“Collect experiences, not things.” I’m not sure who the first person to coin this phrase was, but they were spot on.
As an avid traveler / travel blogger, turned travel designer (Vita Brillanti Travel), I’ve always placed the highest valued on the experiences, and memories I’ve collected from my trips (here, here, here for example). I find happiness when I look back on all the of the experiences I’ve been able to collect through the years; some incredibly mind-blowing, and others are simply memorable for being absolutely insane; missed trains, lost luggage, getting myself lost while driving in a European city, etc., and those are typically the trips I find myself laughing about now. All learning experiences that’s for sure! For me, travel brings a sense of purpose and freedom. It sparks joy! Travel provides the opportunity to understand the world, and cultures, that you can’t necessarily read about in textbooks.
2020 was an especially devastating year for the travel industry. I’ve worked within the travel landscape in some capacity for the past 9 years, and the pandemic really shattered all the progress made. That said, we’re a resilient bunch! Those who work in travel; hoteliers, DMO’s, travel designers (like myself), restaurant owners etc., love what we do. We love sharing the world with others, designing bespoke experiences, ensuring travelers have the time of their lives at our partners’ properties, enjoy their meals, and get the most out of the destination they’re in. I feel blessed to be here, share my passion of the world, and design beautiful itineraries for my clients so that they’re able to collect incredible experiences of their own.
So let’s chat travel, shall we?
This past year I did what 98% of travelers did; I took to the road and explored my own backyard. I supported local businesses and hotels, and I did so happily! It was a great reminder that there’s beauty all around us, we just needed to take the time to slow down and recognize it. But it’s February, nearly a year into this COVID era, and we’ve officially turned the page on 2020. While we’re not out of the woods yet, and there is so much more work left to do in terms of mitigating the virus, I think we’re all still wondering…what’s next? Where can I go now? When will borders reopen? Well, due to some of the lingering hurdles we are facing from last year, many of us will continue to adopt similar travel rituals of close-to-home, domestic travel like we did in most of 2020. But the pent-up travel demand is not lost on us, and many avid travelers are in search for more (que Little Mermaid ‘I want more” song).
From my perspective, despite our current realities, I’ve never been more hopeful (and excited) than I am at this moment. This last month for me has been eye-opening. I just returned from my first international trip, and having that first-hand experience of international travel under my belt gave me an immense amount of confidence in the travel industry. Not to mention, we’re also starting to see vaccine distribution ramp up. For the first time in a while I’m feeling like there is a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.
I’m sure you’re wondering ‘where this confidence is coming from, Em?’
Outside of the immense amount of travel news I read on a daily basis, a big part of my confidence in the travel comeback stems from my seamless international trip to Costa Rica. While a COVID test was not required to enter the country, we took one 72 hours prior to our trip. From arriving at the airport in Newark, to arriving at Villa Costa Vida in Costa Rica 8 hours later, we felt safe. We experienced strict rules in regard to mask wearing both at the airport, and on the plane – and most people were following the guidelines. You’re always going to have a “Brad” in the group who doesn’t follow the rules, and is a bit careless, but for the most part I felt comfortable! Jordan (my husband) and I wore 2x masks, we brought wipes to clean down our seats, and we were sanitizing our hands so much that I thought they were going to dry up and fall off my arms!
Costa Rica in its natural state is spacious, so it was an ideal destination for our maiden ‘COVID’ voyage from the United States. We took walks, and went to the beach oftentimes with our masks hanging off our ears, or easily accessible from our pockets since there wasn’t anyone around us! Restaurants are all open air as well (at least each one we went to) so once we were seated, we felt comfortable removing our masks. The staff of course at all of the restaurants had their masks on at all-times! I’m tied to this idea that it’s responsible travel that will get us all back to visiting destinations we’ve been longing for, for nearly a year.
Since January 26th there have been a new CDC guidelines released that require all US citizens entering the US from an international destination must produce a negative COVID test 3 days prior to their flight returning to the US. This has created one extra hurdle for those looking to travel internationally, but it’s not an impossible restriction, and quite honestly, it adds another layer of comfort. At Vita Brillanti Travel we’ve been working closely with all of our clients as they work through the few forms, and the small added steps that go into a trip these days. Having someone to navigate these changing times with is a huge comfort, and if you’re interested in learning more about how to plan your next journey, please reach out!
While 2021 may not allow us to get up and go as easily as we used to, I am feeling so confident about the return to travel. Relief seems evident, and given our ramped-up vaccine roll-out, more testing, and the continuation of responsible travel I don’t think there is any reason not to get excited! ”
(1) Favorite travel destination – Italy, 100%. There are so many places to visit in the world, but I will also keep going back to Italy whenever possible. Each region is so diverse from the next and I’m always learning something new on each trip.
(2) Favorite culture and why? – I’m fascinated with Egyptian culture. I’m still learning, and know I don’t know enough about it, but I’ve been watching some documentaries on archeological digs and I’m so intrigued. Being that it dates back 1000’s of years, and is one of our first civilzation, I think there is so much we can learn from them.
(3) If you could live in any hotel, which one would you prefer? As a travel designer this is an impossible question, so I’m going to choose two. First, would pick Belmond Caruso, located in Amalfi, Italy. The views are unimaginable, you have the fresh lemons for Lemon Spritz (personal favorite), regional southern Italian cuisine at your finger tips, and you can still access the beach for a day trip. My second choice would be chartering the Satori Yacht. This way, I can spend most of my year cruising the Mediterranean, visiting multiple different destinations.
(4) Activities on your travel bucket list? I would love to visit the Galapagos Islands and swim with the sea lions and whales, go to one of the many incredible safaris in Africa, probably Singita, and I also would love to visit the Faore Islands!
(5) A recuerdo you brought back from a trip that is special? I feel like this is silly, but on a recent trip to Italy we brought back beautifully hand-woven baby booties. A pink pair and a blue pair. They have managed to make their way around to 3 different nieces / nephews and it makes me so happy seeing the babies with the booties on.
Written By Emily Brillanti, founder of Vita Brillanti, a full-service travel design company. Vita Brillanti caters to travelers seeking to elevate their experiences. With services spanning from concierge style planning for your major trip, to bringing luxury to your weekend retreat.