Obama Foundation, AirBnB Invite College Applicants for Voyager Scholarship

Sharing music and culture in Cambodia. The Obama Foundation and AirBnB have joined to offer college students the Voyager Scholarship for Public Service which recognizes the extraordinary benefit of travel. © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

An increasingly globalized world needs young leaders who can bridge divides and help solve our biggest challenges together. That’s the basis for the Voyager Scholarship for Public Service, created by Barack and Michelle Obama and Brian Chesky, Airbnb Co-founder and CEO, to help shape such leaders.

“Even though they come from different backgrounds, both the President and Brian believe that exposure to new places and experiences generates understanding, empathy, and cooperation which equips the next generation to create meaningful change.”

The scholarship, provides college students financial aid to alleviate the burden of college debt, meaningful travel experiences to expand their horizons, and a network of mentors and leaders to support them.

The Voyager Scholarship for Public Service is awarded to 100 undergraduates entering their junior year in the United States who are interested in working towards positive change, with a desire to travel and to expand their horizons, who are bridge builders in their community, and eager to learn from others. Applications close on Wednesday, March 22, 2023 at 3 pm CT.

The Voyager Scholarship for Public Service includes:

Up to $50,000 in financial aid: Students will receive up to $25,000 per year in “last dollar” financial aid for their junior and senior years of college. This financial aid should alleviate the burden of college debt so that students can afford to pursue a career in public service.

Summer Voyage: Students will receive a $10,000 stipend and Airbnb travel credit to pursue a summer work-travel experience between their junior and senior year of college. The students will design their own Summer Voyage to gain exposure to new communities and experience in a chosen field.

Fall summit: Each fall, students will be invited to a summit to help define and inspire their public service journey.

Network of leaders: Throughout the program, students will be invited to an ongoing speaker series, giving them access to a network of leaders. This network of leaders will expose them to new areas of service and innovations happening in their fields. After graduation, they will join the Obama Foundation’s global community, providing them with Foundation resources and programming.

10-year travel stipend: After graduation, Airbnb will provide the students with a $2,000 travel credit every year for 10 years, totaling $20,000. This will allow students to continue to broaden their horizons and forge new connections throughout their public service careers.

Jump to full eligibility requirements.

More information at https://www.obama.org/voyager-scholarship/

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New York’s World-Class Winter Sports Facilities at Lake Placid Shine During FISU World University Games

Skiers can continue to ski at Whiteface in Lake Placid during the FISU World University Games, going on through January 22. The winter sport destination, which hosted two Olympics, along with the state’s other Olympic Regional Development Authority venues, have benefited from $552 million in investment over the last six years to prime the venues for such world-class events and sustain a $16.1 billion winter tourism industry © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This week, New York State’s Olympic facilities at Lake Placid are hosting the FISU World University Games, welcoming 1,443 collegiate-athletes plus coaches and fans from more than 540 universities and 46 nations.

The Lake Placid 2023 FISU Games, going on until January 22, feature competition in 12 winter sports and 85 events including skiing and snowboarding, curling, figure skating, ice hockey and speed skating in venues throughout the Adirondack North Country in Lake Placid as well as Wilmington, Saranac Lake, Potsdam, Canton and North Creek. (The competition schedule and tickets to the events are available here.)

The prestigious event is an opportunity to showcase for the world the state’s world-class Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) facilities, enhanced with a six-year, $552 million investment to help maintain the region’s standing as a world-class winter sport destination fitting for an Olympic-sized event, for the lasting benefit of New York’s $16.1 billion winter tourism industry.

“We made transformative investments to renovate the Lake Placid Olympic Center, revitalized our airports, improved our roads and bridges and grew our regional sports infrastructure to ensure that Lake Placid is well-positioned to host the games,” Governor Kathy Hochul said when she opened the games.

“The event will once again put Lake Placid on a global stage, drawing thousands of visitors to the region and inviting millions more to watch the games via ESPN in the United States, TSN in Canada and FISU TV. For many, it will be the first time they’ll see the bold and picturesque Adirondack Mountains, vibrant downtown Lake Placid and our world-class Olympic Regional Development Authority ski areas and venues. And these games offer a chance to showcase the New York’s thriving winter tourism industry.”

Special events like the games that spark additional travel generate even more spending in our restaurants, hotels and businesses, supporting jobs in a hospitality industry still rebuilding in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. State-supported ORDA venues are open year-round for events, athlete training and recreation. Once the World University Games have finished, these same facilities will host this winter season the World Cup in Ski Jumping, NCAA Alpine and Cross-Country Skiing Championships, Synchronized Figure Skating World Championships. The Bobsled Skeleton World Championships will follow in February 2025, and IBU Biathlon Cups are planned in February and March 2026.

Last winter, New York welcomed 68.5 million visitors, generating more than $16.1 billion in direct visitor spending. ORDA’s economic impact for New York State was last measured at $273.6 million for 2019-2020, a 75 percent increase over the previous 2016-2017 measurement of $156 million.

New York State has made significant investments in the North Country totaling $552 million over the last six years in preparation for the World University Games, and ongoing support for the competitive sports infrastructure and regional tourism. Investments have helped to renovate facilities owned and operated by the Olympic Regional Development Authority, such as the $104 million renovation of the Lake Placid Olympic Center, and other host facilities like the nearly $7 million overhaul of the Saranac Lake Civic Center.

The improvements are a legacy that will be enjoyed by New York’s skiers and winter visitors for years to come.

ORDA has been steadily improving the snowmaking infrastructure throughout its ski areas, particularly over the last ten years. These upgrades have increased the efficiency of snowmaking operations, allowing for the mountains to open terrain faster, and earlier in the season when temperatures allow. The modernized systems, which utilize energy more effectively, also are a key part of ORDA’s award-winning sustainability initiatives: solar energy at the alpine venues, state of the art snowmaking equipment that significantly reduces water and energy use, EV charging stations, e-zambonis and hybrid grooming equipment, LED lighting.

