You could walk into Bahamian capital any home and the of Nassau, fashion designer Theodore doors would be unElyett settles in locked. I worry about to enjoy his favorite the Bahamas losing drink: a double-shot mocha. their boutique feel, because that’s what differentiates us from the rest of the Caribbean. That, and the fact that we have 700 islands and cays, each with its own special features. Another great thing about living here is the ease of doing business. In school and in family life, you’re taught to become an entrepreneur. Even people who have a nine-to-five job still run a small side business, hoping to go full-on with it one day. So the landscape is very conducive to owning your own company. I’m an entrepreneur from small beginnings, but I aspire to become a global player in the fashion industry—like Oscar de la Renta. He comes from an island nation [Dominican Republic], yet he’s sold in Bergdorf Goodman. As a young person working in fashion, it was my dream to go to New York or Paris. But I’ve come to the realization that it doesn’t matter where you are in the world; if you’re talented, people will find you. I’ve showcased in Beijing. And last year, I joined the artistin-residency program at Baha Mar, a new resort in the Bahamas. There were sculptors, painters, and poets, but I was the first fashion designer. Guests would tour the art gallery and then visit with the artists in their studios. It was an amazing experience. I’ve also had the opportunity to showcase a gown in London, representing the Bahamas in the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange Program! So I don’t feel that I’m at a disadvantage anymore. SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019
“Each of the three hotels here is distinct. The Rosewood is luxurious and sophisticated. The SLS is fun and youthful. Its Skybar is very New York. And the Grand Hyatt has the most relaxing pools and bars—the Swimming Pig pub was named for the Bahamas’ famous swimming pigs.”
John Watling’s Distillery
John Watling’s Distillery
“The rum is very smooth, and drinking it is a prideful experience, because you know it’s made here. I also love the beauty of the landscaped grounds and the colonial architecture, [which dates back to 1879]. And they have chickens roaming the property!”
“A large stretch of Love Beach is easily accessible to the public, but keep an eye out for the dirt road: It leads to a secluded area with the most crystal-clear waters you’ve ever seen. It’s good for swimming and snorkeling, or just putting your towel down and relaxing.”
John Watling’s Distillery
The Queen’s Staircase
“These 66 steps are one of the big attractions in Nassau. I’ve seen people do photo shoots there and once saw a Bahamian couple stage their wedding on the staircase. Climb the stairs, and then walk to Graycliff Hotel and Restaurant for chocolatemaking and cigar-rolling tours.”
The Queen’s Staircase
“Shima is a [Southeast Asian– style] restaurant atop the Island House hotel. When I do dinner here, my favorite things to get are the green papaya salad, the shrimp-fried rice, and barbecued salmon, served on a banana leaf. For brunch, try the avocado toast topped with snow peas.”
Louis and Steen’s
Louis and Steen’s
“At this laid-back, New Orleans– inspired coffeehouse, the majority of the seating is outside so you can take in the ocean view. When you walk in, it feels like the staff is welcoming you into their home. The Ethiopian rose latte with oat milk is amazing; I also like the sweet potato pancakes.”
“They are open all day for coffee, with upscale cocktails at night. I like the turmeric latte and the tonic with espresso. And as an aesthete, I love their attention to detail: the wallpaper, the authentic Bahamian fans on the veranda, even the lemonverbena scent in the bathroom.”
Bahama Hand Prints
“The prints are inspired by the Bahamas’ many islands: a ripple on the ocean floor, palm leaves, a horse-and-carriage ride through the city of Nassau. The shop sells fabric by the bolt or the yard, as well as ready-to-wear pieces, pillows, totes, handbags, and other items.”
Bahama Hand Prints
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connect spin the globe
In the flamenco clubs, soaring basilicas, and peaceful plazas of Spain, author Mira T. Lee rediscovers sides of herself that she thought she had lost forever.
six months of anticipation, alternating between excitement and dread, but when I receive my Spin the Globe assignment, I’m ecstatic: MADRID. “Maybe you’ll see Ferdinand!” says my six-year-old, referring to the pacifist bull from Munro Leaf ’s famous picture book, the one who likes to “sit just quietly and smell the flowers.” Within minutes I’m flooded with recommendations from my friends on Facebook: This museum, that market, best churros con chocolate at this café! Don’t miss the Goyas, the pulpo (octopus), the Iberian pork, and go find Tío Pepe. . . . I ride this tidal wave of enthusiasm, but part of me soon wonders if I would’ve been better off just winging it. Spontaneity is romantic, fun, adventurous—at least, that’s what I recall. But it has been 18 years since I last traveled alone in a foreign country. Things have changed. Back in 2001, I was single, a graphic designer, a late-night creature who played drums in various jazz and pop bands. Thanks to a two-month T HA S BEEN
ILLUSTRATIONS BY EMILIANO PONZI
solo trip to Costa Rica, I was also in the grip of a burgeoning salsa dancing addiction, and between gigging, dancing, and my valiant efforts to take part in Boston’s dating scene, I was out three, four, five nights a week. Today, I’m a writer, married, with two small children. I do none of those things that once filled my days and nights. By 9 p.m. I’m often prone on the couch, or happily curled up in bed with a book. When the kids were babies, this wasn’t a choice. I was that tired. Now that they’re older, I could experience Boston’s culture and nightlife again, but I find I mostly don’t feel like it. This is not something I disclose with regret or even wistfulness. Though sometimes I do wonder: How many parts of your identity can you lose before you lose yourself ? Over the past decade, motherhood has transformed my life into . . . clutter. The house, the car, the laptop, the desk, but most of all, my jumbled head, where I carry a clichéd checklist of parental tasks: buy this, sign this, schedule this, pay this. I’m eternally busy, planning and SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019
connect spin the globe managing an endless stream of chores—yet none of it feels important enough to warrant the energy it consumes. The volume of this mental load becomes apparent when I try to extricate myself for my seven-day trip. With no family to call upon, I beg fellow parents for favors, juggling who can take which kid to which soccer practice or birthday party, who’s available to meet the bus. Each time I’m certain every detail has been arranged, some other minutia pops up, leaving me frazzled and feeling hopelessly incompetent. “This trip is almost not worth it,” I confide to friends (a statement that confounds everyone except mothers of young children, who nod). Almost.
T ’S 7 A .M. WHEN I land in Spain and pitch black outside. The airport is quiet. I find my way to the Metro, emerge from the underground an hour later at Puerta del Sol, and am greeted by Madrid. I’m struck by the sky, dawn’s watery hues, the plaza deserted except for workers in fluorescent yellow vests emptying garbage bins. Tío Pepe, it turns out, is a 27-foot-tall neon image of a sombrerowearing beer bottle, ready to party, though at this hour, the city center still belongs to its calm sounds: the squabble of pigeons, the low idle of a van delivering Coca-Cola to the bodega, the swish of a broom outside a bakery. I pass by a shop devoted to jamón (ham), another advertising fried calamari sandwiches (initially, I mistake them for onion rings), a curious store window filled with potato chips. The sun climbs higher, illuminating the facades of Plaza Mayor, the lustrous tiers of Juliet balconies in the alleyways. But the only bustle I find is at El Kinze de Cuchilleros, an old-school barbershop where a line of white-haired customers already sits in wait. As stores begin to open, I forge on. I come across Home Ideal, an indoor bazaar that draws me in with its dense array of plastic flowers and keeps me intrigued with its 12 varieties of vegetable peelers, 16 styles of tutus, 30 kinds of insoles, hundreds of different-colored shoelaces. By late morning, the city is fully awake. Thanks to Google Maps, it’s now impossible to get lost, but as one small dot on one small screen, I also never quite know where I am. I wind from Centro to Lavapiés, but whether my hotel lies to the north or south, I couldn’t say. Best thing about a trip planned in haste: I have no preconceived notions of what my must-sees actually look like. After checking in at my hotel and visiting a bakery, I enter Retiro Park, the Central Park of Madrid, where sprinklers make rainbows and turtles sunbathe on rocks (a few engaged in strangely placid acts of copulation). When I glimpse Palacio de Cristal, I let out an audible Wow! From a distance, the glass pavilion looks like it’s made of cut paper. But my favorite spot is Estanque del Retiro, the shimmering lake dotted with rowboats, where I’m serenaded by guitar, then trumpet, then the voice of a young opera singer. There’s a softness to it all, the lapping water, the mellow breeze, the deep-blue sky and perfect
75-degree temperature. The afternoon sun hangs low. It’s magic hour. Or maybe it’s just magic.
