Sunday, July 20, 2008

Travel Advice from the Internet Part 3

1. Create a better world, one couch at a time. CouchSurfing International Inc. is an incorporated non-profit. Their registered mission statement is as follows: "CouchSurfing seeks to internationally network people and places, create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance, and facilitate cultural understanding." According to their website...

As a community we strive to do our individual and collective parts to make the world a better place, and we believe that the surfing of couches is a means to accomplish this goal. CouchSurfing isn't about the furniture- it's not just about finding free accommodations around the world- it's about participating in creating a better world. We strive to make a better world by opening our homes, our hearts, and our lives. We open our minds and welcome the knowledge that cultural exchange makes available. We create deep and meaningful connections that cross oceans, continents and cultures. CouchSurfing wants to change not only the way we travel, but how we relate to the world!

2. And from the neo-hippie vibe of CouchSurfing to the ultra hip 'travel mixologists' of Urbane Nomads…. While the goals of both the Urbane Nomad and the CouchSurfer are essentially the same - a meaningful travel experience that gets far beyond the traditional tourist package - it is hard to imagine their ethos being more different. If you’re bored with brunch in Barcelona, drinks in Dubai, and nightclubbing in Negril and are looking for something so fresh and so clean (polo in Pakistan?), I give you, Urbane Nomads. From their website (you can't make this stuff up):

Calling ourselves 'travel mixologists', we've served up interesting itineraries for you to choose from- all of which are available for tweaking and embellishments whilst keeping the main ingredients.

Beautifully-themed journeys for you to choose from and to tweak according to your predilections. We believe there are different ways to 'do' any particular country; taking in different sights, going on different activities and taking the pressure off the typical must-do travel list.

The Urbane Nomad keenly seeks the best that travel has to offer-keenly seeking out exciting design hotels with its associated mod cons, the most unique travel experiences in localities yet to be discovered by the masses or experiencing a favoured tourist destination on an entirely different level. Yet there is a concern and responsibility that the Urbane Nomad seeks to fulfil; favouring hotels with enlightened management and an architectural style respectful of its surroundings, whilst learning the cultural and political dialectics of the place.

Urbane Nomads offers interesting travel experiences, proffering locations and accompanying experiences that re-define 'the ultimate travel experience'. Our travel experiences go beyond the almost-clich├ęd 'ski in the morning, swim in the Mediterranean sea by afternoon' itinerary, nor is it just about holing up in a luxury resort in a remote area; completely oblivious to the lifestyle of surrounding locals. The prototypical Urbane Nomad can be found living it up in a sybaritic town of Latin America one holiday and roughing it out in an eco-resort (sans mod cons) in an undeveloped city the next. Whilst fully revelling in the mod cons of luxurious, well-designed hotels around the world, the Urbane Nomad is too aware of the potential pitfalls of the homogenous 5-star accommodation; one of the ironies of luxury travel. Mere tourists, holed up in the chic boite of their luxury resort hotel, unable to discern their location from the environment that this same resort and others like it creates, is a demographical stereotype and experience that the Urbane Nomad seeks to avoid. Taking an active interest in the culture and history of the area (which goes beyond watching a 'native' dance staged with the tourist in mind), the Urbane Nomad seeks out intelligent tours that go under the skin of the place.

To this end, we are offering scholar-led tours for certain destinations and alternative experiences even for the most prominently featured localities on the tourist agenda. Be it a surprisingly tranquil retreat from the chaos of touristy Bangkok or watching a no-rules polo match in the highest peaks of (a much less-touristy) Pakistan, Urbane Nomads seeks to create interesting, alternative travel experiences for the prototypical Urbane Nomad.

Travel Mixology - adding science to art. True to the strain of Ferran Adria's 'molecular gastronomy' in the field of food-as-entertainment, Urbane Nomads has applied the same concept to the travel industry. Serving up beautifully-themed journeys, add more favoured elements, detract or embellish upon an itinerary revolving around a particular theme. Have fun, whilst keeping to the essence of the trip.

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