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.