All posts by Alyssa Gautieri

High-Tech Fitness

From high-tech gadgets to digital exercise classes, technology continues to change the way we work out.

Tonal is an all-in-one fitness system that uses machine-learning to curate a personalized workout.

Whether you’re at home or visiting the gym, technology plays a crucial role in modern-day fitness. Fitness studios and gyms across the world have embraced technology — like virtual reality or integrated LED lighting — to create innovative, immersive workouts.

As the fitness industry continues to adapt, the home workout evolves even more rapidly. With virtual kickboxing classes, adjustable dumbbells, or comprehensive fitness apps, there are thousands of ways to work out from the comfort of your own home. “Technology has allowed the convenience of an at-home workout,” says Chris Stadler, CMO of Tonal. “At-home fitness equipment gives people a lot of time back, and time is increasingly our top commodity.”

While technology may decrease the need for face-to-face contact with a trainer, it offers a level of unmatched personalization. Technology can curate your fitness plan, track your form as you run, and adjust your weights digitally as you work out. “At-home fitness technology has evolved to meet consumers where they are and on their own terms,” says Amanda Murdock, director of fitness at Daily Burn. “Working out from home allows people a new level of convenience and customization when it comes to meeting their fitness goals.”

Live-Streaming Fitness 

Digital workout videos — particularly live-streaming fitness classes — are a great alternative to guided, group fitness instruction. Working out alongside a
personal trainer in real time adds a level of personalization and comfort to a workout. Programs like Daily Burn make it easy to get the workout you want when you want. “At home, you can find any type of workouts that work best with your schedule and at your specific level,” says Murdock. There are many ways to stay active — whether it’s with Pilates, yoga, or high-intensity interval training. “Streaming and on-demand fitness programs like Daily Burn allow more people to begin their fitness journeys without a sometimes-pricey gym membership or access to boutique fitness classes.”

Total-Body Workout Machines 

High-end technology allows for a superior workout with much less equipment. An innovative, compact device can remove the need for a room of exercise machines or a basement filled with big, bulky weights. Tonal uses digital weights that can be adjusted easily by a single pound — making for a more precise workout. Smaller than a flatscreen TV, the device makes thousands of calculations a second to deliver up to 200 pounds of electromagnetic resistance. “Tonal will know you better than any personal trainer would at a fraction of the price,” says Stadler. “We’ve seen Tonal completely change people’s lives and their fitness routine. It takes all the guesswork out of strength training.”

If cardio is more your speed, there is Peloton — another well-known, high-tech, total-body exercise machine. Whether you prefer the Peloton Bike or the Peloton Tread, the built-in touch screen and sound bar will make it easy to immerse yourself in the live-streaming workouts.

A subscription with Daily Burn offers digital workout classes and live-streaming fitness.

Fitness Apps 

Modern-day technology has led to the creation of countless fitness and health apps, making it easier to work out from home. “Gym time can be hard to find, but more often there is time for a quick workout at home,” says Lisette Fabian, co-CEO of 8fit — a holistic health app that offers a number of fitness plans. A quick self-assessment on 8fit will help to match the user with a fitness plan, and interactive elements help to further predict your preferences and needs. “Apps like 8fit are providing a very personalized experience, so that the user gets the best results possible,” says Fabian. The app curates fitness plans that consist of 6 workouts — from yoga to boxing — within a 2-week period. Users also have access to healthy meal plans, as well as self-care guidance, stretching exercises, and sleep meditation.

Virtual Reality 

High-tech fitness, like the power of virtual reality, is a great way to create an immersive, full-body workout for those who bore easily while exercising. The world’s first virtual reality gym, Black Box VR pairs virtual reality technology with resistance training, gaming principles, and high-intensity cardio to redefine your workout. Step into a Black Box room with a customized headset, where your fictional reality will come alive. “We are big believers in pairing the immersive power of virtual reality technologies with modern exercise science principles to help people stick to their fitness goals and ultimately level up their lives,” says Preston Lewis, CCO and co-founder Black Box VR — which has its first boutique gyms in San Francisco with plans to expand. “Innovations in the technology will also drive prices down, allowing Black Box technology to be accessible from the comfort of your own home,” says Lewis regarding the future of Black Box VR.

Fitness Trackers

Fitness trackers and watches have made it easier to work out on your own without the help of a trainer. Whether you’re biking, running, or swimming, devices like Moov Now can track your form, offer encouragement and suggest improvements.

High-tech equipment like the Bowflex adjustable dumbbells make it easier to workout at home.

Adjustable Dumbbells

Whether you don’t have the space to store a full set of weights or you simply love the ease of high-tech fitness, it may be time to invest in adjustable dumbbells. The Bowflex SelectTech 552 Dumbbells will replace 15 sets of weights; technology allows the dumbbells to easily adjust from 5 to 52.5 pounds. Users can quickly modify their resistance and gradually increase strength while using the app. “Right now, adding structure is more important than ever — especially when it comes to staying active,” says Tom Holland, Bowflex fitness advisor. “It’s vital for your well-being to establish healthy habits now, which is where technology steps in to support.”