Indeed, in conjunction with the FISU Games, a World Conference was convened to share information about the initiatives and actions they have implemented to mitigate climate change and save winter from global warming. From venue design and infrastructure to sustainably sourced items to the LED torch and flameless cauldron, the Host Partners and New York State set a new standard for a commitment to the environment for future events. 

Improved Winter Facilities at ORDA Venues 

This winter, New Yorkers and the rest of the world will enjoy upgrades, renovations, snowmaking improvements to Olympic Regional Development Authority-operated ski venues: Gore Mountain in North Creek, Belleayre Mount in Highmount, Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, and Mt. Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid.

Gore Mountain: New this season is Backwoods, an intermediate trail that begins at the top of Burnt Ridge Mountain and parallels the Barkeater Glades. The trail ends uphill of Roaring Brook Bridge and provides faster and more direct access to Little Gore Mountain and the North Creek Ski Bowl. Over 230 new high-efficiency snow guns have been installed on Backwoods, Showcase, Uncas, Paradox, Peaceful Valley, and Chatiemac. For the FISU Games, crews developed the sanctioned slopestyle and boardercross courses, enhanced snowmaking and widened the terrain. The FIS-certified race trail, Echo, was also bolstered with increased snowmaking capacity to accommodate the venue’s busy calendar of alpine events and recreational skiers and riders throughout the season.  (goremountain.comGore Mountain Snow Report)

Whiteface Mountain: New this season is the Ausable Run, a beginner trail off the Warhorse Quad lift, and Yellow Dot, an expert trail connecting the top of Victoria to Lower Skyward. Whiteface installed 35,000 feet of new pipe, 160 high-efficiency snow guns, and 245 new hydrants. Additionally, two new Pisten Bully groomers join the fleet. After hosting Lake Placid 2023 FISU Winter World University Games alpine competitions,  Whiteface will host the NCAA Regionals and National Championship in Alpine, the Empire State Games and other regional races. The mountain will be open to the public during the event dates for skiing and riding, and spectators can view the events in the newly designed Andrew Weibrecht Finish Area. Additional improvements to the race area include enhancements to the Freeway lift, timing and radio systems, and power to the finish building. (whiteface.comWhiteface Mountain Snow Report)

Belleayre Mountain installed 60,000 additional feet of new pipe, a new snowmaking pump, and added 300 high-efficiency snow guns. A new retail space relocated upstairs on the main floor of Discovery Lodge provides guests with a renewed shopping experience with a view. (belleayre.com,  Belleayre Mountain Snow Report.

Mt. Van Hoevenberg: The Mt Van Hoevenberg transformation was completed in 2020, providing a world-class facility and 5 km of World Championship-rated cross-country skiing trails for training and racing. The trails carry tremendous snowmaking power, from the number of high-efficiency snow guns and hydrants to its reservoir capacity, providing state-of-the-art snowmaking for a Nordic Center. Thanks to the state’s investment ORDA will host multiple World Cup competitions. Recently, Mt Van Hoevenberg was awarded the International Biathlon Union (IBU) Cup for 2026. This is in addition to the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) World Cup in Bobsled and Skeleton taking place at the Mt Van Hoevenberg Sliding Center December 16-18, and at its sister venue, the Olympic Jumping Complex, the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup will return this winter, February 10-12, 2023. For non-competitive athletes, Mt. Van hoevenberg offers some of the most exciting opportunities to feel like an Olympian: a state-of-the-art combined skeleton and bobsled track and North America’s longest mountain coaster, The Cliffside Coaster. 50km of cross country skiing trails, you can even try your hand at the biathalon. There is also a new Mountain Pass Lodge. (mtvanhoevenberg.com, Mt Van Hoevenberg Snow Report)

The SKI3 Season Pass provides the greatest flexibility and savings for skiing and riding at Whiteface, Belleayre, and Gore. Single day tickets are also at the lowest prices of the season and should be purchased in advance to secure desired days this winter.

“Winter is always an amazing time to travel in New York, which has more ski areas than any other state in the nation,” said Empire State Development Vice President and Executive Director of Tourism Ross D. Levi. “ORDA’s world class ski facilities, along with scores of private ski areas across the state, make for an unparalleled ski experience. When paired with activities from snowmobiling and winter carnivals to ice wine tastings and spa getaways to the FISU World University Games, visitors can come be a part of the ultimate winter wonderland and find what they love in New York State.”

Information on skiing and other winter activities statewide is available at iloveny.com/winter and iskiny.com. Updated downhill and cross-country ski reports for all of New York State courtesy of Ski NY and Cross-Country Ski Areas of NY are available on 1-800-ILOVENY and linked on iloveny.com.

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Travel to the Ends – and Beginnings — of the Earth with GeoCultura

Washington Crossing.A GeoCultura tour that runs from Philadelphia, PA to western Massachusetts looks at American Revolutionary War locales where geology played a role in the outcome of events. Places such as Independence Hall, Valley Forge, the two Washington Crossings, the Dey Mansion, the Great Falls at Paterson, the Hamilton/Burr dueling grounds and the route of Cornwallis’s pursuit of Washington up the Palisades are in focus with stories and context offered by respected authors and experts in Revolutionary War history. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfaranadnear.com

If 2022 was the year of returning to travel, 2023 is the year of making those travel plans count.

To that end, London-based GeoCultura LTD is launching 19 tour departures in 2023 that will take curious and inquiring travelers to key destinations with spectacular cultural and geologic histories in small groups led by scientists and scholars  in the fields of geology and history. Travel that counts is travel that adds wisdom and experience to those who venture, and brings that much more understanding about the world we inhabit.

Itineraries take travelers through the deserts, prairies and forests of North America, to the rocky crags of Scotland, and to the hidden highlights of Southern England. Consider a tour that moves beyond the bounds of Outlander to revisit the amazing history and conflicts that shaped the DNA of the North West Scottish Highlands. The Highlands scenery provides a dramatic background for groups of 12 to 14 people to visit seminal sights in Scottish history and learn how geology influenced battles, castles and wars.

