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What we love about travel

What we love about travel

From the first goosebumps you get when booking a trip to the photos, memories and souvenirs you bring home – not to mention the journeys, food and people in between – the Signature Media team, travel writers and industry friends reveal some of the reasons why this world we’re part of sparks such joy.

Building the anticipation

That tingle of excitement you get when you book a holiday, the countdown to departure day, the planning – Where to stay? What to do? Where to eat? Clothes to pack? – or lack thereof… The anticipation of future travel makes you feel good. Really good, in fact, with research showing that the mere prospect of an upcoming journey is actually the happiest part of travel for many.

Off somewhere in first class, meeting new people, discovering foreign foods and having wild adventures. There’s a lot to love about all these things as well. But the build-up to your trip can bring just as much excitement, according to social scientists, who say we get an extra boost of happiness if we consciously delay any type of pleasure, whether that’s eating a square of chocolate tomorrow, rather than today – or booking an African safari for next month.

Of course, we don’t need psychologists to tell us this – just listen to our industry colleagues. “I love that anticipation that comes from planning, dreaming and researching my next big trip,” says writer Kerry Van der Jagt. Fellow scribe Fiona Harper finds just as much pleasure in the unfamiliar: “It’s the reason I do no research before I travel, so that I can totally absorb those moments of discovery and awe.”

“I have missed the feeling that the world is out there to keep exploring, and I had the freedom to go almost anywhere,” adds Carolyn Lockhart. “I also miss the packing – it’s an enjoyable challenge and part of the anticipation of a trip.”

Man relaxing by the water
Travel moments © Simon Migaj/Unsplash

Journeys that spark joy

“The journey, not the destination matters…” T.S. Eliot once famously wrote, and our collection of travel writers and industry friends concur.

From “checking for a flight with plenty of time to spare”, Kerry van der Jagt relishes in her time at their airport before a trip. “To browse bookshops, buy a new magazine and enjoy a champagne in the lounge – there’s always such a feeling of relief and relaxation after a busy lead-up to a trip.”

Journalist John Borthwick finds his joy in in-flight traditions: “The tang and taste of that first, ritual gin and tonic with its slice of lime and rattle of ice as the plane climbs into the wild blue yonder, heading for who knows where.”

Sigourney Cantelo uses this cabin time to completely check out – in a way you just can’t do on the ground. “I actually miss the Wi-Fi-free downtime of a longhaul flight. I set up my little space so decadently with my cashmere throw and silk eye mask, then I drink champagne, watch movies and slowly indulge in every ridiculous beauty ritual.”

The journey doesn’t end when we touch down. Chris Ashton says he enjoys the little things: “Like when you arrive at a hotel somewhere in Southeast Asia, escaping the tropical heat that has made dust and clothing stick to your skin, and the check-in staff at reception hand you a refreshingly cold, lemongrass-scented towel… They’re quite small in the grand scheme, but it’s those little touches that create that feeling of luxury.”

Flying over Antarctica
Flying over Antarctica

A private champagne lunch in Madame Cliquot’s personal chateau, with white-gloved waiters serving vintage bottles from her cellar while we gazed over the vineyards. That was a memorable moment. I later found out I was pregnant after being on a 10-day trip where I drank bubbles with breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.

Gaynor Reid, Accor Hotels

Discovering your destination

Any destination can be an assault on the senses, in the most enjoyable way possible. Thrumming neon, booming nightlife, aromatic street food… it’s all part and parcel of travel for those looking to get under the skin of a destination. For some, leaping headlong into everything a place has to offer is the only way to see the world.

“I love the feeling of being thrown out of my comfort zone, turned upside down and shaken around,” Kerry Van Der Jagt told us.

Comfort zones are a funny thing. Any time we travel, we take a step outside them. How far we leave, though – whether it’s just stepping out, taking a quick sniff and then jumping back in, or leaping full-pelt into the unknown – is a personal choice. But often the further out we go, the more rewarding the experience. “I love the surprises that come from unfamiliar surroundings: people, smells, sights and sounds,” says Fiona Harper.

Escape is often a spontaneous thing, a spur-of-the-moment urge to go somewhere you’ve never been before. When we travel we open ourselves up to these kinds of experiences: the winding lanes that seem to never end, a hole in the wall serving the most incredible local delicacies, a jazz bar where you can’t understand a word of the song, but get goosebumps anyway.

Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle, Sri Lanka
Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle, Sri Lanka

Flying on the Abercrombie & Kent private jet around the world and having breakfast on the Masai Mara in Kenya in the morning, dinner at Cipriani in Monaco, and drinks at the Casino de Monte-Carlo after… all in the same day! I’ll never forget it.

Tiffany Dowd, luxury travel expert

Melbourne writer Justin Meneguzzi says he adores “the constant discovery of something new – a dish, a person, a place, a story”. Yes, we go for the monuments and museums, the tours that need to be booked a month in advance, but it’s often the little things, the ones that materialise in front of us, that we remember years after we return home.

Sharon Telesca Feurer of CIM Group’s hospitality division simply revels in “the unfamiliar putting you completely in the moment. Being so present that everything is vibrant.”