I return to the Room Mate Alicia hotel, it’s almost 8 o’clock. The place is adorable, like the dorm of your dreams. My room is cozy, with a thick platform bed and striped accent pillows. My instinct is to lie down, relax with a book. But here I am, child-free, my agenda my own, and now I’m gripped with a new anxiety: Fear Of Missing Out syndrome. With some weariness, I change into a dress, apply my makeup. I’m going out to see a show—after all, I’m in Madrid. Flamenco is a dance of passion, frenzied and percussive, and the intimate atmosphere of the club Cardamomo amplifies this experience. Rhythms are clapped, snapped, stomped, slapped; the performers’ bodies are used as instruments. Skirts swirl, the stage shakes, the energy intensifies until it feels like trying to contain a stampede of bulls. Soon the drummer in me cannot stop tapping my fingers, my feet. I want to move. After the show, I wander outside. At 10 p.m., Madrid comes to life, and with the streets and plazas buzzing, the allure of my platform bed fades. I realize my day’s sustenance has consisted of three churros, a croissant, and two chocolate pastries. So I find a seat at La Vinoteca and ask the bartender which tapas she recommends. An American wearing a tuxedo downs a shot, rushes out. A stylish Italian couple in the corner expresses affection via enthusiastic high fives. That Iberian pork tenderloin is tasty. It’s late. I’m out. I feel alive.
Y THE TIME
heartened by how readily wonder revives when everything around is new. Without the distractions of antsy children, I lose myself in the expansive gardens of Plaza de Oriente, where a guitarist strums Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” and I imagine royals sashaying down the steps of the Palacio Real. I expect Catedral de la Almudena to be “just another” Gothic church but am awed by its strikingly modern interior. The ceiling is tiled with handpainted rectangular panels, hundreds of them, it appears. I stand, stare, crane my neck, noting that each tile has its own unique, colorful geometric pattern—no repeats! That afternoon, I board the high-speed train, on time to the minute. What visit to Spain would be complete without seeing the architectural marvels of Antoni Gaudí? A few hours later, I’m strolling down the wide avenues of Barcelona, alongside cyclists, boutiques, pop-up bookstores, flocks of chattering schoolchildren sharing candy bars. After a quick stop at La Boquería, a busy market where food display, like flower arranging, has become an art, I head for Gaudí’s multicolored Casa Batlló. A princess’s castle studded with candy jewels, I think, whereas Casa Milà, with its fanciful curves, reminds me of a cake, heavy with icing. I must be craving dessert. But it’s on Day Three, when I’m flooded with rainbows of light streaming through the stained glass windows of La Sagrada Família AY T WO, I’M
What else can I see? What else can I do? Increasingly, I feel energized. Maybe a part of my old self does still exist, the one that’s game, curious, excitable.
connect spin the globe basilica, that I’m certain I’ve entered the realm of the sublime. At the on-site museum I learn about Gaudí’s inspirations, drawn from nature, the way he revised and revised and revised his designs. The church, still unfinished, has been under construction for 137 years.
HAT ELSE CAN I see? What else can I do? Increasingly, I feel energized. Maybe a part of my old self does still exist, the one that’s game, curious, excitable. Day Four begins with a cable car ride up to Barcelona’s Montjuïc Castle, followed by a downhill meander through the maze-like gardens of Montjuïc Park. Then it’s uphill again, accompanied by the rhythmic chugs of long escalators transporting me to spectacular views. As I face the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, a palatial building perched atop a fortress of stairs, my gaze sweeps over the Magic Fountain, the Venetian Towers, the circular green of Plaza de España. By late afternoon, I’m tired of walking. I take the bus to Barceloneta Beach, where rows of sidewalk merchants hawk Converse sneakers, and hardy surfers paddle out to greet the waves. As shadows grow long, I find a table overlooking the ocean and contemplate the simple perfection of a single ice cube in a sturdy round glass. Down by the water, two boys are attempting handstands. They fall over and fall over, hair wetter, faces sandier, until finally they collapse, shrieking, as their small bodies cede to the surf. And now this sensation, a mix of longing and guilt: Have I missed my own children? Barely. Four days, and already I feel like another version of myself. I’ve shifted into a different narrative. That evening, I enter the grand hall of Palau de la Música Catalana, where I’m fidgety as I wait for concert pianist András Schiff to take the stage. Piano was a pillar of my childhood. I played for 14 years, and though I almost never attend classical concerts anymore, my mother brought me regularly as a child. “Can you see his hands?” she’d say, as I bounced up and down in my seat. She recorded my recitals and played those cassette tapes over and over again, up until the very end, when she was in the hospital battling leukemia. “You were pretty good,” she’d say, listening to renditions of Chopin’s nocturnes or Bach’s Italian Concerto from my high school years. “It’s a shame you don’t play anymore.” I do play now, sometimes, duets with my eight-year-old. He’s talented, musical, but I fight with him to practice, as my mother did with me. From high in the balcony, I wish I could tell my mother, “See, I’m here!” Schiff ’s first F chord of the Italian Concerto rings out, tears stream down my face. Maybe it’s nostalgia. Maybe it’s grief. Or maybe it’s joy in discovering my renewed appreciation for the submerged parts of my identity, the ones I thought I’d lost for good.
ACK IN MADRID, I spend Night Five with Ana, a friend of a friend, who has brought three more friends. We start at the food stalls of Mercado San Miguel and move to a proper meal at Sobrino de Botín, the oldest restaurant in the world, where we devour roast suckling pig and garlic shrimp. We end at Discoteca El Son, a small club, and as the familiar rhythms of salsa and merengue move through my body, another dormant urge ignites. My companions egg me on, flag down the smoothest dancers, shout in their ears, “Hey, this American woman wants to dance!” At 1 a.m. I say good-bye, return to my hotel. But I’m still high on endorphins, far from sated. I change my shoes, head back out, weaving through Chueca’s rowdy streets until I reach Tropical House, where I join the throngs of sweaty dancers propelled by the music. My final day in Spain I’m running on two hours’ sleep, without regret. A short train ride brings me to the ancient walled city of Toledo, stunning in its history but also jam-packed. I’m sidetracked by the various wedding couples I encounter with their finely dressed guests—men in blue-gray suits, ladies in fancy hats, little girls with flowers in their hair. One party is gathered outside a church, blocking my path, so I stand with a group of Chinese tourists filming the commotion with their phones. When the newlyweds emerge, the crowd erupts, confetti fills the air. The Chinese tourists cheer, too, their leader beaming as he waves his small yellow flag. Soon I’ve had enough of the jostling. I long to escape. I find El Rincón de Peter, a lunch joint with a tiny terrace, in what must be the quietest plaza in Toledo. I order a Spanish tortilla and fresh pineapple juice, listen to the jazz filtering into the air from the boom box inside. “Buena música,” I say to the proprietor in my halting Spanish. “McCoy Tyner?” His face lights up. He says something I don’t understand, but the shared appreciation of the music is enough. This last afternoon, my sole mission becomes to avoid the crowds. I thread down Toledo’s narrowest lanes and every time I see people, I turn down another alleyway. I find myself among wafting aromas of garlicky sauces and yeasty breads, the sounds of clanging pots, low murmurs of families in mealtime conversations. There’s the muffle of a trumpet, a novice cellist practicing scales, the tinny bellow of an accordion. On the balconies above me I spot lazing cats, small dogs, nervous birds hopping around in their cages. Clotheslines sag, heavy with undergarments. In the back alleys of Toledo, it feels as if I’ve discovered a secret, the sights and sounds of ordinary lives. And now, I realize, perhaps this is the side of myself I’ve been happiest to rediscover: the one that appreciates the beauty in the mundane. I sit quietly and smell the flowers.
Writer Mira T. Lee is profiled on page 28. SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019
Add More Context To Your Next Trip Travel experiences are more fulfilling when you walk away with a deeper understanding of a destination. That’s why AFAR has partnered with Context Travel—to help you access richer travel experiences. Context’s private tours are run by true experts in their fields; they’re not just locals, but also architects, art historians, tea masters, chefs, and more. And in over 60 global cities—from Rome to Tokyo and beyond—these knowledgeable experts will immerse you in their worlds, whether it’s a two-hour stroll or several days of adventure.
Check out these highlights from some of our favorite tours: Rome Caravaggio Tour Get the real story behind this controversial baroque painter— and understand the inﬂuence his work has had. Tour with an art historian as you examine Caravaggio’s legacy in the places for which the art was originally created. Barcelona Tapas Tour Fan of tapas? This three-hour tour of Barcelona’s top tapas purveyors is for you. With a chef leading the way, you’ll learn about the heritage and evolution of this popular cuisine while sampling traditional and innovative takes on it.
Private tours for travelers who love to learn. Discover more at AFAR.COM/CONTEXT
Tokyo Pop Culture Tour Wade into the fray of the Akihabara area to explore the otaku subculture with an expert in Japanese pop culture. It’s the perfect way to understand the ongoing importance of manga, anime, cosplay, and more. Tower of London Tour Don’t just visit the iconic Tower of London—immerse yourself in its fascinating past with a historian and teacher of British history. You’ll get to skip the line and see the Crown Jewels, too, making it an ideal family outing.
