One def­i­n­i­tion of  roman­tic is “an ide­al­ized ver­sion of real­ity.”  The same could be said of top lux­ury travel.  The choco­lates are left on your plush pil­low or baked fresh to your lik­ing by a genius chef. Your flow­ers are abun­dant fields seen from your pri­vately chauf­feured tour­ing car or can­vases of Monet seen up close,  or  fresh arrange­ments deliv­ered to your ele­gant suite. Your bub­ble baths are in mar­ble tubs with views and aro­mather­apy you choose. Peo­ple want you to be happy.

Roman­tic travel gifts can be shared expe­ri­ences of ines­timable value per your own val­ues and ide­al­ized vision– from observ­ing pen­guins hatch, or a fam­ily of ele­phants while on safari, to pri­vate show­ings at a jew­elry store; from going to remote places to wit­ness cer­e­monies rarely seen, to secur­ing lux­ury booth seats behind home plate or in the royal box at a ballet.

Your idea of  “ide­al­ized real­ity” may be vis­it­ing thriv­ing, healthy envi­ron­ments with vibrant flora and fauna, and indige­nous cul­tures pre­serv­ing their ways and well-being with­out global fran­chises and homogenization.

Arguably, for today’s first-world cul­tures, sleep­ing in a five-star hotel and sleep­ing under a canopy of lumi­nous, infi­nite stars– are each roman­tic and are each luxuries.

The priv­i­lege of access can be the key to lux­ury travel– access to peo­ple, places, and expe­ri­ences. For some trav­el­ers that access must be cou­pled with com­fort and expense to be “lux­ury” — com­forts like the bed at the Pierre Hotel in New York (with a Broad­way show and fire­flies in Cen­tral Park) or the but­ler draw­ing a bub­ble bath at Le Blanc in Can­cun (after snor­kel­ing with whale sharks) or lunch at the French Laun­dry in Napa (as a way to enjoy time with dear friends). For oth­ers, like astro­nauts in space or James Cameron head­ing to the deep­est trench in the ocean, unique  “access” may be very expen­sive, but not at all comfortable.

Some­times access has lit­tle to do with com­fort or expense; it is good for­tune. I’ve trav­eled all seven con­ti­nents and con­tinue to explore in order to share the beau­ties of the planet– the roman­tic of the human and nat­ural.  But of course, moments of “wow” and “thanks!” don’t require pass­ports or first class seats; they can be in our own back­yard. At a pub­lic beach about 20 min­utes from my home, I saw a dol­phin body surf­ing a wave. At a lake five min­utes from my home, herons,cranes and egrets per­form bal­letic moves whether any­body is watch­ing or not.

The magic of the mun­dane– the extra– ordi­nary– that sun­rise that makes you swell with a sense of divine grace, the arc of the Milky Way that embraces you from afar, a song bird greet­ing the day with notes that make a tun­ing fork inside of you hum– these expe­ri­ences are free, but can feel luxurious.

Roman­tic travel can be  shar­ing the Ahhs of Awe. See­ing the syn­chro­nous fire­flies in Malaysia was a brighter expe­ri­ence for being with my hus­band. Walk­ing on the Great wall of China was warmer with him despite the winter’s sub­freez­ing wind chill. See­ing the mosques of Istan­bul with a child­hood friend mag­ni­fied the mem­o­ries.  Even an evening stroll at home, may reveal a cloud­scape worth watching.

Roman­tic travel can also be help­ing oth­ers– try­ing to make “the ide­al­ized ver­sion of real­ity” replace meaner ver­sions. Is that tak­ing your love to  the Lux­em­bourg Gar­dens in Spring sur­rounded by flow­ers, or help­ing build a school  in a far-flung out­post for you love of humanity?

It is a lux­ury to travel at all– to have the health, the time, the means, and the free­dom from other con­straints and respon­si­bil­i­ties. Some­times that travel pro­pels us great dis­tances out into the world. And some­times that travel comes from inside, sit­ting still where we are,  tak­ing time to awaken our senses– to smell, see, taste, hear, and feel.