Fellow travelers: The end is upon us! The economy, the war, the very leader of this nation mean bad news all around. But when the going gets tough, don't the tough get going? There is no better time to travel, seek new experiences, scout countries with liberal immigration policies. Give the gift of change. Here are just a few possibilities.
Gift Guide 2:
Mind, Body, & Spirit
Tea — Mellow out with mood-altering Northwest brews. By Tim Appelo
Dance — Give the gift of music and movement to someone you love. By Sandra Kurtz
Games — OK, Einstein. Put down the Rubik's Cube and pick up something truly worthy of your brainpower.By Roger Downey
Glass — A Green Lake glass studio has devoted itself to bringing people the ligh—with hand-blown candleholders that have a story behind them. By Laura Cassidy
Travel — Inward-looking or outward-bound, journeys can change lives. Here are some tips on trips—and travel gear—that could make great gifts. By Joanne Garrett
New Age — A compendium of the best sights and sounds of the New Age for 2004 are available on DVD and CD. By Robert Phoenix
Mall Hours — When the doors are open at the area's major malls and shopping centers.
Holiday Calendar — The most complete list of holiday events in Seattle.
Setting foot on the sacred
Concentrate on the elements of fire and water on the Big Island in Hawaii— commune with the goddess Pele at Volcanoes National Park. Book the Mists of Avalon Sacred Journey to England, with ceremonies at Stonehenge, a torch-lit visit to Roman baths, and a search for crop circles. Or live the Ireland of Myth and Mystery, with trips to ancient wells and megalithic art. The folks at Sacred Journeys for Women (www.sacredjourneys.com) stand by to help you please the goddesses. You'll want to gear up at the North Face (1023 First Ave., 206-622-4111): perhaps an Akira hoodie ($40), a Kanga waist pack ($39), and of course, the Celtic Splendor hat ($25).
Change someone else's life
Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, Christian housing ministry that seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world. You can help and travel, too. Among the Global Village work trips planned for 2005 are Botswana, Papua New Guinea, China, Romania, and Chile, where you would help the host community build homes (www.habitat.org). Team members travel, live, work, pray, share, and eat together, often in primitive settings. Itineraries are flexible, and hosts encourage team members to visit local cultural treasures. Depending on the country, the costs range from $1,100 to $2,200 per person. Naturally, you will need to read all about the country before you go. Check out Elliott Bay Book Co. (101 S. Main St., 206-624-6600) for titles such as Lonely Planet Botswana ($17.99).
Trek the Camino de Santiago, the most important Christian pilgrimage of the Middle Ages. The Spanish section is 500 miles, leading to the burial site of Santiago (St. James), the patron saint of Spain. Along the way, contemplate churches, chapels, and monasteries, then get your pilgrim passport certified at the cathedral in Santiago. The Web is loaded with sites. Start with the American Association of Friends of the Road to Santiago (www.geocities.com/friends_usa_santiago). The group publishes a newsletter, and its Web site has information on sources, suggested readings, links to other Web sites, and a bit on some tour groups. You'll need to be properly shod, so trek to REI (222 Yale Ave. N., 206-223-1944) for lightweight waterproof hiking boots (starting around $100), the right socks (SmartWool Hiking Socks, $16.95), and slippers for relaxing evenings (Acorn Polar Pair, $27.95).
Bhutan's official government policy is Gross National Happiness. The cultural, environmental, and spiritual well-being of the people take precedence over monetary wealth. You'll be happy to travel to such a spot, or Nepal or Tibet, with Geographic Expeditions (www.geoex.com). This travel company, which organizes tours and private journeys, gives back, having helped raise thousands of dollars for electric projects in Bhutan and the children of Nepal and Tibet. Get trekking gear at Patagonia Seattle (2100 First Ave., 206-622-9700). Base layers (men's tops starting around $29), men's Gi II pants ($76), and women's lightweight Synchilla windproof jackets ($120) will keep you warm and dry.
Trip to Remember?
Cunard, the ocean-liner company that provides the "only way to cross" the North Atlantic, offers passage aboard the new Queen Mary 2. She's the largest liner afloat, with 14 decks holding a spa, art gallery, the college-at-sea, world-class dining, and a planetarium. A form of trans-Atlantic travel that once was an oasis for the pampered elite, the QM2's six-day passage recaptures a lost, civilized luxury featuring champagne, sunning on deck chairs, and waltzing in the ballroom. This slow-down, stress- reducing travel is the prize in itself even if you eschew the fancy flubdubs of first class for steerage. Fares start at $1,499 per person and go up to $29,939 for the Grand Duplex rooms. Prices include return economy airfare. Prepare by renting Monkey Business, starring the Marx Brothers as stowaways on board a ship sailing to America, where they insult people at a high-society party (cautionary, perhaps?), from Scarecrow Video (5030 Roosevelt Way N.E., 206-524-8554, www.scarecrow.com).
Dig Up Those Euro Roots
What luck that we have Rick Steves and his 30 years of European travel experience. He focuses on a "genuine" Euro experience for average Americans, and he knows his stuff. His travel store in Edmonds (130 Fourth Ave. N., 425-771-8303) has a library, info on tours vs. solo travel, free Saturday classes, one-on-one advice from the experts ($40 per half-hour), and shopping. Here is just a smidgen of what they offer: DVDs (starting at $19.95), guidebooks (starting at $11.96), a Railpass (prices vary; they'll help you save), travel gear and accessories (king-sized Micronet travel towel, $24.95; and stocking stuffer–sized European electrical adapters, $3.95). Information and articles on countries, all sorts of travel tips, and free publications can be found on Steves' Web site (www.ricksteves.com).
Dream, scheme, and plan. All is possible at home with supplies from Wide World Books & Maps (4411A Wallingford Ave. N., 206-634-3453; www.travelbooksandmaps.com). Tack a map from National Geographic on the wall ($14.99), rent videos on your chosen country ($3.95 for five days), and study the "1,000 Places to See Before You Die" Page-a-Day Calendar ($14.95) for your next destination, such as Kerala, between the Arabian Sea and Western Ghats mountains in India, or Aleppo, Syria, which claims to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Find indispensable accessories: Easy View travel clock ($24.95); passport and money carriers (neck pouch $10, belt $10.95); pocket-sized language books (Speedy Russian, $4.95); and picture talk books (when you can't find the words, point at the picture, $5.95). There are items for remembering, too: a three-ring photo album ($28.95) or a snapshot folder ($14.95); journals from Moleskin ($16.95) to spiral bound ($11.95); and panoramic puzzles of the world from Mount Everest or the Great Wall of China ($13.95). Not to mention the vast selection of guidebooks, maps, and travel-related fiction and nonfiction.