Or it may be travel that is focused on the influences at play in the shaping of what is now the United States. For instance, a GeoCultura tour that runs from Philadelphia, PA to western Massachusetts looks at American Revolutionary War locales where geology played a role in the outcome of events. Places such as Independence Hall, Valley Forge, the two Washington Crossings, the Dey Mansion, the Great Falls at Paterson, the Hamilton/Burr dueling grounds and the route of Cornwallis’s pursuit of Washington up the Palisades are in focus with stories and context offered by respected authors and experts in Revolutionary War history.

But the tides of history are also the stuff of art and culture. The geological and historical elements that played upon the land also influenced artists, especially the Hudson River School’s Thomas Cole and Frederic Church, and later Edward Hopper – all covered with visits to homes and museums on this tour.

A particularly poignant and timely journey for 2023 happens in May as the world witnesses the first coronation of a British sovereign in more than 70 years. “London, Stonehenge, Bath, and the Jurassic Coast: A geo-culture tour of Southern England begins just after King Charles III is crowned, travels to amazing English locations and returns to London. The tour links Victorian and Georgian history with the pre-history and landscapes of Southern England: Stonehenge, the Georgian splendor of Bath and the delights of such Jurassic Coast sites as Lulworth Cove and Chesil Beach. Guests immerse themselves in the rolling landscapes of Thomas Hardy’s novels while going on fossil hunts, visiting cathedrals and castles, and taking in the magical waters of Bath.

Then, there is the rich geology, culture and gastronomy of the Catalan Pyrenees that is explored through the presence of salt throughout and under the rolling terrain. Salt became a commodity of trade and prosperity and influenced culture throughout this eastern Spanish enclave – all expressed in the arts, architecture, cuisines, migrations and conflicts that shaped these ancient lands. It’s all wrapped into stunning stories told by connoisseurs of the culture in tours that run from Barcelona to Girona in Spain.

GeoCultura tours range from three nights and four days to eight nights and nine days, and every tour is steeped in eye-opening tales that show how the earth, the land, the people and the pervading influences of various eras connected to bring us to where we are today.

“The first germ of an idea for GeoCultura started when a group of friends got together to plan a trip. We wanted something that allowed us to visit spectacular landscapes and rocks while also enjoying the best the region had to offer. And GeoCultura was born,” said Rob Knipe, Chairperson at GeoCultura.

Tour managers work hand in hand with regional focus experts to assure that while groups and individuals are being looked after with care, no topic goes unexplained, no question goes unanswered. Thus, illuminating and often sea-changing experiences offer guests wisdom and understanding that lingers well beyond the bounds of the tour. GeoCultura tours bring a robust roster of science experts to the planning and execution of each tour, maintaining an “earth-first” focus for every itinerary to reveal how landscapes and “deep time” geology continue to shape the history and culture of our planet.

Tours start at around $2,000 per person (double), including meals, fees and transportation. A modicum of fitness is required, although walking distances are reasonable and terrains are clear and well maintained. A reading list for each tour is available for those whose interests extend beyond a surface glint. Accommodations are chosen for their historic significance or qualities that complement tour themes.

GeoCultura is an international tour company founded in 2020 to bring in a focused history of the earth and its geology as a starting point for travelers to fully understand the breadth and evolution of a destination’s past and present. The company was founded by and tours are guided by esteemed scientists in their field — fellows, academicians and board members of prestigious universities in the U.K, U.S. and Canada. GeoCultura offers four- to nine-night tours in Canada, the U.S., Greece, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and Caribbean. 

The founders include:

Rob Knipe, an Emeritus Professor of Structural Geology at the University of Leeds, and a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales, Knipe has won prestigious awards from the Geological Society. His work has included four decades of research in the geology of the Scottish Highlands. Currently, he is focused on global Energy Transition, and works with local and national groups promoting changes towards a carbon neutral society.

Neil Harbury,  a former senior lecturer at University of London and founder of Nautilus, a premier geological training organization working with over 80 companies world-wide, Harbury’s ongoing area of passion remains creating and leading geoscience tours.

Mark Hammond a visiting professor at Canterbury Christchurch University and a visiting Fellow at the University of Bath, Hammond was Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission for 5 years. He has an MA in history from Cambridge University and an honorary doctorate from Canterbury, and served as a diplomat in the British Embassy in Washington D.C., helping to negotiate the Climate Change policy.

More information can be found at www.geoculturaworld.com, +44 2081 451011.

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Set-Jetters, 3-Star Superstars, Foodie-Menities and Saying ‘No’ to Normal: Expedia, hotels.com, Vrbo Spot 2023 Travel Trends

Culture-rich cities where art and culture festivities are getting back to full swing for 2023, according to Expedia’s travel trends report. Check out the cherry blossoms in Tokyo © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Culture capitals, wellness retreats, saying “no” to normal and travel experiences aligned with personal values such as sustainability, inclusivity and accessibility are among the top trending choices for travelers for 2023, according to data from Expedia Group’s brands.  

For the first time, Expedia Group unveiled a comprehensive view of traveler trends across Expedia®Hotels.com and Vrbo and the broader travel industry in 2023. Sourced from the company’s first-party data, and from custom research of thousands of travelers and industry professionals across 17 countries, these top travel trends prove there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to travel in 2023.i Instead, these trends point to a year defined by the “no-normal.”

“When we look at Expedia, Hotels.com, and Vrbo data together, we see a detailed and robust picture of travel into 2023,” said Jon Gieselman, president, Expedia Brands. “We’re seeing a surge in trips to culture capitals, a new wave of interest in wellness retreats and a spike in demand for outdoor destinations beyond just beaches and mountains — not a new normal but people branching out to unexpected trends in what we’re calling the ‘no normal’.”

Unexpected Travel Trends in 2023

Expedia: Set-Jetters

Booking a trip after binging a popular new series will become serious business in 2023. Expedia research confirms that streamed movies and TV shows are now the top sources of travel inspiration (40%), outpacing the influence of social media (31%). Furthermore, the small screen is now considered on par with recommendations from friends and family when it comes to travel inspiration.

