Category: Around The World

The Travel Connoisseur

Being a solo traveller at heart, family tourism is not exactly the Travel Connoisseur’s milieu. In fact, it’s an area he avoids as best he can. He has never understood parents who carry their jet-lag devastated babies halfway around the world to places best known as honeymoon destinations, and then throw all sense of adult propriety out the window.   

Screaming children and spoiled teenagers are enough to ruin TTC’s wonderful world of elegant travel, but he finds it’s often their loving parents who are the real problem. On a recent flight from San Francisco to Dubai, one lady decided to turn a First Class suite into a baby changing room. In order not to disturb her dear sleeping husband, her choice fell on the suite located right across the aisle from TTC. It happened once. It happened twice.

Prefers calm solitude to multigenerational group chaos

On the third occasion during the 16-hour flight, as the volume of the tot’s protests began to overtake Anna Netrebko performing “O Mio Babbino Caro” in his headphones, and the distinctive odour of the procedure became stronger than TTC’s vintage Eau Noire, the poor sleepless traveller roared from the darkness of his own enclosed suite, “Enough!” Seconds later, two flight attendants hurried over to usher mommy and offspring into a lavatory to complete the ritual. Their paterfamilias, meanwhile, continued to sleep peacefully as TTC was promptly presented with another bubbly flute, beaded with condensation. Evidently, First Class cabins are too small to be shared with travelling families. Needless to say, on the ground TTC steers away from family resorts.

He also has the school break schedule of major travelling nations memorised by heart. When, despite careful planning, he still happens to check in to a hotel during those adolescent-friendly times, his pre-arrival requests become focused solely on acquiring the quietest room possible – one which does not interconnect to create any larger suites. Evidently TTC is not the only one who prefers calm solitude to multigenerational group chaos, with several hotels around the world appreciating the need for a dedicated space for mature clientele.

At a Muscat resort on his last trip, TTC was pleased to discover a quiet, adults-only seafront swimming pool, which proved to be an oasis favoured not only by him but also by a pair of Italian celebrity fashion designers. In this sanctuary, they enjoyed nothing but the perfect sound of the crashing waves, all day long. It was on a visit to Cuba a couple of years ago that TTC went even further, booking himself in for a week at an entirely adults-only resort in Varadero. The absence of mobile phone connectivity and barely any Wi-Fi meant that he could enjoy the ringing silence from the moment he arrived.

The first three days seemed as blissful as can be as TTC spent up to 16 hours sleeping off the jet lag, either in his room or by the sea. Eventually, though, he began to wonder about the absence of any other guests anywhere around the resort during the day. Most seemed to emerge at sunset, the time when the jet-lagged TTC was walking back to his bungalow. On the fourth night, having adjusted to the Caribbean time zone, he decided to stay awake to discover what Varadero nights were like.

Days of sleeping by the sea and nights of fuzzy parties were fun

By midnight it became amply clear why he was the only person on the beach during the day. By sundown, the resort turned into one large nightclub, with sultry Cuban dancers, flashing lights and loud music. The wild tropical party went on until sunrise – explaining also the mystery of the slightly odd, nightclub-friendly menu selection he’d noticed at breakfast. In most guests’ cases, this was the last meal of the day rather than the first one.

Days of sleeping by the sea and nights of fuzzy parties were fun, but it was about the least relaxing vacation he had ever taken. Plus, he found that the frivolousness of the over-18 clientele at the resort was not to his taste, either. When the week was out, TTC packed up and made his way to a more traditional grand hotel in Trinidad de Cuba. To his surprise, he felt right at home once again, surrounded by mommies, daddies and their ruddy-faced kids.Well-behaved ones, of course.

Holidays Hobbyists

For Active Adventurers

  • SURF
    Just two hours from Sydney, Surf Camp Australia is designed for surfers of all levels and teaches paddling, standing up, riding the waves and surf  etiquette. Later, kick back in the purpose-built Surf Camp a short walk from the beach, with a swimming pool, hammocks and Aussie barbecues in the evenings.
    On Hawaii’s Big Island, active types can pedal along white sand beaches, traverse lava fields or ascend volcanoes on Ride & Seek and Big Island Bike Tours’ cycling adventure. Take the adrenaline rush up a notch with a pit stop for cliff-jumping, then soak in the naturally heated tide pools of Kapoho.

