Love is in the air with Valentine’s Day coming up this weekend, and we’re particularly in love with some of this week’s travel stories—especially the ones about new ways to see and experience the world. As always, if you have questions or comments about anything you read here, please Tweet us at @AFARmedia. And please share the column with friends!
Frederick Douglass NHS celebrates African-American History Month
February is Black History Month, and there’s no better way to celebrate than by honoring Frederick Douglass, one of the country’s greatest anti-slavery leaders. This weekend, rangers at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, D.C., have put together a host of free events to commemorate what would have been Douglass’ 198th birthday. Tours will focus on Douglass’ travels, how the Douglasses entertained at their home, and rooms where guests stayed when they visited. One program that should be particularly appealing to travelers, called "Wet Britches and Muddy Boots: A History of Travel in Victorian America," will focus on what Douglass and others of his era had to contend with when they traveled around the country or internationally. Other programs will feature a house party at the Anacostia Arts Center (in nearby southeast Washington D.C.) to celebrate Douglass’ love of music, a historical walking tour of Anacostia, book signings, children’s activities, and a variety of talks.
Two new Four Seasons resorts
Frequent travelers who say there’s nothing quite like that “new hotel smell” are going to be very happy with Four Seasons Resorts. This week the company not only opened one brand new hotel, they also started taking reservations for another. The first is the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, which reopened Feb. 1 after eight months of renovations. The property now features 217 guestrooms (including 51 suites), multiple dining options (including their signature Nobu Lanie, which features Japanese and Japanese-Hawaiian cuisine), a more luxurious spa and wellness program, luxury retail boutiques, and the 18-hole ocean-view Jack Nicklaus Signature Manele Golf Course. The rooms themselves have been tricked out with the latest technology: each has a 75-inch, platinum-bezel LED television panel and an iPad Air. And instead of using traditional room keys, FS Lanai guests receive wearable key wristbands that operate the doors. (Rooms from $960.) The second hotel, Four Seasons Hotel Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC), will open formally on March 21. This hotel, set in Dubai’s business district, has 106 rooms (including 28 suites), a rooftop pool and sky bar, and a restaurant created in collaboration with Chef Michael Mina. (Rooms from $425.)
Outfitters partner to help The Nature Conservancy
This week a trio of expedition outfitters announced a three-year collaboration with The Nature Conservancy. The partnership is meant to raise awareness about the importance of “preserving and restoring the natural world” and to raise money for the Conservancy’s efforts. The outfitters—International Expeditions, Quark Expeditions, and Zegrahm Expeditions—will highlight the Conservancy’s work in their marketing materials and in their trip programming, and members of the Conservancy’s scientists and staff will join some expeditions to continue this education in the field. What’s more, the outfitters will contribute 0.5 percent of each guest’s trip fees to the Conservancy to help fund their mission. Finally, expedition guests also will be eligible for a complimentary one-year membership with The Nature Conservancy. Sounds like a win-win to us.
Nomadic Expeditions and Tibet House lead cultural journey through Mongolia
A new tour from Nomadic Expeditions, in partnership with Tibet House in New York, will focus on the contrasts between ancient and modern Mongolia. This 13-day expedition, titled, “Mongolia: Spiritual and Cultural Awakening with Robert Thurman,” is guided Robert Thurman, the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religion at Columbia University, and Jalsa Urubshurow, founder and CEO of Nomadic Expeditions. Participants will spend time in Ulanbaatar, at a ger camp in the foothills of the Hogno Han Mountains, and at Three Camel Lodge in the south Gobi Desert. Along the way, Thurman will teach travelers about Buddhism’s history in Mongolia and lead guided meditation sessions. The trip is scheduled for July 21-Aug. 2. The price: US$11,900 per person, which includes a US$1,000 donation to Tibet House.
10 years after Eat, Pray, Love, do it yourself
It’s been a decade since Elizabeth Gilbert published her widely read travel memoir, Eat, Pray, Love (and five years since Julia Roberts played Gilbert in the film version of the story). To commemorate this milestone, Intrepid Travel unveiled an extensive trip itinerary inspired by the book. The trip, dubbed “The Ultimate Journey of Self-Discovery,” spans 38 days and touches down in the three countries featured in the book: Italy, India, and Bali. Along the way, travelers will taste gelato in Rome and sip wine in Tuscany; meander the streets of New Delhi and marvel at the Taj Mahal, and find Zen at temples near Ubud and hike the mist-shrouded mountains of Bedugal. The trip begins in Rome on Sept. 30 and ends in Sanur, Bali, on Nov. 6. Prices start at US$7,250 per person. (Make-out sessions with Javier Bardem are not included.)
Dengue Fever situation in Hawaii worsens
What started as a few cases of Dengue Fever in an isolated corner of Hawaii Island has metastasized into a full-on outbreak, prompting the island’s mayor to declare a state of emergency earlier this week. Island officials have recorded more than 250 cases in the last four months—the largest outbreak in the State of Hawaii since the 1940s. The first cases were reported in the remote Waipio Valley, but the outbreak has now spread to other parts of the island. As part of his announcement, Mayor Billy Kenoi said locals will be allowed to resume disposing of old tires in landfills, since tires that are left lying around collect water and become breeding spots for mosquitoes. If you’re traveling to the Big Island, you’ll want to be diligent about wearing long sleeves, using bug repellent, and avoiding standing water. (For more tips on steering clear of mosquito-borne illnesses such as Dengue and the Zika virus, check one of the stories in our “Good Reads” section, below.)
Cruise ship damaged in storm, turns around
Hurricane-force winds and giant waves prompted one of the world’s largest cruise ships to abandon an itinerary this week and return to port this week. The ship, Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, was damaged in the unexpected weather event, which it encountered in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the Carolinas. The vessel was just more than a day into a seven-day sailing to the Bahamas from its home port of Bayonne, N.J. At the height of the onslaught (which occurred after the Super Bowl), the ship’s captain requested passengers to remain in their staterooms. Thankfully—remarkably, really—no one was seriously hurt. An article on USA Today’s website included a number of pictures that passengers took of the destruction on the ship. The images showed chairs strewn about a dining room, shattered glass, and parts of a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system in a heap. Following the incident, Royal Caribbean said passengers will receive full refunds of the fares they paid for the cruise, as well as a credit for a future cruise equal to 50 percent of the fare.
Following the World Health Organization’s recent warnings about the Zika virus, Jennifer Miner, of The Vacation Gals, set out to learn more about how to avoid mosquito-borne illnesses when traveling. The result is a fantastic service piece with insight from Dr. Douglas Morrison, a professor of biological sciences who contracted the chikungunya virus on a trip to Haiti in 2014. The story provides good suggestions and expert information. Consider it a must-read.
The Canadian province of Nova Scotia isn’t very big, but on a recent trip, writer David Taylor found that despite its size, it boasts a tremendous number of places to go walking and hiking. The author chronicled some of his best experiences in a colorful piece for The Washington Post. Over the course of the story, Taylor shares tidbits about local ecology and history and weaves in stories about interactions with locals, which really bring the piece to life.
The Super Bowl undoubtedly earned hundreds of millions of dollars for the hosting San Francisco Bay Area. It also brought the region its first outdoor public urinal—a phenomenon that has become commonplace in big cities around Europe. Author Drew Magary unzips and tries the potty himself in a hilarious essay for GQ.com. While the story is set up as a humor piece, it also provides great detail and color about a travel experience that more men likely will have in the months and years ahead.
Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In more than 18 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Alaska Airlines, and more. He is a senior editor for the Expedia Viewfinder blog from Expedia, and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association, and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com.