  • In the US, more than two-thirds (68%) of travelers considered visiting a destination after seeing it in a show or movie on a streaming platform, and a whopping 61% booked a trip.  
  • The top set-jetter destinations include New Zealand, with its landscapes featured in one of this year’s most epic series, followed by the UK, Paris, New York and the stunning beach resorts of Hawaii.

Expedia: Culture Capitals

National parks and rural retreats have had big moments these past two years. Now, it’s time for cities to see a comeback. Based on traveler demand, most of the destinations seeing the largest increases are culture-rich cities where art and culture festivities are getting back to full swing. Check out the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, plan a trip to WorldPride in Sydney or bask in the cherry blossoms in Tokyo. In the Expedia app, culture capitals are calling:1

  • Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • New York, US
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Dubai, UAE
  • Montreal, Canada
  • Munich, Germany
  • Bangkok, Thailand

Hotels.com: Three-star Superstars

Travelers are seeking smarter ways to see the world, without compromising on comfort or cool factor. In the US, nearly a third (32%) of travelers are more concerned with value for money than ever before. Hotels.com data shows interest is up more than 20% globally in three-star hotels.2

In 2023, 40% of US travelers plan to stay in 1–3-star hotels and 34% plan to book a vacation with added value inclusions, such as free parking or breakfast. Showing a shift in mindset from the post-pandemic bucket-list mentality and moving towards a more spontaneous approach, one-third of travelers would rather go on more trips in three-star properties than splurge on one big luxury getaway. Fewer stars do not mean lower standards, however. Many properties, such as Una Vida in Mexico or Mama Shelter in Paris, offer excellent amenities, stylish interiors and unique vibes as a standard.

Hotels.com: New Wave Wellness

According to Hotels.com, more than half (53%) of Americans are seeking wellness breaks but cite boredom for traditional retreats and want to experience something more exciting in 2023. Millennials are the top drivers of this, as 60% of 25-34-year-olds are seeking out alternative wellness getaways. Most travelers want to explore new offerings in the US. However, Gen Z has a different view and would prefer to book an adventure to Norway, Turkey, Switzerland, Iceland and Sri Lanka.

To capture this awakened market, hotels such as the Loire Valley Lodge in France and Whitepod in Switzerland are offering advanced rejuvenation programs and hands-on activities that encourage travelers to get up close and personal with nature. The quirkier the activity the better. Sylvotherapy, forest bathing and fruit harvesting are more popular than classic activities like cooking courses, sport holidays and meditation sessions. 

Hotels.com: Hot new hotel openings around the world

New hotels that cater to evolving traveler needs are opening around the world. These properties offer far more than a place to sleep, with destination restaurants, co-working spaces, and beautiful interiors as standard. From an art-filled social hub in London to unbridled luxury in Rome, these are the most exciting hotels to have on your radar in the year ahead, according to Hotels.com:

Vrbo: Foodie-menities

Kitchen credentials are a must, with travelers looking to plate up at their own convenience in a private Vrbo vacation home. Outdoor kitchens, pizza ovens and air fryers are the top three foodie-menities travelers crave. Additionally, nearly half of US travelers (43%) are using cooking to cut down on costs.  

Travelers are looking for preferred amenities in their whole home vacation rentals rather than focusing on location. In fact, more than half (57%) of travelers would rather book a unique vacation home to be with their people in a lesser-known destination than a less interesting, less equipped vacation home in a popular area.

Vrbo: Cowboy-cations

Rustic getaways are on the rise, as travelers crave private vacation homes with abundant space and exhilarating views. Cue the cowboy-cation, offering an intimate escape in the rugged wilderness. Demand for Vrbo homes in US western destinations increased by more than 30% from September 2021 to August 2022, as travelers seek to reconnect with nature.3 Plus, 42% of US travelers find inspiration in outdoorsy destinations and mind-blowing landscapes. Think log-lined cabins, flickering fires and sweeping vistas.

Travelers can live out their western fantasies by booking a luxurious lodge, ranch retreat or farmhouse that fits the whole crew. Destinations across Montana, Colorado and other western states spring readily to mind, but the cowboy-cation is not confined to the US. For a home on the range in Europe, travelers are booking converted barns and farmhouses in the countryside of Italy, Spain, France and the UK. Thrill-seekers can also embrace their inner cowboy in Australia, where farmhouses in the outback overlook acres of wineries and wild brush.

Vrbo: Hidden Gems

Travelers are also exploring unassuming locales and new places. Top hidden gems in the US have one thing in common: beautiful lakes, where travelers can take in tranquil views. Demand for Vrbo’s private vacation homes in each of these unconventional destinations has increased by 30% or more since September 2021:4

  • Nampa, Idaho
  • Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Layton, Utah
  • Irmo, South Carolina
  • Oneonta, New York
  • Hampton, Virginia
  • Bristol, Rhode Island
  • Spokane, Washington
  • Las Cruces, New Mexico
  • Missoula, Montana

Travel in 2023 will be about saying “no” to normal, breaking routines and searching for experiences without compromises. Whether it’s flying to those once-in-a-lifetime events or hosting group celebrations at a holiday home, travelers are no longer adapting to the next new normal, but creating their own status quo altogether. 

An optimistic industry pushes forward

For the first time, the 2023 travel trends are being released at the same time as insights from industry professionals, from airlines to hotels to vacation rental hosts and and the ways that the pandemic forever changed travel. The research shows the highest levels of optimism in the travel industry since 2020. Most travel professionals expect leisure (71%) and business (70%) travel to return to pre-2020 levels within two years. While travelers looking for a change of scenery kept the industry afloat during the pandemic, all eyes are on the return of international and business travel. In fact, more than half (51%) in the industry say business is their organization’s highest priority in 2023. 

Another insight from industry professionals shows travelers are choosing options aligned with their personal values such as sustainability, inclusivity and accessibility. Most travel businesses (60%) made changes in the last year to ensure their services are inclusive and accessible. In fact, sustainability is tied with marketing as the highest area of investment for 2023, with one in five industry professionals saying they plan to invest in sustainability next year.

