Those who saved their travel dreams and “bucket list” items for “someday” had the rug pulled out from under them by the pandemic. Suddenly, with jams, stranded planes and closed cruise ships, the decision whether to travel was no longer ours. And even if you could manage to reach your desired destination, that place, with closed restaurants, limited activities, closed museums and curfews, would be missing. What, after all, is Ireland without a pub? New York City without Broadway? South Beach without salsa dancing? Paris, the city of light, went dark? What does it mean.
Industry statistics from the global network of travel advisors Virtuoso reveal that travel is back. Demand is beyond pre-pandemic heights. In response, Virtuoso.com has organized vacations anywhere from Antarctica to near-Earth orbit. As you make your New Year’s resolutions, the time to travel, now that you have the chance again, is not tomorrow…but now. For now. If you’re going to spend time and money to enrich your life’s journey, make sure you invest it in quality experiences.
“Wealth is not necessarily in the wallet. Wealth is in experiences, memories and things you can tell your friends about. It’s seeing new worlds, new cultures and new histories,” said Stefano Lodi, the general manager of Florence’s famed Hotel Brunelleschi, who had just spent more than a decade working in London before returning to “dolce vita” of Italy. “The world is beautiful.”
Virginia Irurita, founder of the travel advisory company Made For Spain And Portugal, has always embraced and championed great experiences.
“Beauty, in many cases, is cheap. Think of the flowers, think of the sun. You don’t have to wear Gucci to look good. Maybe it’s artisan clothing – it doesn’t have to have a brand label. When you go to a nice Spanish restaurant, it doesn’t have to be too expensive or fancy,” she told me. “At Made For Spain And Portugal we try to live in a beautiful world. In every little thing you can look for and find beauty: in actions, in facts, in the way you live and the way you dress… and the way you love people.”
Then Irurita looked me straight in the eye and in her colorful Spanish accent said, “There is happiness in learning and being kind to people.”
I have seen, first hand, the happy people who planned their trips with the help of Irurita’s Made For Spain And Portugal at no extra cost, amazed with their resulting experiences in Madrid, Pamplona, Ibiza, Rioja, Barcelona, Lisbon and the Algarve.
“You can do things in a beautiful way … or you can just do things,” she explained. “The way I design trips for people is by setting the best table in a restaurant. Trying to get them the best hotel room. It’s our mission: to try to plan things in a beautiful way.”
Without Irurita’s suggestions, accessibility, facilitation and travel guides, those travelers would have been very much on their own.
“My father’s family is from Pamplona. Our guides there, for example, are family friends for generations.
Her cultural tips ensure an authentic experience.
“Come with an open mind and try to adapt. It’s to look around and try to do what the locals do – it’s more fun to get into the local way of life. We don’t wear shorts in Europe, for example,” she revealed, along with a taste of practical advice. “We give tips to friends. The sun sets very late in Spain in the summer, so dinner at 6pm doesn’t make sense, so we eat very late in the summer.”
It is not too late to resolve to have a beautiful new year.
Contact Michael Patrick Shiels at Mshiels@aol.com His radio show can be found at aMiBigShow.com weekday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon on WJIM AM 1240
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