Why You Should Visit Lombok, Indonesia

Why You Should Visit Lombok, Indonesia

Lombok might not be the island of the Gods, but there’s no denying its paradisal allure. Although this Indonesian Island is increasingly becoming known as “The New Bali”, I think it offers a divine energy that’s all its own. With the majestic Mt. Rinjani towering over the lush, mountainous landscape, Lombok is a trove of natural beauty waiting to be discovered.

Bali vs. Lombok

The most obvious difference between Bali and Lombok is the ambiance. Upon landing in Lombok, I immediately noticed the lack of ornate Hindu temples, three-tier umbrellas, and offerings smoking with incense – the signature backdrop of ultra-spiritual Bali. Like most of Indonesia, Lombok is predominantly Muslim and has been nicknamed ‘an island of a thousand million mosques’. Although I did not notice any hardline Muslim attitudes during my trip, I read later that Lombok is actually one of Indonesia’s most strict Muslim regions, bound in many areas by sharia law. This surprised me because the surf-bum town of Kuta Lombok had an undeniable party culture, with drugs freely available to all the backpacking hippies, but we were told the town would settle down come Ramadan in a few weeks.

In contrast to Bali’s carefree “anything goes” vibe, Lombok is apparently having difficulty navigating how its growing tourism industry and Sesak culture intersect, which is deterring foreign investors from staking claim on the island. However, the government hopes to attract tourists from the Middle East by means of “sharia tourism”, a subcategory of tourism geared toward travelers who abide by rules of Islam. Comparing Bali and Lombok reveals how religious influences are embedded in every aspect of culture to some capacity. In the melting pot of the US, religious influences are a lot less explicit, but it makes me wonder how theology has shaped our nation’s laws, values, and zeitgeist.

While religion differentiates Lombok and Bali on the cultural level, a biogeographic border called Wallace’s Line makes the sister islands look as though they sit on different continents altogether, despite their close proximity. Running directly through the Lombok Straight. which divides the two islands by just 22 miles, Wallace’s line is marked by a deep-water continental shelf and essentially separates the ecozones of Asia and Australia, meaning you will not find the same species of plants and animals on both islands – birds won’t even cross the line. While the coast of Bali is palm-fringed and tropical, Lombok looks more like a European postcard, with hilly headlands dividing white-sand inlets and the bluest water I’ve ever seen. The photos speak for themselves.

Bali gets all the hype, and therefore all the tourists, who started to flock to the island in the 1970s. Development subsequently boomed on the small island, which quickly became a double-edged sword. Although the tourism industry has driven improvements in roads, telecommunications, education, and infrastructure, the island has also suffered from mass tourism, which has taken a serious toll on the culture, religion, and natural environment. While I will not say that Lombok is the authentic Indonesian experience you’re looking for – you have to go to Sumatra, Borobudur, or the Mentawais for that – it has definitely been more shielded from the environmental and cultural impacts of mass tourism.

Our Lombok Adventure

Lombok attracts only a fraction of the Bali’s tourists, meaning you can still find clean, relatively unspoilt beaches. While we were staying in Kuta Lombok, a friend told us we must go to Mawi Beach, which is approximately an hour’s journey via motorbike. The roads in Lombok are ill-maintained, and we had to bump along rocky, uneven dirt roads the entire way. It was quite the adventure rambling along the coast and through lush rice paddies, but when we finally made it to Mawi, the breathtaking views made the ride worth it. Sitting in a white-sand bay, Mawi is truly an untouched paradise and one of the most beautiful beaches I have seen in Indonesia.

For the second half of our trip, we stayed at Palmyra Bungalows near Gili Gede, a Robinson Crusoe style experience near a traditional village. Owned by a French man who dreamed of escaping the rat race, this place was the definition of Santai – the Indonesian word for “chill”. Time passed slowly here in the best kind of way. We spent the days kayaking, lounging on hammocks, and soaking in the tropical splendor of Indonesia.

We also got to dive with sea turtles off completely deserted islands.

We were relatively close to one of the best surf spots in the world: Desert Point, a barreling left point break that peels mercilessly over shallow reef. The restaurant overlooking the break was a graveyard of surfboards that had been obliterated by the sheer energy of the Indian Ocean, which made me a little nervous as Michael paddled out. But the anxiety was well worth it to see Michael have the ride of his life.