And that vibrance wraps up a bundle of things. The bustling spaces and rich history, sure, but many places are defined by their cuisine more than anything else. Think of Swiss fondue, Chinese Peking duck or Spanish tapas. “I miss the chance to try new food in strange places, like crunchy chapulines (crickets) with a local beer in Oaxaca,” recalls Carolyn Lockhart.

Others relish the time they drank champagne – in Champagne – for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or a sunrise Amarula-laced coffee on the endless plains of Kenya’s Masai Mara

For some, the holiday experience is all about relaxation: wrapping oneself in the anonymity of a foreign country and forgetting about all the worries of home. Cara Wagstaff, Signature Media’s associate publisher, sees going on holiday as taking “a break from reality, and having new experiences”.

It’s something many of us dream of enjoying. The moment you check in to your night’s accommodation, your comfort becomes someone else’s problem. Writer Liz Boyer Bond misses “being embarrassed when the masseuse asks ‘When was your last massage, m’am?’ Err… yesterday?”

Penguins in Antarctica
Penguins in Antarctica © Ingrid Tortosa

Calm and Tranquility

Relaxation comes in different forms. Travel professional Georgina Gröne fondly recalls a heli-skiing trip to New Zealand. She had a “helicopter pick us up from our villa every day… and then we’d return to a hot jacuzzi and our private-chef dinner.”

But, of course, a destination doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The hotel rooms don’t clean themselves. The food doesn’t appear out of thin air. We share these spaces with others – tourists, locals, staff. And it’s these interactions that many of us are really missing. Social interactions are at a premium in our pandemic world, after all.

Choosing just one thing that inspires her to travel, writer and speaker Kylie Travers says top of her list is “the people and cultures, their history, lives and how open everyone is teaching me and sharing their life with me”

And for many of these people, sharing their culture is not done just out of the goodness of their own heart – it’s also a way to make a living. One-tenth of all jobs globally are in the tourism industry, and many of those have been threatened by COVID-19’s restrictions. No travel means no travellers.

Many of the most treasured moments and experiences of our writers and industry friends have been labour intensive – think flashy catered lunches and full-service private-jet tours, all taking hundreds, sometimes thousands, of hours to curate.

Travel isn’t just an enjoyable experience for us, but also a way to support millions of families around the world. Perhaps, more than anything else, that’s what we’re missing.

La Mamounia, Morocco
La Mamounia, Morocco

Return reflections

While physically we return home after a journey, we tend to leave a part of ourselves in destinations that truly capture our hearts – and a part of those places return with us, too, destined to live out as vivid memories, perhaps re-stoked by the glimpse of a postcard, the notes of a song you shared a romantic waltz to, the whiff of a scent that triggers a decadent dinner or the signature aroma in that hotel lobby.

Whether it’s a life-changing experience on a safari or simply the chance to learn who we are as people while travelling, we tend to settle back into ‘normal life’ a different person to when we left, as travel writer Christine Retschlag notes.

Nicola McClean, Signature Media’s staff writer, adds: “By getting lost in a new destination I discover so much about the world, different cultures and what’s important to me – I discover myself.”

In summary, travel writer David McGonigal puts it best. While we’ve been grounded for 2020, our “sense of wonder has never faded”.

We hope you, our readers, stay inspired and ready to take on the world – in all its exquisite details – in the near future.

Most luxe trip? Hiking with polar bears on the shores of Hudson Bay, Canada. Not because the food was exquisite, the champagne was fine or the linen thread-count was high. This experience remains memorable purely for walking in polar bear footsteps, seeing them roaming free in the wild while I was caged behind a fence.

Fiona Harper, travel writer

Polar bears in Churchill
Polar bears in Churchill © Polar Bear and Tundra Buggy-Bob Debets

More things we love

Sundowners watching the great migration cross the Mara River in Tanzania • Helicopter transfers from the airport to your private lodge • Getting lost in the souks of Marrakech • Giant king-size beds complete with Frette linen in a Peninsula suite • Versace dinnerware on board Regent Seven Seas Explorer • The colourful streets of Jaipur • The architecture of St Basil’s cathedral, Moscow • Sipping the perfect margarita in a Mexican beachside bar • Dining on the terrace at Villa Tre Ville, Positano • Having your sunglasses cleaned by a beach butler • Mountain biking in Mongolia • Flying first class with Singapore Airlines and not wanting to disembark • La Mamounia, Marrakesh • An indulgent 10-course meal you never want to end • Waking up with the sun in a glamping tent • Long soaks in tubs with iconic views • Walking along beaches completely free of footprints • Diving into the Mediterranean from your private yacht • Business Class airline amenity kits • The ‘ping’ at check-in signalling a flight upgrade • Pintxos in San Sebastian’s old town • Chocolates on your pillow at turndown • Dolphins swimming past your overwater villa in the Maldives • Yum cha in a hidden Hong Kong restaurant • The first glimpse of that animal – lion, polar bear, penguin – in the wild • The moment the fasten seatbelt sign turns off when you reach cruising altitude • Hot-air balloon rides over Bagan and Cappadocia • Realising you have packed perfectly for the weather • The waves of school children running by • That first cocktail with a friend who you haven’t seen in far too long •

This article originally appeared in volume 37 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.

Main image: Sparkling views of Lake Lucerne from Hotel Villa Honegg.