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Unique Places: Mayakoba, Along the Riviera Maya

Surrounded by indigenous wildlife and serene waterfalls, a picturesque lagoon weaves throughout a 620-acre property connect four ultra-luxury resorts at Mayakoba.

All photos courtesy of Mayakoba

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Surrounded by indigenous wildlife and serene waterfalls, a picturesque lagoon weaves throughout a 620-acre property connecting four ultra-luxury resorts at Mayakoba — Andaz, Rosewood, Banyan Tree, and Fairmont. A luxurious boat ride uncovers four world-class spas, more than 25 restaurants, and four beach clubs and pools along the Riviera Maya coastline.

Upon entering Mayakoba, I learned that the land is home to more than 260 animal species — including monkeys, iguanas, and tropical fish. Biologists visit the site to ensure that a home for its native animals and plants is not only preserved but enhanced, as the number of species on the land continues to grow and all four resorts have received Rainforest Alliance Certification.

Rosewood Residences

Fairmont Residences

When I was not looking out at the lush lagoon from my private plunge pool at the Rosewood hotel, I was walking or biking to the beach through the man-grove forest on Mayakoba’s 2.5 miles of nature trails. Once at the beach, the crystal waters were perfect for jet skiing, snorkeling, and riding SEABOBs.

“Mayakoba offers experiences for all your senses, and there is a sense of discovery at every turn,” says Kappner Clark, chief marketing officer of RLH Properties, which acquired the property in 2017. “I’ve been to Mayakoba around 20 times this year and there is so much left to explore.”

While all four resorts exude distinct personalities, each private oasis blends seamlessly into nature. The 2- to 4-bedroom villas at Rosewood offer unparalleled luxury. With lagoon or beachfront floor plans available, prices begin at $3.3 million. The residences and penthouses at Fairmont boast lagoon and golf course views. Full-ownership prices begin at $1.5 million, with one-twelfth fractions beginning at $219,000.

El Camaleon

“Our homeowners choose to buy for the ease of owning a turnkey branded Rosewood or Fairmont residence where the hotel manages your property while you’re away. All you have to do is arrive,” says Clark, who notes that homeowners may use the property’s rental program.

A trip to Mayakoba would not have been complete without a visit to El Camaleon, the 18-hole PGA Tour championship golf course that boasts views of the tropical jungle, freshwater canals, and beautiful oceanfront.

And when I wanted a break from relaxing, El Pueblito was perfect. Resembling a Mexican town square with vibrant Mexican colors and traditional architecture, the lively square connects the four resorts, offering boutique shopping, restaurants, and a night bar, as well as a Mission-style chapel.

     

This editorial originally appeared in Unique Homes Winter 2020.

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Salt of the Earth

Surrounded by the natural beauty of the pink himalayan salt blocks, salt spa visitors are encouraged to focus on their breathing as they embrace the benefits of the salt-infused air. 

Dry salt therapy, or halotherapy, is a practice that originated centuries ago in the natural salt mines of Eastern Europe. Dry salt therapy is thought to provide an array of health benefits, helping with stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as skin conditions, arthritis and asthma.

“People are seeking more natural and alternative ways to feel better and relieve pain,” says Maryann Corcoran, co-owner of the Corcova Salt Spa in Genesee County, Michigan. “They are tired of taking pills and getting little or no relief and often additional ailments due to the side eff ects from their medication.”

 

 

Royal Salt Cave & Spa. Photo by Rafal K Gdowski. 

“With medications you have to worry about side effects and short- or long-term effects on the body, but with salt therapy, there’s none of that. It’s simply a healing process that also throws relaxation into the mix,” adds Izabela Przybyla, founder and owner of the Royal Salt Cave & Spa in Frankfort, Illinois.

 

A man-made salt cave reproduces the climate of a natural salt mine. Surfaces are covered with layers of himalayan salt and saline aerosol is
dispersed into the room to create a space that feels authentic. 

“The salt cave is climate-con-trolled to recreate a micro-climate as if you were within a salt mine,” says Shannon Coppola, founder of Montauk Salt Cave in New York City. “Salt is super sensitive to heat and humidity. There is a very intricate climate-control system to ensure that the air is always moving and super clean to maximize the benefits.”

Chairs, whether recliners or loungers, are added for comfort and relaxation, while dim lighting is used to recreate a true cave-like experience.

One of the most well-known salt mines is the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland, which draws tourists from around the world. It was also the fi rst location to off er salt-related health treatments. In the 1830s, Dr. Feliks Boczkowsk began off ering salt baths when he began to notice the surprisingly good health of the local salt miners.

Mei Leung, a holistic healer at Montauk Salt Cave, uses Reiki and sound to help visitors feel calm and balanced. Photo by Mike Vitelli.

The historic Wieliczka Salt Mine began offering salt-related health treatments in Poland as early as 1830. Photo by Ryszard Tatomir. 

United States spa owners draw inspiration from Wieliczka Salt Mine, which has played a pivotal role in the rise of halotherapy. Cheryl Krouse and Jim Fittante, owners of the Samana Salt Spa in Lewiston, New York, traveled to Poland to gain a deeper understanding of the ancient form of wellness therapy. “We were able to see firsthand how the Wellness Center in the salt mine has been operating since the late 1800s,” explains Krouse.