  • WALK
    Hike the picturesque peaks of the Caucasus in Georgia, through alpine meadows, over roaring rivers and along green valleys with Walks Worldwide’s Where Europe meets Asia trip Gape at the breathtaking views atop the 3,430m Atsunta Pass before returning to the capital, Tbilisi, for a spot of sightseeing.

For Wellness Seekers

    Get off the grid at The Ranch at Live Oak, Malibu (one week all-inclusive from AED 25,000; 001-310-457 8700, theranchmalibu. com) where there’s no phone signal or Wi-Fi, allowing you to live in the moment without the distractions of technology. The daily bootcamp features a routine of sustainable activity including group hiking, yoga sessions and fitness classes, after which the last thing on your mind will be sitting in front of a computer screen.

    Detox your body and mind at The Ranch at Live Oak, Malibu

  • YOGA
    Set in the Himalayan foothills in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, Vana Malsi Estate (?ve-night retreat from AED 6,850; 0091-135-391 1111, is a modern ashram-cum-spa retreat sitting on 21 acres of forested land. Activities include private and group yoga, hiking, om chanting and spa treatments. Vana doesn’t follow a particular school of yoga but goes back to the roots of the science and includes body postures (aasan), meditation (dhyan), breath control (pranayam) and nutrition to help guests de-stress and recharge.

    Complement a yoga session with natural therapies at Vana Malsi Estate

For Environmentalists

    Enjoy up-close encounters with mountain gorillas in the lush greenery of their natural Ugandan habitat while aiding conservation efforts with The Great Projects (13 nights from AED 14,080; 0044-208-885 4987, Volunteers work with local communities on tree-planting and reforestation efforts in and around the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a sanctuary that is home to half of the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas, as well as assisting in a pedal-powered film session to educate remote schools and communities about the importance of conservation.

    Spot gorillas in the wild while helping with conservation efforts in Uganda

    Help replant coral reefs in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, with the Tropical Research and Conservation Centre (two weeks all- inclusive from AED 6,140; 0060-198- 50 5412, where you’ll be taught scientific diving techniques and methods for planting corals and rebuilding a reef alongside scientists. Also on the cards: turtle and shark conservation, which includes patrolling the beaches to protect adult turtles, eggs and hatchlings – then dive with them off Pom Pom Island

For Creative Types

    For those who like to make a song and dance about their travels, Cuba is the ideal spot. Get caught up in the rumba of Havana, join in salsa classes in Trinidad then learn to play traditional Cuban music and record your own track with local musicians in Santiago de Cuba with Responsible Travel’s Cuba music & dance holiday (nine days from AED 5,510; 0044-1273-82 3700, Both adults and little ones will be wowed by the colourful architectures, vintage cars, Latin beats and friendly locals.

    Trinidad in Cuba is a vibrant place to practise your dance moves

    Get snap happy in Marrakech with Creative Escapes’ Morocco photo tour (?ve days from AED 5,195; 0044-207-111 1293,, which takes in the bustling souks, Atlas Mountains, traditional Berber villages and gardens of Yves Saint Laurent’s
    home, with a team of experts offering live photography demonstrations, creative tuition and challenging assignments for all ages and levels.
    Put brush to canvas on an Andalucian painting holiday with Authentic Adventures (seven nights from AED 7,830; 0044-1453- 82 3328, in the village of Alajar, with its rolling pastures, charming cobble-stone squares and stone houses with wrought-iron balconies and ancient doorways. Paint under the shade of an oak tree, with tips and guidance from professional tutors, and beam with pride, glass of bubbles in hand, at the informal exhibition of your work at the end of the trip.

For Food Enthusiasts

  • FARM
    For those who don’t mind getting their hands dirty, working on a farm and helping with the harvest is a great way to give back to the earth. World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms ( arranges volunteer placements around the world where you can learn aboutseed sowing, composting, gardening, wood cutting, weeding, harvesting, packing, milking, feeding, fencing and grape-, cheese- and bread-making in return for food and board with the local host, all while helping to build a sustainable community – a great lesson for older kids.
    If cooking is a passion, take it to the next level with an apprenticeship with a chef on your next holiday. Learn the tricks of the trade on an Italian or Mediterranean cooking course with Tuscookany (one week from AED 12,500; 0044-7039-40 0235,, where you’ll prepare organic meals with local chefs, learning about the ingredients and traditions surrounding the dishes as well as food presentation and grape pairings.