Photo: Rose Marie Cromwell
SHOW US THE WORLD
Photo: Dolly Faibyshev
For the second annual AFAR Photo Awards, we want to showcase the diverse and creative ways you see the world. This year, weâ€™re joining forces with United MileagePlus to seek out fresh perspectives. All photography is welcome, so show us your best travel photos. Winners will receive publication in AFAR magazine and on AFAR.com, and cash awards; 25% of all proceeds will go to our nonprofit Learning AFAR. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Must be 18 years or older to enter. Entries must be submitted between 8/1/2019 and 9/18/2019. For Official Rules, visit afar.com/photoawards.
LAKE OF THE OZARKS
and not a worry for miles. Equipped with a camera, the Corray family shows us a glimpse of their unforgettable cruise on the Lake of the Ozarks.
Hop aboard and start planning an adventure of your own at VisitMO.com.
Hospitality, bean geekery, and pastry: How Tokyo’s coffee culture inspired an upstart American brand.
T Café Bach, which specializes in pour-over coffee, sources beans from around the world and roasts them in its own factory. PHOTOGRAPHS BY KO SASAKI
by Adam H. Graham
apple pie and roasting coffee beans fills the air inside Café Bach, a 51-year-old coffee shop in Tokyo’s rough-andtumble Minami-Senju neighborhood. Café Bach is what many young Tokyoites might describe as “Shōwa.” Japan’s Shōwa era (1926–1989) was marked by a penH E S M E L L OF
chant for imported concepts and non-Japanese decor. At Café Bach, staff in mint-green shirts serve customers who sit, quietly sipping, in bulky leather-and-wood chairs, surrounded by dark wood wainscoting, as classical music plays in the background. I’m here this morning to meet James Freeman, the founder of
Blue Bottle Coffee, the third-wave Bay Area coffee company recently purchased by Nestlé for an estimated $500 million. We’re going on a tour of some of his favorite Tokyo coffee shops, and Café Bach is not only at the top of his list but, thanks to its legendary brewing rituals, was also part of the inspiration for his own coffee empire. When I arrive, he’s seated, nursing a Panama Don Pachi Natural Geisha prepared by master barista Koichi Yamada and chatting with the café’s owner, Mamoru Taguchi. At first glance, I don’t get the appeal of the place. To me, it feels like a Denny’s in need of a refurb. But as Yamada meticulously hovers over my Papua New Guinea grounds with a gooseneck kettle and all the seriousness of a nuclear physicist, I slowly come around to its locked-in-time ambience. The volcanic, complex, and deeply edifying brew is prepared in the slow-drip, pour-over style, and served in a wide-brimmed ceramic cup with a white saucer. I soon discover that Café Bach is known as a kissaten—a traditional Japanese café with a hyper focus on the craft of coffee—and more specifically as a meikyoku kissaten, a coffee lounge that doubles as a place to listen to music. Taguchi’s wife, Fumiko, who studied pastry-making in France, brings me a slice of warm, American-style apple pie from the bakery on the second level. The thick, uneven mantle of buttery shortcrust is so imperfect it’s perfect. This isn’t just coffee and pie; it’s a master class in coffee and pie. It’s also a place I can imagine camping out for an hour or two—which is what traditional kissaten are all about. SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019
Taguchi makes “Kissaten embody regular pilgrimages the idea of omoteClockwise from top to coffee plantations nashi—Japanese-style left: one of Blue Bottle’s 12 cafés in Japan; around the world. hospitality,” Freeman Café Bach barista Koichi Yamada; a Switch His menu is a veriexplains. You could Coffee latte; Café table United Nations say the kissaten is to Bach’s original roaster; of beans, from dark the Japanese what Café Bach beans; prepping espresso at Sumatran to light, the terrace table is Switch Coffee. floral Peruvian and to the French—temMalawian, all roasted in-house. porary real estate to catch up on “Suntan!” he says with a smile as your thoughts, but over coffee he rolls up his sleeve, his tan a instead of pastis. “Customers pay badge of honor from his recent to occupy the space as much as time in sunnier climates. they do for the expert sourcing While Japan’s kissaten repand preparation of beans,” Freeresent a bygone era—and don’t man adds. 82 AFAR
typically serve espresso drinks— in recent years, a wave of new coffee entrepreneurs has arrived. Their cafés retain the spirit of hospitality that make kissaten so inviting but have introduced more modern design, creative spaces, and yes, espresso. Switch Coffee Tokyo, the next stop on our tour, is one such place. Switch is everything Café Bach is not. Located on a relaxed side street in Tokyo’s Meguro neighborhood, it’s more kiosk than café, with a bench and a chalkboard menu on the sidewalk. “I don’t usually drink lattes, but Masahiro-san makes the best,” says Freeman, drinking his from a tempered glass tumbler. Owner Masahiro Onishi prepares my latte himself while talking about living
in Melbourne, where he studied latte art and coffee culture. Fully caffeinated, we make our way to one of Tokyo’s newest Blue Bottle Coffees just before lunchtime. We enter and Freeman is immediately recognized by the staff, who respectfully bow. Blue Bottle has a devoted cult following because it tapped into the kissaten mentality early on— focusing both on craft and on a pleasing space for people to linger over their lattes—and lines at the company’s 12 (and growing) Tokyo shops are not unusual.
Barista Masahiro Onishi studied the art of espresso-making in Australia before opening his own café, Switch Coffee Tokyo in the Meguro neighborhood in 2013.
HOW TO T AKE YOUR OWN TOKYO COFFEE T OUR Café Bach Classical music plays at the Shōwa-era meikyoku kissaten (music lounge), but owner Mamoru Taguchi’s globally sourced beans (and his wife’s homemade pastry) are the real stars. 1 Chome-23-9 Nihonzutsumi
Switch Coffee Tokyo “It’s quiet this morning,” I say, recalling the 30-minute wait during my visit the day before to Blue Bottle’s first Japanese location, in the eastern Kiyosumi neighborhood. “Japan doesn’t have a big morning rush hour for coffee,” Freeman says. Matcha or genmaicha, roasted brown rice tea, is usually served with a traditional Japanese breakfast, while coffee is typically consumed in the late afternoon. “In Japan’s tensely structured work culture, an afternoon coffee is treated as a little luxury or re84 AFAR
The airy, micro-size contemporary kissaten is hidden on a side street in Tokyo’s Meguro neighborhood. 1 Chome-17-23 Meguro
ward for hard work, not an energy drink to pull you through the rest of the day,” Freeman adds. Like each of Japan’s Blue Bottle locations, Meguro’s 19-seat outpost offers a Marie Kondo level of minimalism. This particular location has clean counter lines, natural wood hues, and a single image of a blue bottle emblazoned on a polished concrete wall. These are sanctuaries from the
commercial onslaught of urban life, and it’s easy to see why the company has done so well in Japan. “We didn’t set out to become a Japanese coffee brand,” Freeman says, “but our shops here have historically performed better than anywhere else, so we just ran with it. It’s exciting to spend time in the place that originally inspired Blue Bottle.”
Meikyoku Kissa Lion Classical music and coffee get equal billing at this baroque lounge—accented by Venetian Gothic arches and Corinthian columns—in Shibuya’s Love Hotel Hill. 2 Chome-19-13 Dogenzaka
Blue Bottle Coffee This small branch with polished concrete walls is among the newest Blue Bottle cafés in Tokyo. 1 Chome-2-19 Shimomeguro
THE GRAND CAYMAN MARRIOTT The Endless Summer Beach House
t the Grand Cayman Marriott,
discovering and cherishing small pleasures have always been a cornerstone to their way of life. This can be as simple as an evening walk on Seven Mile Beach, letting the warm Caribbean sun dry your skin after a dip in the sea or a bike ride at sunset. Their approach has been about having less, enjoying more; the pleasure of simply being. The team are all about enjoying the island’s endless summer. The aim is to evoke the happy nostalgia of summer – a time when life is bright and carefree. They do their best to provide guests with the ultimate Beach House experience by creating a fun and relaxed atmosphere where family and friends can reunite, reconnect and share happy moments together.. The Grand Cayman Marriott offers a variety of fun activities to bring guests back to a happy summer state-of-mind like making S’mores at our beach bonfire nights, doing yoga by the sea, watching poolside movies under the stars, stargazing with a knowledgeable guide and enjoying summertime treats like cotton candy and popcorn on a hot day by the pool.