I can’t say which is the “better” island between Bali and Lombok; they are both incredibly special with the most beautiful, welcoming people. As I explore more and more of Indonesia, I am fascinated by the breadth of culture that exists under one flag, which is what makes it the most interesting and beautiful country I have ever visited.

Turtle Conservation in the Perhenthian Islands, Malaysia

Turtle Conservation in the Perhenthian Islands, Malaysia

The ocean is an enigmatic world, and I’ve always wanted to get scuba certified so I could explore the depths below its surface. Living in Kuala Lumpur, we had the perfect opportunity.to get certified in the Perhentian Islands, a sparsely-populated pair of islands off Malaysia’s east coast. Known for their low-key, understated island ambiance, the Perhentians are surrounded by crystal clear water and biodiverse coral reefs — a dreamy playground for scuba divers. The islands shut down in winter when the entire region is soaked by monsoons, so we planned our trip for when Michael’s brother Daniel visited us in May.

Despite their relative remoteness, the Perhentians are an easy trip from KL. We flew to the coastal city of Kota Baru, then took a small speedboat across the South China Sea. As we lost sight of mainland Malaysia, we became spellbound by the impossibly blue water, with visibility so clear that we could see all the way to the bottom of the ocean from the boat. In less than an hour, we approached the sun-kissed Perhentians, a tropical Neverland with a lush, mountainous landscape. We were staying on the larger island of Perhentian Besar (which literally means ‘bigger island’), at a small dive resort called Bubbles. We didn’t know it yet, but this resort was a hidden gem. Tucked away in its own private bay and surrounded by thick jungle, Bubbles offered complete privacy and bliss. Besides a group of carefree 20-something-year-old volunteers, there was just one other couple staying there. As we unloaded our stuff from the boat and walked across the beach to reception, I could hardly believe we were in Malaysia. In contrast to the urban concrete jungle of KL, the Perhenthians were the definition of paradise. At Bubbles in particular, there was nothing to do but dive, play in the ocean, and relax on a hammock — our own personal nirvana.

Upon arrival, the resort manager served us cold drinks — without straws. Banning straws is how the resort cuts back on single use plastic, and it made me think about our beaches in San Diego where I pick up a handful of littered straws every single day. This is just one of the resort’s many strategies for reducing their environmental impact – they also recycle, use biodegradable cleaning products, build in a way the minimizes development on the beach, and educate their guests on ocean conservation, among many other things. This was my first and only encounter with a company in Malaysia that was truly environmentally aware.

After dinner our first night, one of the volunteers invited us to the resort’s nightly “Turtle Talk”. Intrigued, I took a seat in the makeshift classroom while a young French volunteer named Anthony gave an eloquent presentation about the many threats facing Malaysia’s sea turtles. Although these amazing creatures have lived on our planet for 100 million years, almost every species is now endangered worldwide. In Malaysia, the situation is particularly dire — three out of their four species of sea turtles (the Olive Ridley, Hawksbill, and Leatherback) are already extinct due to human activity. The last remaining species, the green turtle, isn’t far behind. Turtles are drowned in fishing nets, slaughtered for their meat, or killed for their shell, which is used to make gaudy bags and jewelry for Asia’s elite. Turtle populations have also been devastated by nearby oil production platforms, while coastal development destroys habitats and disorients nesting females. Although harvesting turtle eggs is illegal, nest poaching runs rampant as they are considered a delicacy in Malaysia. Finally, and not surprisingly, one of the biggest problems facing turtles is plastic. Plastic never biodegrades, and turtles have been known to accidentally ingest plastic debris, which causes fatal blockages within their digestive systems. Plastic bags are particularly harmful as turtles mistake them for their favorite snack — jellyfish.

In an effort to save sea turtles and protect the sensitive ocean ecosystem, Bubbles started a sea turtle conservation project committed to protecting nests and helping hatchlings survive. The Perhentians receive about 300 sea turtle nestings per year, many of which happen on Bubbles’ private beach. Female turtles travel thousands of miles from their feeding grounds to nest on the same beach where they were born, laying over 100 eggs per nest, sometimes up to eight times a season. Because green sea turtles can live up to 100 years, females may lay thousands of eggs in their lifetime! With that proliferation in mind, it’s hard to fathom that sea turtles are endangered, but sadly only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings will survive to adulthood. Protecting turtle eggs from predators and poachers, and helping baby hatchlings get to the ocean safely, is how humans can help give these amazing animals a shot at life.