Another notable salt mine in Eastern Europe is the Salt Mine Berchtesgaden, which is the oldest active salt mine in Germany. The mine attracts visitors, who are able to tour the mine and learn of its history while taking in views of the natural salt. “Enjoy the underground, starting with a train ride. Go down two long slides (which were used by mine workers in former times), take a raft ride over a mystic salt lake, and see traces of colored salt in the rocks,” says Peter Botzleiner-Reber, tourism manager for Salt Mine Berchtesgaden.

“I’ve known about salt therapy my whole life, since I’m originally from Poland. Salt caves have been popular in Europe for more than 70 years,” says Przybyla, who has seen the trend grow in the U.S. in recent years. “There’s no doubt in my mind that salt therapy is on the rise simply because it’s relaxing and beneficial to your health.”

Salt Mine Berchtesgaden is home to two long slides, which are surrounded by salt and were once used by mine workers. Photo by Georg Grainer Fotografie, courtesy of Salt Mine Berchtesgaden, Südwestdeutche Salzwerke AG. 

The salt used in halotherapy is antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antimicrobial, according to Shannon Coppola. To fully take advantage of its ben-efits, Coppola suggests a 30- to 60-minute session in a salt cave at least once a week — preferably two times a week.

While most salt therapy sessions are a solo experience, Montauk Salt Cave also offers guided sessions with experienced healers. The healers elevate the typical salt cave experience — whether it’s promoting peace and tranquility through the use of tarot cards and astrology, a meditative soundscape, or Reiki therapy.

Luxury developments and real estate properties are also experimenting with the benefits of halotherapy. “There has been an increase in awareness of the benefits of halotherapy and in turn a rise in demand for locations to off er it,” says Alison Howland, vice president of wellness programs and resourcing at Amrit Ocean Resort & Residences in Riviera Beach, Florida.

The luxury development will soon debut its inhalation halotherapy chamber, which will off er residents the opportunity to experience salt therapy from the comfort of their homes. “The concept of luxury is changing. No longer is standardized luxury acceptable. Personalized luxury is the new standard,” says Howland of the develop-ment’s decision to open the salt chamber.

For luxury spa owners, the choice to open a salt cave is often much more personal.

“My daughter was my biggest inspiration for opening this business,” says Przybyla. “She struggles with asthma and severe allergies, which tend to act up a lot seasonally. I wanted to help get her healthier in a natural way.”

Coppola echoes a similar message. “Ultimately, our inspiration for opening the spa was our son,” she says. Coppalo and her husband discovered salt therapy in 2014 when searching for a cure for their son’s respiratory issues. “We had tried everything under the sun — nebulizers, chambers, adenoidectomy, tonsillectomy, Flonase, Nasonex, and more. A friend suggested salt therapy. After one session, he slept through the night for the first time at 4 and a half years old,” says Coppola.

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Lady Globetrotters

Courtesy of Explorer Chick.

Women are influencing all facets of the travel industry as they acquire more spending power.

Not only are women earning and spending more in 2019, but they’re traveling differently — from the activities pursued, to the destinations visited, to the companions chosen. And they’re making an impact. Women currently make 70 percent of all travel decisions, according to Bridget Brennan’s “Why She Buys.”

“It’s a really interesting time for women globally — more and more women are getting an education, having careers, managing their own finances and disposable income. As a result, these women are beginning to seek travel experiences that are purely for themselves,” says Lauren Bates, founder
of Wild Terrains — a women-only group travel company that supports female-owned businesses.

Although it’s not the case for all women, more female travelers are breaking away from “stereotypical” female-catered trips. Instead of yoga retreats, spa weekends and relaxing getaways, women are pursuing high-intensity travel experiences, driving the rise of Adventure Travel — travel that typically involves physically challenging outdoor activities.

Seventy-five percent of travelers pursuing nature, adventure, or cultural trips are women between the ages of 20 and 70, according to the Travel Industry Association of America.

“Women have always been a force in the travel industry, but social media has really brought that to light,” says Nicki Bruckmann, founder of Explorer Chick, an adventure travel company for women. “It’s moving from a dream to a reality for many women. Women who may have daydreamed about world travel are seeing that yes, they too can travel the world and have incredible experiences.”

Whether it’s supporting women who want to explore the Grand Canyon, cruise along the Nile River or float in the Dead Sea, the travel industry is shifting as it begins to focus on women, and their increasing desire for exploration. A growing number of female-catered travel companies are popping up, curating female-focused group travel experiences.

“A generation ago, women-only travel was an oddity,” says Debra Asberry of Women Traveling Together, a female-
catered travel tour company. “That is no longer true, but it is not widely known that 
women-only travel exists. Only when a woman starts searching for a travel solution for herself does she discover the myriad of choices out there.”

The growing desire for female-catered travel is closely tied to the type of trips women are pursuing.