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Overseas Adventure Travel Top 4 Travel Trends for 2023: Africa, Solo, Personalized, Regenerative

One of the top travel trends for 2023 is regenerative travel which sustains local economies while preserving local cultures and biodiversity, such as this weaver in Peru’s Sacred Valley. Sustainable, responsible travel benefits local people and allows destinations to improve, all while providing authentic, enriching, regenerative experiences to travelers. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

BOSTON — Optimism is the keyword for the 2023 travel landscape as travelers embrace more distant experiences compared to 2022. Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.), the leader in personalized small group and solo travel for Americans ages 50 and older, announced its top 4 travel trends for 2023.

“Travelers are showing a high level enthusiasm for life-changing adventures far from home, often on their own,” said Brian FitzGerald, Chief Executive Officer of O.A.T.  “It’s a genuine priority for travelers to connect and engage with people from other cultures, and to find ways to give back to communities they visit.”

O.A.T. Top 4 Travel Themes for 2023:

1. Africa – Travel to Africa is seeing a resurgence. BotswanaMorocco, and Egypt top the list of popular 2023 trips at O.A.T. In 2022, travelers were more focused on Europe.

People who dream of visiting Africa — whether on safari on floating down the Nile — continue to make up for time lost due to the pandemic. These motivated travelers don’t want to put off visiting the continent any longer, and their sights are set on 2023.

2. Solos going strong – Women over 50, in particular, are heading out to see the world on their own. According to O.A.T., the number of solo travelers reserving for 2023 is up 24% compared to 2019. Overall, more than 60% of O.A.T. travelers are solos, and the majority are women.

“As a single traveler, you’re driving everything,” said O.A.T. solo traveler Muriel Forster. “That just gives you a great deal of flexibility. I overheard someone say, ‘a once in a lifetime experience.’ I thought, ‘I don’t want this to be once in a lifetime – I want this to be my lifetime!”

Solo travelers are drawn to trips with no single supplement, which can be hundreds or thousands of dollars. O.A.T. offers free single supplements on 92% of its single spaces in 2023.

3. Personalized travel – Travelers want the benefits of expert-led small group tours, but increasingly crave more than a one-size-fits all experience. 2023 will bring continued traveler demand to tailor trips with one’s individual preferencesFor example, many travelers prefer to arrive early at a destination before a tour starts so they feel acclimated.

At O.A.T., 87% of travelers personalize their trips by arriving early, staying later, adding a stopover at a popular international city, or combining trips. By comparison, just 75% requested personalization in 2018.

4. Regenerative travel – The idea that tourism should leave a destination better than it was before is gaining ground globally. In a nutshell, regenerative travel improves local economies while preserving local cultures and biodiversity. It benefits local people and allows destinations to improve, all while providing authentic experiences to travelers.

O.A.T., through its Grand Circle Foundationsupports projects focused on water, conservation, and renewable energy in the areas to which the company travels. The Water, Sanitation, Hygiene (W.A.S.H.) initiative helps improve the well-being of local people. Access to safe water, adequate sanitation, and proper hygiene education reduces illness and death, and increases socio-economic development leading to a reduction in poverty. The Foundation supports alternative energy sources to reduce carbon emissions and dependency on fossil fuels. Some schools add solar panels as an alternate source of electricity and to reduce operating expenses. Solar lights from the Foundation replace kerosene, reducing illness from soot and smoke and enabling students to study at night, leading to a better education.

O.A.T. provides travelers over 50 with impactful, intercultural experiences that help change people’s lives. O.A.T. fosters an intimate and accessible experience, with groups limited to 16 travelers (average of 13) by land and 25 (average of 22) by sea.

Established in 1978, Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.) is part of Boston-based Grand Circle Corporation’s family of travel companies, which also include Grand Circle Cruise Line and Grand Circle Travel.  In 1992, owners Alan and Harriet Lewis established the nonprofit Grand Circle Foundation to support communities in which Grand Circle works and travels, including some 300 humanitarian, cultural, and educational endeavors worldwide—among them, 100 schools, in 50 countries.  The Foundation is an entity of the Alnoba Lewis Family Foundation, which has pledged or donated more than $250 million since 1981.

To learn more about O.A.T., visit www.oattravel.com or call 1-800-955-1925.

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Registration Opens for Parks & Trails NY’s Inaugural Cycle the Hudson Valley Bike Tour

The Freedom Tower on the Hudson River Greenway, near the endpoint of Parks & Trails NY’s inaugural 200-mile Hudson Valley Bike Tour on the Hudson River Greenway, part of the Empire State Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Parks & Trails NY is hosting its inaugural Cycle The Hudson Valley bike tour, taking advantage of the new Empire State Trail that traverses the entire north-south length of the state, from Canada down to the tip of Manhattan. This trip starts midway, in Troy, on July 29 and follows the Empire State Trail 200 miles south, ending in the Big Apple a week later. This seven-day fully-supported tour is limited to the first 300 cyclists who sign up.

Daily routes average 30-50 miles/day with additional mileage options for riders wanting more. The route is 63% paved and 13% crushed stone dust trail, with 24% on road, and will take bicyclists through the cities, villages, countryside and parklands of the picturesque Hudson River Valley.

On the second night of Cycle the Hudson Valley, the tour rolls into the village of Hudson, which has become quite a mecca for art galleries and boutique shops. The group spends the next two nights in Kingston, the first capital of New York State, where George Clinton was sworn in as the first Governor almost 246 years ago to the day that the group will be in townOn the lay-over day cyclists can explore by biking an optional loop or strolling through the Kingston Stockade District (on the National Register of Historic Places) or visiting the Hudson River Maritime Museum.

On Day Four, cyclists ride over the incredibly popular Walkway Over the Hudson, an elevated multi-use park that spans 1.28 miles, and soars 212 feet above the Hudson River into Poughkeepsie on the eastern shore. Shuttles will be available to take cyclists to visit the FDR Home and Library and the renowned Culinary Institute of America. The next day’s countryside ride ends in the charming hamlet of Carmel.

