The World Awaits – And the Wonderful Question is “Where?”
After endless months of longing to go anywhere – think of it as “RTS” (Repressed Travel Syndrome) – we are now faced with the opposite situation. Flooded with the ability to satiate our wanderlust, we are paralyzed by a delightful delirium of choices.
The Recaptured Splendor of the Familiar
While novelty drives some, many of us have been dreaming of the return to destinations that have meant so much to us over the years.
France, for many, will top that list. After all, it remains the world’s most popular tourist destination, and the multiple reasons are lodged in the collective consciousness of all of us – with Paris as the most powerful and potent memory for those who have been there. Of course, if you’ve never had the experience, then this is the perfect moment for this trip – as the post-Covid city is alive with hope, promise, and possibilities.
In other words, it’s no secret why – at that key moment in Casablanca – Humphrey Bogart turns to Ingrid Berman and says “We’ll always have Paris.”
Our advice at this moment is to absorb the everyday, inimitable street life of Paris. Museums and dining experiences are of course an essential part of every trip. But what we missed most is the opportunity to be part of the romance of the quotidian - the street life, the bicycle riders with baguettes under their arms, the animated café conversations over politics, cinema, and art.
These are happening all over the city – you can feel the palpable sense of joy of Parisians at being able to re-enter that vibrancy. What’s more, given how walkable it is, the best way to re-connect with the true soul of Paris – or find it for the first time – is by feeling like a native.
We’ll skip London – which doesn’t require our blandishments when Samuel Johnson summed it up for posterity – and head south to Italy, whose allure beckons through the power of personal transformation that is best summed in this quote: “Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life.”
We could fill this and many subsequent newsletters on how Italy can satisfy the deepest travel longings any of us have. The Big Three of Rome, Florence, and Milan will surge to the top of most lists, so they don’t need our editorial support. We will, however, point you to Siena, which is an extraordinary medieval jewel in Tuscany, located in close proximity to the justly-famous hill towns such as San Gimignano, and is only 35 mile south of Florence, which is a mere blink given the velocities that are common on the Autostrada.
Rick Steves, whose travel journalism is par excellence, captures Siena’s quintessential magical hold on us, writing, “Stretched across a Tuscan hill, Siena is my favorite place to revel in medieval Italy. The town is an architectural time warp, where pedestrians rule and the present feels like the past.” Having just been through a trying present, the past is looking better than ever.
Wrapping up the familiar, we turn to the always-reliable Travel and Leisure, whose curated spring compendium includes Vienna; Oahu (Hawaii); and Washington, D.C. Brandon Berkson adds the impossible-to-escape Charleston to this list of the familiar-but-never-boring.
The Memorable Surprises of the (Semi) Unfamiliar
Fully recognizing that our XO flying community represents a range of travel experience, we are understandably reluctant to classify a particular destination as unfamiliar.
Of course, Spain and Barcelona remain destinations of inarguable bucket-topping, but Portugal – and Lisbon – were on every hot list before the pandemic, and they remain there as well. Many ex-pats and digital nomads we know are buying there, so why not book a charter with XO and see what the buzz is about.
As we chat with the XO community about the places their hearts beat for, we keep hearing about Hanoi and its colonial charms, as well as Capetown, which Forbes lists as a “must-visit” destination – a “magical city” - for its natural beauty, architectural power, and sheer vibrancy.
Also on the tip of many tongues is not just Guadalajara in Mexico, but Tlaquepaque, which Thrillist reveals as a place “few foreigners know” and which vibrates with the surrealist persona bestowed by its most famous resident, artist Sergio Bustamante. And speaking of Mexico, Brandon Berkson, who became a travel influencer during the pandemic, led by his website Hotels Above Par, urges a visit to Puebla, Mexico.
We view these opportunities as inspirational and far from prescriptive. What we have learned here at XO is that travel re-emergence is deeply personal. Some seek the comfort of destinations whose streets they have tread, while others burn for experiences of fresh incandescence. Either way, XO is there to bring you back into the world, with our technology-forward platform that lets you book a charter – or set up a crowdfunded flight – both of which draw upon our industry-leading fleet access.
If there are places that capture your travel imagination this spring, we welcome you to share them with the XO community. We’re capturing your feedback and will compile it into a follow-up to this blog post. XO makes the world smaller and our members make it better.
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