Ten Most Inspiring Travels by Lori Blackburn
Research says when people go on social media, especially Facebook, they leave it feeling like a loser and depressed because of all the fun and interesting things other people are doing and it makes them realize how their life is ho-hum. When I go on social media, I don’t feel depressed, in fact, I think I’m doing pretty good. I’m doing the work-life balance thing. I don’t have FOMO. Until…I check out Lori Blackburn’s Facebook. Or Instagram. Or whatever cool travel article she’s just written for Mabuhay Magazine (I mean, just look at that photo of the Moroccan desert!). Because Lori, to quote Matthew McConaughey’s character Wooderson in Fast Times at Ridgemont High – is l-i-v-i-n. She’s sailing off in a catamaran somewhere for Christmas. Or she just snapped a breathtaking photo of her hike in Bryce Canyon, Utah. Or she’s attending a cool pop-up dinner party somewhere in San Francisco. Lori inspires me. She’s an amazing published writer with incredible soul and a generous spirit. She genuinely loves meeting people and makes time for them. Lori is a gypsetter in every sense of the word – she goes where her heart tells her, and she does it in style. I’d like to share with you Lori’s top 10 inspiring trips of all time and you can blame The Gypsetters if you end up booking yourself on that trip you’ve always dreamed of. In fact, we hope you do! Without further ado, here’s Lori’s top 10. For more of Lori’s adventures, you can check out her blog Twinzondetown she co-authors with her equally fabulous twin, Nichole.
May all your gypsetting dreams come true,
“Adventure is worthwhile.” – Aristotle
The call for inspiration is deep and heartfelt. It can be instinctual. A gut reflex. Like the time I arrived to work on a Monday morning, turned on my computer and just knew. “Oh my God…I need to go to sailing in Greece.” Before I knew it, I’d hit the ‘purchase’ button (with one eye half closed kinda flinching at my computer) on a small group adventure sailing the Cyclades for a week. It was one of the best trips of my life.
Busy lives and budgets make travelling a challenge. Once, my sister told me about a special New Year’s yoga retreat in spiritual Ojai Valley. I had no money. I also had never done a yoga retreat, so did I really need to join some hippy drippy holiday? When I told my sister, she exclaimed, “Lori, you can’t afford not to go!” She was right. It was one of my most transformative and inspiring trips.
Travel can inspire us by leaving comfort zones, adventuring through big landscapes, learning something new, connecting with cultures, or rejuvenating through rest and relaxation. It engages our senses and touches our hearts. We return as a different person. Travel creatively with these Ten Inspiring Trips.
1. Rural Retreat: Mai Chau, Vietnam. Nestled in the Northern province of Hoa Binh is Mai Chau Lodge, a tribal Vietnam far from mainstream tourism that offers nature and culture. Set amongst emerald rice paddies, karst formations and local villages, this 24-room boutique hotel in the area features modern amenities decorated with native handicrafts and large picture windows overlooking misty mountains or Mo Luong Lake. Guests receive individualized service and get to try regional delicacies and in-room extra such as rice wine. Activities include countryside biking, hiking, rock-climbing, caving and kayaking. Experience local life through guided village walks past stilt houses and bustling Sunday markets and learn about ethnic minority tribes.
2. Northern California Road Trip: California, USA. Crank up the radio, roll down the windows, and cruise down California’s northern coast along iconic Highway 1. The specific twenty-three mile stretch between Monterey and Big Sur is rich with inspiration. Monterey’s beachside town Cannery Row is full of charming shops, activities, and wine tasting rooms. Drive south to scenic Carmel-By-the-Sea dubbed a Top Ten US Destination for its vibrant Arts, golf, and dining scene. Hop on coastal 17-Mile-Drive, one of the world’s most scenic drives, to explore extravagant oceanfront neighborhoods with natural and historical points-of-interest. Continue onto Big Sur which offers larger than life coastal landscapes and spectacular wine and dine spots like Post Ranch Inn’s Sierra Mar restaurant which inspires through dramatic views, organic architecture, and award-winning food. Take an easy hike to Julia Pfeiffer Falls or explore one of the area’s many National Parks. Finally, nourish your spirit at beautiful, healing Esalen Institute for a well-being retreat of yoga, spiritual workshops, and renowned hot springs.