Celebrating Joy and Abundance every year at the Grand Cayman Marriott. They choose a theme and focus to be the source of inspiration for everything they do. This year, they are celebrating joy and positivity with Abundance 2019: A Year To Honour Your Fullest Self. They believe that the true meaning of abundance goes beyond just simply having or acquiring more; it is bigger and more all-encompassing than that. Abundance is a feeling – it is something that is already there that just needs to be tapped in to. Abundance is gratitude and seeing the richness in every moment. Abundance is love. And more and more, people are realising that abundance is a choice. They love sharing this hopeful and positive philosophy with their guests in everything they do. Make happy and beautiful memories with loved
ones at the Grand Cayman Marriott, where they are committed to helping guests take pleasure in the meaningful moments in life. Another fun activity for guests is spending a beautiful day in Grand Cayman and exploring the island by bicycle. Inspired by memories of riding along through the picturesque countryside with loved ones during their own vacation experiences, the team at the Grand Cayman Marriott wanted to re-create these special moments for guests by offering Linus bike rentals, which is covered by the Resort Fee. Guests are welcome to discover a perfect spot at a nearby beach or park to lay down a blanket and share a delicious picnic with friends and family.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE VISIT: WWW.MARRIOTTGRANDCAYMANBEACHHOUSE.COM
Celebrating a decade of traveling deeper EDITED BY SARA BUT TON
HEN AFAR FOUNDERS
Greg Sullivan and Joe Diaz tell the story of AFAR’s birth, it always starts in India in 2007. The friends had been traveling there for weeks, exploring the country without set plans, meeting entrepreneurs, artists, and even gurus. One day toward the end of their trip, Sullivan and Diaz were kicking back on a beach in Goa, drinking Kingfisher beer, thinking about everyone they’d met, when the idea came to them. What if they started a travel media company for travelers who embraced local culture and the realities of travel? “We wanted to avoid the supermodel on the elephant on the deserted beach vibe,” Diaz says. “That’s a fantasy. We wanted to do something that spoke to seeing and celebrating the world as it really was.” When they returned to the States, without any experience in publishing or the travel industry, they bought four books about how to start a magazine: three by editors, one by an accountant. At the time, “WE WANTED the United States was TO DO on the brink of the Great SOMETHING Recession. They called THAT the accountant first. As SPOKE TO they look back, it wasn’t SEEING AND the economic climate that CELEBRATING scared them the most, THE WORLD though. “It was whether AS IT REALLY we’d do something WAS.” we could be proud of,” Sullivan recalls. They set to work creating a magazine dedicated to openness and curiosity, with stories that respected and appreciated our differences while honoring our commonalities. With this issue, our 64th, AFAR is celebrating 10 years of sharing stories we’re proud of. Diaz and Sullivan are looking forward to the next decade with the same optimism they had back when AFAR began. “That’s what travel is all about,” says Diaz. “The journey from where you wake up in the morning to where you rest your head at night can be really interesting, provided that you infuse it with the values that are most important to you.” 88 AFAR
“Into the Vines”
May 2014 Chef Gabrielle Hamilton went to Sicily to meet the independent winemakers who bottle the flavors of the land. Her story, with photography by Francesco Lastrucci, won a James Beard Foundation Journalism Award in 2015.
10 YEARS OF AWARD-WINNING STORYTELLING
We believe that travel has power: to connect us across borders and boundaries; to challenge and change us; and to offer us a new perspective, even in the places we call home. We believe storytelling has that power, too, which is why we’ve always aimed to bring the best writers and photographers onto our pages. We’re honored that our stories have resonated with our readers and earned acclaim from our peers; here are just a few that have won awards through the years. To read them and more behind-the-scenes tales, visit afar.com/ten starting on August 11, our birthday. SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019
“The Big Leap”
July/August 2016 On a trip to Belize, new mother Leslie Jamison learned how surprising the transition from solo travel to family travel can be. Her story, which ran with images by Thomas Prior, was selected for the Best American Travel Writing anthology in 2017.
“Where There’s Smoke”
May/June 2016 Contributing writer Chris Colin ventured to Mexico to better understand how mezcal’s rising global popularity was changing the villages of the southern state of Oaxaca. Brian Finke’s photography snagged a 2016 Ozzie honorable mention from Folio magazine and a winning spot in American Photography 33, the leading annual competition for contemporary photography.
“Full of Grace”
August/September 2014 In this essay by the late Edward ReadickerHenderson with photos by Peter Bohler, a religious skeptic takes a pilgrimage to the holy waters of Lourdes. The story won an Eddie Award for editorial excellence from Folio magazine and a silver medal from the Society of Publication Designers.
“Two for the Road”
November/December 2017 An unlikely friendship blossoms during a road trip through the American South in contributing writer Emma John’s story. McNair Evans’s accompanying photography was a winner for American Photography 34.
AG ILB MA
10 YEARS OF INSPIRING READERS In March 2017, I read David Farley’s article [about volunteering at a refugee camp in Greece]. I had never committed to extensive volunteering during my working years, but the article spoke to me. So [in February 2018], I spent the month volunteering at the same NGO that Mr. Farley worked for, A Drop in the Ocean, at their Skaramangas camp. Refugees now have a face to me. I have friends from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It was the most humbling experience of my life, and I would not have been aware of the possibility had I not read the article. —Diana Davis, AFAR reader
room for development. Afterwards, I became a much more active advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing community. I served in student government and was able to make a lot of changes in that position. I attribute my mind-set and motivation to what I’d learned on my travels.”
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP RIGHT: THE VOORHES, COURTESY OF ANDREW BUI/NO BARRIERS
Learning AFAR is a nonprofit program that sponsors travel for young people who cannot otherwise afford it. The program, operated in partnership with No Barriers USA, has sent more than 1,300 students on experiential trips. “Throughout middle and high school, I didn’t accept myself for being deaf. I’m also gay and had just come out during my junior year. My selfidentity as a whole was kind of a mess. On my trip with No Barriers, right before I started college, we went to Peru. There, we visited a couple schools for the deaf. Seeing the
disparity between the United States and Peru was astonishing, but also encouraging on a personal level. These kids didn’t have cochlear implants or special education, and they were still happy and thriving. I realized that the deaf and hard of hearing community is worldwide, and there’s so much
Learning AFAR alumnus, Boston, Massachusetts “Seeing students come back from these trips, I see how their perspective has broadened. Now when things pop up in the news, they understand even better. A while after we returned from China, the artist Ai Weiwei got his passport back [from the Chinese government]. The students saw that in the news and knew what it meant. That filters out to having a curiosity about what the rest of the world is doing and having a personal tie to a different place. They become more aware that there’s a world outside of East Oakland.” —AMY BOYLE,
assistant principal at Coliseum College Prep Academy, in Oakland, California. Since 2009, 70 Coliseum Prep students have traveled on Learning AFAR trips.
Youth from New Orleans mentorship program Son of a Saint volunteer during a 2018 Learning AFAR trip to Costa Rica.
10 YEARS OF SPINNING THE GLOBE
OR OUR Spin the Globe section, we choose a destination at random and send a writer there with as little notice as possible. For some writers, that’s stressful enough. Now imagine if you were a writer who’s blind. Then imagine if the destination we picked was, well, a little unstable . . .
“My editor called my wife and said, ‘Look, I don’t want to assume he can’t go, it’s just that the place has some issues right now, so maybe you should have a conversation.’ He told her where I was going, and she practically fell on the floor laughing. She picked me up from my office that day and asked me, ‘What are your deal breakers?’ I was like, ‘If we’re having this conversation, I’m not going where they’re sending me. I can’t even find a water bottle in New York. It’s not like they would send me to the Arab Spring!’ When she started laughing, I knew where I was headed.” Read Ryan Knighton’s story about traveling to Egypt in April 2011 at afar.com/ EgyptSpin. SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019
A S C E N T THE H I M A L AYA N KINGDOM OF BHUTAN IS A LAND OF MONKS, MEDITATION, A N D J OY. CAN A SKEPTICAL, YO GAAVERSE, WISECRACKING BLIND MAN FIND INNER PEACE?
H A P P I N E S S
BY RYAN KNIGHTON
photog raphs b y F R É D É R I C L A G R A N G E SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019
T H E
The town of Paro stands on the banks of the river known as Paro Chhu in Dzongkha, Bhutan’s national language.
B A T H H O U S E
in the town of Paro was, according to my guide, a mod-
est storefront unworthy of much description. Fine by me. As a blind guy, I don’t always care what the world looks like. What mattered most was the water inside. My wife, Tracy, and I had landed in the Paro Valley for a week’s journey through Bhutan, the reclusive mountain kingdom tucked between China and India, near Tibet. Renowned for its Himalayan vistas, which would be wasted on me, Bhutan is also a destination for luxury travelers interested in the pursuit of “wellness.” The government famously measures the country’s success not by its economy but by its population’s happiness. When considering foreign investment, the kingdom considers how it might impact the nation’s Gross National Happiness. The Bhutanese must know a thing or two about feeling good. I was keen to find out. Wellness isn’t exactly my default. My blindness is certainly a challenge, but perhaps more challenging is the armor of my ironic disposition. Humor has carried me through much, but I sometimes worry that this has been at the expense of a deeper spiritual well-being. Something healthier than a joke. I hoped to emerge fresh from the Paro bathhouse open to new experience and perhaps even to a new understanding of happiness itself. The tiled room was private, as was my tub, a wooden trough like an open coffin that extended through the wall and into another room. In there, a fire crackled as two Bhutanese bath attendants prepared to cook me stupid. They dropped red-hot river stones one at a time into the water at their end of the tub, thus raising the temperature in mine. Each stone released a hiss of steam and a balm of minerals that our guide, Yountin, said would soothe my joints and, bonus, wash away any bad luck, or what he paradoxically called “bad merits.” I could ring an electronic bell on the wall to stop them or to demand more hellfire.
