Author Archives: eliotaola

About eliotaola

Actress, writer, traveler, blogger.

U by Uniworld, Cruising for a Younger Crowd

I haven’t been on a cruise ship in years. I always enjoyed them but I have found to prefer local discovery, while enjoying great accommodations and locally-inspired food. I like to feel as if I am part of the city I’m visiting, instead of an outsider looking in. Even though cruising can be incredibly fun, the journey was more about the cruise than the spots we were visiting. Oh, and anyone my age was definitely in the minority.

A few days ago, I stumbled upon the name U by Uniworld. You guessed it, it’s a cruise. A river cruise to be exact. I have never taken a river cruise, nor have I even thought about it. Which is exactly why these two 120 passenger ships exist: to bring in an audience strictly from the ages of 21 to 45 (sorry mom!).*

I needed to know more, so I went on a binge of information; on which I found that the two ships are respectively named A and B. Beautiful and original right? I think it’s charming, in a way. The A travels through central Europe, visiting cities like Amsterdam, Budapest, and Cologne. The B, with a sleek black exterior, offers a Parisian experience, exploring the Seine – perfect for a foodie.

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What. A. View. 😍 #TravelforU 📷: @bystephwu

A post shared by U River Cruises (@u_rivercruises) on

Other than the fact that only a certain age group can get onboard, the main difference I have found, one which appeals to me the most: the local experience. The ship takes you through major and trendy cities, and lets you explore like a local. Nights out clubbing in the city are included. What? Yes, that hasn’t happened in any ship I have boarded before.

Let’s not forget about the fact that apparently, if you are a foodie, you will be very happy with the food onboard. Given that each meal is uniquely inspired by the places the ships are sailing through. I am sold. I am sold. I am sold. Oh yeah, and there are rooftop yoga classes, and mixology classes on board. I am sold again.

U by Uniworld opens with its first public trip this April 2018. So there is still time to be one of the first passengers. I wish I could go this year! Maybe next, but it’s definitely on my bucket list. I am all for river cruising now.

Cheers!

Elizabeth

Would love to know what you think! Leave me a comment below or contact me!

*Since writing this article, the company has removed the age restriction

Airbnb’s Growing Pains and Luxury Travel

It seems like Airbnb is growing up, just like brands usually do… or, well, people.

My parents like to travel in style. They prefer to stay in hotels where all their needs will be met. They will most definitely not stay in a stranger’s home. Luxury hotels are usually a preferred choice. Who can blame them? On the other hand, I – aka their millennial daughter – don’t mind other accommodations as long as they allow me to stay in the city I want to visit.

There is a little caveat to that; if I can stay in a luxury accommodation, I most certainly will. I love a good hotel! And even though I have thought about it plenty of times, I have actually never stayed in an Airbnb. For someone who loves to travel so much, sometimes I can’t even believe I haven’t tried it yet.

It shouldn’t surprise you though, because apparently, most millennials will rather stay in a hotel as well; with Airbnb being an option after exhausting the possibility of a full-service hotel or staying with family. In fact, only 23% of millennials polled in a study by Resonance Consultancy said they prefer staying in an apartment/condo short-term rental.

Airbnb wants to shed the idea that they mainly cater to couch-traveling solos (which is definitely an exciting way of traveling, but not for everyone). Now they want to appeal to market niches like family vacation and business travelers. They are expanding into the luxury space with Beyond Airbnb and Airbnb Plus. They are growing up essentially. I understand. I am also beginning to crave traveling mostly in luxury, just like many people my age.

Photo by Chevanon

Will that mean a change for Airbnb? Will their brand and what they represent change? Perhaps. Their goal is to become a one-stop-shop for travel (including booking airfare). They have a long way to go though, most luxury travel agents still don’t trust booking their clients on Airbnb, even their luxury properties. It’s a bit of an uphill battle but they will have to prove themselves, let’s see how this goes.

What do you think of Airbnb? I would love to know. Comment below or contact me!