3. Adventure Sailing: British Virgin Islands, Caribbean. As Author and Baroness Isak Dinesen once said: “The cure for everything is saltwater: Sweat, Tears, & the Sea.” Well, a little luxury doesn’t hurt either. Her advice might just lead us to the Caribbean’s British Virgin Islands, a sailing hotspot full of idyllic islands and crystalline waters best explored by a sailing catamaran. Book a cabin through Festiva Sailing which includes a skipper and hostess who provide meals and the all-important sun-downer drinks. Break a sweat by sailing, paddle boarding, or exploring areas like the Baths of Virgin Gourda – a white-sand beach covered in giant boulders. Yes, tears could be shed when leaving new friends onboard your 8-person catamaran….but hopefully not from a hangover of delicious coconut and rum Painkiller drinks from Soggy Dollar Bar. Whether gazing out at the sea or exploring its depths scuba diving to the historical RMS Rhone’s sunken ship, there’s nothing like the ocean to inspire weary bones and make one feel alive.
4. Big Sky Country Ranch: Wyoming, USA. Horseback riding is a great way to detach from everyday life and connect with your frontier spirit. Forgotten instincts return in the outdoors with its determining weather conditions and navigating rugged wilderness. Experience America’s cowboy culture at guest ranches like Wyoming’s award-winning Lazy L&B Ranch where activities center around horseback riding (no experience necessary), evening BBQs, porch front music, target shooting, fly-fishing and wilderness camping. Ride through meadows of wildflowers where the scent of wild sage resonates or up to high mesas where wild mustangs roam. Afterwards, kick back in your riverfront log cabin tucked between cottonwood trees. Even though Pecos Bill didn’t need wifi, you might, so cabins come equipped with modern comforts. Most guests fly into Jackson Hole so before or after your ranch visit, explore Yellowstone National Park, watch a rodeo, or enjoy the city’s vibrant nightlife. Other activities include whitewater rafting, mountain biking, and hiking.
5. The Adventure Option: The Far North, New Zealand. New Zealand should be breathed in when hiking through an ancient kauri forest, explored by kayaking along Whangaroa’s volcanic headlands and felt in the damp earth of a glow-worm cave. If you have the heart for adventure, New Zealand invites you to play. Practice sustainable tourism through companies like Active Earth New Zealand, winner of the prestigious Qualmark Enviro-Gold Award, who design eco-friendly trips to discover the ‘real’ New Zealand through camping, hiking, and outdoor awareness. New Zealand offers landscapes so contrasted and beautiful the rest of the world can hardly keep up. First timers take note, don’t try to pack it all into one week. Instead, choose a destination to appreciate and interact with – like Active Earth’s Far North trip, which begins in Auckland. It focuses on a certain region where scenery changes as quickly as activities. Ready to live a little? Imagine this: You wake up at a campsite along 90-Mile-Beach and prepare a pancake breakfast under morning skies. Fortified on fresh coffee, you size up Te Paki’s mighty dunes. You’ve never sand-boarded, but then again, you’ve never made beachfront pancakes –and those turned out alright. After screaming down Te Paki’s massive dunes, you throw high fives like a pro. As Malcolm, the owner of Active Earth New Zealand explains, “New tourism is about discovery. It’s learning about a country and yourself. Your souvenir isn’t a trinket. It’s an experience that has changed you.”
6. Lost World Landscapes & Luxury: Coron, Philippines. One visit to Palawan, an island province where limestone cliffs meet white beaches, makes it easy to understand why Travel + Leisure magazine ranked it the #1 World’s Best Island Destination. Take a trip to a rare jewel in Palawan’s crown: the northern region of Coron where Jurassic landscapes, World War II wreck diving, and island hopping eco-adventure await. It’s just one stunning vista after another. Check into chic Busuanga Bay Lodge whose tucked away location offers serenity in style. Lounge by the cliff-side infinity pool or take a sunset cruise on the resort’s yacht. Staff can arrange a private banca boat (native outrigger) for island hopping to Kayangan Lake’s crystal clear waters, a seafood picnic at a virgin beach, Maquinit hot springs, and the hidden Twin Lagoons.
7. Rocky Mountain High: Rocky Mountains, Canada. Trains create an extraordinary journey. They allow for window-side reflection where destinations come to you. Companies like John Steel Rail arrange affordable, seamless trips with guided tours to get your grounding and time to explore on your own. Starting in Vancouver, hop aboard VIA Rail’s legendary Canadian train where glass-domed viewing cars are perfect for gazing at big mountain landscapes full of wildlife ranging from bears to bald eagles. Enjoy some champagne before retiring to your private sleeper car as the train rolls into the night. After breakfast, head to the Observation Car where immense windows and a glass roof put you in the middle of the scenery. Disembark in Jasper for a cruise on Lake Maligne, one of Canada’s most photographed lakes. After gazing out the train’s windows, it’s time to interact with the scenery. You’ll travel through the Rocky Mountains to experience UNESCO World Heritage Site Columbia Icefields, turquoise green glacial lakes like Lake Peyto, a luxurious stay at Lake Louise’s historic Fairmont Chateau and a gondola ride in Banff National Park.