How peculiar to smell smoke and feel water at the same time. How contradictory to scrub yourself in a bath tinged with soot. I luxuriated in it. Fire and water. Earth and air. An appreciation of elemental things is, I would come to learn, fundamental to the Bhutanese point of view. A traditional bath steeps you in the richness of its modesty. That is until, feeling around for a towel, I knocked down the wall between me and the workers. For a moment they stared at my naked honesty. Privacy was gone. Modesty was, too.
bout an hour and a quarter from Paro is Thimphu, the kingdom’s capital, home to approximately 100,000 people and no traffic lights. Cows and stray dogs wander the streets as if looking for parking, Tracy noted. Passing through, we climbed a winding mountain road to the first of three Six Senses resorts we would visit, each in a different region and elevation, each inviting its guests into a unique landscape where they can participate in a specific wellness experience. The resorts are the childhood dream of their owner, Dasho Sangay Wangchuck. A funny and loquacious SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019
our bodies. Maybe I’d find a box of functioning eyeballs on my nightstand.
Left: A shop owner poses in her store in western Bhutan, near Gangtey monastery. Above: Storefronts in downtown Thimphu, the Bhutanese capital.
entrepreneur, he dined with us on our first evening at a table crowded with plates of pomegranate salad, braised yak meat, and Bhutan’s national dish, ema datshi, or chili peppers with cheese. He had grown up in his father’s hotel, and as a child he had witnessed the impact Bhutan’s natural beauty and spiritual depth had on its occasional visitors. Later, as a young man attending university abroad, Dasho could appreciate even better Bhutan’s unique appeal. His is a country skirted by the tallest mountains in the world, protected for centuries from colonization or influence. His is a country that permits only a limited number of tourists and did not allow television until 1999. In some respects, it is a culture that is very new and very old, with little in between. Perched on a mountain and surrounded by apple orchards, the Six Senses Thimphu resort is a monastery-inspired lodge referred to as the Palace in the Sky. An aerial motif touches everything. Clouds pattern carpets. The ceiling of its restaurant, Namkha, is hashed with beams chiseled in shapes that undulate like a cloud. A wall of windows brings the sky into each villa and simultaneously pushes guests out to the edge of the earth. In the main foyer, a painting of the medicine Buddha reminds visitors that they are here for health. There are no plastics. Even our toothbrushes will biodegrade. Housed in something so healthy, we would similarly tend to the betterment of
assage is not my thing. I spend too much time steered by people, grabbed, guided, or any number of other verbs that involve touch. The help is nice, but the guidance makes me feel as if I’m in a chronic state of correction. My wife and I, freshly unpacked in our gorgeous room in the sky, with its view of another breathtaking valley I couldn’t see, were about to receive our first Bhutanese tenderizing. When you think about it, massage is also a form of correction. You’re about to be pushed back into place, as it were. I bristled as they brought in the tables. Our masseuses practiced a style called marma, which began not with hands or oil, as I had assumed, but with voice. A meditation. Tracy and I were invited to imagine the sky and smile at the sky. To breathe the air and smile at the air. Then flowers. Soil. Again and again we were encouraged to engage the world around us and to feel a gratitude that would relax our own physical being. As they chanted, each masseuse played a singing bowl and held it close to our ears until the note collapsed into smaller, cascading harmonics. The bowl was then placed on my stomach, sending its vibrations through my skin, moving its tone through my muscles and bones. A sound massage. In our daily lives, we forget that sound, being a vibration, is actually a form of touch.
The ear is a finger. Through words and music, they managed to relax me into an hour and a half of elbows and fists, oil and unknotting bliss, that I would otherwise have resisted. The next morning, Tracy and I met Dr. Tamhane, our Six Senses yogi and wellness consultant, in the prayer pavilion for yoga. Pavilion is misleading. It makes me think of trade shows. Rather, we had approached what Tracy described as a room of windows floating in a pond. The idea is to immerse you from above and below in light and sky. Doing yoga when you’re blind is like learning origami from an audiobook. A lot of directions, a lot of confusion. My wife is a yogi. I am the opposite. Only once did Tracy try to teach me. We didn’t get past sitting. She said I even breathe ironically. This time, I promised myself, I would be sincere. “And now, moving into Cow Face Pose,” the good doctor said. “Breathe and reach.” Everything I am, body and mind, kept getting in the way. I was stiff and jokey, not relaxed and open like a cow’s mouth. Sometimes, as I tried to touch the mat with my fingertips, the doctor would give me glimpses of my wife for comparison. “Good, Tracy,” he said at one point. “And now all the way, that’s right, nose to the mat.” Jesus, these people. I can’t even sit cross-legged, but Tracy was folded like a napkin and chilling with her face on the ground. If that was Cow’s Mouth Pose, mine would be better called Toothless, Closedmouthed Big Mac in Waiting. “And finally, Wheel Pose, press up and arch your back,” the good doctor suggested, bringing our session to a close. 100
My back arched like a yardstick. Yoga did not make me feel better. If anything, it confirmed for me that my body is a bag of paste and crowbars. The thought almost caused me to laugh. And for that, and so many other jokes, I felt toxic. Here I was, learning yoga amid ancient monasteries and dzongs (fortresses), but I couldn’t stop cracking wise. In meditation and silence, all I could hear was the shooting gallery of chatter in my head. Then again, is that so bad? Irony is a muscle I have stretched and trained for my health, if not my survival. A laugh is the only cure for blindness I have known. The world as I bump through it just can’t hurt as much. We met Dr. Tamhane again that afternoon. He affixed sensors to my forehead and chest and feet, wiring me into a laptop that would produce a diagnostic portrait of my biochemistry and organ health. But as the computer processed my data, I was confronted by the most obvious downside of tinkering with one’s wellness: What if he told me I wasn’t fine? Don’t ask what you don’t want to know. As we waited for my numbers, the worry tightened my chest, which made me worry that my anxiety about the results was tanking my data, live. I was caught in my own feedback loop. Finally the laptop spat out my score and, as he read it, Dr. Tamhane sighed, “Oh, wow.” From what I could hear, I would be dead in five minutes. What I didn’t see was his smile. My cholesterol, blood pressure, oxygen levels, liver and kidney function, all of it generated an overall physical wellness score of 91 percent. He’d rarely seen one that high. He’d meant the good kind of wow. To this day, I feel like a 68, but, science. Tracy and I strolled to dinner that evening under innumerable stars. She stopped and pointed into the darkness, puzzled. “There’s a dog sleeping in a tree.” That sounds like a pose I could do, I thought.
he four-hour road trip from Thimphu to Punakha takes you from the capital’s public square, where they hold Druk Super Star, a singing competition, to the north, past archery fields and the occasional nomadic yak herder, up, up winding cliff roads, ever higher, and finally, at 10,000 feet, across the Dochula Pass. The prospect of death is always with you. Driving, you will see countless prayer flags tied to bridges and railings, each a gesture to honor the deceased or a wish for safe passage. Yountin, our guide, helped Tracy and me tie our own prayer flags to a bridge as the snow fell on the pass. Given the heights, we prayed not to fall, too. You will also spot many stupas, the small Buddhist shrines that hold hundreds of tiny sculptures made by monks from a mixture of clay and the ashes of the dead, fashioning them together into something that resembles a child’s spinning top. Everywhere you turn in Bhutan, it seems, something is there to remind you that luck, good and bad, is a force. You’d best take the proper precautions. Later in the week, we stopped at an incense factory where men rolled large coils of what felt like damp spaghetti. We dried a length on the dashboard heater in our car for days, and later burned it as an offering for good fortune. Incense is everywhere, the smell scrubbing the country of bad spirits. Prayer wheels abound equally, always whirring in the distance.
Top Left: The prayer pavilion at Six Senses Thimphu, Palace in the Sky. Top Right: A roadside vendor in the village of Gangtey. Bottom Left: Students from Ugyen Dorji Higher Secondary School in Bhutan’s Haa Valley. Bottom Right: Momo dumplings filled with cheese, served at the Six Senses Paro.
Left: A public transport bus in the Punakha Valley. Right: Peppers for sale at a weekend market. SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019
In a private home we visited for lunch, a local monk was at work. He gently took my hands and dipped my fingers into several bowls to let me feel the butter he was painting on a ritual cake that, from what I could feel, was half my size. This was a spiritual service for our host family. The offering would bring prosperity and more good luck. Smaller cakes would also be left on the roof for the crows to take to the gods. It seems that, in Bhutan, wellness comes from giving your cake away, not having it and eating it, too. Six Senses Punakha is quite literally a flying farmhouse. Overlooking a warm valley cleaved by two rivers called the mother and the father, the resort’s main building is ingeniously engineered to hover over an expanse of rice paddies. Angled steps surprised me as I walked. Climbing the land around us was an entirely different collection of angled steps. These were the terraces on which farmers grew wheat and more rice. In walking the steps of our new stay, my feet were feeling a small likeness of the landscape around us. The Punakha area is perhaps most famously known for its ubiquitous depictions of male genitalia. Punakha is where Drukpa Kunley, the Divine Madman, first arrived from Tibet in the 15th century with his brand of sexy, drunken, bacchanalian Buddhism, and his legacy persists! A road sign might replace an arrow with a penis. Phalluses frame archways and adorn everything from doors to keychains. In a small souvenir shop, Tracy placed a clay statue in my hands. It had veins and a smiley face. Resting on every shelf I touched was an object that seemed happy to see me. Some were hairy and woolen, some cast in bronze, eternally erect. It was like being surrounded by the enthusiasm of exclamation marks.