    Learn the tricks of the trade with ravioli- making sessions with Italian chefs in Tuscany

10 Great ways to celebrate


Ascending the park’s 14,259-foot crown is a rite of passage for scramblers. But you don’t have to join the conga line: Camp at the Boulderfield (the National Park System’s highest designated campsite) and beat the crowds with an early summit. For a more moderate adventure, take a day trip along the same trail to a midway point like Chasm Lake or the Boulderfield.


Anglers in the know flock to the Estes Park area for a chance to land one of four resident trout species—brown, brook, rainbow, and cutthroat. For excellent fly fishing with a side of solitude, hike to Thunder Lake from the national park’s Wild Basin area, or fish roadside on the Big Thompson River, just east of the village.


Nothing caps off a day in the wild like a plate of sweet, fruity goodness. And nobody
does it better than Estes Park Pie Shop, which dishes up award-winning, overstuffed slices of triple berry, apple ginger peach, caramel apple pecan, and peanut butter (among many other flavors).


Estes Park and Rocky are known for their wildlife—large groups of elk are often seen sauntering right through town. From the village to the park you can also spot bighorn sheep, coyotes, bears, and, if you’re lucky, moose. Increase your chances by heading out in the early morning or cruising for wildlife in the evening hours.


Join the Rocky Mountain Conservancy’s special year of classes and events in 2015. There’s something for everyone: guided wildflower hikes, campfire history tales, photography workshops, survival skills seminars, and much more. Check the schedule:


Camping options range from the fairly civilized (try one of 14 developed campgrounds in Estes Park or Rocky) to the undeniably wild. For the ambitious: Try “The Big Loop,” a 3- to 5-day, 26-mile trek from Bear Lake to Grand Lake and back around. This incredible journey will take you through all three major ecological zones of the park: montane, subalpine, and alpine tundra.


Colorado has a solid reputation for craft beer, but don’t stop there. Estes Park has three brewery tasting rooms for post-adventure suds, and also offers a local winery, a distillery tasting room, and the largest whiskey selection in Colorado, including many Colorado-made bottles, at the historic Stanley Hotel.


After a long day of playing in the mountains, Estes locals head one place to kick back: Ed’s Cantina. The lively restaurant serves up fresh Mexican plates (try the 14er, a huge burrito stuffed with steak, chorizo, and bacon) and robust margaritas. After a drink or two, you’ll fit right in.


Don’t have backcountry campsite reservations? Head to the Backcountry Office first thing in the morning to try your luck with available permits. Hikers can get a true wilderness experience, whether 2 or 12 miles in, by securing a site away from civilization.


Our favorite route across this unique ecosystem: Park at Milner Pass and hike the 4.5-mile Mt. Ida Trail, which almost immediately emerges above treeline. Here, the trail gives way to more difficult terrain, so be mindful of the route. The trek offers excellent wildlife-spotting opportunities (look for elk, marmots, and golden eagles) on the way to the 12,889-foot summit, which treats hikers to huge vistas across the park.



French photographer Floriane De Lassée has travelled across some of the world’s most rural landscapes, from East Africa to South America; in search of subjects for her ongoing photo series, How Much Can You Carry?
Beginning her journey in 2012 in Ethiopia, the series has so far taken the 37-year-old around 14 different countries across four continents, where she has photographed 70 subjects. Her set was published in 2014 into a book, available in both English and French. As part of the shoot De Lassée travelled with her boyfriend, Nicholas Henry, from Ethiopia to Rwanda, Madagascar, Namibia, Turkey, Nepal, India, China, Indonesia, Japan, Bolivia and Brazil.

The first question has to be; how did this idea come about? When was the moment you realised you wanted to travel the world, shooting pictures of things people balance on their heads?


I wanted to give another breath to my ongoing work, Inside Views , which was mainly located in megacities. I was seeking something new. In 2011, my boyfriend asked me to travel with him around the world for 14 months. I thought, why not?, and said yes; without really thinking about where we would end up, and whether it would be interesting for my photography. Our first stop was Ethiopia, where I was struck by the sand and blinding sun — it was the exact opposite of what I was expecting or looking for.

Yet being somewhere completely new and unexpected, forced me to open my eyes and really find a decent idea for my photography, an idea that was far away from my past projects. I chose some of the destinations we visited, including Istanbul, Kyoto, New Caledonia and Bolivia, while some were Nicholas’ choice. But I didn’t realise that Ethiopia would be totally outside my artistic reference. When we started our African tour [four months through Ethiopia, Rwanda, Madagascar and Namibia], I was pretty lost.


