My friends and family think I live a charmed five-star lifestyle. Frequent jetting off to exotic resorts and Palace hotels in enchanting cities and ancient villages. I briefly met Randy Shimabuku, GM of Four Seasons Kudaa Huraa for lunch in Palo Alto when he invited me to visit the two Four Seasons Maldives Resorts Kudaa Huraa and Landaa Giraavaru.
There is usually champagne involved at lunch and I thought I misunderstood him…two weeks, really you are inviting me as your guest for two weeks? A far reaching trek across the world, it took me a few months to organize the time. Nothing prepared me for the beauty of the Maldives. I didn’t expect the GM to greet me at the airport in a yacht with bubbly- but Randy is the consummate hotelier.
A peek at my luxurious lifestyle:
7:30 pm Dinner at Baraabaru Restaurant hosted by Randy and his charming wife. Savor authentic Indian cuisine with the Indian Ocean as your backdrop.
7:00 – 8:00 am Sunrise Yoga with Resort Yogi Salute the sun: energize mind, body and spirit. Try yoga on a floating board, it was not a graceful display!
8:30 – 9:30 am Savor a delicious start to your day with breakfast at Café Huraa.
10:30 – 11:15 am Resort Tour
11:30 – 1.00 pm Baraabaru Cooking Class with Chef Subir Chowdhury, Indian Sous Chef
Learn to cook dishes fit for a maharaja on this mouthwatering culinary journey of India. It’s fun, casual and, of course, lunch is included.
3:00 – 4:00 pm Off to The Island Spa, located just a minute away via a dhoni from the Resort. Refresh, rebalance and rejuvenate with wellbeing classes and pioneering OSEA treatments. I consider it my responsibility to try everything, including spa treatments!
5:45 – 7:45 pm Sunset Fishing Cruise the sunset and catch fish the traditional way, by hook hand line and sinker. This relaxed outing often results in a large catch! Lucky fisherman may ask the chefs of our restaurant to prepare a fish to their liking for a leisurely lunch or dinner the next day. I wasn’t particularly lucky, but it was great fun nonetheless. Seeing the exuberance of the ancient well dressed Asian ladies draw in the most fish was fun in itself, they were experts!
8:00 pm Maldivian Night at Sunset Lounge – Savor the taste of the Maldives with a BBQ buffet night of the freshest seafood and succulent meat set on the beach under the stars.
7:30 – 8:30 am Savor a delicious start to your day with breakfast at Café Huraa.
9:00 – 10:00 am Stand Up Paddle Yoga with Resort Yogi. Improve balance and core strength, enhance mindfulness and focus, perfect yogic alignment with this yoga – experience afloat on a stand-up paddle board at the lagoon
10:30 – 11:30 am Maldivian Village Tour Sail to a nearby village, where fishermen and their families have resided for generations. Stroll the narrow streets and buy local crafts as souvenirs. I loved this, seeing where the locals live, meeting kids on playgrounds. Well worth the short trip across the lagoon. Surprising to Randy, they also guided me to a private fish farm.
12:00 pm Lunch is at your leisure
2:00 – 5:00 pm Ray Talk & Marine Life Safari. Join our marine biologist for an adventure to swim among the rays of the Maldives, cruising aboard our traditional dhoni at two snorkel sites.
5:00 – 7:00 pm Dolphin Talk and Cruise. The waters near Kuda Huraa are frequented by spinner dolphins. Join our Marine Biologist for a short briefing on this marine animal. Hop on board and cruise through the atoll.
7:00 pm Kuda’s Crab Race Come one, come all, test your luck with our island’s hermit crabs!
7:30 pm Dinner is at your leisure.
Day Four 8:30 – 9:30 am Savor a delicious start to your day with breakfast at Café Huraa.
10:00 – 10:30 am Visit the Marine Discovery Centre. The heart of our marine research and conservation. It’s run by our expert team of Marine Biologists who’ll wow you with astounding facts and wondrous sea tales for starters.
11:30 to 1:00 pm Heart of the House Tour Discover how we keep the lights on and the water running in the middle of nowhere on this fascinating behind-the-scenes island tour.
1:00 pm Lunch is at your leisure
2:30 – 4:30 pm Discover Scuba Diving for Beginners. Learn the basics and experience the joy of weightlessness in our safe shallow lagoon. Loved this and my new underwater camera was so much fun to use!