“I could only find women’s group trips that were activity-specific, focusing on things like yoga and trekking,” says Bates, of her experience prior to launching her business. “That frustrated me on a personal level, because I’m a more dynamic traveler…. It also frustrated me on a broader level, because I believe globally we tend to market to women in a very one- or two-dimensional way that misses the mark on what women are really craving in terms of experiences.”

Mexico

“Nothing like [Wild Terrains] existed when we started. There were women-only travel companies, but none of them were actively supporting women hotel owners, artists, chefs, designers, architects, and historians in the destinations they visit. We’ve seen a surge in women-owned businesses globally in the last decade. The only way to ensure they keep growing is to support their businesses.” — Lauren Bates

Photo courtesy of Wild Terrains.

Horseshoe Bend, Utah

“In 2014, I found myself in the wake of a divorce. My break-up presented me with ‘the greatest gift of all’ — a do-over. There I was, an athlete, an adrenaline junkie, and rearing to go experience the world but I was out a travel buddy…. I chose to use my second chance at life to create a company that empowers women to be adventurous. There was no way I was the only other woman out there in this predicament.” — Nicki Bruckmann

Photo courtesy of Explorer Chick.

Skogafoss Waterfall, Iceland

“I wanted to do more than just offer trips for women. I wanted to focus exclusively on the woman traveling solo. I wanted her to feel like a priority on our tours, not an afterthought. I had been a solo traveler on a traditional couples tour and felt like a 5th wheel. It was depressing and lonely, but my other option at the time had been to plan my own trip and go by myself, something I did not feel safe doing alone.” — Debra Asberry

Photo courtesy of Women Traveling Together.

West Virginia

Courtesy of Explorer Chick.

Old Havana, Cuba

Courtesy of Damesly.

Dominican Republic

Courtesy of Explorer Chick.

“I often hear (and as was my case as well), that women just don’t have friends or family they can travel with in the way in which they want to travel,” says Bruckmann. “This is especially true for our adventure trips, since the itineraries are more challenging. So, instead of downgrading their vacation or compromising, women are booking group trips that meet their travel needs.” 

Plus, these female-led businesses are not simply offering one-of-a-kind travel experiences, they are connecting and empowering women across the globe.

“When you have the non-judgemental support of 10 cheering women as you stand on the edge of a waterfall 35 feet in the air, your fears shrink, your courage grows, and you make that leap,” Bruckmann says. “Women overcome their fears on these trips, which often carries over into their daily lives.”

Kelly Lewis, CEO of Damesly — a boutique tour operator for women, says “it is very rare, in my experience, that women will find us just because they want to go to a specific destination. I think women find us when they need to, because they want to travel and they want to make friends.”

“Wild Terrains exists for women from all walks of life, in all stages of life. We want to give women not only a safe space to explore the world, but also a space to nourish their creativity and build relationships with each other,” Bates adds.

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Changing the Travel Narrative

Jessica Nabongo is many things: writer, blogger, entrepreneur, pub-lic speaker, travel influencer. She is also a woman, a Ugandan, and a first generation American. In February 2017, Nabongo was inspired to begin her journey to every country in the world, with 60 countries already under her belt. As of June 2019, she has visited 175 of 195 countries. 

“Most things have already been done, but they have not been done by you. I am not the first person who is going to travel to every country in the world,” says Nabongo, who was greatly inspired by the journey of Cassie De Pecol — the fastest person and first woman on record to visit every country in the world.

For Nabongo, traveling has always been a lifestyle. “From a very early age, my parents opened up the world to me, and it was normalized,” says Nabongo, who first left her childhood home in Detroit at age four to travel abroad. “I’ve always wanted to visit every country in the world.”

She is often asked why she choose to embark on such a time-consuming, life- altering journey. “Number one, I wanted to do something that no one else has done. But beyond that, it is about representation. The travel space is super white and very male, so it’s important for me to do this,” says Nabongo, who wants to use her plat-form as an African woman to change the travel narrative.

“The world is not as scary as [the media] wants us to believe, and that is what I love about social media. I really want to change the narrative about the black traveler, and to show women, black people, and everyone else that you can do any-thing you want to do.” 

Riyadh. Saudia Arabia. Photo courtesy of Jessica Nabongo. 

Nabongo says she often experiences judgement from others when she speaks about traveling to “controversial” countries such as Afghanistan, North Korea or Iraq, and what she does or does not see in those places.

“I am traveling to every country in the world,” she jokes. “North Korea is a country … I have never visited a prison in the United States, so why would I visit a labor camp in North Korea?”

“The world is not as scary as [the media] wants us to believe, and that is what I love about social media. I really want to change the narrative about the black traveler, and to show women, black people, and everyone else that you can do anything you want to do.”

Nabongo encourages travelers to keep an open mind and stop visiting places to affirm assumptions. “Travel with an open mind, not to confirm what you think you already know. And, stop taking advice from people who have never been there,” she says. “You can find beauty anywhere; it is how you choose to look at places.”

China.

Barbados.

Yazd, Iran. Photos courtesy of Jessica Nabongo.

“I love using my platform to help teach people about the world, and also to break down these stereotypes and ideas that people have about different countries,” she adds.

