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Do you want expert travel advice and inspiration from an experienced and prolific travel writer?

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 Vacations are precious investments of time with your loved ones.  

Trust ActiveTravels to provide:

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Editor's Letter,
June/July 2020
 
Dear ActiveTravels Members,

Instead of Actively Traveling, we are Actively Dreaming about travel these days!!! 

How about you? Are you venturing out slowly and surely? Our first "trip" since lockdown was to a local restaurant in Newton Centre, about one mile from our home! 

Otherwise, we have been tuning into webinars that entice us with beautiful pictures of places far away. Steve has written below about all the destinations we "traveled to" online these past few months. 

We are really excited to finally introduce to you our Virtuoso Wanderlist service. I am a certified Wanderlist advisor so read on to find out more about how we can take your bucket lists and organize them into a long-term travel plan for you and your loved ones.

And, last but certainly not least, is the launch of Steve's book, New England in a Nutshell!!!! Woo-hoo! Steve has been busy curating the best of the best of his years as a travel writer. He began almost 25 years ago hiking, biking, rafting, fishing, and exploring each nook and cranny of New England and has penned hundreds of articles on the subject. Now, he's created a handy e-book and paperback of his absolute favorite places. We are so excited about it! It will be available to purchase on July 2nd, just in time for the July 4th holiday. You can pre-order one for Father's Day now! Find out more details below.

Stay safe and be well!

H appy Travels,
 
Lisa & Steve
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We're Officially Launching Virtuoso Wanderlist!

Wanderlist Travel Portfolio
Wanderlist Travel Portfolio

We have been waiting for the right moment to launch Virtuoso Wanderlist, a new aspect of ActiveTravels' services, and we believe that now is the time! After months of lockdown and traveling from room to room in our homes rather than country to country across the globe, many of us are itching to travel! Steve and I don't remember the last time we didn't have a plane ticket to go somewhere or a hotel reservation to look forward to. Not only do we love to travel, but it's our profession to explore the world so we can better inform our members of where to go, where to stay, and what not to miss in a destination.

This difficult time has highlighted for many of us the important stuff of life: our health, the well-being of our family members, friends and neighbors, and our security and safety. We have been creative in finding ways to stay in touch with our loved ones, be entertained, find food, cook, bake, dance and celebrate milestones. While our lives have been disrupted and activities curtailed, we've dug deep to find meaning, learn new things and appreciate the things that we might have overlooked before: hearing birds instead of planes, the amazing heroism of our health workers, and how self-sufficient we really can be.
So, why launch a travel service now when there are currently so many restrictions against travel? Well, Virtuoso Wanderlist is a service that takes your messy bucket list of destinations that you definitely want to see during your lifetime and organizes it into a plan. What a better time to make a long-term travel plan when all you can really do is daydream about travel??! 

I spent several weeks last fall becoming Wanderlist certified, and I'm one of only 200 or so travel advisors with this distinction. Wanderlist is a very cool tool that allows you and each of your traveling companions to get access to this incredible travel portal where you can rank all the places you want to go, plug in your interests and upcoming milestones you'll want to celebrate, and even choose experiences you want to try. With all these details, I come up with a long-term travel plan for you, much like a financial advisor would come up with a long-term financial plan. 

Here's how it works:
  • Sign up for Virtuoso Wanderlist with Lisa, a Certified Wanderlist Advisor (call or email is best).
  • You and each of your travel companions are sent links to open up your customized travel portal where each of you can explore over 160 destinations and rank the places you most want to visit. Each of you also clicks on your interests (active, arts and culture, history, culinary, etc.).
  • Lisa reviews, interprets and shares the results with all the travelers in your group and maps out a future travel plan, identifying best places to go according to everyone's top picks, seasonality, value, your personal schedules and milestones to celebrate.
  • You receive an online and handcrafted Travel Portfolio book with your agreed-upon long term travel plan.
  • We adjust the plan as needed.
With this service, no longer are you (and I) scrambling to make a trip happen at the last moment. No longer is the lead traveler trying to communicate everyone's needs as each traveler inputs their own information. No longer will you miss out on that mother-daughter trip to Paris to celebrate her special birthday. No longer will you postpone once again that anniversary trip with your spouse because everyday life got in the way of planning. And, with a travel advisor on your side, we will look out for deals, special opportunities, currency rates, hard-to-get tickets when we have a long-term plan for you. 

