From Japan to Botswana: 5 meaningful holidays that shaped these people's lives
We still can’t travel and we’re at the end of a very challenging year. These travel junkies reflect on how certain trips changed their perspectives on life.
With the holiday season just around the corner and a tough year of battling a pandemic still on our minds, it is likely that more of us are in an introspective mood that might just influence the choice of destination for our first vacation in ages – whenever that may be.
For some wanderlust inspiration, we asked five travel bugs to share memories of their most meaningful holidays and how those experiences have shaped their lives.
ANDERMATT, SWITZERLAND: A SUSTAINABLE SKI VACATION
Grace Liew, senior legal consultant
“I have always loved being in the mountains and I chose to visit Andermatt as it is off the beaten track. I wanted to experience the Andermatt Swiss Alps project, which was built with ecology and sustainability in mind.
The village itself is old – the traditional wooden Walser-style houses date back to 1620 – but is 100 per cent powered by renewable energy. One of the sustainable aspects of Andermatt is the ability to take the train to many of the surrounding villages, rather than a car, which also allowed me to explore the surrounding area.
There are water taps spotted throughout the village to supply fresh mountain water which is refreshing and quaint. To reduce the use of plastics, the restaurants bottle it straight into glass bottles.
There are also ongoing efforts to preserve and expand the natural habitats surrounding the village, such as re-wilding the Reuss countryside and widening the river to encourage bird life.
I am amazed with the work that Andermatt has done in the renewable energy space, such as building a wind farm on the other side of the mountain. In summer, the glacier is covered with a ‘fleece’ to prevent it from melting. It is eye-opening that even in such rugged conditions, it is possible to be eco-friendly to preserve this environment for years to come.”
“I am amazed with the work that Andermatt has done in the renewable energy space.”
BOTSWANA: PHOTOGRAPHING WILDLIFE FOR A GOOD CAUSE
Alwyn Chong, managing director of Luxasia and Escentials and partner at Foreign Policy Design Group
“Botswana is my favourite destination and a country I feel a close affinity for because of its relatively untouched natural environment and diverse landscape which comprises the Okavango delta, Kalahari desert and the salt pans.
Being there brings me back to basics and allows me time to reset and contemplate. What keeps drawing me back is my love for nature, being out there in the wild and a human need for exploration.
I have canoed deep into the Okavango delta with Roger Dugmore, a safari operator, and roughed it out by traversing the Makgadikgadi Salt pans on quad bikes. Ruth, my then-fiancee (now wife), came along on the salt pan trip and she was a trooper who did everything with no complaints, from digging our own loo to sleeping in an open pan with just sleeping bags while lions roared in the distance. The freedom of being in the wild is indescribable and has changed my outlook on life.
To document our journeys and to showcase the natural beauty of the country to a wider audience, I have since published two books featuring photographs I have taken.
I hope to eventually do a trilogy featuring the three distinct landscapes of Botswana. To give back to the locals, I plan to do a medical mission in the delta with my mother, who is an eye surgeon, to help improve the lives of the children there.”
“The freedom of being in the wild is indescribable and has changed my outlook on life.”
GALAPAGOS ISLANDS: AN EDUCATIONAL EXPEDITION ABOUT EVOLUTION
Dr Iroshini Chua, co-founder of Dr Kevin Chua Medical & Aesthetics
“I travelled to the Galapagos Islands with my husband, kids, father and a few friends to have a close encounter with the indigenous wildlife including century-old giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies and thousands of colourful iguanas.
We followed in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, whose fascination with the Galapagos Islands inspired him to found the revolutionary evolution theory.
As education was our main purpose for this trip, we requested our travel planners at A2A Journeys to provide us with a luxurious vessel with knowledgeable expedition leaders and scientists onboard. The M/S Evolution by Quasar was the ultimate expedition yacht that provided us intimate encounters with all that the island has to offer.
While we swam in the clear turquoise waters, penguins and sea lions circled us and giant turtles glided just beneath. The hikes were exhilarating and revealed varying landscapes from vistas of jagged rocks plunging into a cobalt sea, red sandy beaches with playful sea lions, and even black lava at our feet as we sidestepped sharp crevices on the barren volcanic islands.
We learnt that the indigenous species were indifferent to our presence due to the sustainable and responsible travelling measures imposed on the fragile environment and these experiences have driven home the importance of sustainability and responsible tourism as a key aspect of conservation.”
“We followed in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, whose fascination with the Galapagos Islands inspired him to found the revolutionary evolution theory.”
FUKUOKA, JAPAN: AN IMMERSIVE JAPANESE CULTURAL EXPERIENCE WITH THE FAMILY
Sudhanshu Tewari, co-founder and CEO of Rewardz
“Fukuoka may not be an obvious choice of destination for a winter break for many, but that was where my family went on our last holiday. It is not as bustling as other cities which means that there is more space and it is easy to get from one place to another.
The Kurokawa onsen, located to the north of Mt Aso in Kumamoto, is one of Japan’s most beautiful hot spring towns, offering a blend of nature and culture. The onsen ryokans over there are pristine and offer lush views with sounds of running water to refresh your senses.
We stayed at Yamabiko Ryokan, where sleeping on traditional futon beds was a distinctive and enjoyable experience for our young children. It was also a first for the kids, who enjoyed the experience of visiting private onsens where they could take a dip and play.
Ramen is a family favourite, so in Fukuoka, the birthplace of tonkotsu ramen, we enjoyed trying different kinds, including spicy and non-spicy variants, with ingredients like salted vegetables and savoury pork broth.
Travel offers children a great opportunity to expose themselves to new experiences, cultures and ideas to broaden their horizons. And at the end of the day, the most important aspect of a vacation with kids is the uninterrupted quality time you spend with them.”
“We stayed at Yamabiko Ryokan, where sleeping on traditional futon beds was a distinctive and enjoyable experience for our young children.”
SOUTH AFRICA: DRIVING SUPERCARS ALONGSIDE ELEPHANTS
Francesco Scardaoni, chief executive officer of Lamborghini Asia-Pacific
“A trip I will never forget was a driving trip in Kruger National Park, one of Africa’s largest game reserves that covers three countries, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa.
The Lamborghini dealer of South Africa had arranged a driving event and it was an amazing experience to drive a supercar Gallardo Performante so close to the park. At our first destination, after we parked, curious elephants started to approach us and I had the chance to feed them and touch them. It was awe-inspiring to get up close to the power and majesty of these animals.
The experience inspired me to reflect on the conservation and safety of wild animals, which also got me thinking about a bigger topic of safety and wellbeing for everyone.
The first step to achieving this is to ensure that we provide a safe and secure work environment for my team, which is a priority for Automobili Lamborghini. We were one of the first companies in Italy to suspend activities before the Italian government issued country-wide closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic – a demonstration of the kind of resilience that only forward-looking and visionary businesses can put into practice in challenging situations.”
“At our first destination… curious elephants started to approach us and I had the chance to feed them and touch them. It was awe-inspiring to get up close to the power and majesty of these animals.”