7:30 pm Ghar Ka Khana at Baraabaru – Meaning “homestyle cooking” in Hindi. This theme promises a night of wholesome, fragrant fare from across the Indian subcontinent. From curries and kebabs, breads and biryanis, chutneys and salads to over splendid Desserts.
Day Five 8:30 – 9:30 am Savor a delicious start to your day with breakfast at Café Huraa.
Transfer via seaplane from Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa to Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru. The transfer will take approximately 35 minutes.
The routine began again at Landaa- although once they read my previous schedule, the GM suggested I take a break and ride my bike around the island on my own time.
Randy, had me scheduled every hour. I would bump into him on property, he would inquire, how is it going?! My reply: I’m exhausted – you have me scheduled from 7 am and I have dinner with someone from each department every night!
There was a method to his madness, I became an expert on the resort and I can advise my clients on activities and which property would suit them. Actually, I would recommend a stay at both Four Seasons.
The glamorous photos tell my story, this travel has become my lifestyle. How to be an expert? It is moving about a bit and staying in multiple hotel brands, how better to tell our lovely clients – you will LOVE this hotel for these reasons! Or when a cleint calls and says: Gwen, talk me out of this amazing property with rooms that are over $3000 a night – I reply, you must stay, you will never forget the experience, but perhaps you don’t need the star bed on the rooftop!
Spark Inspiration. Choose A Journey. Highly Recommend. Notes On Travel
Guest Post by our Creative Director, Susanne Smith, who creates the stunning front end of our weekly Malchimp posts and client magazines. Everyone can use a refresher on How to Travel Again!
Choosing A Destination
Where It Is Safe To Travel
Assembling Your Journey
The World Is Opening Up And It Is A Celebration!
This is the perfect time to create lists of must-see, can’t die without visiting…the proverbial Wish List of travel destinations and experiences.
Now. How on Earth do you make up your mind where to travel next? It’s part art (flair, instinct, desire, dreams) and part science (budgets, visas, distance, time…).
The world is full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The horizon for travel feels closer, every day a little bounce toward normalcy.
After nearly 15 months of being grounded, some may feel they have taken travel for granted. Pre-Pandemic, I had composed a globe-trotting list of experiences and a month before we were so quickly shut down, I had just returned from Jordan and Egypt. My Journey began with a starlight walk under a carpet of stars to being dazzled by the Treasury in Petra, illuminated by thousands of candles; my Journey concluded at the great pyramids of Giza.
Quarantine time provided hours of dreaming and plotting experiences. What do I want to see and what is safe? I’ve flown to Cabo, mainly because it was a three hour flight, which felt safe for my first outing. Double masked, in first class, with wipes and clear glasses, I felt surprisingly comfortable. I’m plotting a long-haul flight, but will take one more short hop to feel 100% confident of airport procedures and other tourists acting responsibly.
I have such faith in our World and can’t wait to get going!
Choosing A Destination
Why Exactly Do You Want To Travel It’s not always obvious. Usually, it’s because you have a destination in mind but understanding your motivations and your desires will help you decide. Begin asking questions and consider new ways to be inspired.
It can be a fun research project; and if you’re planning an international Journey, ask yourself and your travel companions what’s most important. Safety and comfort? Adventure and lots of activities? Or both?
There are so many ways to decide where to go and what to do. Shape your experiences. Dig deep inside. Pester friends for advice. Peruse your bucket list. Inspiration for your next big Journey can be in the form of a single photo to 23andMe results inspiring a visit to your homeland!
Decide Who’s Going Maybe you want to travel alone so you can do whatever you want, or you and your best friend have finally carved out time to take a Journey together. Who you’re traveling with will affect the remainder of your Journey planning.
Pick A Time To Travel How many days can you go? Remember that the weather and season could be drastically different from where you live. Northern or Southern Hemisphere? Follow the sun or the snow?
Estimate A Budget It helps to be honest with yourself and whoever is going with you on what you want to spend—and what your priorities are. Budgeting before you decide where to go can provide some structure when narrowing down locations and accommodations.
Accommodations & Activities Accommodations can range from aplenty to scarce to extremely rare. Do you feel like kicking back and letting an all-inclusive resort take care of the details or book a private villa and be more integrated with the local community?
Share Your Travel Plans Communication. Share your travel plans with colleagues, friends and family. Keep in touch through social media and consider registering online with the U.S .Government so the U.S. Embassy has you on a locate list.