The incredibly dedicated and passionate volunteers of Bubbles stay up all night long in shifts, looking for turtles that come onto the beach to lay eggs. Because white light can disorient turtles, the resort has a strict no white light policy on the beach after sunset – you can’t even use the light on your cell phone. Armed with red light flashlights, the volunteers pace the beach looking for turtle tracks – a telltale sign of a turtle coming to nest. Because I have a deep love for turtles, this is something I’ve always wanted to see, and luckily I had come to the right place. Hanging on each of our doors was a colorful, turtled-shaped sign that said “YES” on one side and “NO” on the other – an indication of whether or not you wanted the volunteers to wake you up in the middle of the night if a turtle comes to nest. Needless to say, our sign remained on the “YES” side for the entire duration of our stay.

Every night, I went to bed excited, expecting to be woken up with a knock in the middle of the night. But night after night, my sleep went uninterrupted.

Our very last night, I accepted the fact that we would not get to see a turtle nesting and went to sleep without hope. But at 3am, I woke up to a loud knock on the door and a volunteer telling us there was a turtle laying eggs on the beach! Michael, Daniel and I sprang out of bed immediately and sprinted down to the beach, where a small group of volunteers was huddled around the turtle, photographing her with a special camera so that they could match her face markings to an online turtle registry. We approached her quietly and carefully, as not to scare her during this intensely important process. She was enormous – female green sea turtles can grow to 3 or 4 feet in length and weigh up to 700 pounds – but at the same time, she was so peaceful and gentle. At least an hour passed before she was finished, and then she ceremoniously used her flippers to cover her eggs with sand, camouflaging the nest with the beach as protection from predators. When she was satisfied, she slowly made her way back to the ocean and gracefully swam off into the night. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

The next step was for the volunteers to count the eggs and transfer them to the resort’s protected hatchery. Resembling the size and shape ping pong balls. the eggs were perfectly round and slightly squishy. The volunteers counted over 120 eggs – the most of any turtle so far that season! Because of the white light rule, I wasn’t able to capture any photos of the entire experience,

Since that night, I have been lucky to see a number of sea turtles while scuba diving, but I always think back to this turtle in the Perhenthians. As humans, we have a responsibility to protect our blue planet. Sea turtles play a vital role in the balance of our ocean ecosystem – from maintaining healthy coral reefs to ensuring that other species continue to thrive – and I cannot imagine a world without them. With places like Bubbles in the world, hopefully we’ll never have to.

Living in Love, Indonesia

Living in Love, Indonesia

In the middle of the night on September 21st, 2016, a fire broke out at Ricky’s Beach House. The cause of the fire remains unknown, but it sent the beloved Rastafarian-themed guesthouse up in the flames, burning the building to a crisp so that only its shanty, charred frame remained.

Fortunately, no one was hurt in the fire, but losing the beach house was a huge blow to Ricky and the young Indonesian guys who helped run the guesthouse. Nestled in the remote Indonesian village of Nagari Sungai Pinang, Ricky’s Beach House was an eco-tourism project and an economic engine for the entire village. But the monetary loss was inconsequential compared to the spiritual loss, because the real value of Ricky’s was in the warm, inclusive atmosphere it created for travelers. Every night, guests from all corners of the globe would gather under the tin roof while Ricky and the guys did what they do best: play music. Through the beat of a drum and the strum of a guitar, even the most reticent traveler would find their inhibitions shattered. Engulfed in a haze of happiness, travelers would sing along to songs that seem to transcend the barriers of language and culture, laughing and exchanging travel stories as if they were lifelong friends. Without TV or internet, these communal jam sessions were the nightly ritual, creating a micro-community where travelers could candidly and authentically connect. This was a very special place where strangers turned into family.