So this series, How Much Can You Carry? , initiated in Ethiopia, is totally different from what I’m used to shooting. Because I had no idea of where the project would end up, I decided to go for a run every morning. On these sandy roads, I passed by courageous women who were carrying heavy loads to or from the market. Exchange is their only way to survive, and I wanted to pay homage to these women, who display such impeccable strength and balance.

Were you inspired by any other artists in the way you shot the portraits?

No, it came from a scratch in my mind, and from what I saw with my own “tourist” eyes. Though later on, after I put the series together, I discovered these images of Nigerian truckers and their trucks [by Roberto Neumiller]. Those spoke to me a lot.

What would you want people to take away from this set?


At first sight, How Much Can You Carry? is a tribute to the bearers of life — those whose lives are heavy, and where smiles and laughter become the keys to a liveable existence. But it can be read on two levels. The first refers to these modern caryatids [sculpted female figures used as architectural support, in place of a column or a pillar].
The second, more metaphorical, talks about the various weights we all carry, whether they are physical or psychological like the weight of tradition, legacy, education, family, or of social difference. I feel the series can be understood by all, ranging from those on the deep roads of Africa, to trendy art collectors in the big cities. Everybody can be inspired, because everybody has a weight to carry. Now that the series is completed and a book has been published, I’ll take a step back — and see that this is not so much the “burden” that matters, but the way we have to carry it and who can support us.

Travelling the world for this shoot, what did you learn that surprised you?

I think everywhere in the world, people carry things. They carry wood to keep warm, water to drink and to keep clean, animals such as goats to eat (meat, milk and often blood too) seeds (like wheat or quinoa) — and even children on their shoulders. As I understand it, the ratio of men to women in Africa (and in a lot of places around the globe) who carry these big loads, is around one to eight.

In most cases, did your subjects understand what it was that you were trying to achieve with the images?

It depended on the level of education in each region. But ultimately, it’s not important that everybody understood; at least if they had fun, it was already a pleasure for all of us to share the moment. The kids, who were less shy, approached first, and then the parents followed. It’s very uncommon for them to have crazy people like me coming into a village; and setting up a backdrop in the middle of nowhere — before shooting images like the one with four goats on the head, for example.

My local assistants received good remuneration, and my models were “paid” with essential goods. As the photos are in digital, I could also give all of them a small print, to keep in their homes. Few tourists ever offer that sort of moment and souvenir to them. In opposition to the tourists who pass by and “grab their soul” with a photo, I first spent some time in each place. After few days, most were happy to see that I was doing this for art. And that most of all, I was seeking to give them dignity. They looked proud to take their own images away with them

Did you get any sense that the act of carrying something so immense on your head might be become extinct?

No, I don’t think so. People will always carry things, for many decades more, because in a lot of remote areas there will never be roads.

Which of your photographic subjects do you remember the most? Do you have a favourite?

Anga from Indonesia, [left] is one of my favourites. She looks like she has a gigantic girly dinnerware set on her head. But if you look closer, you can see she’s got such a strong and sad gaze. That seems to signify the weight of responsibility she may have in her numerous family roles, cleaning the dishes or clothes. She was so brave.

I would imagine many of them asked if you wanted to try balancing what they had to balance on your own head! How did that go?

Of course, I could not carry what they carry, for sure — but they had a lot of fun, with me trying to carry water jars. To tell you the truth, in some cases, I helped them out with a rope, and then I’d delete the string digitally. My aim was to give them back their pride for a time — but certainly not to break their necks.

How did your shoot make you reflect on your own world? It’s hard not to look at your photos and think, “If I had to limit my possessions to those I could physically carry, what would they be?”

A great question! I had a friend in Germany who had a tiny car, and each time he moved to a new place, he had to fit everything into his car. It was hard. Then he had a girlfriend and he had to remove more and more each time, to fit her in too. Maybe somehow my inspiration came from him too. We are consuming more and more in our modern world; but at the same time, at least now there are so many websites for sharing and exchanging goods and services instead of buying new ones. Generations before us, you would buy something for life — now you buy, then exchange, and these objects can have hundreds of lives

What were the challenges of this shoot, in terms of setting up your shots and communicating with your subjects? Did you want them to look completely natural or posed?

