Niche travel is trending, and there is something for everyone out there. Here are four travel companies that offer carefully curated trips — for a taste of the Old World, for hard-to-please teens, for mystery lovers, and even getaways for laptoppers.
Have laptop, will travel
For the traveler who works remotely, Hacker Paradise, a five-year-old traveling community with trips to a dozen-plus global destinations, is one to consider for the new decade.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 23 percent of the US workforce works remotely at least part of the time, says Michaela Murray, head of marketing at Hacker Paradise. “We want to break conventions and give people the opportunity to redefine their life course, says Murray.
The company now has 800-plus remote professional “members” (once you travel with the company you become a lifetime member and can network, too.) In addition to the expected entrepreneurs and writers, there are also nurses, lawyers, comic book illustrators, SpaceX engineers, and other “cool types of people,” says Murray.
“While our community is truly global in nature, we naturally see higher proportions of participation from regions that have a thriving remote work scene, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK, France, and other European countries,” says Murray.
Each trip hosts between 15 and 25 participants and is managed by two full-time facilitators. Trips start at $2,190 for a four-week trip; the rate includes accommodations, co-working space, facilitators, professional development, cultural events, and more.
The way it works: Travelers check into their rooms (a studio or private room in a shared apartment) and are given a local SIM card with data and introduced to the co-working space, typically a short walk away. The travelers communicate over a dedicated messaging platform to coordinate plans (professional, social, and cultural). Activities might include sandboarding the dunes in the Sahara near Marrakech, bathing rescued elephants at a Thailand sanctuary, and similar cultural offerings. Goal-setting sessions, such as creating a YouTube channel or creating a company logo, are also part of the itinerary, and meals highlight local cuisine.
The most popular trips: Florianopolis, Brazil; Athens; Lisbon; and Cape Town in South Africa. “This past year, we had a Hacker Paradise group experiencing Rio de Janeiro Carnival together — but from a locals’ perspective,” says Murray. “Our native trip facilitator gave us an ‘insiders’ version’ of the event that was so incredible that we’re doing it all again in February 2020.” www.hackerparadise.org
Magical mystery tour
One of the beauties of travel is discovering unknown places. Adventure Alchemy, a travel company out of Nolensville, Tenn., takes the awe of travel one step further — travelers have no idea where they are going until the morning they depart.
“It takes a very special person to say yes to this kind of travel,” says founder Kristin Benton. “There has to be a spirit of adventure and open-mindedness to jump in headfirst and let someone else choose where you are going and what you’ll be doing. There is also a great deal of trust involved, and we take that very seriously.”
Clients range from 20 to 50 years old, says Benton. “Most clients are couples in their 30s who are looking for some time away to reconnect. They just want to go and be together without the stress of planning.” All the company’s trips are in the United States and typically run between three to 10 days.
Benton says a lot of time is spent on one-on-one phone conversation listening to each traveler “tell their story” — who they are, what they love to do, what they don’t love, where they’ve been/haven’t been, and any quirky interests. “For example, a previous client was really into suspense and horror movies,” says Benton, “so on her mystery trip, we arranged for her to stay at a property that is known to be haunted.”
Flights and lodging are always planned, but not all activities. “To create a balance, we often book one or two tours/activities as well as at least one dinner/brunch reservation in advance and then make recommendations for the rest of their time. I like to think of our style of planning as being like the ‘choose your own ending’ kids' books.”
The way it works: The week before the trip, travelers get clues, like a weather forecast and packing list. They’ll also get an information card with contact info for traveler support, instructions on when to open their enclosed mystery envelope, how to access their itinerary, and departure day information. “Once they open their mystery envelope (day of departure), they are able to access their itinerary online with a unique password,” says Benton. “The itinerary contains their flight schedule, confirmation number(s), lodging and all of the recommended activities/restaurants, plus anything else that has been booked for them (tours, rental car, etc.).” Mystery solved. www.adventurealchemylab.com
Taste of the Old World
Boston-based Oldways, a nonprofit food and nutrition organization, hosts overseas and domestic culinary heritage trips — with at least one chef traveling along, including New England chefs.
“We’ve been fortunate to have a number of talented and well-loved Boston chefs participate, and they have large New England followings,” says Sara Baer-Sinnott, president. “Recently we’ve traveled with Ana Sortun of Oleana and Sofra, Cassie Piuma of Sarma, Michael Lombardi and Kevin O’Donnell from SRV Boston, Barbara Lynch of No. 9 Park and more, and our next Culinaria is with John DaSilva of Chickadee.” Not all chefs are New England-based, however; a 2020 trip to Sicily will feature Jamie Adams of Atlanta’s il Giallo, who will travel with the group and teach an interactive cooking class.
“In the last couple of years, we have seen interest rise in the passion people have for heritage travel and learning about cultural food traditions,” says Baer-Sinnott. “People want to experience artisan foods and eat dishes prepared with traditional recipes that have been handed down for generations.”
And there are closer-to-home experiences planned for 2020. “We are currently working with Southern chef Jennifer Booker on two culinary tours of The Low Country — one based in Charleston and the other in Savannah,” says Baer-Sinnott. The trips will bring to life Oldways African Heritage Diet, “an eating pattern that is seeing a lot of attention and interest.”
The typical cost for a weeklong international trip is “in the $4,000 to $5,000 range,” and includes luxury accommodations, activities, most meals, local transportation, and guides. Airfare is not included. “Many participants like to use frequent flyer miles,” says Baer-Sinnott. https://oldwayspt.org/travel
Vacations for families with teenagers
For families with a teenager, Intrepid Travel’s Teenage Family Vacations are hashtag-worthy trips. They’re designed specifically for families traveling with their teens, so teens can hang with other teens — as well as get in some family time, if they must.
Destinations include Vietnam, the Pyrenees, Turkey, and South Africa, and the focus of all the trips is on cultural immersion. For example, the South Africa trip includes camping under the African night sky at Kruger National Park, touring a Zulu village, and a guided hike at Blyde River Canon. The Vietnam Tour includes visits to Hanoi’s Koto Restaurant, where street kids are trained for careers in hospitality.
Tours are capped at 12 people, range from eight to 12 days, and accommodations vary from trip to trip — including hotels, eco-villages, overnight sleeper trains, and gulet cabins (airfare is not included, but some trip prices include an “internal flight”). Prices begin at $805 per person and teens under 17 receive a 10 percent discount. www.intrepidtravel.com
Laurie Wilson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.