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The 2014 Travel Vanguard: 22 Ways Travel is Changing

  • 1 / 22
    The Irish Countryside has Never Been More Road-Trip Ready
    The Irish Countryside has Never Been More Road-Trip Ready
    Flashback to the early aughts. You want to travel through the epically green Irish backcountry. How hard can it be? And then you meet the roads—winding, potholed, dirt paths that tour buses fly on at unthinkable speeds. It could take you up to five perilous hours to get from Dublin to the west side of the island. Now, though, thanks to $500 million in infrastructure upgrades and the M7 highway, it’s a cool—and safe!—two-hour drive to Shannon. Bernhard Steiner, a travel planner from outfitter Cox & Kings, breaks down what to experience after the scenic drive. - Andrew Richdale


    Cruise the River Shannon: “Hire a local tour guide to take you along this river, which snakes through quaint villages and is perfect for fishing. The waters are packed with Atlantic salmon.”

    The Burren: “Erosion has turned this region into vast fields of odd limestone formations. When the fog comes in, it has this powerful, eerie feel. It’s impossible to take a bad photo here.”

    Cliffs of Moher (pictured): “They’re popular with travelers for good reason. The staggering cliffs (some as high as 700 feet) are just too dramatic to miss. Plus, you can tell the kids that Harry Potter was filmed here.”


    Bunratty Castle Hotel“The hotel is really close to the airport, but don’t make any judgments because of that. It’s like a plush high-end Irish cottage with charming B&B service. All the food is made from scratch, there is a pub next door, and you’re literally across the street from a 15th-century tower.” 
    Flickr user Jennifer Boyer
  • 2 / 22
    Just Saying: Why Aren't We More Connected?
    Just Saying: Why Aren't We More Connected?
    “I wish Facebook alerted you when you and your friends from other places are in the same city. I travel all the time. Often, once I’m back home, I get a message: ‘Dude, you were in New Orleans last weekend, too? Would have been great to hang out.’ Also, why can I never find an outlet to plug in my laptop at the airport? I shouldn’t have to forage behind a vending machine. This isn’t Budapest, 1989!”
    —Davy Rothbart, founder of Washington II Washington, a nonprofit that gets city kids into the great outdoors 
    Courtesy of Finnair
  • 3 / 22
    You Will Be Able to Go Into Space This Year
    You Will Be Able to Go Into Space This Year
    Stephen Attenborough, Virgin Galactic’s commercial director, breaks down exactly what leaving Earth will feel like.

    “The 2.5-hour flights will take off at sunrise, so it will still be dark in the New Mexican desert where the Spaceport is. You’ll put on your flight suit before boarding the spaceship, which is attached to a carrier aircraft. The first part will feel familiar: You take off from a runway and head up to 50,000 feet. Then the spaceship detaches and everything changes rapidly. You’ll feel G-forces (imagine an extreme version of a rollercoaster), and you will reach the speed of sound in six and a half seconds. You’ll hear rattles and vibrations; outside, the sky will turn from blue to purple and fade to black.”

    “Once you get to an altitude of 361,000 feet, the pilots will switch off the rocket motor and you’ll instantly be in a different environment: Everything is silent—there’s no atmosphere outside—and you’re now weightless. You’ll be able to remove your seatbelt and float into the cabin to have your fun in zero gravity: Somersault, float beads of water in the air, take photos. The view, I think, will be the pinnacle of the experience: It is fundamentally life-changing to look down at our blue planet from space.”

    “Reentry happens audibly. You’ll hear what sounds like raindrops—it’s as if you’re driving into a tropical storm—which is actually the spacecraft colliding with the first molecules of air. As the atmosphere thickens around you, that sound will grow to a roar. You’ll feel G-forces again until you reach 80,000 feet. All you’ll have to brace for after that is the Virgin Galactic party waiting for you at homebase.” 

    - As told to Aislyn Greene
    Courtesy of Clay Center Observatory/Virgin Galactic
  • 4 / 22
    A Hotel Remote That Actually Makes Sense
    A Hotel Remote That Actually Makes Sense
    We recently test-drove the slick new touchscreen controls in the guest rooms at the Peninsula Hong Kong (a member of the AFAR Collection of Hotels and Resorts) and have to say: Finally, a device that makes it easy to change the channel, adjust the room's humidity, fiddle with the drapes, and order a midnight cheesecake from room service. 