Nabongo talks about understanding the “power of a post” and trying to use her “influence for things that matter,” such as changing the narrative about black and brown countries, advocating toward the reduction of single-use plastic, and empow-ering women to travel freely.

Krygyzstan. Photo courtesy of Elton Anderson. 

Meroë, Sudan. Photo courtesy of Elkhair Balla. 

Nabongo talks about understanding the “power of a post” and trying to use her “influence for things that matter,” such as changing the narrative about black and brown countries, advocating toward the reduction of single-use plastic, and empowering women to travel freely.

“I am not here to convince anyone to travel to every country in the world, because it is ridiculous,” she jokes, “but what I do want people to get from this story and this journey is that your dreams are valid. Dream big, make a plan and go after your dreams.”

Nabongo, referred to as The Catch Me if You Can on social media, tries to paint each country she visits in a positive light, while prioritizing honesty. “If there is going to be a single story, I believe that that single story should skew positive, especially about a country that is not my own…. Maybe I didn’t like a country, but that is not a reflection of what your experience will be.”

Ultimately, the biggest lesson Nabongo has learned: “people are mostly good.”

With horrific things happening around the world everyday, Nabongo acknowledges that it can be difficult to find the positivity in everyday life. “There are all of these negative things going on in the world, and it can really make people feel depressed… The fact of the matter is, 99 percent of my travel experiences are positive. I move through the world with positive energy, therefore I attract positive things to me.”

Yemen.

Myanmar. Photos courtesy of Jessica Nabongo. 

Armenia. Photo courtesy of Elton Anderson. 

Whether it’s borrowing cell phones in Nepal, or asking for directions in Japan, Nabongo says strangers are “always” ready to help her. “I have too many examples of the kindness of people during my travels,” she says.

With less than 20 countries remain-ing, Nabongo hopes to end her journey on October 6, 2019 in the Seychelles, on her father’s birthday to celebrate his memory.

Reflecting upon her journey, Nabongo notes that being an entrepreneur has proved a challenge, often testing her strength and dedication. Nabongo advises, “Whatever it is you are seeking, whatever it is you are creating, be careful not to quit too soon.”

8 Rules for Life, From Jessica Nabongo

  • You have one life to live.
    Don’t live it for anyone else.
  • Trust the universe. It conspires in your favor.
  • Discover what makes you happy.
    Question why it makes you happy, and find a way fo fill your life with whatever it is.
  • Be yourself, love yourself and know that you are enough.
  • Be fearless. Fear has no place in this one life we have to live.
  • Know when to move on and when to let go.
    Then move on and let go.
  • Create teaching moments and learning moments everyday.
  • Take the time to listen to each other.
    Talk to people who are nothing like you, because each
    and every one of us is living a completely different life and there is wisdom in that. 

*As of October 7th, 2019, Jessica Nabongo had reached her final goal of traveling to every country in the world, finishing her list in Seychelles.

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Exotic Getaways Closer to Home

Many travelers want to experience adventure while discovering a remote, exotic destination. But the hassle of long flights and extensive travel can often be a deterrent. For those who want to explore the world without wasting a huge chunk of time on travel, here are some exotic getaways closer to the U.S.

Want Bali?
Try Belize.

For those who want Bali’s ancient ruins, pristine jungles, tranquil seascapes and laid-back lifestyle, try Belize. Located along the tranquil Caribbean Sea, travelers will be able to experience preserved Mayan Temples, lush jungles, rainforest canopies, archaeological sites including the Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave, and the second largest barrier reef in the world and ultimate world-class destination – The Great Blue Hole. 

Photos courtesy of Belize Tourism Board

Want Ibiza?
Try Cancún.

For those who want Ibiza’s ultimate party scene and beach retreat with world-class DJs, try Cancún. Cancún has long been considered one of the top beach quick getaway vacation destinations in the world with sparkling, turquoise blue water, Ancient Mayan sites, mouthwatering cuisine and a pulsing nightlife. 

 

 

Photos courtesy of Melody Maker Cancun

Want Barcelona?
Try Mexico City.

For those who want Barcelona’s historic streets, world-class museums and mouth-watering culinary offerings, try Mexico City. Cosmopolitan and cultured, Mexico’s largest city boasts a flourishing culinary scene and a cultural renaissance with similar vibes to the Catalan capital. Explore the mysterious Teotihuacan pyramids, become immersed in Mexico city’s vibrant culture, taste local bites and visit Michoacán’s craft workshops.

 

Photos courtesy of Original Travel

Want the Galapagos Islands?
Try Kauai Island.

Known as Hawaii’s “Garden Island,” Kauai Island is filled with tropical rainforests, emerald valleys, and unbelievable mountains. Perfect for adventurists and foodies, Kauai has all the activities and restaurants that guests can ask for. Go ziplining through Kauai’s lush valleys, surf along the heavenly Hanalei Bay, or hike Waimea Canyon aka The Grand Canyon of the Pacific. 

Photo courtesy of Aqua-Aston Hospitality

Want Siquijor, Philippines?
Try Miches, Dominican Republic.

Those seeking a vacation destination with stunning waterfalls, lush palm groves, secluded beaches and Insta-famous swing sets without 24 hours of travel time can head to Miches, Dominican Republic instead of Siquijor, Philippines. 