After the fire, Ricky and the guys didn’t give up. Trusting in friendship, loyalty, honesty, and love (their words, not mine), Ricky’s Beach House was rebuilt in a nearby location, but what was left of the fire remained. I was visiting Nagari Sungai Pinang for the second time last May when my new friend Albina, a lovely girl from Siberia Russia, said she wanted to show me something. I followed her to the former Ricky’s Beach House, and up a set of dilapidated stairs. Everything on the second floor was destroyed by the fire – the roof, walls, and furniture – except for what Albina wanted to show me.

On the only remaining wall panel was a crumpled-up canvas that had miraculously survived the flames. On it was a short statement about family that gave me goosebumps:

It’s as if this canvas was meant to survive the fire as a gentle reminder that even when bad things happen, the love of family endures.

In rural Indonesia, family is everything, and the definition of ‘family’ means much more than just blood relatives. The village of Nagari Sungai Pinang is communally run with an egalitarian ethos, which bonds the community like a family and ensures that everyone takes good care of each other. Because this is their way of life, the people of Nagari Sungai Pinang are exceptionally welcoming, accepting travelers into their homes with open arms and sharing what little they have. These people do not have hot water or iPhones, but they do have an overabundance of love, which ripples and radiates throughout the entire village.

The same philosophy inspires Ricky’s Beach House, where everyone is treated like family from the moment they arrive. For most travelers, including myself, this approach to life and love is a novelty. Coming from a culture where people tend to be competitive, self-serving, judgmental, and fearful of those they don’t understand, being showered in unconditional love by relative strangers isn’t something I was used to, but now I find it incredibly healing.

I think it’s sad that the US, in general, suffers from a stubborn, collective narcissism that makes us adverse to learning from other cultures. We seem to think that because we’re “the greatest country in the world”, we couldn’t possibly learn anything from an impoverished country like Indonesia. But acknowledging and emulating the good in another culture doesn’t invalidate ours or make us weak, it makes us enlightened. No country is perfect, but if there’s one thing we can learn from Indo, it’s how to take good care of each other. Human connection and the sense of belonging is an essential human need, and so many people are deprived of that in our country, despite our overly-luxurious lives. All politics aside, many of the mass shooters of the past decade have had one thing in common: loneliness. If we all focused less on ourselves and more on spreading kindness, exercising altruism, and celebrating love, it would help us become more resilient, trusting, and joyful, just like the guys at Ricky’s Beach House.

I think of Nagari Sungai Pinang and the family I found there every day, with the words of Albina echoing in my head: “Even if we’re 10,000 miles away from here, we can have peace in our hearts knowing that places like this exist.” And that’s exactly what I hold onto each and every day.

Playing Castaway in the Mentawais, Indonesia

Playing Castaway in the Mentawais, Indonesia

The tropical heat beat down on me like fire as I sat and waited with Michael. We were on the island of Siberut in the far-flung Mentawai archipelago, which sits about 100 miles west of Sumatra, Indonesia. With us was Fidel, our unusually tall Indonesia surf guide with long, salty hair, and Nadine, a stunning English girl who could have easily graced the covers of a fashion magazine. Traveling alone, she joined our group after meeting us a few hours earlier on the fast boat we took from Padang, a four-hour journey across a sea so choppy it would throw us from our seats. We were headed to a tiny island called Nyang Nyang, which is surrounded by world-class surf breaks — the holy grail of surfing for Michael and his best buddy, John, who had joined us in Indonesia less than 12 hours ago after traveling halfway across the world from San Francisco. The only problem was that John was nowhere to be found.

Siberut was the last stop where we would have access to convenience stores and ATMs, so we stocked up on the essentials: soap, toilet paper, and Bintangs, the ubiquitous beer of Indonesia. We were just about to hop on a smaller boat bound for Nyang Nyang when John said he wanted to pull out some cash from the ATM. He offered a local a handful of rupiahs to borrow his motorbike and told us he would be back in five minutes. That was over an hour ago.

Siberut is the biggest island in the Mentawais but it’s not that big. There’s no way he could have gotten lost. Another 30 minutes passed and still no sign of John. We starting walking in the direction in which he sped off, attempting to retrace his steps, when a young Indonesian man suddenly came running up to us in a panic. He didn’t really speak English, but managed to get out the words: “Friend. Motorbike. Crash. BLOOD. POLICE.”