If you want to learn more about Virtuoso Wanderlist, please contact me at lisa@activetravels.com and we'll get started!
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Oh the Places You'll Go -
Webinars that Have Inspired Us
One of the few highlights of this downtime is the chance to educate ourselves about destinations and properties we've wanted to learn more about but never had the time. Lisa and I have been sitting in on webinars with the likes of gorilla experts in Uganda to boutique hoteliers in Colombia. We already mentioned two of the better webinars we viewed in the May newsletter, Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming, and one of the villa companies we like to work with, Villas of Distinction. Here are some more destinations we've been digging into:
 
Panama

Thanks to the direct flights on Copa Airlines from many of North America's largest cities, we've been designing more and more itineraries to Panama each year. Expect the same wildlife, cloud forest, rainforest, mountains, wildlife, and exotic birds as Costa Rica. Then add the Panama Canal and seven unique indigenous cultures of Panama. Where Panama pales in comparison to Costa Rica is unique properties, but we learned about two of the more recent boutique hotels to open in the past several years. El Otro Lado is located on scenic Portobelo Bay, about a 90-minute drive from Panama City. The five 1 and 2-bedroom cottages immersed in 300 acres are as bright as the scarlet macaws and overflowing with local art created on site. They suggest a 3-night stay to kayak, snorkel, fish, hike, take sunset birding boat rides, join in a mojito making class, create sculptures with local artists, and learn to congo dance.


The second property presented was Isla Palenque, located on a private island in the The Gulf of Chiriqui. Fly an hour from Panama City to the airport in David, where you'll be picked up and driven another hour to the port in Boca Chica. From here, it's a short 15-minute boat ride to paradise. Humpback whales arrive in July, accompanied by dolphins, rays, and turtles. Clients who have already ventured to Lapa Rios, Arenas del Mar, and Finca Rosa Blanca know the level of luxury, sense of local style, and service the Cayuga Collection can offer. They run the 8 beachfront casitas on this private island. Pricing is all-inclusive, replete with daily yoga and five miles of beach to roam. Want to get away from it all? This is the place.

Faroe Islands/Greenland

Actually, I take back that last comment about Isla Palenque. These two locales are even more remote. In a webinar with Reykjavik-based Nordic Luxury, Lisa learned that the Faroe Islands are a great 3 to 4-day add on to Iceland, thanks to easy direct flights. Hike, bike, birdwatch for puffins, enjoy the excellent food scene in Koks, and then stay at the recommended Hotel Havgrim. Nordic Luxury is known for their tailor-made itineraries based on your interests to Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Faroe Islands, even Greenland. Explore the ice of Greenland in the heart of summer. There are no roads, so you'll travel by dogsleds or helicopters. During the day, you'll sea kayak past the icebergs, fish, go on glacial hikes. At night, you'll glamp on the outskirts of Nuuk and look up to see the Northern Lights. Not surprising, both Greenland and the Faroe Islands have had a combined zero deaths from COVID-19.

Mustang Monument

Wow, I was so moved by this webinar, I was ready to buy myself a horse and giddy up like Yosemite Sam! Set on 900 square miles of wilderness in northern Nevada and home to more than 750 wild mustangs, Mustang Monument is the pet project of wildlife enthusiast and philanthropist, Madeleine Pickens. A 3-hour drive from Salt Lake City or 5-hour drive from Las Vegas, Pickens has been working diligently for more than 5 years to preserve this land from encroachment, so that America's largest group of wild horses can always run free. You'll be right alongside the pack on
horseback, or choose to rock climb or go cruising in ATVs. The recently opened property (June 1-September 30 only) is all-inclusive and the highlight are the lodgings, 10 cottages and 10 tipis. Embodying the indigenous spirit of Native Americans and authentically designed, the tipis offer ample living space appointed with leather and plush chairs, hardwood floors, and authentic Native American textiles. They measure 26 feet in diameter and 26 feet tall with 300 sq. ft. of living space and a detached luxury bathroom nearby. Madeleine assured us that they just hired a fantastic chef who takes full advantage of their sustainable farm. There's also yoga, beading, and a spa in a tipi under a large tree. This is the Wild West with a serious dose of luxury.

Traveling the UK and Ireland with Celebrated Experiences

Those of you who had the good fortune to travel with Celebrated Experiences to Scotland, Ireland, Britain, or Wales know firsthand how exceptional they are as a tour operator. At least twice a year, they visit every hotel they recommend, and include a special Celebrated perk like a spa treatment or bottle of wine at dinner. They also hire fantastic guides that add unparalleled insider knowledge like the gardener to Prince Charles or a 9th-generation cheesemaker.  We've already been on three webinars
with them to scenic Kerry and Kenmare in Ireland, the Central Highlands of Scotland, and the Cotswolds region of Britain, and each one left us licking our chops for more. The mix of rolling green countryside, centuries-old villages, food-makers and other artisans, and unique properties will entice the most jaded travel advisor. Not only do we love the routes they select over a week to 10 days, but their choice of lodging, like Sheen Falls Lodge in Kenmare, Cullodon House in Inverness, and Foxhill Manor on the Famcombe Estate in the Cotswolds, are first-rate.