M Top Left: Butter lamps at a farmhouse altar in the village of Shari. Top Right: Prayer flags near the Six Senses Paro. Bottom Left: Punakha Dzong, “the palace of great happiness,” was built in the 17th century. Bottom Right: A monk at Gangtey monastery wears a medallion necklace depicting 8th-century Buddhist master Guru Rinpoche.
y focus was elsewhere. Chorten Ningpo is a Buddhist monastery about a two-and-a-half-hour hike from the Punakha farmhouse. Many tourists visit Bhutan specifically for a hike like this. Given the thin air and potential altitude sickness, choosing to hike is a serious commitment. So we drove, with Yountin at the wheel. Also, Tracy is afraid of heights. When Yountin parked the car on the cliff ’s edge by the monastery gates, it made her scream. My wellness was intact. Blindness has advantages. Yountin guided us among the 16th-century stone buildings and described to me their architecture and art, at one point guiding my fingers over an embossed gold depiction of a dragon. We were in the land of the Thunderdragon. Yountin led us up a ladder into a room where three monks were in prayer with a bereaved woman. We sat quietly near the wall and listened to their rumbling incantations. They were the expressive, guttural tones I associate with throat singing. We’d heard other monks in other rooms before, including a group who rang bells and chanted, some holding skulls while others played flutes fashioned, I was told, from human thigh bones. To be present for so much ritual, from the prayer flags to the stupas to the cakes to these monks, made me realize how little of the sacred I had in my own life. All these experiences suggested the shape of a hole, but I had no idea what I would fit in there. “Give me your hands,” Yountin whispered. He quickly arranged my palms into a bowl and explained that the
head monk was coming around. The man in the red robe had agreed to Yountin’s request that we also receive a blessing of holy water. I was instructed to drink most of it, which would cure whatever in me needed curing, then to press the remainder to my forehead for clarity of mind. Finally, a cure other than jokes. The holy water arrived without a word, its trickle collecting in my cupped hands. Then, as I raised it to my lips, it dribbled through my fingers, gone. Goddamnit. My one shot at holy water and I fumble it. I didn’t feel I could ask for more, either. I’d be Bhutan’s Oliver Twist: “Please, sir, I want some more.” Maybe all my jokes were coming back to teach me a lesson. I pressed what moisture was left to my forehead and had the clarity of mind to know I’m an idiot. Outside, we snacked on apples and listened to the sound of boys training to be monks. They were in a room on the second floor, its windows open, and, I was told, would occasionally peek their shaved heads out to get a look at us. I was heartened to hear them laugh as a few of them clubbed each other with their prayer books. Kids will be kids, even if they will grow up to be monks. Jokes before prayers. Maybe, in fact, there is a place for humor. “I’m curious,” I said to Yountin, “do the monasteries have televisions?” “Oh, for sure,” he said. “They love TV.” “So what do monks like to watch? The Simpsons?” “Soccer,” he said. “They love soccer. Big Manchester United fans. It’s the red uniforms. Monks wear red, too.” SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019
T H E
D E T A I L S
Nestled in the Himalayas between China and India, Bhutan is a tiny kingdom known for its dramatic landscapes, sacred sites, and holistic approach to happiness and wellness. To protect its natural resources and ensure that travelers don’t overwhelm the country, tourism is tightly controlled. Inbound flights are limited, and travelers must pay special fees to obtain visas—a multistep process made easier with the help of a travel advisor or an outfitter. (You can find members of AFAR’s Travel Advisory Council at afar.com/tac.) Travel companies such as GeoEx, MT Sobek, and Kensington Tours offer package and custom itineraries and help with some of the hassle.
American visitors need a visa to enter Bhutan. In order to get a visa, you must book a tour with a licensed guide or program operator.
A visa costs $40 and visa clearance must be obtained in advance.
Spending minimum Bhutan mandates that tourists spend approximately $200–$300 per person per day. The
amount depends on the time of year and the number of people you’re traveling with, and includes accommodations, meals, transportation, and other activities.
fter a week of considering my body and soul, and how to find wellness therein, it felt good to come back to Paro, where our journey had begun. Tucked in a forest at the end of a winding, rough mountain road, the Six Senses Paro resort is a series of stone buildings that complement their neighboring monastic ruins and sit atop a subterranean warren of massage and prayer rooms. One evening I sat outside and drank ara, a kind of sweet moonshine, and took a very temporary vow of silence as I listened to the stray dogs under the stars. They howled for something. We all do. Maybe soon they would try to sleep in their trees. On our last day we stopped to visit a monk at an astrology school. He would tell Tracy and me about our past incarnations, our present selves, and our future paths. We met him in a room that felt like it belonged to a community college professor. It was small and dark and pack-ratted with books and shelves. A yak hide covered the couch. I sat on it and waited as the monk took my birthday information from Yountin, who translated between us. When he was ready, the monk consulted several serious tomes and made some notations, calculating my past to find my fate. My thoughts turned to the past week. All this wellness, the stone baths and yoga and doctors and holy water, but what if the question of well-being is, in the end, a fixed proposition? Sure, less gluten and more mindfulness feel good, but 106
Only two airlines— currently Drukair and Bhutan Airlines—fly into Paro Airport, Bhutan’s only international airport. Flights are routed through hubs including Bangkok, New Delhi, Singapore, and Kathmandu. Weather can delay flights for days at a time—it’s important to have your itinerary designed with a few days in your stopover city and to fly on an unrestricted ticket.
Other helpful information
Medical care in rural areas can be limited; supplementary medical evacuation and travel health insurance are encouraged. Some outfitters offer coverage through third-party travel insurance companies. Credit cards may be accepted in certain hotels and
shops in larger cities, but ATMs are unreliable, so it’s best to exchange dollars for Bhutanese ngultrums, the national currency, before you leave home. Though not mandatory, updated vaccinations are strongly recommended. Check cdc.gov and travel.state.gov for a list of recommended vaccinations.
Wellness retreats are a popular way to unwind and experience the local culture; much like tour companies, they offer assistance throughout the planning process. Some luxury resorts have multiple locations, and most guests stay at several lodges during their trip. Six Senses Bhutan puts
you at the center of the country’s natural beauty and allows you to personalize your experience with treatments inspired by the area, which include hot stone baths and Bhutanese herbal scrubs. Six Senses currently has three locations, with the fourth opening in Gangtey in October and the fifth in Bumthang in early 2020. Amankora, a circuit of five luxury lodges, offers adventurous and wellness-centered itineraries accompanied by a private guide, starting from three nights.
what if they don’t, in the end, change the story of who you are? The monk was ready. He had my answers. “In this life,” he told me, “you will have some problems with your senses. But you will travel. And although you will travel very far in this life . . . you are not looking for anything.” It took me a moment to realize how true this is. As a blind man, I literally wander the globe and, like it or not, look for nothing. But in doing it, I am at my best. I am well. We think of being well as a thing to pursue, as a state of being to reach, like a destination. Like a country or a beautiful hotel. But it’s really more like water through your hands. A pleasure to have tried and fumbled. We can cry or we can laugh about it. I wanted to say something about this to the monk. I wanted to take him outside and have a philosophical dialogue with him under a tree, or under a dog sleeping in a tree. I had questions about my happiness. I wanted to tell him something funny that happened along the way. But his phone was vibrating on the desk. Its custom ring tone was a Buddhist chant. He was busy. He ushered us out, bowed a polite goodbye, and shut the door to answer his calling. Writer Ryan Knighton wrote about going on safari in Zimbabwe in the July/August 2017 issue of AFAR. Photographer Frédéric Lagrange shot a feature story about Iceland for the same issue.
Buddhist monk Thinley Wangchuck in his dorm room at Tango Monastery, north of Thimphu.
G R E AT E S T
Nor wegians often rank as some of the world’s happiest people. Perhaps it’s something in their nature.
BY L I S A A B E N D p h o t o g r a p h s b y Emma Hardy
At the charmingly ramshackle farmhouse in northern Norway where Roddie and Lindis Sloan live with their three children and a dog named Stella Bente Svendsen, a burst of unexpectedly warm weather has given everything the slightly giddy feel of a holiday. It’s late May, and we can sit outside to drink our tea in the morning and dig into grilled meats in the evening. At certain hours of the day, the sun makes the mountains appear to glow, and the Arctic light lends everything a startling clarity. It is, in many ways, the archetypal Nordic summer scene. Which is exactly as I want it, since I’ve come here in hopes of figuring out whether all I’ve heard about one very Norwegian concept, friluftsliv, is true.