8. Seaside Surf Town: Cornwall, England. Cornwall is a natural beauty with personality to match. This ancient Celtic kingdom resides along England’s southwest tip where 300-miles of rugged coastline is characterized by soaring cliffs, laid back surf towns and picturesque fishing harbors. The rich, rolling hills are full of history and rural landscapes. King Arthur’s castle, anyone?
Whether its beachside concerts, food and wine festivals, art openings, or oceanfront polo matches, something is always happening. There are accommodations for every taste and budget ranging from affordable and popular hostels (Long Beach Hotel to stylish splurge design hotels (The Scarlett) to country house boutique retreats (www.trevalsa-hotel.co.uk/). Dip into Cornwall’s thriving watersports scene at Extreme Academy a school for surfing, stand-up paddle-boarding and kitesurfing. Afterwards, head to the local pub for a cheeky pint and pasties – savory hand pie. A truly inspiring experience is walking the gusty highlands trail of Carnewas and Bedruthan Steps before settling in for an afternoon ‘cream’ tea with Cornwall’s celebrated scones and clotted cream. If you’d like to glimpse a bygone era, then visit historical manors like 19th century Lanhydrock Estate where activities include touring the grand Victorian home, picnicking in the gardens and biking through the vast woodlands.
9. Exotic Off-Season: Morocco. Here’s a secret: Morocco is fantastic in December. The cooler weather, quiet locales, and contrasting landscapes create an exceptional destination far from summer’s tourist crowds. Search for Aladdin’s lamp in Fez’s exotic medinas or visit a hammam for a traditional bathhouse experience. Travel to the Sahara’s edge in Merzouga where auberges (guesthouses) serve dinners of saffron soup and rich tajines before glowing fires. Trade Santa for sand and set off into the Sahara’s surreal dunescapes for an overnight camel trek with campfire drums under a zillion stars. At dawn, emerge from Bedouin tents to climb the dunes for sunrise. Essaouira’s legendary bohemian beach town has attracted artists like Jack Kerouac and Jimi Hendrix, but it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once known as Mogador, this walled town welcomes visitors with music festivals, art galleries and windswept shores. Travel far from the modern world to the village of Imil in the Atlas Mountains’ snow-capped peaks. The hour trek to Armoud is beautiful. Bring wine and let happy hour commence once you reach the rustic balconies of your Dine on stuffed breads and vegetable couscous while musicians play beneath earthy tapestries in Berber quarters. Afterwards, step out onto a terrace for an evening full of sugar sprinkled stars and iced mountains. Earn extra points if you can score a tray of mint tea & baklava. Interested? Book a small group adventure G Adventures which offers budget and comfort options. Solo travelers are welcomed.
10. Amazon River Expedition: Rio Negro & Amazon River, Brazil. A visit to the Amazon rainforest is like tapping into the Earth’s life force. This remote land gives us oxygen, stabilizes our climate, provides us with medicine…and it also gives us chocolate and coffee. Here, nature and tribal influence create a unique energy. The Amazon rainforest stretches across nine South American countries and while that’s a lot to experience on a holiday, booking a rainforest riverboat expedition such as Rainforest Cruises is an excellent introduction. Manaus, Brazil the capital of Amazonas is a popular starting point where the WOW factor begins right away. As you cruise the waters, you’ll witness the powerful ‘Meeting of the Waters’ where two of the world’s greatest rivers, the Rio Negro and Amazon Rivers, meet in a coffee-colored swirl that lasts for miles. Spend days canoeing through flooded forests, swimming with dolphins, piranha fishing and trekking through virgin rainforest. Highlights include navigating the Anavilhanas National Park labyrinth of waterways and Lago Janauari Ecological Park, a 9,000-acre flooded forest to see the giant Victoria Regia water lilies. Visit indigenous villages to learn about daily life for rainforest residents such as the preparation of manioc flour and create cultural connections. At night, watch the moonrise from a canoe and explore the flooded forest when a whole new host of nocturnal wildlife appears. Take your holiday a step further and give back by finding a cause to support such as rainforest conservation or furthering education in indigenous villages.
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We are two friends who were former magazine editors. Having moved onto other things, we both realized that the creative flow the publishing world used to offer us was missing from our lives. Armed with a common love of travel to the exotic and familiar, a penchant for the bohemian, an obsession with food and a lust for writing, we decided to collaborate our unique and fashionable journeys through life together in one passion project.
We are The Gypsetters.