    Courtesy of Peninsula Hong Kong
  • 5 / 22
    Boutique Hotels That Float
    Boutique Hotels That Float
    The new Aqua Mekong, a super modern river cruise ship that will guide its first 40 passengers from bustling Saigon into the Cambodian countryside this September, raises the travel-by-water bar. Aqua Expeditions founder Francesco Galli Zugaro walks us through three innovations that make it feel like your favorite boutique hotel. –A.G.

    1) “The 320-square-foot suites have walk-in rainforest showers and huge closets—some even have balconies with Noor day beds.”
    2) “Our screening room has Eames lounge chairs and speakers built right into the walls. You get these waves of crystal-clear sound.”
    3) “We’ve worked really hard to be green. All our decking, for example, looks like teak but is made from an eco-friendly mix of rice husks and vegetable oil."  
    Courtesy of Aqua Expeditions
  • 6 / 22
    Edward Norton—Yes, the Fight Club Guy—is Making a Kenya a Better Place
    Edward Norton—Yes, the Fight Club Guy—is Making a Kenya a Better Place
    While you probably know actor Edward Norton for his roles in the last few Wes Anderson movies, the members of Kenya’s Maasai tribe know him better as the person who has spent the last 10 years working with the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, an organization that helps protect their land and culture. He is also a passionate supporter of Campi Ya Kanzi, an eco-lodge in the area that actually delivers on its promise to preserve its environs–so much so that he designed a trip around it for outfitter GeoEx. Here, Norton gives pointers on how to be a more conscientious traveler on your next far-flung journey. —A.R.

    No More Instagrams of Strangers.
    “I really cringe when travelers take pictures of people they don’t know. What are you really capturing? Somebody looking back at you feeling objectified? Get a picture of a place that you made a connection with instead. Or, move amongst locals, get to know them, and if
    it feels organic, then snap a shot. That’s much more admirable.”

    Put Your Conscience Before Your Id.
    “You can feel pampered at an eco-lodge without an in-room plunge pool. Think about how much diesel it takes for a truck to source that water from
    a community well! Or consider steak. I really respect Soneva Fushi in the Maldives because if someone orders steak, waiters inform the guest that it’s not served  because there is no beef within a thousand-mile radius. If the guest is really pushy, they offer a frozen one from the back and charge exactly what it took to get there, insane carbon tax and all.” 

    See Something? Say Something.
    “The amount of garbage in places like China and India? Shocking. If you see people, even your tour guide, litter, then speak up. By osmosis, you’ll share new values.” 
    Courtesy of Campi Ya Kanzi
  • 7 / 22
    Hotels Are Getting More Stylish By the Minute
    Hotels Are Getting More Stylish By the Minute
    As part of its 50th anniversary, Sofitel is launching a style makeover. The hotel brand has matched up various properties worldwide (like the new Sofitel So Singapore, pictured) with influential designers, including Kenzo Takada, Christian Lacroix, and Karl Lagerfeld, and given them creative power to put their stamp on everything from rooms and lobbies to logos. 
    Courtesy of Sofitel So Singapore
  • 8 / 22
    The Neighborhood That Is Evolving Without the G-Word
    The Neighborhood That Is Evolving Without the G-Word
    It’s become a tired story, the gentrification of cool neighborhood after neighborhood, which is why Casco Viejo, a former gang battlefield in Panama City, is such a refreshing change.

    In the span of a few years, everyone from Spanish chefs (Manuel Maduro of Manolo Caracol) to American hoteliers (
    Atelier Ace, the creative force behind the Ace Hotels, which is behind the just-opened American Trade Hotel)—have jump-started a reform and job-training program for locals. Visit Casco and an ex-gang lord may even help you with your bags. It has been a team effort, locals say. “Businesses that don’t cooperate or that import talent from elsewhere don’t really last,” explains Matt Landau, an American expat who has lived here for eight years and runs the posh B&B Canal House.