Jumpstart Any Travel Mental Blocks Corral your friends if your own ideas are feeling a little stale, tap into the collective hive mind of your friends. Throw a cocktail party with admittance: one travel story! Social Media Influencers are a great wealth of information too.
Dream Up An Experience Instead of country-hopping or city-dipping, concentrate on a 360-degree view of what you’ll actually do when there? Have an experience in mind as opposed to just a country. Eg. – ‘I want to go to Sydney and see free range Kangaroos at the Reptile Park,’ rather than, ‘I want to go to Australia.’
Relaxation Float through vacations. Unplug. Swing in a hammock. Live in the Spa. Consider a private yacht in remote tropical locations. Move into a villa on Lake Como for the summer.
Culture Countries like Italy, Turkey, Greece, Peru, and China are replete with history. Customize your trip with vetted guides.
Sacred Places Bhutan’s monks in maroon robes, prayer flags and Tiger’s Nest. Sardinia’s mysteries of Mamoiada with ancient fairy houses and giants’ tombs. Santa Fe’s red earth and strange vortexes – the world is full of sacred places.
Inveterate Shoppers There are fabulous markets across the globe — from Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar to the flea markets of France. Plan your Journey around classic fashion cities like London, Paris, Milan, or Tokyo.
Unforgettable Architectural Sites The Colosseum in Rome, pyramids of Egypt, Barcelona for the Gaudi buildings. The best chateaux of the Loire Valley. Tour America visiting choice Frank Lloyd Wright homes or reserve one for an immersive experience.
Solo Journeys Some countries lend themselves to independent travel because they are so organized and simple to navigate like Switzerland, South Korea or Singapore.
Off The Beaten Path Vacations Spend a week in Sri Lanka, explore Saharan sand dunes in Morocco, or see Cuba that seems to be frozen in time yet modern, utterly unforgettable.
Explore A Specific Region Pick a region and organize an itinerary that takes you there in depth — the cities of southern France, for example. Or, use a single city as your hub and then get out to explore the region: Annecy, France can be your jumping off point to the French Alps.
Film & Book Inspirations Let a favorite film, television show, or book shape your Journey. Follow Lawrence of Arabia’s steps through Jordan, Amman, and Morocco. A River Runs Through It – can be relived at a luxury Montana Dude Ranch. Meet Diane Fossey’s Gorillas in the misty jungles of Rwanda.
Food & Wine Sojourns It’s truly the way to a city’s heart. In deciding where to go next knowing what I want to eat and going to the birthplace of that dish is a big factor. Organize street food tours — Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok are great places to start. A wine lover? That will get you to France, California, Chile, Australia, Italy… this list grows and grows.
Follow Festivals & Celebrations Choose an event, not a destination. Consider festivals, celebrations or holidays. Food bashes, film and music festivals, or TED-style conferences can inspire Journeys to far-flung places. You won’t have to decide what to do when you get there — that part’s all planned.
Sporty Vacations Hike the Atlas Mountains in North Africa. Ride horses through the vineyards of Argentina. Do something sporty – marathons, cycling tours, races, and Championships – X sports, golf, surfing and Olympics.
Throw A Wild Card When in doubt, throw a dart at a map. Either you will go, or, it will help you realize where you don’t want to go! Throw it as many times as you like. Or, pack a bag and show up at the airport. Hop the first plane to a city you’ve always wanted to visit.
Where Is It Safe To Go? More than 75 countries currently allow U.S. citizens to visit, but some restrictions apply. See resources below and view Country-by-Country Guides to Reopened Europe and Asia.
Research the state of the virus and learn your location’s entry requirements, medical facilities and daily life.
Check your destination country’s official government websites—as well as the CDC website and U.S. Embassy website for the country—before and during any Journey.
What To Pack Even as mask guidelines relax stateside, we’re still packing face masks and hand sanitizer wherever we go. Some travelers feel more comfortable with a face shield. I personally have not had a cold in over a year so may never give them up.
Where To Get A Digital Vaccine Records
You will receive a personal QR code. Take a screen shot of this and save on your phone.
Things To Know About Traveling Overseas And At Home
International Travel Shifting flight schedules, varying hotel flexibility and new tech: A lot has changed since the last time you packed that passport. Flight schedules will be in flux for months to come.