The last overnight brings the tour close to NYC. Riding along the Hudson River Greenway offers river views most of the way. The tour ends at Battery Park with a stunning view of the Statue of Liberty. Cyclists can visit the 9/11 Memorial Pools, or book a trip to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. There’s also a superb National Museum of the American Indian, part of the Smithsonian, located in the historic Alexander Hamilton US Custom House at One Bowling Green, across from Battery Park.

Registration opens January 18. Visit Cycle The Hudson Valley for more information, or email [email protected].

If you’d like to explore further, combine this trip with Parks & Trails’ fully supported Cycle the Erie Canal trip, taking place July 9-16, which features the east-west leg of the Empire State Trail and travels 400 miles from Buffalo to Albany. Cycle the Erie Canal registration is open. (See: https://moralcompasstravel.info/2023/01/parks-trails-ny-opens-registration-for-25th-anniversary-cycle-the-erie-canal-adventure/)

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Are You Game for An Around-the-World Blind Date With Adventure: Join the 2023 Global Scavenger Hunt

Team Lazy Monday, Eric & Kathryn Verwillow of California, who would go on to win second place in the 2019 Global Scavenger Hunt, dash out of Petra, Jordan on to their next challenge © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

LOS ANGELES –What are your 2023 travel resolutions:Swimming with baby elephants? Learning to cook from a Michelin-starred chef? Taking part in an archaeological dig? Lending a helping hand at a Tibetan refugee camp? Attending a gala opening of an international cultural event? Perhaps it is just taking a revenge makeup trip? No matter what it is, the best travel-related New Year’s resolution is simple: Go!The 2023 edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt can scratch your travel itch and help you fulfill your wildest travel resolutions in one grand adventure. It is a mystery travel adventure that combines Indiana Jones daring with an Around the World in Eighty Days-like travel competition.
And the event turns creative travel in 2023, taking savvy travelers on A Blind Date with the World adventure to ten countries over three weeks. But which ten countries they will be going to—they are not telling! Call it: Destinations Unknown. And adding to the mystery adventure is the immersive focus of travelers having to trust strangers in strange lands—just another of the annual adventure’s transformational features.

Known internationally as the world travel championship, the 2023 edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt will take place between the 14th of April and 6th of May 2023.  

The deadline to enter the 2023 edition of the travel world championship is February 1st, with only a few spots open for those wanting to compete for “The World’s Greatest Travelers” title and trophy—and a chance to earn a free trip around the world with their triumph. But, of course, serious travelers are a competitive breed, from: “How many countries have you been to?” and “We’ve been there, did you do…?” to watching travel shows saying, “I could do that!” Well, now they can with a trip, trophy, and title on the line.
   
“Sometimes travelers take trips, but our grand adventure takes travelers to mysterious unknown destinations,” says William D. Chalmers, the Event Director. “Our secret places serve as a fun playing field on which the event plays itself out. Being a passive participant is not an option when you don’t know where you are going on this authentic, challenging, and participatory international travel adventure. Simply transformative. It is life-changing for our travelers.”

And the winners earn a free trip around-the-world with The World’s Greatest Travelers title and crown after proving their mettle, testing their situational awareness, and challenging their Travel IQs. Traditionally, travel writers and bloggers, social media influencers and travel agents, along with some of the world’s “most traveled people” and Amazing Race wannabe’s, join the competition. But often, well-traveled curious people are the winners. This event is truly “the Amazing Race for real travelers.”

The 23-day around-the-world event is limited to 15 teams of two. The US$28,000 team entry fee includes: all international airfares, first-class hotels, 40% of meals, and special event-sponsored travel gear. Single travelers are welcome to apply, and all travelers will be interviewed for suitability. Contact GreatEscape Adventures at +1.310.281.7809 or apply online at GlobalScavengerHunt.com. (CST#2071053-40).   

See our coverage of the 2019 Global Scavenger Hunt:

Capilano Suspension Bridge Among Vancouver BC’s Marvelous Attractions, First Leg of Global Scavenger Hunt

GLOBAL SCAVENGER HUNT, LEG 2: HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM: TRADITIONS SURVIVE IN MODERN CITY, AS DOES RECKONING WITH PAST

GLOBAL SCAVENGER HUNT, LEG 3: MYANMAR, THE GOLDEN LAND, COMES FROM DARKNESS INTO LIGHT

GLOBAL SCAVENGER HUNT, LEG 3 IN MYANMAR CONTINUES: BAGAN, CITY OF TEMPLES, NEWLY NAMED UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE

GLOBAL SCAVENGER HUNT, LEG 3 CONTINUES: THE ENCHANTMENT OF INLE LAKE, MYANMAR

GLOBAL SCAVENGER HUNT, LEG 3: BACK IN YANGON, MYANMAR

GLOBAL SCAVENGER HUNT 8-HOUR LAYOVER CHALLENGE IN BANGKOK, THAILAND

GLOBAL SCAVENGER HUNT, LEG 5: DISCOVERING ABU DHABI

ANCIENT CITY OF PETRA IS A HIGHLIGHT OF GLOBAL SCAVENGER HUNT IN JORDAN

GLOBAL SCAVENGER HUNT: IN THE SCRAMBLE TO BE CROWNED ‘WORLD’S BEST TRAVELERS’

GLOBAL SCAVENGER HUNT, LEG 7: 30 HOURS IN ATHENS

UNRAVELING MARRAKESH’S OLD CITY MAZE BEFORE TACKLING THE GLOBAL SCAVENGER HUNT 4-COUNTRY CHALLENGE

GLOBAL SCAVENGER HUNT: ENTRANCED BY THE MYSTIQUE OF FEZ, MOROCCO

GLOBAL SCAVENGER HUNT: A DASH THROUGH GIBRALTAR REVEALS A MODERN-DAY BRIGADOON

GLOBAL SCAVENGER HUNT: SEVILLE TO PORTO TO COMPLETE TOUGHEST LEG OF 23-DAY AROUND-THE-WORLD MYSTERY TOUR

FEELING LIKE A FOREIGNER IN MY HOMETOWN: GLOBAL SCAVENGER HUNT ENDS IN NEW YORK CITY

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Immersive Experiences Permeate Journeysmiths 2023 Where to Go List

The Galapagos is pegged as one of Journeymasters destinations for 2023 where travelers can be thrilled by immersive experiences © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – Founded on a deep seeded belief that travel should inspire personal growth, expand horizons, and support conservation as well as the local communities, Journeysmiths’s 2023 ‘Where to Go list” is permeated with immersive experiences. Each guest itinerary is designed completely from scratch and always includes an opportunity to create a positive impact on the destinations they explore.