    Entrepreneurs aggressively guard the town’s spirit, too. Dogs run wild. Most buildings have a century’s worth of bruises. At some point in your stay, you’ll probably be woken up by an impromptu block party. Instead of reaching for earplugs, just walk downstairs and join in. This is not a place for people who are afraid of rough edges. —A.R. 
    Spencer Lowell
  • 9 / 22
    You're Now Free to Move About the Design Studio
    You're Now Free to Move About the Design Studio
    Designer Hella Jongerius recently refreshed every detail in KLM's business class cabins, down to the carpet. The mod new look is simpler, cleaner–and could be in a MoMA exhibition on 1970s design. 

  • 10 / 22
    In Praise of Delta's Stellar App
    In Praise of Delta's Stellar App
    I liked Delta before their app. I got upgraded reasonably often, they properly compensated me for  inevitable inconveniences, and I could call them and talk to a real live person without first muting the line and viewing an entire episode of Game of Thrones. But I didn’t truly fall in love until I tried their app. Sure, it’s satisfying having someone else fix your itinerary for you. But you know what is even better? Changing a flight, switching to an exit row seat, and then getting on said flight and seeing this other seat across the way, seemingly free—no, definitely free according to this little map here—and making it yours with a single swipe. I’m a moderately OCD traveler, and sometimes the Delta app is the only sane part of my travel days. A.R. 
  • 11 / 22
    The Cool Quotient of Las Vegas is Tripling
    The Cool Quotient of Las Vegas is Tripling
    First there was the Cosmopolitan hotel, a food-lover’s alternative to the traditional Sin City experience. Now, thanks to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s new initiative, the Downtown Project, several blocks near the  heart of the Strip are sprouting cafés, midcentury modern shopping malls, and food courts that favor small merchants, not chains. Here’s a preview of the next Vegas wave. —A.G.
    A Theater of the Future
    The new Inspire Theater, a 200-seat event space anchored by a cocktail bar and an international
    news café, has surprises baked into the design, such as an Espresso Book Machine, which prints books on-demand in the café, and a members-only bar whose doors can be entered only via a fingerprint scanner.

    The Next Level of Shopping
    We’re hesitant to call Ferguson’s Downtown (set to open in late 2014) a mall. Yes, the renovated motel will have stores—but also four taverns, an artisanal coffee shop, locally sourced food kiosks, and the Big Rig Jig, a 50-foot sculpture that artist Mike Ross made from two tanker-truck cabs.

    Real-Life Mad Men Offices
    We’re not sure what office buildings in Vegas look like now, but the ones at the ’50s-era John E. Carson building (right, slated to open this summer) will have Herman Miller furniture, hot yoga studios, and a vegan donut shop that honors local Vegas customs—that is, going completely over the top. 
    Courtesy of Bunnyfish Studio
  • 12 / 22
    You Can Now Rent This Airstream
    You Can Now Rent This Airstream
    Ok, maybe not this exact one, but one a lot like it, in Bozeman, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. Airstream 2 Go will rent you a trailer fully stocked, hitched to a GMC Denali, and ready to roam wide-open spaces. 