Hotel flexibility will vary, so read the fine print. Prepare to schedule and commit, rather than wing it. There are now laws in place in some countries allowing hotels and other travel companies to issue credits, rather than cash refunds, for canceled bookings.
Places you may be returning to may not be the same – realize that Paris won’t look exactly like the Paris you remember.
Update your tech and tap into App tech updates. If it’s been a while since you’ve taken your phone overseas, research your wireless provider’s options to avoid roaming charges. Companies, including Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile, have per diem travel passes that include unlimited data and texting and certain calling benefits.
Many tickets and entry passes are digital. There are several new travel-friendly bells and whistles from Google Maps introduced more tailored maps that “know” when a user is at home or traveling: A London vacationer who fires up the app at noon, for instance, will see nearby lunch options as well as local tourist attractions.
Passport renewal services have resumed, but prepare for potential delays, we have services to expedite passports and visas. Here’s what to know if your passport expires any time within the next year. Plus, why a growing number of Americans are looking for second passports. As of late July, travelers can enroll in Global Entry again. And the deadline to apply for Real ID, a new federally approved identification all Americans will soon need for domestic travel, has been extended.
Countries in Asia like China, Japan and South Korea were impacted early on, they’ve also been earlier to peak, earlier to flatten their curves, and, generally, earlier to reopen. Some places, including Singapore and Taiwan took enough preventative measures to avoid a full lockdown altogether.
Domestic Travel Keep in mind, you don’t need to leave the country to have a memorable vacation. While international destinations are tempting, there are plenty of enjoyable places to safely vacation around the U.S. Trade the Maldives for Maui, Hawaii, the Swiss Alps for Vail, Colorado, or an African safari for an adrenaline-filled Jeep ride through the desert of Sedona, Arizona.
There are many lesser-known destinations around the country – such as St. Augustine, Florida; Leavenworth, Washington; Holland, Michigan – that feel more like Europe than America.
Choosing a domestic vacation has its perks, especially during a pandemic. You won’t have to worry about visa restrictions, issues with entry or last minute country closures ruining your Journey (though note some states are imposing their own travel restrictions and quarantine rules). Not to mention, you might find a little slice of paradise close to home that you can continue to visit. Highly Recommend touring our National Parks and their early 1900’s lodges, or domestic UNESCO sites.
Perks of a Travel Consultant Emergencies. Expertise. Extras. Air Travel. Better Journeys. Planning your Journey is a juggling act of timing, travel goals, budget management and coordinating real-time logistics. Every detail needs attention for the big show! It can be likened to choreographing a ballet or planning a wedding. Travel advisors offer unique services – they vet your Journey, save you time and reduce stress, understand ambience, staff, hotel suite size, best dining options, and can create customized experiences.
Travel advisors are your advocate. Whatever hurdles rise before the most solid itinerary, your travel agent solves the problem and coordinates any domino effect changes.
Travel advisors add a human element — and an element of trust.
They are invested in their clients’ happiness and want to make sure each and every Journey is packed full of positive lifelong memories. They listen, suggest, adjust, understand and become a friend. They are with you before, during and after your Journey.
Like any professional advisors, they really do know more than you do.
Planning My Personal Journeys My visit to Bhutan reinforced my goal of seeing countries with well-preserved cultures with customs that haven’t been touched by outside influences. As much as I love Paris and Italy, at this point in my life, I’m drawn to lands that feel raw and less explored. Tribal traditions all around the world, understanding the culture of people who live so differently, the remoteness and physical natural beauty of foreign lands are always beckoning.
Morocco I am planning to return this November wanting to immerse further into the culture and landscape, beyond Marrakesh and the medina.
Ethiopia Talk about my ideal Journey; the origin of mankind, their own calendar that says it’s still 2010 instead of 2021, the ancient architecture, sweeping gorgeous landscapes, people, cuisine…I cannot wait to begin planning!
Papua New Guinea Here tourism is a fairly unexplored area of the world which is very appealing to me. The culture of Papua New Guinea is complex. There are more than 7,000 different cultural groups mostly with their own language. I definitely plan to experience a celebration with the Mudmen of the Asaro tribe.
Botswana Although I’ve visited Africa eight times and trekked for several days with the magnificent gorillas in Rwanda, Botswana will be my next safari. From the Okavango Delta to the large elephant herds in the Chobe National Park and the unpredictable Savute Channel, which runs dry and floods seemingly at random – Botswana has some of Africa’s most beautiful reserves and exceptional wildlife.