Saturday, 2 January 2016

What's Hot in Travel in 2016 (Entirely According to Me)

If it's the start of a new year, it's time for an onslaught of "What's Hot" lists. And let's face it, the justifications for the inclusions in these lists can sometimes seem a little... tenuous.

So my friend and colleague Pam Mandel has taken the bull by the horns by publishing a blog post entitled The Only 2016 Hot List You’ll Need is This One. It's a list of items "based only on the fact that I LIKE THEM" (says Pam).

I like this "anything goes" line of thinking. So here's my Hot List for Travel in 2016. All items included because, well, I like them.

1. Warsaw is the New Berlin. I can't say this enough. Mainly because I thought it up when I was in the Polish capital last year, and it sounds like the sort of catchy phrase that should mean something. So I keep repeating it and waiting for it to catch on.

Seriously though, I could see Warsaw taking on the arty-hipster-hub role as Berlin becomes more expensive and old hat.

There are many factors in its favour.

Warsaw is still cheap by standards further west; the city has a weird gritty mix of Renaissance-neoclassical-socialist-21st century architecture all jammed together in a lively fusion; and there's a whole ex-industrial district on the east bank of the Vistula ideal for artists' studios.

It's already happening to some extent; read my article about the Neon Museum at Soho Factory as one example: The Beautiful Bright (Neon) Lights of Warsaw.

2. Rail Travel is the New Cruising. I've always liked travelling by train, but it's only in the last year that I've stepped up the pace of writing about it.

In March I boarded the Eastern and Oriental Express for a lavish journey aboard beautifully decorated carriages from Bangkok to Singapore (read Express Yourself).

In May and June I travelled all over Poland by rail for my latest Lonely Planet guidebook gig (see How to Travel Around Poland by Train).

And in October I travelled from Los Angeles north to Seattle via Amtrak, a trip that will be recounted soon in the magazine Get Up and Go.

Given the regular outbreaks of norovirus aboard big cruise liners, I predict I will continue to choose long-distance rail over cruises.

Some of the rail journeys I fancy doing include Budapest to Istanbul; the line up to frosty Churchill in Canada; a sleeper to the north of Scotland; and more long-distance trips across the USA.

3. Aussie Cafes in Foreign Cities. There's definitely a slow invasion going on out there, as Australian-run and Australian-style cafes pop up in the big cities of the world.

Over the past few years I've written about Aussie cafes in London; Aussie cafes in New York; Aussie-inspired cafes in Singapore; and an Aussie cafe in Los Angeles.

I can confidently predict it'll still be hot to seek out Australian cafes wherever I go.

4. Taking Soap from Hotel Rooms. I have a confession to make - I compulsively take home those little soaps they provide in the bathrooms of five-star hotel rooms.

I don't know why, exactly. If they're really good soaps and I'm only there for a couple of nights, I'll shuttle one cake between sink and shower, so I can slip the other immediately into my toiletries case.

I end up with so many of them, for a year afterward I have fond reminders of my travels whenever I take a shower at home. I particularly like the soaps from Fairmont hotels; they have the ideal balance of fragrance and texture, in my considered opinion.

5. Not Being A Digital Nomad. Some people fetishise the idea of constantly travelling, living out of a suitcase and working online as you move from country to country, never settling in one place.

That concept fills me with horror. I love travelling, but I love being home as well. Melbourne is a great place to live, and I think you need a home base in order to fully appreciate the contrasts offered by being elsewhere.

6. Not Doing Extreme Sports. If it's your thing, fine, but I derive most travel enjoyment by hanging about cities, checking out local neighbourhoods and trying to avoid the sort of tourists who want to go bungee jumping.

7. Not Taking Travel Lists Seriously. Pam said this already: "Any list that takes itself too seriously, show it the way back to 2015." Amen.