Travel and Escape
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Monday, August 21, 2006
This summer I've had a number of friends visit me in Boulder. We've hiked to Isabel Glacier and Chautauqua, taken cruiser bikes around town and walked along Pearl St. They’ve stayed at the St. Julian, dined at the Kitchen, enjoyed tapas at Seven Euro Bar and coffee at Trident. At the end of their visit they generally question why I would ever leave. They also want to buy property.

These friends aren’t wide-eyed tourists, but rather world travelers who I have guided on trips to some of the most beautiful destinations on earth. They’ve been to Europe more times than they can count, hiked in Peru, Patagonia and Nepal, sailed along the Turkish coast and scuba dived in Indonesia. They aren’t easily WOWED!

It sometimes is hard to justify leaving Boulder other than the occasional need for sea salt and humidity. Those of us from the East Coast find ourselves inviting family here for holidays. The weather is nearly perfect, we have the mountain playground in our backyard, great festivals, music, shopping, dining….and if we need to experience a different culture we can just hop over to Santa Fe, Salt Lake or Cheyenne right?

Who needs to Escape beyond Boulder? Beyond Colorado? Beyond the US?
We all do. Get out your passport, here is what I have learned.

Traveling within the US it is easy to stay connected. For many of us it is actually really difficult to disconnect. Our blackberries are vibrating, we are think about work, family, finances, news. Even when we are in the mountains we are thinking maybe we should get home…beat the traffic, get some work done, catch up before the week begins.

When we travel to a destination where the language and culture is different we spend a significant time figuring out how to live day to day. We slow down as things move slower. This is really good for us. We are consumed by simple things like what to eat and how to greet people we meet. Visiting a market or biking to the next village becomes exotic. We feel huge accomplishments when we successfully order a cup of coffee or read a local train schedule.

We return home with olive oil from a producer we met, a textile from a village we visited, a stamp on our passport. Oh, and we also have a new form of social currency when we join our friends out for Tapas or Cerviche . We scour the produce and grocery aisle looking for items that connect us to our travel experience.

I believe there are actually valuable long term results from going across the Pond/Border/Continent. We read the paper and listen to the news differently. We picture the people in the villages, we feel the texture of the land, we taste the unique flavors of food, we think about the differences and similarities. It is difficult to return from Europe and not re-evaluate our desire for large cars and complaints around the price of gas. Visiting developing countries questions are quest for accumulating larger houses and material goods. Traveling with one suitcase or backpack refreshes our reality of what we really need. Experiencing long meals surrounded by friends and family as a daily occurrence brings questions of independence and interdependence.

With the NW parkway we are now 40 minutes or less to DIA with no traffic. The reality is we can fly to South America and Europe in less time than it takes us to get to upstate NY. Start planning your escape…you can justify it.

So…where to go. Here are a few tips and suggestions. Keep in mind these are my personal preferences and not for everyone.

• What are you looking for? Classic, Adventure, Cutting Edge I classify destinations into these three categories. Think about what you are looking for before you choose a destination.
a. Classic= Italy, Ireland, and Australia etc (well know, must go there, easy to travel within);
b. Adventure = Patagonia, Himalayan Trek, Inca Trail, Kilimanjaro (remote, more physically demanding, uncertain weather and transportation)
c. Cutting Edge=just off the radar. Most people (maybe not in Boulder) ask where or why. Think Slovenia, Bulgaria, Laos.

Go Under the Radar:
Here is a challenge….look under the radar. For your most unique and authentic experience look deeper. This opportunity exists in every category…

Most of us travel to Peru because of Machu Picchu without spending more than a day in the nearby Urubamba valley which offers ancient ruins, remote villages and incredible hikes. We connect Italy with Tuscany or the Cinque Terre without considering Sardegna and Puglia. Our destination is “Patagonia” and we spend little time researching the island of Chiloé (Chile) or the wine country of Mendoza (Argentina).

Cutting edge destinations are often completely under the radar. A few years ago I took 18 women on a hike trip to Slovenia. Not one of them knew exactly where it was when they sent the deposit. Slovenia resembles Switzerland 50 years ago with 180 mt. huts, 40 km of coastline, and is one of the most, if not the most, beautiful countries I have visited.

Croatia, the Baltics (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and Ladakh are three of my favorite new discoveries. Certain countries or regions have only recently developed a tourist infrastructure. Go when the infrastructure is established but before you find it in the travel magazines (or on Matt Lauer’s list)

Cities vs Countryside:
My personal feeling is that unless you absolutely love cities, spend as little time in them on your first trip to the destination. Large cities can take up a good deal of time and energy and in general don’t offer the authentic experiences you might find in smaller villages or towns. Paris, London, Rome aren’t changing THAT quickly. It is easier to get back to cities for a shorter vacation in the years ahead. Of course flying in to these destinations and having a day or two to adjust and explore is great…

Villages vs Wilderness:
As you know, we live in the most beautiful places. Hiking in Rocky Mt. National Park is as spectacular as any destination in the world. The villages we stay in, the people we meet on the local paths and in the mountain huts, the owner of the local Trattoria; the farmers, weavers, school children… these are the connections that will stay with us and make us feel like we really have had an experience. I recommended making villages a major part of your escape.

Self Guided or Small Group:
if you are short on time and want to have a through-the-back-door experience I recommend signing up with one of the great small tour operators, many of whom are based here in Boulder. Trips range in price based on your accommodations needs (and often the size of the brochure, so ask for references), they all should connect you with a local guide who knows the best bike and hiking routes, great local restaurants, and everyone in the area. If you have time and love planning your itinerary, the self guided experience is great but know that you’ll likely be working through guide books or travel sites which offer the same information that every other tourists is using.

So, dust off or apply for your passport. Use your frequent flyer miles, check out deals to London and do extra research on carriers within Europe such as Ryan Air and Easy Jet who offer incredible deals for getting about in Europe. Book a hiking tour, a volunteer vacation, rent a villa on line or do a house trade. Traveling internationally offers a new and always valuable perspective. Your Escape is justified!

Reviewed by Kathy Dragon

Read all reviews by Kathy Dragon
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Member Comments!

on Sep 13, 2006 at 3:15pm:

Amen. I agree that traveling abroad alters your perspective, expands your horizons, and is just plain fun. Here’s an article I wrote called “10 Tips on How to Blend in Abroad” so you don’t stick out like a sore thumb and keep your cool.

Also, volunteer vacations are a great way to go. Here’s a list of companies that offer them:

And if you want to plan a group trip abroad, there’s a new group planning service,, where you can plan and coordinate trips for free with friends, family, etc.

Disclosure: I am the blog editor for TripHub.

triphub's site
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