Cycle paths and holiday schnapps
When Lonely Planet highlights trends the tourism industry pays attention. Its top five for next year includes a couple of made-up words that send shivers down my spine but, nonetheless, “bikepacking” will be a thing in 2017 as we celebrate the bicentenary of “the birth of the bike” or the “laufmaschine” as inventor Karl Drais called it in 1817.
Backpackers on bikes? To avoid them, eschew the likes of the new 310km Alps 2 Ocean Trail in New Zealand; cycle circuits in Iceland; Britain’s Dartmoor and Exeter; the Kokopelli Trail linking the deserts and mountain passes of Colorado and Utah; back-country Mongolia; and the serpentine 100km Munda Biddi Trail in Western Australia, from Mundaring to Albany.
Then there’s the call to be an “Instavidual”, theming your Instagram feed beyond sunsets and selfie snaps to “explore the extraordinary”.
This could be a cheery thing if you were to concentrate on micro-distilleries, another Lonely Planet top trend. “The latest craze is to sample spirits produced with locally sourced ingredients at a regional micro-distillery,” writes Chris Zeiher, contributor to Best in Travel 2017 (Lonely Planet, $22.49). From small-batch bourbon distillers in Kentucky to producers in Reykjavik, Iceland, the invitation is to meet the maker and, presumably, sip, smile and totter off in a cheerful haze.
Gin, in particular, is back as a groovy beverage and tourists are lining up to sample intriguing varieties from the likes of Sipsmith in London to Distillery Botanica on the NSW central coast, which has teamed with Lumira to fashion a gin and tonic candle. An adults-only option, I presume. Last year, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Singapore sling, the legendary gin-based tipple forever to be associated with Raffles Singapore, Sipsmith launch a limited-edition Raffles 1915 Gin, infused with Malaysian botanicals and spices such as jasmine, pomelo peel, lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaf, nutmeg and cardamom. The collaboration seems a natural when you consider Sipsmith co-founder Sam Galsworthy is a descendant of Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of colonial Singapore.
But let’s be mindful of the International Year of Sustainable Travel in 2017 and the quest to look for activities and destinations to minimise our carbon footprints and help community-based operators and initiatives. Costa Rica is aiming to be the first carbon-neutral nation by 2020 and Sweden certifies hotels and tours that meet best eco-tourism practices. Help rebuild an earthquake-damaged village in Nepal? Carry refillable drink containers instead of buying plastic bottles? There are lots of ways, big and small, to make a difference.
Travel needs be fun and occasionally frivolous, too, as otherwise we would surely just stay home. One of my most enjoyable days this year was in the Georgian city of Bath. I walked for hours along crescents and circuses, pitching up at Canary Gin and Wine Bar on Queen Street, home to the Bath Gin Botanicals Laboratory, where Gin Austen is the signature tipple. She’s quite a lass, this Jane of a different “persuasion”, pictured on the label winking rather suggestively. A real Instadividual.