‘Blood’ is the second worst word to hear associated with your friend when you’re on a remote island in a foreign country. ‘Police’ is the first. It turns out, an overzealous John lost control of the motorbike and plowed into an elderly lady. She was fine except for some minor bumps and bruises, but the motorbike, unfortunately, was not. An Indonesian police report was filed and John had to pay a hefty sum of about $80 USD – which doesn’t seem like much by American standards but it could have easily lasted him the entire trip.

With John’s fine paid, we piled into the small, rickety boat that would take us the rest of the way to the island. Sitting on makeshift pieces of plywood with dead fish beneath our feet, we somehow managed to fit the four of us, Fidel, the boat driver, all of our backpacks, supplies, and four surfboards on this tiny maritime structure. If any of us made even a slight movement, the boat would rock to one side or the other as if we were going to capsize. The boat drive cranked the motor – which sounded like it was on its last life – and we were on our way to Nyang Nyang.

First, we navigated through a labyrinth of gorgeous mangroves. The midday sun was in full force so we cracked a beer in an attempt to stay cool. We were told the journey would take less than an hour, but it was that long before we even came to the end of the mangroves, our boat shooting into the beautiful open ocean with water as turquoise as I have ever seen. Michael and John became giddy as Fidel started to point out all the legendary surf spots that break deep in the Indian Ocean: A-Frames, Four Bobs, Rifles, and Bank Vaults, the Ments’ most notoriously heavy right. Because of its location in the Indian Ocean, the Mentawais are hit by swell after swell, making it one of the most consistent places to surf in the world. When you combine that with the region’s sheer volume of surf spots and remote location, it’s easy to see why The Mentawais are a premier surf destination for surfers looking to get away from it all. Nadine and I were just along for the ride.

We sped by countless uninhabited islands before we made it to Nyang Nyang, pulling to shore between the surf spots of Beng Bengs and E-Bay.

The sparsely-populated island had no roads or cars, and the landscape was comprised of thick rainforest. Fidel immediately warned us to make noise as we walked through the undergrowth to scare off any pythons – he said he once had to kill a 20-footer with a machete. He also pointed our where to run in the event of a tsunami – a gentle reminder of the raw power of nature. We excitedly grabbed our stuff and started trekking through the rainforest.

Because few hotels and resorts exists in the region, there are essentially two ways to go about planning a surf trip to the Mentawais. The first is to book a private charter on a luxurious boat, complete with a chef, comfortable bed, hot water, air conditioning, and all the Bintangs you can drink. This starts at about $5,000 per person for a two-week trip, and you can cruise around to any surf spot you like, without interacting with the locals or even stepping foot on dry land. The other option is to stay in a surf camp on an island like Nyang Nyang. Some surf camps can be relatively nice, but most of them offer only the basics: a bed with a mosquito net in a shared room (no sheets or blankets), community bathroom without hot water, a small fan, and three basic meals per day, consisting mostly of local Indonesia food – nasi goreng, bland potatoes, and the catch of the day, if you’re lucky. Electricity at these surf camps only runs from sunset to sunrise, and there are no mirrors, flushable toilets, or locks on your bedroom door (if you even had a door). Prices for surf camps vary depending on the amenities, but some are as little as $15 per night. As nice as it would have been to cruise around the Mentawais on a private charter, we were currently enjoying “funemployment”, so $15 per night was about what we could afford.

Although we were definitely roughing it, staying in a surf camp allowed us to see the raw, authentic side of this forgotten part of the world, as well as the natives who call it home. It wasn’t long before this place felt like home to us as well.

The entire time we were on the island, time stood still.

No cell reception, no email, no social media; just white sand, palm trees, and an ocean as warm as bathwater. Each morning, we would wake up to the shrill crow of roosters and sip on watery coffee as the guys decided where to go for their morning surf session. There were plenty of surf spots within walking distance of camp – the entire island could be circumnavigated by foot in less than an hour – but sometimes we would take a boat to offshore breaks or different islands altogether, many of which were uninhabited. My favorite was Bikini Bottom, a tiny sandbank dreams are made of, the definition of terra incognita. No one back home could even imagine where we were or how to find us, and going off the map felt incredibly freeing.