Photos courtesy of Club Med

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Docent-Led Destinations

With the guidance of experts, travelers are able to experience more than simple sightseeing.

Spanning across Africa, Europe and The United States, these expert-led trips — curated by Architectural Adventures — blend world-class vacations with a deep appreciation for culture, history and architecture. Serving as the official travel program of The American Institute of Architects, Architectural Adventures plans each trip alongside knowledgeable architectural experts — unlocking the historical, cultural, and aesthetic significance behind the world’s most notable architecture.

©istockphoto / Daniel_Keuck

©istockphoto / TomasSereda

“In both Barcelona and Rome, we stay in the same city, and each day discover more about it. Staying in one place affords developing a more intimate look at the architecture and culture of the city.”

Sophia Gruzdys

Barcelona, Spain

Whether she’s embracing the local language, indulging in local cuisine, or exploring historic architecture, Sophia Gruzdys — an Architectural Adventures expert since 2017 — brings her own perspective to each tour she plans.

The licensed architect and educator has led tours in Barcelona and Rome, and will lead two Barcelona tours in 2019. “In both Barcelona and Rome, we stay in the same city, and each day discover more about it. Staying in one place affords developing a more intimate look at the architecture and culture of the city,” Gruzdys explains.

In Rome, travelers explore a wide range of architectural styles — including Contemporary, Fascist-style, Art Deco, and Renaissance. Meanwhile in Barcelona, travelers visit Antoni Gaudí’s iconic Sagrada Família and recently opened Casa Vicens, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s famed Bareclona Pavillion, and the modern urbanism of the @22 District. “It’s fascinating to compare the styles that emerged in our culture in different periods of history in different cities,” Gruzdys says.

Gruzdys, who encourages travelers to engage with local languages and embrace local culture, values the importance of hands-on experience. “It’s so rewarding to travel with people who are interested in the architecture — and to share their enjoyment. Each time I visit the sites, I’ll notice something new, and continue to learn from the experiences of others,” she says.

©istockphoto / TomasSereda

“I have traveled all over the world, but traveling back to San Antonio makes me more aware of its architectural history, and its many layers and textures.”

Jane Martin

San Antonio, Texas, United States

First discovered by Spanish explorers in the 1600s, San Antonio’s identity has always been strongly rooted in Mexican culture, history, art and architecture. From exploring the city’s Spanish colonial past at the Alamo and other UNESCO World Heritage Missions to cruising along the San Antonio Riverwalk, those who travel to San Antonio will be deeply immersed in local culture.

Jane Martin — architecture educator, historian and resident of San Antonio — will lead her first trip with Architectural Adventures in 2019 in her hometown. “I have traveled all over the world, but traveling back to San Antonio makes me more aware of its architectural history, and its many layers and textures,” she says. “There is a lot to see in San Antonio, and I am constantly discovering new things. There are a great variety of architectural styles — with everything from Spanish Colonial, all the way to International Modern.”

Travelers will also visit Sir David Adjaye’s cutting-edge Ruby City, the newest of the city’s world-class museums, and learn about historic Pearl Brewery, now a 22-acre complex with housing, retail and fine dining. “I hope this trip helps to bring San Antonio to the world, encourages people to sign up for the tour and enjoy the city,” Martin says.

©istockphoto / Marco_Bonfanti

Milan, Italy

From marveling at Milan Cathedral, touring Santa Maria delle Grazie (home to Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper), to visiting the UniCredit Tower, those who travel to Milan will surely learn a great deal from Architecture Adventures expert David Rifkind.

Leading a nine-day tour in 2019, the architectural history professor and practicing architect will explore the city’s range of historic architecture, as well as its recent cultural renaissance — which led to the creation of new museums, sustainable architecture, and Contemporary art exhibits. “I was surprised to learn that architects tend to be very interested in Contemporary architecture,” notes Rifkind, who also finds that non-architects tend to be more interested in historic structures.

Rifkind’s trip to Milan will bring together a unique group of travelers, consisting of both architects and non-architects from around the globe. “The dynamic of the people on the trip really does impact the experience in a really positive way,” Rifkind says. “Experiencing architecture first-hand is a unique pleasure, and alongside a group of diverse people who share your passion is truly magical. It has been rewarding to learn how travelers experience places that I thought I understood.”

While Rifkind understands the importance of an informative lecture, he also highly values hands-on learning. “It is really fascinating when a relatively small group of people experience a city together,” says Rifkind, who made unique contributions for this trip to contrast classroom learning.

“Experiencing architecture first-hand is a unique pleasure, and alongside a group of diverse people who share your passion is truly magical.”

David Rifkind

©istockphoto / Daniel_Keuck

“Although my studies will be very helpful, leading an Architectural Adventures tour will be a new experience for me. It will be very interesting to give tours to travelers who are already immersed in architecture.”

Stanley Ira
Hallet

Morocco

From volunteering in Tunisia for the Peace Corp to lecturing at the University of Kabul in Afghanistan, Architectural Adventures expert Stanley Ira Hallet’s range of cultural experiences has prepared him to lead a tour throughout Morocco in 2019.