Uganda

After taking this webinar with a naturalist from Natural Habitat Adventures in mid-May, we were ready to get on the next flight to Kampala. Already on my bucket list for years thanks to my brother, Jim, who's been raving about his trip there, Uganda is about the size of Oregon and is known as the "Pearl of Africa." Yes, you can gorilla trek in Bwindi, and depending on where the gorillas are that day, that hike can last from 1 to 10 hours. So you need to be flexible and be in decent shape, though you are led by expert porters. Yet, this country offers so much more, including the chance to see the tree-climbing lions and more than 1100 species of birds on safari at Queen Elizabeth Park; 13 varieties of
primates including chimpanzees in the green and lush Kibale National Park; one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world, Murchison Falls; and the source of the Nile River at Lake Victoria. Then spend time in Kampala to meet the welcoming locals and listen to live world music at the many clubs. Sign me up on this trip!

Colombia

The Spanish colonial city of Cartagena might get all the hype, but if you asked ActiveTravels members who have visited Colombia, the majority would say the highlight of their trip was their time in Coffee Country. Take the 45-minute flight from Bogota to Armenia and you'll be picked up by your hosts from Hacienda Bambusa for the 30-minute drive to their hidden oasis on a 500-acre farm. Drop your bags off in one of their 8 rooms and then go play. Take a stroll around the farm, go birding with a naturalist, visit a working cocoa farm, hike in a massive bamboo forest, go rafting, horseback riding, even hot air ballooning. Owners Olivier and Diego can arrange all activities and serve tasty authentic Colombian fare outside on a serene patio. 

They recently added another property to their expanding
portfolio, Casa Yahri , a private villa in the Colonial town of Barichara. Located in the mountains, a 4 ½-hour drive from Bogota, Barichara is one of those towns straight out of a movie set, with narrow cobblestone streets, whitewashed buildings, and red-tiled roofs. It's the perfect place to unwind and roam the streets checking out all the local handicrafts the region is known for, like paper-making and ceramics. Nearby outdoor adventures include hiking, biking, canyoneering, and whitewater rafting. Afterwards, head back to one of the four suites and lounge in the infinity pool. Sounds pretty good right about now.

Rick Steves

Similar to the many webinars we've attended, Rick Steves' weekday broadcasts on PBS have been a wonderful source of insider information. I always grab one of his guidebooks before visiting a European destination, appreciating his honesty and opinions, like "Bordeaux is boring." But his 25-minute shows really highlight his top picks, because he doesn't have much time to discuss the Croatian, Czech, or Danish countryside. So if he raves about the Plitvice Lakes region of Croatia, the mountain village of Cezky Krumlov in the Bohemian region of the Czech republic, and the Danish island of Ærø, take note. Few know the continent better. If you're fortunate, he might even throw out the name of a pension or inn he's staying at, like the house built in 1784 by a sea captain as a dowry for his daughter called Pension Vestegade No. 44 in Ærøskøbing harbor. Or Albergo Milano, located in the historical center of Varenna on the shores of Lake Como. An added bonus were the two episodes of his travels through Iran. Loved it!

Please contact ActiveTravels if you are interested in any of these destinations. We are now experts after hours of training with our excellent contacts in these regions.
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The Debut of My New Book, 
New England in a Nutshell
With the forced downturn in travel and a public yearning for more regional exploration, I took advantage of this unintended sabbatical to author a new book, New England in a Nutshell. I did a deep dive into the more than 700 articles I wrote for The Boston Globe, Yankee, Boston Magazine, Outside, Men's Journal, and numerous other publications during the past quarter century and distilled those stories down to a readable round-up format. 

The more than 50 categories and 300 entries includes 10 Classic New England Hikes, 8 Summer Drives That Will Keep You Smiling, 6 Hidden Art Historical Gems, Top 12 Country Inns to Get Pampered, 6 Favorite Lobster/Clam Shacks, and a whole lot more. Only the finest entries made the cut! For example, I've visited over 1,000 inns in New England and only selected my top twelve. It's ideally suited for exploring the region this summer when most people want to stay close to home.
 
The book/ebook is slated to be published on July 2nd and you can pre-order the ebook now on Amazon at THIS LINK . The ebook includes all hyperlinks to listings. The paperback includes front and back cover illustrations from Manhattan-based artist, Sarah Schechter, and a small sampling of photos from Lisa, who accompanied me on many of my assignments, resulting in published work for The Boston Globe.
 
Half the proceeds from sales of the book will be spent on gift cards to support the many businesses I've highlighted. They're all in dire straits right now due to the pandemic and could use the much-needed financial support. All readers have to do is send me an email at steve@activetravels.com and say they purchased an ebook or book and I'll put them into the many raffles for free giveaways. Depending on the number of books sold, this could translate into dinner for two at the restaurant that supposedly invented the fried clam, Woodman's, biking to 5 lighthouses on the outskirts of Portland with SummerFeet Cycling, or a weekend getaway at one of my recommended B&Bs, the Saltair Inn in Bar Harbor, Maine.
 
Thank you for your support and if you could help spread the word, I'd greatly appreciate it!
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