Their backs were bent sometimes, but always with a straight neck and a concentrated gaze. But mainly, I wanted them to look proud of themselves. The project is universal, we don’t need to speak the same language. As long as I could show them the results in the camera or on my computer, they were happy. In person, they couldn’t always appreciate the results, because I used flash lights. So they needed to come closer to my computer to see.

What gear did you use? Was it tricky to decide on the kind of equipment, and whether to say, shoot in black and white versus colour?

I used black and white between the ages of 14 and 24 years old. It’s essential to attain this knowledge, and to feel the balance and construction of an image. But for me now, to “see” in black and white is a tool. My final result will always be in colour. Concerning the choice of camera, unlike a lot of projects where I still shoot with a large format camera, in this one the results had to be seen immediately by my models and other villagers, so a digital camera was naturally the right choice.

I love the shot, of the child in the red sweatshirt balancing cords of wood — and a baby goat! How did that shot come about?


Aru was the first image of the series, and also my first ever portrait. I was shy at the beginning of the series too, and worried that my photographs were looking nothing like they had in the previous 10 years.

Then I posted this image on my Facebook page, and it was met with such enthusiasm. So thanks to my social networks, I was given the courage to continue in this direction. Thank-you to my friends and followers! Aru is a young Ethiopian girl who makes a living from selling goats and goat meat, milk and blood to the market. Wood is essential for the family to boil, cook and to heat the home. There is less and less wood in their area — and they have to go increasingly far to get some

Do More, Instead of Buy More Money Won’t Last Forever

Happiness is a noble pursuit. Who doesn’t want to be happy? Yet it is this very same goal that can cause us to work against our own happiness. This is most often exhibited when we purchase things.

We often find ourselves clinging to old standbys like “If it lasts/works longer than I can use it more” which we generally think will make us happy. When in reality that same thing being used every day loses its value to us rather quickly.

The biggest questions asked are “how should I spend my money?” This is a very important question, seeing as money (for the average person) is not an unlimited resource.
It is true that money can make you happier, but after all of your needs are met, have you really ever actually been much happier than before?

The Enemy of Happiness Adaptation

Physical objects are the go-to route when spending to achieve happiness, but this path is completely wrong. Studies have shown that by buying physical objects we are actually setting ourselves up to be disappointed. Some objects are however, not at all waste of money and should actually be purchased in order to maintain happiness, such as a good mattress. Good mattresses are essential for back health, and uninterrupted sleep, such as the best mattress for side sleepers would be.
Objects are not always the best route Thi because we adapt. The thing gets used and over time we lose the sense of value that was once attributed to it.
So instead of going out and buying the newest phone model or cutting edge kitchenware, instead contemplate spending that money on trips to special places that interest you. Or even on a small vacation for yourself. It has been proven that those small events are worth more in regards to happiness than buying objects.
Try sitting down and thinking over things you’ve always wanted to do but instead just put off so that you could buy something later. Would you have been much happier for longer if you had instead went and had that experience?
New experiences never get old, unlike objects.

Money Can Buy Happiness Using Money the Right Way

It is entirely possible to use money to achieve happiness. But the question is not in the object, it is in the experience. People who buy something almost always report that their happiness levels associated with that object drop dramatically after a while.

While on the opposite end of the spectrum people who spend their money on experiences almost always report that their happiness with that experience has increased. In a way this shows that we value memories more than money. So we while we are reluctant to spend money on an experience, when we could instead buy something we will use, we almost always end up wishing we had just gone and had our little adventures.
It truly does work against us. The fact that buying an object you can put to use give us less happiness than something you may only experience one time in your life.
The object either becomes disused or starts to become part of the background to our lives, while the memory becomes a part of us. We bring it up in conversation; it ingrains itself in our identity.

●Experience is a part of you
●Material good are separate from your own being

Experience forges Connection Sharing Your Life with Others

One other reason that experiences are the better thing to spend money on would be that they can be shared with others. Even things we once thought of as scary that negatively impacted our past can become lessons in character or a funny story that we share among friends.
In addition you are more likely to forge stronger relationships through shared experience rather than shared possessions. For example, you will have a strong bond with someone who you took a vacation with to go camping, where you will not have a bond like that just because someone you know owns a HGTV and you do too.

●Sharing experiences creates bonds
●Even indirectly shared experiences bring people together
●Forging stronger bond increases your own happiness
●You are less likely to feel negative about others experiences than possessions

Put a Stop to the Comparisons Envy Kills Happiness

Perhaps the worst thing those possessions can do for us, it to give us something to compare to what other people have. Sure when you’re on vacation you might feel jealous of someone flying first class, but it’s nothing when you compare it to someone who has the newer, hotter model of your car.