“Although my studies will be very helpful, leading an Architectural Adventures tour will be a new experience for me. It will be very interesting to give tours to travelers who are already immersed in architecture,” says Hallet. The trip will include visits to the Hassan II Mosque, the French-designed Habous Quarter, and the Majorelle Garden (a two-and-a-half-acre botanical garden).

Whether travelers are exploring the ancient capital of Mauretania, Volubilis, visiting the medieval school of Bouanania (which was built in the 1300s), or marveling at the Sahara Desert, Hallet says they will partake in a “completely different urban experience.”

Hallet, who also has a passion for photography, hopes the trip will offer travelers a more complete story of Morocco.

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On Location: Entryway to the Sea

Upon entering Puerta Cortés — a 500-plus-acre property in La Paz, Baja California, I was immediately intrigued by its essentially untouched landscape and its proximity to the marvelous Sea of Cortez.

Puerta Cortés, is surrounded by the world’s richest body of water — home to rare sea life such as whale sharks, dolphins, grey whales, humpbacks, orcas, sea lions and more. Nearly 40 percent of the world’s sea life is represented in the Sea of Cortez, making it a prime destination for snorkeling, scuba diving, and sea life exploration.

With seven marinas, Puerta Cortés demanded that I spent a day out on the water to discover Isla Espiritu Santo, swim with whale sharks, and explore sea lions habitats. I followed my day-long boating excursion with an ocean-view dinner as the sun set on the water.

Vista Mar

El Cortés Golf Club

Only two hours from Cabo San Lucas, La Paz offers an experience that heavily contrasts the bustle of a major city. Downtown La Paz offers an authentic Mexican city experience, while Puerta Cortés exudes an unparalleled feeling of privacy, serenity and comfort.

“I love the fact that even though you are in the city, you have this feeling that you are not really in a city,” says President of Ascendancy Antonio Davila, who admires the small town feel of La Paz.

El Cortés Golf Club, boasting sweeping views of the Sea of Cortez from 17 of its 18 holes, is accompanied by a cliffside Clubhouse with views unlike any other. The perfect destination for a Mexican-style breakfast, the Clubhouse evokes a peaceful atmosphere — complete with a calming morning breeze coming off the sea, views of the course’s lush greenery and the crystal blue Sea of Cortez, and an assortment of growing cacti to complete the mountainous desert landscape.

Las Colinas

After spending a morning at the golf course, I headed to Blue Cortés — the signature beach club at Puerta Cortés — to enjoy an afternoon soaking in the sun, relaxing in the infinity pool, and indulging in fine international cuisine while poolside. 

Located only two hours from Cabo San Lucas, La Paz offers an experience that heavily contrasts the bustle of a major city. Downtown La Paz offers an authentic Mexican city experience, while Puerta Cortés exudes an unparalleled feeling of privacy, serenity and comfort.

“I love the fact that even though you are in the city, you have this feeling that you are not really in a city,” says President of Ascendancy Antonio Davila, who admires the authentic, comfortable and small town feel of La Paz. 

When Davila visited the property with his wife six years ago, he immediately fell in love with the serene landscape of La Paz. 

“My wife and I were amazed by the fact that La Paz wasn’t better known, because we just found it to be the most beautiful place we’d ever seen,” he says. “I was mesmerized by its beauty, spectacular scenery and extraordinary amenities.”

Last year, Ascendancy — a Mexican-based family office and asset management firm — purchased the property and launched a $5 million renovation, which should be complete within the next 12 to 18 months. 

Currently the property offers two residential options — Las Colinas and Vista Mar, and Ascendancy is negotiating the construction of two, five-star hotels. The property will also soon sell cliffside, ocean-view lots. Other upgrades will include additional restaurants, an expanded on-site market, and a complete face lift for the beachfront.

“Puerta Cortés is an exclusive hideaway for those seeking unparalleled, coastal living and adventure in one of the most privileged locations in the world. I have met so many well-traveled visitors and residents who have seen and experienced some of the most incredible destinations in the world and have decided Puerta Cortés is where they want to be,” Davila says. 

The biggest draw of Puerta Cortes “to me is the gateway to the Sea of Cortez, its beautiful colors and wonderful sea life.” Davila says his favorite thing about living in La Paz is “being about to go out on the water with my family and experience all of the beautiful sea life. I love the quality of life that my family gets living here.”

Photos courtesy Puerta Cortés

This editorial appeared in the Unique Homes Ultimate ’19 Issue.

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Embrace Warm Tones

Whether it’s in the form of art displayed on the wall or accents situated on furniture, incorporating warm tones in your home will make it feel calm and cozy. 

Warm tones typically consist of reds, oranges, yellows, browns, and tans. 2019 has been all about being in touch with nature, and these earthy tones keep that trend going. Whether you opt for deep forest browns and berry-red, or desert-inspired terracotta and sand, there are so many ways to make your house feel more like a home.

We are proving just how versatile warm tones can be. You can arrange diverse color palettes to create almost any atmosphere, from bright and lively, to tranquil and welcoming. Here are some looks to explore. 

