A visit to South Africa's Mala Mala Game Reserve hasn't quenched Editor-in-Chief Kenneth Shapiro's desire to watch animals in their native habitat and among his dream trips is taking his family on an African Safari. // (c) 2011 Kenneth Shapiro
Barbados, the birthplace of rum, is a dream destination for online editor Monica Poling. // © 2008 Matthew Knight (weponce), Flickr.com
Iguazu Falls, located in both Argentina and Brazil, are one of part of Senior Editor Skye Mayring’s dream trip to South America. // © iStock.com
Managing Editor Janeen Christoff would begin her dream trip, backpacking the world, in Southeast Asia, possibly at Bagan, Myanmar. // © 2012 AntwerpenR
Associate Editor Mindy Poder’s grandfather survived the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, located in Poland. // © Auschwitz Museum
It goes without saying that TravelAge West’s editors have been all over the globe — but we’re not done exploring quite yet. Although we all come from different backgrounds and different parts of the country, we seem to share a lot in common in our Los Angeles office. Each of us possesses a certain degree of wanderlust, and we absolutely love researching and writing about new, exotic places as well as the tried-and-true favorites that are so special that we just can’t wait to experience them all over again.
Dream Trip: African Safari
Five a.m. comes too fast. As we stand in the cold, dark pre-dawn, waiting for our African game drive to begin at last, it feels as if I’m still dreaming. The kids don’t show signs of being tired, but I know they barely slept and must feel the fatigue, too. After dinner, the night before, our guide Jeffrey insisted on walking us back to our room, rifle in hand, because a leopard was spotted in the camp just a couple of days earlier. That’s all the kids needed to hear — they spent the next two hours shining a flashlight out the window searching for the glowing eyes of animals in the darkness. Sally, my daughter, is the animal lover of the family and, now, she can barely stand still with nervous excitement. My son Henry is talking to Jeffrey about the plan for that morning. The two boys are actually not that different in age, but Jeffrey grew up in the bush and has the air of a leader — someone you don’t mind following into the wilderness. Soon, it’s time to take our spots in the Range Rover. Just before we get in, my wife leans closer to me.
“It’s really happening,” she says. “I can’t believe we’re actually here.”
And with that, our African dream trip finally becomes reality.
This trip hasn’t happened — at least not yet. It’s an ideal moment from an imaginary vacation I hope to take with my family one day. A few years back, I was able to go on safari in South Africa, staying at the Mala Mala Game Reserve. I was simply blown away by the trip. To me, it’s miraculous that you can still experience wildlife in this way, given the fragility of our planet. Instantly, I knew this was something I wanted to share with my family one day while it was still a possibility.
Dream Destination: Barbados
To paraphrase Martin Cate, owner of San Francisco’s popular Smuggler’s Cove rum bar, “there just isn’t a more fascinating spirit [than rum] in the world — revolution, triumph, piracy, war, sailors, celebration and unspeakable human tragedy are in every glass.”
Revolution, triumph, piracy, war and sailors also tend to be the backbone of my favorite travel experiences, so it’s a no-brainer that one of my dream destinations would be the birthplace of rum, Barbados.
While drinking copious amounts of rum in the land that invented it is certainly reason enough for me to want to visit Barbados, the country’s blend of an island-casual vibe and British colonial origins give it an irresistible allure. Take for example, Barbados’ native Tuk bands. These ensembles play African rhythms that morphed into the sounds of the British military regimental bands that made their home on the islands. Folks from Barbados are quick to tell Americans that George Washington spent several months there in his late teens, which, in fact, was the future president’s only journey, ever, outside of American soil.
Certainly if Barbados’ spirits — and spirit — weren’t reason enough to want to visit, its temperate climate, pristine beaches and sparkling, turquoise waters have made it one of my must-see destinations.
Read about Online Editor Monica Poling’s favorite trips of 2012 here.
Dream Destinations: Argentina and Brazil
As a teenager, did you ever have a crush on someone who you hadn’t even met yet? You fantasized about your first date — when the two of you would discover that you shared so much in common and were destined to be together. That’s how I feel about Argentina. For a reason that I can’t put my finger on, I’m convinced that I will fall head-over-heels in love with Buenos Aires. Perhaps it’s the European-influenced architecture and culture, the promise of world-class art museums and fine wine or the possibilities of late-night philosophical discussions with locals in dimly lit tango clubs that continue to draw me to Argentina’s capital city.
My dream is to get together a group of friends and combine a week-long stay in Buenos Aires with a trip to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. We would lay our heads at the Hotel Santa Teresa, a newer Relais & Chateaux property in a hip, hilltop neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. After watching a “futbol” match or two, sampling Rio’s culinary scene and dancing in the streets until we drop, we’ll be ready for a retreat to the quieter, more picturesque side of the region. Our trip will end with a few days relaxing at Hotel das Catarata in Iguassu Falls National Park, which was declared a Natural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 1986. My inner teenager is already swooning.
Trip of a Lifetime: Backpacking the world
I spent two years living and traveling abroad. It is an adventure that I will never forget and, just about every day something in my life reminds me of that time. My trip of a lifetime would be to expand on that journey, pack up my backpack, pick up a copy of “Lonely Planet” and a multi-country air pass and head to a far-flung destination. I would start in Southeast Asia, somewhere I have wanted to go for a long time, and then make my way to New Zealand, South America, Europe and end in London. I’d like to see old friends and make new ones as I combine rustic, off-the-beaten-path experiences with luxury city stays. My goal is to return with a new perspective on life — a richer one full of new memories.
Ideal Itinerary: Poland and Russia
Antarctica, India and Indonesia top my bucket list, which is something I suspect I share with many travelers. Perhaps less pervasive on these lists is my ideal itinerary to Poland and Russia, where I hope to go with my family in tow. As a kid, I’d always ask my parents where my ancestors were from and was given vague responses that included stories of the grandparents and relatives I never met, against the backdrop of the Holocaust, Poland and Russia. It may be too late to meet those brave relatives who endured the unendurable — or died trying — but visiting the places where they grew up, where they escaped and where some of them survived would certainly make for an unforgettable family reunion.
Want to see where else TravelAge West editors just can’t wait to visit? Check out our Pinterest Trips of a Lifetime board — which is devoted to keeping track of our favorite destinations — at Pinterest.com/TravelAgeWest.