Ency is a sure-fire way to slowly kill your happiness that is why it can be important to spend less on possessions and more on experiences. You might know someone with an amazing new car, or boat, or TV, but can that same person say that they’ve hiked the Appalachian Trail? Start spending more on memories and you sure as heck could. Don’t waste your money on possessions you don’t really need, instead try getting out there in the world and making memories that truly will taste forever.

A traveler guide to hand luggage


Think about your bag’s main use. If you plan to do a lot of walking, look for a bag with cushioned, mesh-lined straps a good back system and hipbelt. If you’re more likely to use the bag as a city or laptop pack, look for padded sleeves and security features. If you’ll be carrying cameras and lenses, choose a bag that will hold them safely.


Some packs have rucksack straps, others have grab handles or shoulder straps, some offer a combination of all three. One carrying method might be sufficient if you’re only using the bag on the plane; if you plan to use the bag for city touring and walks, you might want more options.


Lighter is generally better for your back but less weight might also mean the bag has fewer comfort-focused features (eg good rucksack back system, padded hipbelt, choice of carrying method). Also, if the bag is heavy when empty, this may effect what else you can pack if your airline has a hand-luggage weight restriction.


Look for good cushioning in the areas that will be used most. If the bag has a zip-away rucksack system, ensure the bag is comfortable when being carried as a rucksack and by its other handles.


Many bags claim to comply with IATA guidelines on allowable cabin baggage size. However, these guidelines are not mandatory and many airlines have their own (smaller) dimension rules. Do some research before buying.


Hand luggage should be user-friendly. Is the main compartment easy to pack? Can you access the pockets quickly? Are the alternative carrying methods easy to use? Do you need all those extra functions or are they just extraneous bells and whistles, taking up weight and space?


Worldwide 45L £45
THE TEST: If you fancy a rucksack but are worried about the straps getting in the way sometimes, try this. Rucksack straps, a hipbelt (cushioned, mesh-lined, two zip pockets) and an airflow back system can be zipped away to leave a streamlined pack. There’s a grab handle so you can haul it onto shelves easily; it would benefit from a shoulder strap though.

On the outside are two wand pockets (ideal for tripods or water bottles), a front zip pocket (large enough for documents, pens etc) and bungee cords. The zipped main bag space has two access points – top and bottom – with drawstring fabric between them, so you can transform it into two compartments. It also has a hydration bladder pouch (which could also take an iPad), a zipped security pocket (big enough for a passport) and a rollaway raincover. At 1.25kg it’s fourth heaviest here. The verdict: A great choice for walkers – though they may not feel the need to hide the straps away in the first place.


AT Lightflite Carry-on £65
THE TEST: First thing: bags in this new travel range from Lowe come with a list of the airlines that accept each model (packed to capacity) as hand luggage. Handy. At 90g, this is the lightest pack here. It has stashaway cushioned, mesh-lined rucksack straps, which – unlike the Craghoppers pack – tuck away into pockets, saving weight on zips and fabric panels. There’s no fancy back system or hip belt but this carry method is only meant for short-term use.

There are also grab handles and a clip-on shoulder strap. At the top is a zip stash pocket with a key clip. There’s one wand pocket on the side and a luggage tag and compression straps so you can make it smaller. A large tamper proof zip enables you to open up the whole inside for easy packing. There are zipped mesh pockets and elasticised straps to hold items down. The verdict: Great value, super lightweight, versatile and easy to pack, though not the most comfy on the back.


Farpoint 40 £80
THE TEST: For an extra £15 you get a similar style bag to Lowe with a slightly more refined rucksack function. This also unzips fully so you can pack it like a suitcase; it also offers two grab handles and a shoulder strap. But there is a proper back system, which is mesh covered for ventilation, making walking more comfortable. This all zips away, which adds weight – at 1.2kg it’s third-lightest on test.

Inside the good-size main compartment there are clippable elasticated straps for securing items and zipped mesh panels (good for dirty washing). On the outside there are front wand pockets that will take a water bottle, a zipped compartment including a key clip (good for tickets, money etc) and compression straps. It also offers two padded sleeves suitable for tablets and laptops (at the same time) and a zip pocket for accessories. The verdict: Versatile, well-featured and good for those carrying laptops or tablets – all for a reasonable weight and good price.


