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I was re-watching David Lean’s 1984 film A Passage to India last week and it occurred to me that so many of my travel choices are based on what I’ve seen on the large and small screen. British director Lean is in fact responsible for encouraging many of my travel obsessions – Ireland (Ryan’s Daughter), the Arabian continent (Lawrence of Arabia), Russia (Doctor Zhivago) and of course hectic, contradictory, sumptuous India. I developed a hankering for Morocco because of Bertolucci’s 1990 movie The Sheltering Sky, which is based on Paul Bowles’ strange and seductive novel. Italy was inspired by Fellini, of course, New York by Breakfast at Tiffany’s and a lesser-known 1967 romantic comedy starring Jane Fonda and Robert Redford, Barefoot in the Park. When thinking about where to go next for this issue, I drew on some of those cinematic influences (who would not want to be on the first flight to Scotland after laying eyes on those men in skirts in Outlander?) But I also recognised that there’s a zeitgeist in travel as much as anything else. ‘Hot’ destinations ebb and wane every few seasons – one year it’s New Zealand, followed by Portugal and then Iceland.
A couple of European summers ago it seemed as if everyone I knew was in Capri seeking retro Jetset glamour. Last year, it was beautiful, wild, under-appreciated Sicily. This Australian summer, everyone was eschewing the sun for deep snow in Japan.
I don’t like the idea that there are ‘trends’ in travel. It suggests that the experiences we have away from home are as insignificant as a change of frock. Journeys are more than that – to be truly memorable, they need to be inspirational, emotional and transformational. Some trips are enjoyable and fun but don’t resonate beyond those moments; others deeply affect people for the rest of their lives.
Still, word of mouth and luscious editorial pages can set us on unexpected paths. I never much cared for the idea of Turkey until I started to see editorial spreads on its beauty and energy. I’m glad I did – despite a troubled political landscape right now, Istanbul is one of the world’s most fascinating and rewarding cities.
Rather than trends, I like to think of ‘moods.’ People are in the mood now to travel to remote, pristine places, perhaps acutely aware that these places may not in future exist in this same untrammelled state. This partly explains the current mood to visit remote craggy islands like Fogo, landscapes where the Northern Lights dazzle or vast deserts where footprints are blown away in the sands.
There’s also a renewed mood for visiting cities that have strong cultural offerings (and where the food’s not bad either: we all love to eat) – gorgeous, heady Seville is our pick. It’s a place that demands immersion, not merely travelling on the surface. Beaches? Try something different this year – chic, social Comporta, where you can experience the best of coastal Portugal without the crowds of the Algarve. If you have the Venice SimplonOrient-Express on your wish list, this may be the year, as the legendary vintage train adds three more handsome luxury carriages. And if you’d like to try a cruise but fear it’s not your demographic, U by Uniworld turns the river cruise industry on its head with ships and itineraries designed for those under 40.
So many places to go, so little time! My hope is, that wherever you choose to travel this year, you give yourself permission to take an unexpected turn, follow a whim, look and listen without prejudice and, by taking the path less travelled, discover something new about the world and yourself.
Lee Tulloch | Editor-at-Large