    Airstream, Inc.
  • 13 / 22
    Just Saying: Personalized Service Could Use More Common Sense
    Just Saying: Personalized Service Could Use More Common Sense
    “Employees who have detailed dossiers on every guest can get creepy. It’s important to have the emotional intelligence to ‘read’ individuals; you can learn a guest’s preferences, but you have to use that information subtly. It’s the small, discrete touches that feel genuine.” —Sonia Cheng, the 33-year-old CEO who is expanding and revamping the Rosewood Hotel Group
    Courtesy of The Carlyle
  • 14 / 22
    Hostels Aren't Just For Freewheeling Students
    Hostels Aren't Just For Freewheeling Students
    The Freehand Miami has altered the definition of what a hostel can be. The shared rooms and private suites don’t feel like sterile dorm rooms. Rather, the spaces pop with color and warm details—colorful Mexican blankets can be found in every room. Then there’s the backyard: Its bar serves the city’s best craft cocktails and hosts weekly barbecues that attract artists and locals who want to escape the roaring strip. In other words, for the first time ever, a hostel is the retreat from all of the noise. –A.R. 
    Adrian Gaut
  • 15 / 22
    The Company Carving a New Backcountry Ski Destination–in Asia
    The Company Carving a New Backcountry Ski Destination–in Asia
    "Kyrgyzstan is like Colorado on steroids,” says Ryan Koupal, founder of 40 Tribes, a yurt camp in the Kyrgyz wilderness geared toward die-hard skiers who crave untouched backcountry in a location more exotic than the Alps. And the culture may surprise you. “Kyrgyzstan is very different from the other ’Stans—the people have opened themselves to the world in a way that’s unique for Central Asia,” he says. Expect incredible Kyrgyz hospitality—traditional dishes prepped by a local chef and a steady stream of tea and vodka—plus yurts with immediate slope access and views of Issyk-Kul, the second-largest alpine lake in the world. But most unforgettable? Koupal says swooping down the slopes, surrounded by 20,000-foot peaks, glaciated terrain, and spruce forests, “feels like you’re skiing on the edge of the earth.” —A.G. 
    Nicolas Teichrob
  • 16 / 22
    The Bag That Will Reform Your Inner Packrat
    The Bag That Will Reform Your Inner Packrat
    Jack Spade's pebble-leather dopp kits ($98) will change your life in a small but important way. They are half the standard size, so you're forced to pack only what you need, not the extra hair goop or third lip gloss. 
    Courtesy of Jack Spade
  • 17 / 22
    Catch a Concert During Your Connection
    Catch a Concert During Your Connection
    This month, the iconic Seattle music label Sub Pop opens a retail space in Sea-Tac International’s Central Terminal. It’s not just a store, though: It will also host live rock shows. In the airport. 
    Courtesy of Sub Pop
  • 18 / 22
    Downright Addictive Breakfast Sandwiches
    Downright Addictive Breakfast Sandwiches
    The light at the end of the red-eye is restaurateur Danny Meyer’s JFK-only addition to his new Shake Shack at Terminal 4: A Niman Ranch egg, sausage, and cheese sammy that rivals the Shack’s renowned burger. 
    Courtesy of Shake Shack
  • 19 / 22
    Delayed Departure? Confirmed Swedish Massage.
    Delayed Departure? Confirmed Swedish Massage.
    Qatar Airways’ premium terminals at Doha International now offer all the perks of a top-of-the-line resort: plush beds for cat naps; a spa with saunas, Jacuzzis, and a massage menu; and bellhops who will pick up your bags and keep an eye on them while you relax. 
    Courtesy of Qatar Airways
  • 20 / 22
    Go For the Scene, Stay For the Flight
    Go For the Scene, Stay For the Flight
    “Toronto’s Porter Airlines terminal is a bougie traveler’s dream: free refreshments, free computers with Wi-Fi, and free newspapers. Plus, the seats are so comfortable. Locals sometimes arrive early to hang out because you always see someone you know—or meet someone new.” —Sanford Riley, Toronto-based architect 
    Courtesy Porter Airlines
  • 21 / 22
    Just Saying: Traveling Could Be a Little Kinder on the Body
    Just Saying: Traveling Could Be a Little Kinder on the Body
    “People still associate getting out of town with getting out of shape. Airlines should think about wellness more. Schedule (healthier) meals closer to when we’ll be eating once we land, and post bigger clocks set to our destination’s time so we can better plan naps.” —Jamie Wong, founder of Vayable, a choose-your-own-adventure-style travel service 
    By Flickr user Rauckhaus
  • 22 / 22
    Alexander Chee: The Dreamer Bringing Creativity Back to the Rails
    Alexander Chee: The Dreamer Bringing Creativity Back to the Rails
    In March of this year, the writer Alexander Chee had an intriguing thought during an interview: What if Amtrak hosted writers-in-residence aboard trains? A Twitter storm gathered and Amtrak responded. It’s now accepting 24 writers, and for the first time in a long time, we’ve been reminded of how wildly romantic travel by rail used to be—and could be again. Chee explains in this evocative essay
    Carlos Chavarría