Gear Hauler £130
THE TEST: This pack is similar to the Osprey but slightly lighter (1.15kg; second-lightest on test). It has a large main compartment – though no elasticated straps to hold items down – and a padded compartment for tablets/laptops. It has grab handles and a shoulder strap; there are also hideaway rucksack straps that zip into a front pocket – a nifty design, though having the bag’s front against your back isn’t the most comfortable.

There are compression straps and a self-repair main zip. The front pocket has compartments tailored for phones and pens, a zipped pouch for headphones and a security pocket for a passport/tickets. On one end there’s a generous zipped pocket that’s perfect for dirty/wet clothes or a pair of shoes – though this takes up some space in the main compartment when it’s packed. The verdict: Some nice features, a good weight and the ability to safely carry a laptop or tablet, but the price tag may be a turn off .


Venturesafe 45L £190
THE TEST: Yes, pricey – but this is no ordinary bag, it hides a gamut of security features. It has a built-in slash-proof mesh, and all zips are puncture resistant and interlock for extra security. Above the main zips is a ‘roobar’ – an anchor point on which to hook and lock your zips; it can also be attached to the stainless steel locking cable (for securing to a pole/table), which is covered by fabric so it doesn’t scream ‘I’m valuable!’.

All this adds weight: at 2.4kg, this is the heaviest on test by far. It’s also a good pack. It has compression straps, two wand pockets, a suitcase-like opening for easy packing, internal luggage straps, mesh-zipped panels and lots of space. The back panel unzips to reveal a rucksack back system (best on test): adjustable and ventilated, with a cushioned and mesh-lined hip belt and straps. This does add more weight though, and takes up room inside. The verdict: Heavy and pricey but if you’re worried about security it’s worth the weight.


Tilopa £250
THE TEST: This hardy pack combines the safe carrying of camera equipmentwith a comfy design, suitable for walkers. Built to take an Internal Camera Unit (section dividers for camera lenses; the ICU for this bag is £50), it also has a padded sleeve for a laptop/tablet. An internal aluminium frame helps spread the load, so at 1.9kg, this is second-heaviest here.

There are clips for extra attachments – even skis can be mounted. Zips are heavy duty; some are coated to keep water out. There are side compression straps and a hydration pocket. At the bottom there’s space for wet gear and a raincover, plus a stash pocket. Top lid pockets have specific space for camera memory cards, spare batteries etc, and the hipbelt and back system offer good ventilation and cushioning. Access is through the back panel where there are more pockets. There’s a decent amount of room inside too. The verdict: A hefty price tag, but excellent for photographers who do multi-day walking.

Top five getaways: Seeing killer views like this doesn’t require a second mortgage


    Philippines Busuanga Island

    No need to be a billionaire to claim your own private island in the Philippines. Just hire a local fisherman to ferry you out to any one of thousands of islands (5,000 of the 7,000 are uninhabited) and plant your flag. Some food and a few simple camping supplies are all you’ll need to crash for the night (specifically, mosquito nets, rum and something to open coconuts).
    The sea turtles never ask for tips, and cool, starry nights are free. If camping cramps your style, a stay at a beachfront resort like Camiguin Action Geckos Resort costs less than a Comfort Suites back home. The priciest part is getting here, but interisland flights are cheap and plentiful (though not always online), as are cold beer, local rum and simmering street foods such as the delicious noodle bowl called pancit bihon . All you need now is an insignia for your flag.
    WHEN TO GO Avoid typhoon season, July through September. Deals can be had year-round.
    SPEND WHAT YOU SAVE ON A guided climb up Hibok-Hibok volcano on Camiguin Island. — Nathan Myers.
    HOW TO GET THERE: PHILIPPINES Non-stop to Manila for less than $700 on lower-cost airlines like China Eastern or AirAsia. Book as early as possible. The cheapest seats are always available first.