Scandinavians have a special relationship to nature. They’ve built an entire cuisine around foraging. They leave their babies in prams outdoors in winter because they think it toughens them up. They love telling you there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing. They have laws that ensure the public’s right to walk through pretty much any uncultivated land they want. And Norwegians have that word, friluftsliv, which is meant to convey something profound and culturally specific about why they like to spend time outdoors and which, they insist, resists translation. Scandinavians love to say that kind of thing. Long before every lifestyle magazine in the Western Hemisphere was urging readers to light candles and eat more cake, Danes and Swedes were insisting that hygge and fika could not be fully grasped by anyone who
lacked a deep understanding of their culture. But five years of living in Denmark have taught me that, in fact, both those concepts are not so complicated. Hygge equals “cozy.” Fika equals “coffee break.” And friluftsliv, I suspect, equals “outdoor living.” Norwegians are especially committed to it. They have organizations in every town dedicated to promoting friluftsliv and often a local government office as well. They have rules for it, called the Mountain Code, printed on the inside of the most popular candy bar’s wrappers. (Rule No. 4: Be prepared for bad weather and frost, even on short trips.) They even offer college degrees in it. And so I decided to go to Norway on a quest for friluftsliv’s hidden meaning. My plan was to travel from above the Arctic Circle down to Oslo, moving not only from north to south but also from remote to urban. And for insight, I could think of no better person to start with than Roddie Sloan. A rugged shellfish diver, Roddie supplies some of Scandinavia’s best-known restaurants with urchins and clams, which is how I became friends with him and his anthropologist wife, Lindis. He once took me fishing on a dark, frigid February day when the
Left: Café owner Iris Westerås with her goats and llamas above Geirangerfjord. Previous spread: A local woman walks in a meadow near Bodø on the Norwegian coast.
water’s edge was coated in the kind of slush that Norwegians call “porridge ice” and that I would have called “miserable” had Roddie not prohibited me from complaining. And although he has lived in Norway for 22 years, he remains staunchly proud of his Scottish heritage. He seemed to me the perfect entryway into friluftsliv, not only because his professional life depends entirely on nature but also because I suspected that he, as a nonnative, would confirm my hunch that Nor-
Above: Roddie Sloan watches for his diver, Jens, at sea near Nordskot. Right, Roddie and Jens sort freshly gathered scallops and clams at the dock.
wegians don’t have some mystical relationship with nature; they simply have more nature. So Roddie, Lindis, and I sit outside in that glorious light and talk about why they chose to live where they do. Work determines a lot of it: The cold waters of the region hold some of the best sea urchins and other “shells,” as Roddie calls them, in the world. But it’s more than that. “It’s for days like this,” Roddie says, and I have to admit that, at the moment, with the silence and the blue skies and the sun warming our faces, I can’t think of a better place to be. But even now, winter is never far from their minds. “Have you seen Game of Thrones?” Lindis asks, while, as if in preparation, she knits the sleeve of a sturdy-looking sweater. “There’s a reason we joke that we live beyond the wall.” She enumerates the challenges: the endless dark nights, the ice that comes in October and doesn’t leave until April, the wind that can blow so hard it once spun Roddie— and the wheelbarrow full of wood he was carting—full around. “Yes, but,” Roddie interrupts. In deep winter, “there’s no light at all—the sky
is completely black. And sometimes the northern lights just make you feel tiny.” Spend enough time in the north, he seemed to be saying, and the dark and cold come to seem less like things to be overcome than things to be appreciated. I think about that the next day when Lindis and I hike up a nearby ridge. Except for a few steep stretches above some newly planted spruce, the incline is mostly gentle, so it comes as a surprise to get to the top and realize just how far up we are. From our perch, the astonishing
landscape stretches beneath us—the fjord spills into the sea, islands crowd the eddies, and snowy peaks compete with the waves for the distinction of sparkliest. Maybe, I think to myself, it’s not just that Norwegians have so much nature, but that the stuff they have is so surpassingly beautiful. My time in the remote far north makes Ålesund, a small city famous for its art deco architecture and located 700 miles down the coast, seem like a sprawling tropical metropolis in comparison. Thanks to its proximity to several fjords, Ålesund is a gateway to all sorts of friluftsliv. I reach one of the region’s most iconic spots, Geiranger, via a three-hour cruise during which the cranes and tankers quickly give way to so much beauty that, once again, it’s hard for me to take it all in. Do I look to the placid gray-blue water that precisely matches the gray-blue sky? To the long streams of water that striate the cliffs? To the snowcapped behemoths in the distance, or to the neat, tiny farmhouses perched like precarious Monopoly pieces in the few spots where precipice flattens into clearing?
The sensory overload is intoxicating, but there’s another feeling as well— some uneasiness or foreboding that I can’t quite identify. I look around at my fellow passengers as they scramble from one side of the boat to the other, taking selfies and fighting winds strong enough to blow their phones out of their hands, and for the first time on this trip, the skies turn more typically Norwegian—which is to say, dark and brooding—so I attribute the sensation to that. In any case, it’s soon forgotten when we dock in Geiranger, a tiny town with just 230 residents, most of whom, as far as I can tell, live off souvenir shops and ice cream stands.
Energized by my friluftsliv quest, I don’t blink at the prospect of biking up the mountainside on a road that could be described as vertical. Or maybe I do blink a little because the helpful man at the tourist office shepherds me toward the electric bikes. And 100 yards up the road, I have never been so grateful to Benjamin Franklin in my life. I manage not to ramp the power all the way up— surely friluftsliv requires at least some outlay of effort—but even the medium range allows me to concentrate on the views rather than on my own pain. By the time I arrive at Westerås, I’m feeling quite exhilarated. A family farm with cabins and a café open to the public from May to September, Westerås has its own set of spectacular
A summer stay on the private island of Manshausen, near Nordskot, offers sunset views at 2 a.m., above, and fresh rhubarb from the garden, right.
This page: A passenger aboard the Geirangerfjord ferry, below, takes in the views of the fjord, above, which has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Opposite page: A map of Norway’s fjord region, above, might lead travelers to Ålstad, where horses graze in the meadows of the Valldøla River valley, below.
vistas, enhanced in this case both by a small herd of grazing llamas and by a young visitor in pink pants inspired to belt out the theme song from Frozen as she takes it all in. Over coffee, I ask owner Iris Westerås what it’s like to live in such a place. She admits that although the winters are dark—“in November and December the sun doesn’t come up high enough to go over the mountains”—she, like everyone else in her family, thrives on the daily interaction with so much natural beauty and so few humans. Like, really thrives. When I ask what she does in her spare time, she laughs. “We have a small cabin where we go to get away. It’s farther up the mountain.”
There are more glorious views on the boat back to Ålesund and still more the next morning, when I take one of the ferries that serve as public transportation in these parts. I strike up a conversation with Hans Lennart Sævik on his way to work. As a pilot captain, his job is to take over the helm of freighters and cruise ships and guide them safely through fjords or into port. He’s proud of the fact that his work protects the environment. “Norway’s coast is a garden full of roses,” he says, “and our job is to show others where to go so they don’t step on the flowers.” But he’s just as proud of his position in a long chain of locals who have lived in the fjords. He tells me about the ones who emigrated to America, and their relationship with nature: how they wrote letters to people back home that inquired longingly about whether the snows had come yet or asked how many storms had blown through that summer. “You could feel how much they missed it,” he says. “Not just their people, but their land.”