Much like its climate, surf in the Mentawais is unforgiving, powered by the merciless energy of the Indian Ocean. Not only do the waves get enormous, but every break sits over razor-sharp coral reefs, many of which are tauntingly shallow. Walking around the island, we’d see guys with nasty reef cuts, staph infections, even head bandages. There are no doctors or hospitals anywhere close to the island, and the fast boat only departs from Siberut to Padang twice a week, so if you get seriously hurt, you’re screwed. “They normally have to airlift one or two guys out of here every year,” said a burley Australian named Gavin, who has been coming to the Mentawais for over a decade. Speaking of injuries, there was a young boy from the island who didn’t know any English but liked to hang around our surf camp. He couldn’t have been older than ten or eleven, but he would chain smoke cigarettes and surf the gnarliest waves with the Australians. One day, he wiped out and got a reef cut that was at least 4 cm deep, but he didn’t even wince. Wounds like that have a tendency to fester in damp, humid environments like the Mentawais, and it’s not like he could pick up some Neosporin at CVS. Michael did his best to help the kid clean up his wound, but I was seriously scared it would turn into a deadly infection. A few days later, the kid was out there getting barreled again at E-Bay like nothing had happened.

We lazed the days away lounging on hammocks outside our surf camp – reading, napping, or observing the Indonesian families who passed by as they went about their daily routines. Friendly grinning from ear to ear, the women donned hats made from palm leaves, their skin leathery from a life in the rainforest, while boys as young as five handled machetes like a pro. Kids could effortlessly shimmy up a 40-foot tree to cut down a coconut for an afternoon treat. Sometimes a soccer game would break out in front of camp, or an unaccompanied, curious toddler would happily follow us through the rainforest. In stark contrast to the businessmen of Jakarta and the tour guides of Bali, the Mentawai people survived as hunter-gatherers, living in bamboo structures called “umas” that provided shelter for Indonesia’s harsh tropical climate. Most of the natives on Nyang Nyang had likely never left, and without access to TVs or internet, this island was their entire world. I couldn’t help but wonder what they thought of us – outsiders – who had come to their island wearing bikinis and board shorts.

I also wondered why the natives had been so slow to capitalize on the growing tourist industry they now had on their small island, fueled by the developed world’s search for waves, and a deep desire to discover the unknown. Like I said before, there were no convenience stores on the island. There were also no restaurants. If anyone on the island opened a place where travelers could buy essential items or western food, they would no doubt make a killing. But Fidel told me that the Mentawai people, like the vast majority of Indonesians, simply lack the business acumen, or even the drive, to take advantage of such a lucrative opportunity. He also pointed at that because the Mentawais were getting busier and busier every year, it was essential for the locals to adapt to the growth while at the same time maintaining a balance in order to avoid the overdevelopment and commercialization that plagued the nearby island of Bali, where the beaches are essentially giant trashcans and the resorts are all foreign-owned. In recent years, a few larger resorts such as Kandui and Macaronis had opened in the Mentawais, and some people feared for the effect this would have on the local culture, not to mention the natural beauty. After all, the beaches are clean. The surfing isn’t overcrowded. And there are minimal signs of influence from the west. While not without its benefits, development threatens all of this.

Leaving the Mentawais was sad and surreal, mostly because I knew the next time I’m there it won’t be the same. For now, the Mentawais are a well-kept secret paradise deep in the Indian Ocean, but secrets like that don’t stay secret for long.

The Height of Luxury: Colorado’s Billionaire Ski Retreats

The Height of Luxury: Colorado’s Billionaire Ski Retreats

Get your glam on at Colorado’s most luxurious alpine hot spots where you might just run into a celeb or two.

#1 Aspen

With its glamorous ambiance and 5-star hospitality, Aspen is a winter playground for the rich and fabulous — so much so that a private jet lands or takes off in Aspen every six minutes on major holidays.  A-listers like Kim K, Cameron Diaz, and Kate Hudson are often spotted here, bundled up in Moncler gear and checking into the glitzy St. Regis or Hotel Jerome (if they’re not staying in a private mansion, that is). The town of Aspen has scores of high-end boutiques, Michelin dining, and over-the-top spas, but our fave place to get the VIP treatment is found on the slopes: Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, nestled between the snowbanks at Aspen Highlands resort. Don’t let its unassuming facade fool you – inside you can thaw out with sizzling fondue, bottomless Veuve Clicquot, and the world’s most decadent daytime dance party.

