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The Expert in Baby Boomer Travel

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Clark Norton

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Hoxha built his nuclear bunker to survive an expected nuclear attack. Photo by Robert Waite

In the second part of a two-part series, contributing writer Robert Waite finally gets to turn his Albanian travel dream into reality. Among other things, he finds a wealth of bizarre historical remnants — including former dictator’s Enver Hoxha’s vast nuclear bunker — which have now become tourist attractions.

Here’s Part I of the series, By Travel Obsessed: Albanian Edition, in case you missed it.

By Robert Waite

Tirana, Albania – After narrowly escaping having our car impounded and my decades-long dream of visiting Albania dashed, we were finally on our way.

Barred from driving ourselves, we engaged Roberto, a Dubrovnik-based guide, to take us to Kotor in Montenegro.

Along the way, he proved quite gregarious, providing colorful commentary on the traits we should expect to observe upon meeting the locals in Kotor. It… Continue reading

Dictator Enver Hoxha ruled Albania with an iron fist until his death in 1985; here he’s depicted in a “Socialist Realism”-style painting, surrounded by adoring workers. Photo by Robert Waite.

Here is the third installment in contributing writer Robert Waite’s literary tour of what I call “countries that I really want to visit but haven’t yet.”

Like Rwanda and Laos before it, Albania — the subject of this highly entertaining two-part series — has been on my list for years but I haven’t quite made it to any of them.

I came tantalizingly close to the latter a few years ago while on a cruise that stopped in Corfu, Greece, just 22 miles (35 kilometres) from Albania. Ferry boats heading to Albania beckoned, but the cruise ship — during just a four-hour stop in Corfu — would not wait.

Longtime readers of this blog might also recall that I’m something… Continue reading

Novice monks arrive to receive alms of sticky rice. Photo by Robert Waite

The country of Laos, along with some other Southeast Asian nations, was on my radar as a possible destination for this year. I was especially interested in taking a river cruise on the Mekong and visiting Luang Prabang.

Alas, it was not to be, but contributing writer Robert Waite did make it there this January, which now seems a lifetime ago. But the portrait he paints is of a “tranquil gem” that I hope will be waiting when safe travel again resumes. And according to Bob, the Laotians are anxious to greet us.

By Robert Waite

Luang Prabang, Laos – It is dark and just a touch chilly. You’re seated on a stool on the road clutching a wicker basket filled with sticky rice, trying to remember the instructions you have just been given. Ball the rice… Continue reading

Yellowstone is a location for one adult summer camp. Photo from YellowstonePark.com

Yellowstone National Park ranked second overall in the survey. Photo from YellowstonePark.com

While travel searches took a big hit the last couple of months — off by almost two-thirds in total — many people are still  dreaming about, and planning for, their future vacations.

According to the folks at rentcafe.com, a nationwide apartment search website and a research blog,  42 percent of those surveyed still want to pursue their travel plans when permitted. But which destinations are holding strong during the pandemic?

To find out, RENTCafe analyzed travel-related Google searches for 960 destinations in the U.S. and then ranked them as top overall destinationstownsbeaches, and natural areas that saw the smallest drop in interest from would-be vacationers.

The survey followed Google travel searches during March and April of this year. All searched destinations were off by at least 25… Continue reading

An elephant enjoys a mud bath in Rwanda’s Akagera National Park. Photo by Karen Shigeishi-Waite.

Here’s part II of contributing writer Robert Waite’s riveting account from his trip to Rwanda, following up on his previous post about tracking endangered mountain gorillas in that tiny central African country.

In this post, Bob and his wife, Karen, discover a national park teeming with wildlife (including amorous hippos), a sobering genocide museum, an oddly shaped palace, a “killer” lake, and the “joys” of experiencing a “Rwandan massage.”

By Robert Waite

Kigali, Rwanda – Most people, if they are aware of Rwanda at all, likely only know two things: 1) It is an excellent place to observe the mountain gorilla in its natural habitat and, 2) The country experienced a horrific genocide in the 1990’s. The former inspired the film “Gorillas in the Mist”; the latter, “Hotel Rwanda”. Neither movie had a happy ending.… Continue reading

A troop of mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Photo by Photo by Karen Shigeishi-Waite

In this guest post about unforgettable encounters with endangered mountain gorillas in the tiny African nation of Rwanda, contributing writer Robert Waite also provides an update on the status of the gorillas in the midst of the COVID-19  pandemic — and sees hope for optimism.

In his next post, Bob will detail the rest of his trip to Rwanda, a nation that endured a devastating genocide in the 1990’s and has now become one of Africa’s success stories.

By Robert Waite

Ruhengeri, Rwanda – As devastating as COVID-19 is to human populations, the consequences could be equally adverse for rhinos, elephants, gorillas and other sub-Saharan wildlife.

With flights suspended, borders closed and organized tours cancelled or indefinitely postponed, the region’s national parks and game reserves are struggling to protect animals that, at the… Continue reading

Waterfalls empty into beautiful Milford Sound on New Zealand’s south island. Photo by Jade Chan

Among our far-flung correspondents is Jade Chan, who writes for The Star, an English-language newspaper in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Jade was on vacation in New Zealand just days and hours before that country — as well as Malaysia and Australia (where she had to transit) — severely limited travel to combat the coronavirus threat.  Getting home was something of a trial — “I was ‘saved by the bell,'” as she puts it — but at least she wasn’t stranded for weeks on a cruise ship.

I’ll let Jade take it from here (note that a somewhat different version of this piece originally appeared in The Star).

By Jade Chan

My family had planned for a holiday in New Zealand more than half a year ago, and departed for the Land of the… Continue reading

The Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota, celebrates the often-derided (but also beloved) meat product. Photo by Robert Waite.

Here’s the latest from one of my favorite guest posters, Robert Waite (who I’ve known for longer than I care to admit). Whether or not I agree with Bob on any particular travel issue, I always find his work to be thoughtful, provocative, and always beautifully crafted. In this piece, he had me hooked by the first line: “I miss travel.”

By Robert Waite

I miss travel.

Not the airport part, nor the inevitable logjam whenever I try to motor my way to a client. That’s not travel; that’s self-inflicted torture.

What I am talking about is the anticipation of experiencing new vistas, or the excitement of returning to a special place.

In this age of social distancing, physical travel has all but ceased. Sure, you can watch endless re-runs of Rick… Continue reading

MSC cruises sail the world. Photo from MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises had the last remaining cruise ship at sea. Photo from MSC Cruises

As of late April, 2020, world cruising came to a complete halt, when the MSC Magnifica ended its epic voyage around the world that began way back on January 5, just about four months and a lifetime ago.

At the time, there were relatively few public stirrings about a mysterious virus apparently emanating from Wuhan, China, and passengers were treated to several stops in South America before rounding Cape Horn and heading to the South Pacific.

The rest of the Magnifica‘s voyage didn’t exactly go as planned (though, ironically, free of coronavirus, it was actually one of the safest places to be on the planet).

Rejected by some Pacific islands — the virus by now had struck several other cruise ships, which were all seeking safe havens and, in many cases, being turned away —… Continue reading

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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