“From newly re-opened countries to the ideal first time family safari, we believe there is something for every activity level, in all corners of the globe on our list,” said Managing Director Laura Burdett-Munns of her team’s top picks for 2023.

BHUTAN – With its borders open once again, the happiest country on earth is ready to welcome visitors during Journeysmiths 13-day Bhutan itinerary. This “best of” immersive highlights tour of the Land of the Thunder Dragon explores Thimphu, Gangtey, Punakha and Paro. Accompanied by a private English-speaking guide as well as driver for the duration of a journey, guests will hike to the magnificent Tigers Nest, explore Dzong and join monks for morning prayers at the Monastery. They can immerse themselves in the peace and beauty of the land with mountain bike tours, private hikes, and of course explore the Kingdoms famous monuments and fascinating cities. Prices start at $20,350 per person based on a group of four adults. 

COSTA RICA – From the pristine Caribbean beaches to the Pacific Ocean to the tropical rainforests, there are activities to delight the entire group during Journeysmiths 8-day Costa Rica holiday. This immersive, privately guided very active tour includes chartered internal flights, luxurious accommodations and all the land and sea activities one can dream up. From Scuba diving to horseback riding, kayaking, canyoning, exploring volcanoes, waterfall hiking, as well as tours of the bioluminescence bay and ziplining through the rainforest, guests will be one with Costa Rica’s abundant wildlife. Prices start at $37,500 per person based on a group of four adults. 

GALAPAGOS & QUITO – Explore this wildlife-haven during Journeysmiths 10-day city to sea safari which includes two nights exploring the beautiful city of Quito, Peru with a private guide. The best-preserved, historic city in Latin America, Quito has the largest old town in South America. From Quito, guests board the newly launched superyacht, Aqua Mare – the first superyacht to sail the Galapagos Archipelago – for seven nights. With only seven spacious and elegantly designed sea-facing suites, two expert naturalist guides and an exclusive one-to-one crew to guest ratio, a thoroughly personalized journey is ensured for all. Prices start from $11,400 per person based on two guests, double occupancy.

KENYA – Long celebrated for its incredibly diverse safari offerings, Kenya is the perfect experience for couples and friends but also families. During Journeysmiths 9-day Kenya itinerary, clients will spend the first part of this journey on the Masai Mara to immediately get their fix of Big Five game viewing. From there, guests hop a privately charted flight north to explore the Laikipia region. When traveling with school age children, they generally need more than just game drives to entertain them. So Journeysmiths includes stays at properties such as Loisaba Tented Camp and Ol Malo who encourage the whole family to explore together. Here guests can enjoy activities such as walking with camels, horseback riding, bush walks, kayaking and even Maasai warrior training. Prices start from $32,000 per person based on a family of four.

SOUTH AFRICA – From luxurious Big Five safari experiences to vibrant cities filled with culture, breathtaking coastlines to impressive mountain ranges and award-winning vineyards, it is easy to understand why South Africa is a perennial favorite. During Journeysmiths 10-day tour of South Africa, guests will explore forested reserves in search of lions and leopards, enjoy privately guided tours of Cape Town and the surrounding waterfront areas, take a marine safari from Hermanus and of course, sip and savor world class wines and dine at award-winning restaurants during a stay in the Cape Winelands. Prices start from $27,500 per person based on double occupancy.

ABOUT JOURNEYSMITHS In 1990, in Northampton, England, John Burdett and Warwick Hoffman – the original Journeysmiths – set out to provide completely customized African holidays for clients whose passion for immersive adventure was rivaled only by their own. Today, the next generation of Journeysmiths, helmed by John’s daughter Laura Burdett-Munns, has expanded its offerings to include 25 countries across five continents, holding steadfast to their founder’s deep-seated belief that travel should inspire personal growth and expand horizons while supporting conservation initiatives and local communities. A specialized team of seasoned Journeysmiths’ handcraft holidays that are as exceptional as they are personal, providing travelers exquisite, cultural and wildlife expeditions while mindfully engendering a positive impact on the destinations they explore. In addition to local philanthropic efforts within Northampton, Journeysmiths proudly supports, TUSK and Ripple Effect, (formally known as ‘Send a Cow’) and are members of African Travel & Tourism Association (ATTA) and the luxury travel designer network, Serandipians. For more information, please visit www.Journeysmiths.com or call 1-866-871-3829. 

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UnCruise Adventures Brings back $99 Deposit for WAVE Season

Snorkeling in the Galapagos. The Galapagos is just one of the itineraries offered by UnCruise Adventures © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

JUNEAU, AK– UnCruise Adventures, a leading small ship cruise line, is bringing back its $99 per person booking deposit and waiving its $750 per person deposit for a limited time. The WAVE Season offer is valid through February 5, 2023, and allows guests and travel advisors to reserve a cabin with a small deposit. The cruise line offers upscale experiential cruise adventures in its expanding catalog of itineraries.

The cruise line notes that this is an opportunity to lock in pricing before price increases go into effect for all Alaska itineraries.

“I couldn’t be more excited about what the future holds,” Captain Dan Blanchard stated. “We will continue to focus on maximizing short and long-term strategies to improve our guests’ experience and promote sustainable UnCruise UnTourism. Our select price increase reflects the changes in the industry as a whole and our dedication to delivering the highest quality to our guests.”