That same spirit radiates off of Ørnulf Opdahl. A jovial 75-year-old with permanently windswept hair, he is one of Norway’s most esteemed artists, and he and his wife, textile artist Sidsel Colbiørnsen, live and work on Godøy, a small island a few miles from Ålesund, where Ørnulf was born. The turpentine fumes in his seaside studio make me woozy, but the unfinished works lining the walls grab my attention. In thickly textured paint he renders abstract images that convey the hulk of a mountain, the glimmer of the sea at night, the weight of heavy snow. “It’s all based on something I have seen or experienced,” Ørnulf explains. “A special light, a fog coming in, the play between light and darkness.” He’s been painting this way since settling in Godøy in 1971. His work is moving, but it’s not, I realize, pretty in the way that landscape painting often is. As I scan one after the next, I feel it again: that same sense of foreboding I experienced in the fjord. It’s fear, I think, or maybe just recognition of a destructive power held momentarily in reserve. “Yes!” Ørnulf exclaims, when I raise the comparison. “Today we say, ‘Oh, look at the beautiful mountain.’ But my forefathers would also say, ‘Look at that dangerous place.’ The sea is not a place for vacation; the sea is where my grandfather disappeared. There’s fear there, a sense of threat. I try to put that into my landscapes.” I think back to other conversations I’ve had. That morning, during his soliloquy about his ancestors, Hans the pilot captain had mentioned how, like them, he had learned to read the landscape for coming danger. “If you see spray from a waterfall shooting up, you know that the wind is 10 to 15 minutes behind,” he had told me. “Nature gives you warnings.” The day before, up in Westerås, Iris had recounted the story of a 1907 avalanche that hit all the farms on the mountainside. And back at the Sloan farmhouse,
when I had asked Roddie to describe his relationship with the ocean, he had replied, “She’s my mistress, and I love her. But you have to respect her. She’s tried twice to have me. She just hasn’t succeeded yet.” I realize that for a Norwegian, nature is not just about pretty views and having fun outdoors. Friluftsliv encompasses more than an appreciation for nature. It also encompasses awe, in the original sense of the word. By the time I get to Oslo, I’m feeling like I’ve learned something. As I wander around the city’s harbor, the weather changes dramatically in about as much time as it takes to order a cup of coffee, but the switch from bright sun to cold rain and back again doesn’t much seem to affect the locals, who emerge flushed and sweaty from a seaside sauna to launch themselves into icy water, or lounge in the park near the palace, or sit in the open air in their properly weatherproof attire, nonchalantly drinking beer. But there is one last piece of the puzzle for me, which is why this devotion to the outdoors is especially strong in Norway, compared with the other equally northern, equally beautiful, and equally harsh Nordic countries. Luckily, Lasse Heimdal has an answer. We meet for tea at the train station, but his normal habitat is the outdoors; he is secretary general of the national Friluftsliv Association. He warms to my question with a brief gloss on 1,000 years of Norwegian his-
tory, in which the glorious Viking reign gives way, in the Middle Ages, to the predations of the Black Death. The epidemic wiped out so much of the population that Norway had no choice but to hitch itself to bigger powers— first Denmark, then Sweden. It took until the 19th century for the dream of independence to take hold. “Then our painters and artists and writers were all looking for some kind of identity,” Lasse says. “They were asking, what does Norway have that makes it different?” The answer, of course, was nature. “Denmark didn’t have it—that’s a pancake land,” he continues. “And even the Swedes couldn’t compete with our mountains and forests. Nature itself became a symbol of independence.” Today, in addition to its political lobbying and its work as an umbrella organization for the country’s many outdoorsoriented NGOs, the association also plays an important role in helping immigrants assimilate to Norwegian culture by organizing expeditions and offering classes in friluftsliv. “If you don’t understand that national pride is very connected to nature, you miss something important about being Norwegian,” he says. “Yes, we have challenges from nature here. But you can’t fight them or avoid them. If you try, you’ll get a very sad life.”
Opposite page: Near the village of Leinesfjord, which lies above the Arctic Circle, long days and empty beaches are an invitation to play.
HOW TO EXPERIENCE
In her search to understand Norway’s concept of outdoor living, Lisa Abend made three stops in the country. Each offers a unique landscape and many ways to connect with nature. NORDSKOT
At Manshausen, a private-island resort off the shores of the far northern town of Nordskot, cabins with window walls provide uninterrupted views of the 55-acre islet and surrounding Grøtøya Strait. The white sand beaches look out at the mountains, and the resort organizes fishing, rock-climbing, and diving adventures. Back on the mainland, Nordskot Brygge Sea Sport Centre rents boats, kayaks, and paddleboards. Dozens of trails in various levels of difficulty provide show-stopping views of the Vestfjorden and Lofotveggen peaks.
on Norway’s northwest coast, Ålesund offers stunning vistas, abundant outdoor activities, and locally sourced food. Geiranger Fjordservice offers sightseeing cruises in what UNESCO dubbed one of the world’s most scenic fjords. Two waterfront restaurants, Sjøbua and Apotekergata No. 5, serve fresh seafood, including hake paired with asparagus from the nearby island village of Hvasser. The Kube art museum hosts temporary exhibitions featuring artists and works with connections to Norway, such as The Edge of the
Situated at the mouth of Storfjord, which leads to the iconic Geirangerfjord
Sea, an exhibit showcasing sea-inspired artwork, through December 29. The town of Geiranger, a three-hour boat ride from Ålesund, sits at the head of the fjord. Two and a half miles uphill lies Westerås, a farm and restaurant that rents cabins and provides an aerial view of Geirangerfjord. Nearby trailheads take you deep into the Norwegian forest. A 45-minute hike leads to the nearly 100-foot Storseterfossen waterfall. A series of bridges and undersea tunnels connects the mainland to several islands, including
Godøy, where the Alnes Lighthouse includes a café, a community center, and an exhibition space that displays the work of local artists Ørnulf Opdahl and Sidsel Colbiørnsen. OSLO
Even Norway’s biggest city offers an abundance of friluftsliv. The Future Library Forest in the Nordmarka forest is located about 30 minutes from the city center. In 2014, Scottish artist Katie Paterson planted 1,000 Norway spruce trees, which will eventually provide the paper for an anthology that will be published in the year 2114. Vippa, a food hall started by Norway’s first female Michelin-starred chef, Heidi Bjerkan, sits on the
edge of Oslo fjord, with plenty of outdoor seating. Just inland, threeMichelin-star Maaemo serves dishes inspired by Norwegian nature and centered around local produce. Two outfits located near Oslo’s city center, KOK and Sørenga, feature floating saunas that make it easy to hop in the chilly Nordic waters. Walk-ins are welcome; one- or two-hour time slots can also be booked in advance online.
Oslo’s chief forester Jon Karl Christiansen oversees the trees in the Future Library Forest planted in 2014 that will become the paper for books printed in 2114.
I spend my last day in Norway in the dense forest at Oslo’s northern edge. It’s the sort of day that counts as good weather in Oslo—the kind in which sunshine and heat seem merely to have stepped out for a few minutes, rather than having loaded the car with beef jerky and Pringles and lit out for the coast. I see families hiking with young children; a bunch of buff, mud-spattered athletes running up rocks and down streams in something called the Ecotrail; and two suspiciously chefy-looking guys out foraging for ramsons, a type of wild garlic. But I’m here for the art. In a clearing just over a mile from the forest parking lot, I join a couple hundred other people at the annual handover ritual for the Future Library Forest, a project that each year selects an author to write a manuscript that will not be published until 2114, a century after the project began. Artist Katie Paterson devised the project as a reflection on
literature and mortality, but it is also a meditation on nature: The century-long waiting period, starting in 2014, is the amount of time it will take to grow the trees that will be turned into the paper upon which the books will one day be printed. Among the participants in the ceremony is Jon Karl Christiansen, the lanky head forester for the city of Oslo, who oversaw the planting of the Future Library saplings. Standing among them now, he confesses that he first thought the project was “a little strange.” But surveying the crowd of young trees under his care, he admits to a certain degree of subdued national pride. “It makes sense to do it here,” he says of Paterson’s project. “We Norwegians have a special relationship with nature. We grow up with it, we spend all our free time in it, we built our metro not so we could come into the city but so we could go out to nature.” He pauses to stop a foreign visitor from trampling a small sapling, then returns. “It’s hard to explain,” he says, “but we know how to care for nature.” “Yes,” I say, before hiking off myself. “I know just what you mean.” Contributing writer Lisa Abend wrote about Stedsans in the Woods in the May/June 2019 issue. Photographer Emma Hardy is profiled on page 28.
Koh Tao Swimming Lessons Brooke Vaughan, Editorial Fellow
As our boat floated in the Gulf of Thailand, a scratchy voice over the radio alerted our captain that divers had seen an endangered whale shark nearby. On deck, the energy was palpable. Even the instructors, tanned and perpetually sandy, were giddy. My hair whipped around my face as the boat sped toward the Green Rock dive site where the shark had been. Hands shaking, I fastened my vest to the air tank and defogged my mask. We were on the last dive of our last day—no way was I going to let foggy goggles ruin this. 120
A week before, my sister and I had arrived to get scuba certified on the island of Koh Tao, about 250 miles south of Bangkok. From the get-go, our instructor warned us that whale shark sightings had been low this season, but our hopes remained high. Each day in scuba school was filled with adventure: adjusting to my Darth Vader-esque underwater breathing, hearing the click, click of teachers tapping their tanks to get students’ attention, floating mere feet away from barracuda. Now, speeding toward Green Rock, I had never felt more
prepared to earn my scuba certification. We spent an hour under water—a record for us—hoping for a glimpse of the elusive creature. We saw territorial triggerfish, masked black and yellow bannerfish, and delicate pink anemonefish ducking in and out of coral. But no whale shark. Eventually, I kicked to the surface expecting to be disappointed. Buoyed by the waves, I reveled in the moment instead, appreciating all I’d learned. The sun warmed my face, and happiness consumed me—whale shark not required.
LEFT TO RIGHT, FROM TOP LEFT: SHEILAGH ADAM, JOHN DAVIS, CLAUDIA VAN BEECK/HUNGRYFTWORLD, ARNON NAIM/ARNON_COOK, ADAM BUREŠ/ADA_BURES, SOPHIE/GREENTRAVELGIRL, ALEXANDER DUFFNER/ALAMY, U&I/ISTOCK, WESTEND61 GMBH/ALAMY
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