#2 Vail

It’s not uncommon to hear several languages while you’re in the lift line at Vail – people travel from all over the world to earn their turns at America’s premier ski destination. Elite skiers go for Vail’s world-class back bowls and heavenly blue-bird powder days, but stay for the charming town and lavish aprés lifestyle. Modeled after a town in the Bavarian Alps, Vail Village is a caricature of European glam, teaming with upscale boutiques and gourmet dining. You might even spot a fur-clad celeb heading to their reservation at Kelly Liken or sipping on a $3k bottle of Pomerol at SOLARIS. If you’re feeling a little extra, post up at the posh Arrabelle Hotel or Four Seasons, where you can sip on a Valrhona chocolate-infused Haut Chocolate topped with chocolate lattice and fresh whipped cream. 

#3 Beaver Creek

Want to be served warm, fresh baked cookies the moment you unstrap after your last run? Go to Beaver Creek — or “The Beav” as the locals call it — where the slogan and savoir-vivre is “Not Exactly Roughing It”. Situated just 20 minutes past Vail but far enough from Denver to deter the day trip crowds, Beaver Creek has all the first-class touches: heated sidewalks, escalators, ski valet, and even a concierge where you can trade in ski boots for loaner slippers while you aprés. If that’s not enough, you can arrange for the Beav’s white glove package, which includes private helicopter transfers to your own private cabin on top of the mountain — and we thought ski-in-ski-out was luxurious!

#4 Telluride

The sleepy town of Telluride earns a spot on our list not just for its luxe amenities, but also for its isolation — this is where celebs go to escape the paparazzi. The quiet hideaway is set in a historic mining town surrounded by majestic San Juan mountain views, exuding a friendly tight-knit vibe you won’t find at the big commercial resorts. With its small-town charm, you would never guess that Telluride is like an alpine Beverly Hills – Oprah, Jerry Seinfeld, and Tom Cruise all own property here. For the most indulgent Telluride experience, take the gondola to Alfred’s, an on-mountain restaurant offering a 5-course epicurean menu and jaw-dropping views.

A Jetsetter’s Guide to Staying Healthy on the Go

A Jetsetter’s Guide to Staying Healthy on the Go

If you’re a self-confessed jetsetter, chances are your life revolves around boarding passes and luxe villas. For the most part, health and wellness might not be part of your travel routine. However, taking a vacation is no excuse to skip healthy habits, so here’s how to avoid bringing home extra pounds as a souvenir.

Strengthen your immune system

This starts at home. Before your trip, take time to get enough rest and eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Drinking multivitamins and probiotics can help prevent an unwanted cold or flu that could put a serious damper on your vacation.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Chloe Chapman, founder of Aloe Swimwear, stresses the importance of drinking the recommended 2L of water per day. “Flying tends to dehydrate me because of lack of humidity in the cabin air, so I try to so stay away from drinking anything caffeinated or alcoholic when I’m in transit,” she says. “Theres nothing worse than waking up with a flight hangover!”

Stay active

Not only does it help burn the calories, but it’s a great way to explore a new surrounding and experience everything on a local level. “The best way to learn a city is to walk it,” says Lesley Murphy, a travel blogger and former Bachelor contestant. “Skip the double decker bus tour for the city’s free walking tour. If you’re close to a mountain, hike it. If you’re near a sand dune, board it. There really are no excuses, and all options above are great ways to explore new destinations!”

Sydney-based socialite Shiralee Coleman agrees, “If I am close to the ocean, I will run along the beach, of if I am staying in the city I will go along the sights. Then treat myself with a nice coffee and breakfast afterwards.”

If you’re stuck in a hotel room, there’s always YouTube. “I love a little youtube yoga session… You just can’t go wrong!” says Chloe.

Indulge… in moderation

Admittedly, we know travel can be a good excuse to forget about your well-balanced diet. “For me, part of traveling is experiencing a culture’s cuisine, but in moderation,” says Lesley. “One macaron in Paris, one Italian gelato, one Finnish pastry. You get the picture.”

Ward off germs

Don’t ruin your vacation by catching a cold on the airplane. Make it a staple to have a small hand sanitizer in your bag. Other essentials include disinfecting wipes, light shawl or blanket, bandages and reusable water bottle. You’ll never know when unsuspecting germs come in your way.