WAVE Season Cruise Offer Highlights

Reserve a cabin on any 2023 – 2024 itinerary with availability for only $99 per person deposit. Valid through February 5th, 2023.

For a limited time, book any Baja California’s Whales & Sealife 2023 departure and receive one complimentary pre-night hotel in San Jose del Cabo PLUS a $100 shopping credit in the UnCruise online gift shop. 

Purchase 3 full fares and the 4th guest sails free on the 84-guest Safari Endeavour in 2023. Great deal for families or couples traveling together.

Buy one cabin and get the second 50% off for all sailings in Baja from January 21 – May 6, 2023. Second cabin savings value $5900 – $10,700.

Save $1000 per cabin ($500 per person double occupancy) on select Alaska Awakening featured departures April 7 – May 13, 2023.

For a limited time, the single supplement fees are waived on select departures for individual travelers. These vary by ship and individual sailings to get you the best adventure.

To ensure the health and safety of our guests and crew, UnCruise Adventures has implemented a requirement for fully vaccinated cruises and additional safety and sanitary measure onboard all of its vessels. Safe distancing is recommended. The company’s updated vaccine policy and travel resources can be found on the website uncruise.com. 

UnCruise Adventures’ is a responsible travel and adventure leader in the small boat cruise line industry. They operate boutique yachts and small boats carrying 22-86 guests on voyages in Alaska, Hawaiian Islands, Mexico’s Sea of Cortés, Columbia & Snake Rivers, Coastal Washington, Galápagos, Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, and Colombia. UnCruise Adventures has been repeatedly picked as the top adventure cruise line by Cruise Critic, and USA Today. Travel & Leisure readers also named UnCruise Adventures in its World’s Best Awards and its list of top 10 small ship ocean cruise lines three years in a row. UnCruise Adventures is a member of the Adventure Travel Trade Association and Transformational Travel Council. 

All WAVE Season offers are subject to terms and conditions. Ask an UnCruise Adventures specialist or your travel advisor for more details. Book directly at [email protected], 888-862-8881 to reserve.

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Quark Expeditions Escape Sale Offers 45% Savings, High-Level perks, Waives Single Supplement on Polar Adventures

Quark Expeditions, a global leader in polar adventures, has kicked off the new year by launching a robust Escape Sale with polar voyages reduced by up to 45%—plus a variety of guest benefits. The sale is on through April 3, 2023. (Photo by David Merron)

Quark Expeditions, a global leader in polar adventures, has kicked off the new year by launching a robust Escape Sale with polar voyages reduced by up to 45%—plus a variety of guest benefits. The sale is on through April 3, 2023.

“We’re very excited about our recently-launched Escape Sale as it enables a cross-section of travelers to take advantage of deep savings that match their travel tastes,” said Thomas Lennartz, Vice President of Sales for Quark Expeditions. “The special offers—and perks—in our Escape Sale appeal to solo travelers, couples and groups.”

Lennartz emphasized that the itineraries featured in the Escape Sale include some of the more popular voyages within Quark Expeditions’ portfolio, including some of the more active trips in the Arctic such as the Greenland Adventure: Explore by Land, Sea and Air itinerary, as well as shorter voyages such as Antarctic Express: Fly the Drake.

In addition, Quark is also waiving the single supplement on multiple voyages 2023 voyages.

“We know from past promotions that a large number of travelers will appreciate the free transfer package offered on select Arctic 2023 voyages. This includes charter flights, hotel and ground transportation (between airport and hotel), as well as hotel accommodation,” said Lennartz.

“Polar travelers place high value on these extras. Factor in the additional 10% savings when guests pay in full, and our Escape Sale is even more appealing to travelers who’ve long wanted to explore the Arctic or Antarctic with the best expedition team in the Polar Regions.”

Highlights of the Escape Sale (January 4 to April 3, 2023):

  • Savings up to 45%
  • No single supplement on multiple voyages
  • Free transportation between airport and hotel, as well as overnight hotel accommodation on select Arctic 2023 voyages
  • An additional 10% savings when guests pay in full at time of booking. 

Departures featured in Quark Expeditions’ Escape Sale include:

  • Three Arctic Islands: Spitsbergen, Greenland and Iceland (Southbound). Departure: August 26, 2023
  • Spitsbergen Explorer: Wildlife Capital of the Arctic. Departure: June 4 and 22, 2023
  • Canada and Greenland. Departure: September 11, 2023
  • Northwest Passage: In the Footsteps of Franklin. Departure: July 30, 2023

For a full list of eligible departures, visit Quark Expeditions’ Escape Sale

The technologically-advanced Ultramarine, the newest addition to the Quark Expeditions fleet, is a game-changer in polar exploration. Equipped with two twin-engine Airbus 145 helicopters, 20 quick-launching Zodiacs and the largest portfolio of off-ship adventure options in the industry, Ultramarine changes the way guests explore the Polar Regions. Other features include a spa, sauna with floor-to-ceiling windows, fitness centre, yoga space, spacious rooms and two restaurants plus a lounge and presentation theatre. Ultramarine has been designed with advanced sustainability systems that help preserve the pristine Polar Regions for the next generation of explorers. Ultramarine has an Ice Class rating of 1A+ and Polar Class rating of PC6, which contribute to the vessel’s superior standards of safety standard. The ship’s innovative sustainability features, which help reduce its environmental footprint, include a micro auto gasification system (MAGS), which is capable of converting onboard waste into energy, eliminating the need for the transportation of waste.

Specializing exclusively in expeditions to Antarctica and the Arctic, Quark Expeditions® has been the leading innovator of polar adventure since the company took the first group of consumer travelers to the North Pole in 1991. With a diverse fleet of specially-equipped small expedition vessels and icebreakers—some of them equipped with helicopters—Quark Expeditions is able to take guests deeper into the Polar Regions than most other operators. Led by passionate and seasoned expedition teams, including scientists, wildlife experts and researchers, Quark Expeditions offers an onboard program that enriches the passenger experience. 

Quark Expeditions, 833 435 1900, www.quarkexpeditions.com

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