Photo courtesy of Modish Living

Rustic Style 

Using nature-inspired textures and earthy colors, a rustic feel emphasizes natural beauty. Layer autumnal oranges, browns, reds and creams to create a rustic feel in your home.

A Bold Statement 

Use bolder warm colors, such as bright yellows, oranges and reds, to create a bright and lively space. This Tumeric-colored soft bean bag ottoman forms the perfect bold centerpiece for a group of bean bag chairs.

Photos courtesy of Lujo

Photo courtesy of Viadurini Collezione Notte

A Mix of Warm & Cool

Add a single warm accessory to balance cool neutrals (whites and grays). For example, add a soft brown comforter with natural green accents to an all-white room to keep your space fresh, yet authentic. 

Inspired by Nature 

For a nature-inspired look, incorporate wood-inspired colors. “Wood furniture and surfaces support warm color palettes. To keep the look from going cabin, limit the use of actual wood and incorporate wood-inspired colors,” according to Better Homes & Gardens.

 

Photo courtesy of Essential Home

Photo courtesy of TOM TAILOR

Retro-Inspired

Warm tones can liven up any style, even a retro-inspired interior. Add a pop of bright orange or red to further your look. 

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With Bundles of Joy

Lauren Behfarin saw a need for sophisticated design geared toward growing families.

Arriving home from the hospital with your newborn for the first time, rocking your infant child back to sleep, reading a book with your talkative toddler — a nursery will become the setting for endless, lasting memories as your child grows.

From falling in love with their first smile to cheering along their first steps, parents will inevitability spend many heartwarming hours in their child’s nursery — which means the space should bring joy to both parents and children for years to come.

Designing the perfect nursery may seem intimidating, but luckily this interior designer understands the importance of creating a space filled with love, care and joy.

Five years ago, Lauren Behfarin designed her daughter’s nursery in preparation for her first child’s arrival. She quickly discovered a gap in family-friendly design, and created Lauren Behfarin Design. “Once I had a family, I wanted to do more work geared toward children and younger families,” says Behfarin, who previously worked for Drew McGukin Interiors.

With a growing clientele, the trendy NYC-based interior design firm now designs spaces for new parents and growing families that are vibrant and sophisticated yet comfortable and livable. Understanding the emotion and love that goes into each space created for a child, Behfarin has found that “nurseries and children’s spaces often become an extension of a home.”

Although she designs a range of spaces, Behfarin’s favorite projects are always nurseries for first-time parents. “Nurseries are always so fun, and so full of hope, life and excitement. It is such a special time to watch new mothers experience pregnancy and for parents to experience a baby for the first time. We are always honored when families include us in that time,” says Behfarin, who works alongside her associate, Abby Gruman.

As a parent of two, Behfarin values convenience and function. After designing a nursery, first-time parents may soon realize that a makeover is required less than two years later. In order to keep the transition as simple as possible, Behfarin tries to “anticipate the next steps of a child’s life” with her designs.

Using various patterns, textures and bold colors, the team is sure to incorporate fun elements that feel young while also considering the next five or 10 years of a child’s life. “As I experience these phases with my own children, I am really learning what works and what does not work long-term in a space. We are learning what elements transition with your child and which do not,” Behfarin says.

Born and raised in Manhattan, Behfarin also understands the need for storage in a compact apartment. Utilizing items such as cribs that turn into toddler beds or bunk beds that double as two twins beds, Behfarin “makes sure that clients have the best items for their children to grow.”

Whether it’s furniture that won’t cause injuries to a newborn or toys that won’t grow tiresome, first-time parents often look to Behfarin and her team for more than simple design tips.

“They’re looking for great design, but they are also looking for advice. We take relationships to heart when we have clients who are experiencing this for the first time,” Behfarin says. “I am here to guide, push and challenge clients, but I always deliver something that they love.” 

How to Design the Perfect Nursery

Accent Walls — “There is always an accent wall, whether it’s a really cool decal, cool paint color or interesting wallpaper,” Behfarin says. “There should always be a fun backdrop to one of the walls in a nursery, and it’s usually the one with the crib.”

Minimal Themes — Cautious to not take a theme too far, Behfarin always suggests incorporating components from a theme, such as accent pieces or different colors. “There are ways to bring in a theme that are not too thematic,” she notes.

Neutral Colors — “There has been a shift toward gender neutral colors, such as grays, creams and whites,” Behfarin says. “People are prioritizing style. The standard pink and baby blue are not popular right now, and I think it is because style, form and function are so big in the city right now.”

Acrylics — This year, Behfarin is seeing a lot acrylics. “Homeowners are loving acrylic cribs with acrylic bars, or chairs with acrylic legs,” she explains. “Acrylic accents have shown up a more recently, I think as way to make a nursery modern.”

Organized Spaces — Whether it is a bunk bed with shelves, a coffee table with compartments or an ottoman with storage inside, Behfarin appreciates and understands the fluidity of space. “Homeowners are constantly reimagining how their space is being used,” she explains. “The hustle and bustle of the city has caused us to pay attention to creative and innovate ways to save space.”

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