    tortola cane garden bay

    There’s nothing fancy about Sebastian’s hotel on Tortola. But each of the 26 rooms does put you within a 30-second walk (weighed down with a cooler and a few towels) from a pretty beach in Little Apple Bay on the quiet north shore (the cruise ships are 9 miles away in Road Town ). Do breakfast and lunch at the on-site Seaside Grille (the conch salad is wonderfully unchewy), and for dinner venture to local spots like D’Coalpot, where chef Evelyn arguably makes the island’s best roti — it’s enough to split.
    WHEN TO GO Shoulder season (May and June) means the best weather for the best price, but don’t disregard low season (June to November) . Since 1944, a hurricane has hit the British Virgin Islands only once every 11 years , and the last one to cause significant damage was Hurricane Otto in 2010.
    SPEND WHAT YOU SAVE ON sailing. Plan day trips from Tortola to the surrounding islands: flat, remote Anegada for the biggest, cheapest spiny lobster ever; mountainous Virgin Gorda for drinks and 360-degree views at Hog Heaven; and tiny Jost Van Dyke for the whitest sand and strongest cocktails around. Rates start at $89 per person for day sails. Ferrying between islands is a more wallet-friendly option. — Audrey St. Clair.
    HOW TO GET THERE: No nonstops from the U.S. to the BVI. Fly to San Juan from
    NYC for $200, but it’s at least $300 for the next short leg. Once there, island hopping by ferry is easy.


    San Blas Panama

    The native Kuna Indians govern the San Blas Islands, still traveling among the 378 isles by hand-carved canoes with sails. Still catching fresh fish and gathering fruit. Still sleeping in hammocks and building shelter with bamboo and thatch. This no-frills escape looks much like it did 1,000 years ago, and a stay at Kuna-owned Akwadup Lodge in one of seven overwater huts feels like it, save for a few welcome comforts such as ordering lobster from your private balcony (under which it was likely just swimming). Views of rainforest and ocean and a blanket of stars are unlike any you’ve seen.
    WHEN TO GO These isles lie in hurricane country, so early spring is ideal.
    SPEND WHAT YOU SAVE ON Traditional rainbow-hued fabrics called mola made by hard-bargaining Kuna women. The best have smooth edges and stitches so small they could be the work of Lilliputians . — AS
    HOW TO GET THERE:  Flights from LA to Panama City hover in the $400 to $600 range. Book the interisland flight ($50 to $100) to El Porvenir as soon as possible. Those 20 seats go fast.


    Washington Slagbaai National Park, Bonaire

    No other Caribbean island offers a greater variety of DIY-style snorkeling and diving (first purchase the required $10 snorkeling pass; $25 for divers). Bonaire’s leeward coast, all 24 miles, is dotted with yellow rocks painted with numbers, each marking one of 60-some named reefs, home to sea turtles, squid and yellow-spotted moray eels. To see them, just park the rental car (Caribbean Club Bonaire includes a pickup truck in the room price), walk to the shoreline, don gear and go. Not a water baby? Mountain biking through Washington Slagbaai National Park means snuggling with donkeys or spotting flamingoes near the salt ponds.
    WHEN TO GO Bonaire is outside the hurricane belt, so summer deals can be even cheaper given you can forgo travel insurance.
    SPEND WHAT YOU SAVE ON a 90-minute lesson alongside pros at Kiteboarding Bonaire. — Brooke Morton
    HOW TO GET THERE:   Nonstops also depart from Atlanta, Charlotte and Houston. CheapAir says to plan Caribbean travel about 100 days in advance. From NYC to Bonaire, $500 is a great deal.


    Hilo, Hawaii

    Walk the beaches of Kona and it’s like the rocks have eyes. That’s because those coffee-table slabs atop black sand are actually honu — green sea turtles. To see them elsewhere requires snorkeling or waiting till the wee hours when they nest, but here, when the sun shines, they’re everywhere. What’s not, though, are low-cost hotels and cheap eats. The Pineapple Park Hostel is a bit of a misnomer. Although mostly young people choose it, the place does have private rooms for $100 in the heart of town on Route 11, where free islandwide buses stop. Take one to Kailua-Kona and hit up Da Poke Shack for cubed raw tuna topped with avocado aioli, but don’t eat it there. Get it to go and walk 10 minutes south to Pahoehoe Beach. Poke (pronounced poh-KAY) is the perfect light lunch, so you can ignore that rule from Mom about waiting 30 minutes before swimming.
    WHEN TO GO November to March is ideal — migrating humpback whales think so — and thus prices are higher. Summer brings better deals, so long as you don’t mind higher humidity.
    SPEND WHAT YOU SAVE ON stand-up paddling. Invest $40 for a trip in Kealakekua Bay State Park and paddle among spinner dolphins. — BM
    HOW TO GET THERE: Lower fuel costs could mean lower rates in 2015, with West Coast flights starting around $300, East Coast and Midwest about $600. Book three to four months out.

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