Luxury & Adventure Travel: How do they mix?
by Adventure Travelperson
Luxury, very clearly, is relative.
Example: One of my most luxurious experiences was in Hunza, up in Pakistan’s far north. We’d just finished a trek in the Karakoram, following the world’s longest non-polar glacial system, almost 80 very rough miles, up the Biafo Glacier to the vast, ice-cappy Snow Lake, and down the Hispar Glacier. We ended up in a little guest house in Karimabad, Hunza’s main village (Hunza, by the way, is the single most enchanting place I’ve ever been; I say that despite being a guy who finds comparisons of enchantment pretty iffy).
I knew that Karimabad’s water supply came from a nearby glacier that cataracts down from the magnificent peaks that loom over it. Water was collected by what was essentially a large funnel at the glacier’s terminus and carried in a short pipe a little way to, well, to my shower. Yet that ice-water shower--water that had been ice for, I don’t know, 500 years until a few moments ago--was a luxurious delight. We’ve all had experiences like this.
Luxury is also, in my not terribly humble experience, over-rated. If you go to Paris, even if you stay in some gilded hotel, your memories are likely to be of wandering the city’s eventful streets, visiting museums, relishing charming meals at non-flashy restaurants. You might have fond memories of the hotel, but the cake has to be toothsome for the icing to be sweet. (Through a blind bit of luck, I was once comped to a mega-suite overlooking the bustling harbor in one of Hong Kong’s grandest hotels. I spent four days admiring the view, wishing I had someone to admire it with. All that luxury, for almost naught.)
It’s been shown--and our folk wisdom backs this up all the way--that experiences trump possessions when it comes to ginning up happiness. I’d enlarge that a bit: Wonderful experiences with people and with places trump wallowing in luxury any day.
I’ve always thought that CMH handles the whole luxury thing with great aplomb. Sure, the lodges are pretty luxurious. But, to me at least (and keeping in mind the relativity of luxury), CMH’s luxury is sensible, ungilded, and appropriate. I’m never embarrassed or guilty about staying in a CMH lodge. It’s as if the company is saying, “Look, we’ll make sure all your needs are met. You’ll be very comfortable and extremely well-fed. But all that is secondary to the big show. You know, the big show Up There.”
What about you? What unexpected luxuries have you come across in your travels? Share your stories in the comments section below - we'd love to read them!
Photo: The Last Shower by waterofdiscontent on Flickr