Documentary Review: “A World Not Ours”

“The old will die and the young will forget”

These are the words attributed to Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. He was referring to Palestinian refugees and assuring his fellow Zionists that Palestinians would never try to return to their homes.

In the documentary film “A World Not Ours,” filmmaker Mahdi Fleifel shows us that this statement is certainly untrue. The young Palestinians are now old refugees and they still hold on to the idea that Palestine will once again be their home. The young Palestinians however, are trapped in a sort of limbo. Being stateless is their lifestyle, and they only become nationals of a country when the FIFA World cup comes around every four years.

Fleifel’s film is sentimental and takes a very different approach to documenting the refugee crisis. A very personal approach given that some of his own family is still trapped within one kilometer of Ain el-Hilweh; the refugee camp home to over 70 thousand people in the south of Lebanon.

Ain el-Hilweh, Palestinian refugee camp housing over 70 thousand refugees

“To me, going to Ain el-Hilweh was better than going to Disneyland” remarks Fleifel in a voice-over. He says that it took him years to realize that the people in the camp were not there by choice. Through old home footage of children playing football in the streets, and celebrating the FIFA World Cup, he outlines his skewed childhood views and contrasts them with footage of the Palestine-Israeli conflict and the disillusionment of those who are trapped at the camp.

He interviews his friends, uncle, and grandfather, which in turn humanizes the faceless statistics about the plight of the refugees. His friend Abu-Eyad puts our everyday conflict into perspective, when he remarks that he would like to “go on a mission’ and blow himself up, because he sees no future for himself – trapped in a place where his everyday life has absolutely no meaning.

Abu-Eyad in his home, in Ain el-Hilweh

“Palestinians really fucked us over, I wish Israel would just massacre us all…” says Abu-Eyad while contemplating his future.

This film was filled with contrasts. The music was upbeat, yet the feeling inside the camp was one of helplessness. Is this how human life should work? They belong to no state so they are not allowed to live a fruitful life? The immediate answer should be no. That is not however, how thousands upon thousands of refugees view their life. Just like Abu-Eyad, they see no future, and they see no meaning.

You can watch the trailer here. Also, don’t hesitate to comment, or contact me to let me know what you think!

Is Food an Anchor, or a mode of Transportation?

As I mentioned in a previous post, Millennials are the most global generation in history thus far. Many of us live far away from where we were born, many of us have an insatiable hunger to get to know the world that surrounds us; and for the times we can’t physically travel to a location, there is something we can use in order to take an instantaneous journey: food.

As I’m sure travelers from all generations will agree, food can be perennial to a location or a particular culture, it really doesn’t matter where one takes that bite; you can instantly be transported to wherever you associate the meal to be from originally. There is nothing quite like food to get your senses to transport your mind to another culture, or place. Especially if taken the time to enjoy and flavor Every. Single. Bite.

Close your eyes and have a slice of the best pizza in town. Let your imagination transport you to the streets of Naples. Overlook the navy blue water at the Mare Lungo while you are there. Have a bite of crepe with a touch of sugar and a cafe au lait; and imagine yourself in a street side cafe in Paris, just about to go for a walk in the Champs-Élysées.

Just as it can transport you, food can also be a delicious reminder of your roots. An anchor in the best sense of the word.

My anchor keeps me from straying too far from my home. An anchor that with every bite, reminds me of a simpler and more carefree time where I would jump out of bed to run to the breakfast table to have a meal with my family.

My anchor is the arepa, what Venezuelans call home; and with every bite, no matter my location, I suddenly find myself back in Caracas, having breakfast, overlooking the hills of the Avila mountain, and feeling that warm caribbean breeze.

What food transports you to a different place? Would love to know! Comment below, or contact me!

Cheers,

Millennials, Boomers, and Luxury Travel

For as long as I can remember, my generation – generically referred to as “Millennials”- have been at odds with my father’s generation; the Baby-Boomers (my mom is actually Gen X). As Millennials, we are called entitled, lazy, self-absorbed, blah, blah blah…

The truth is, every generation is criticized in some way, shape, or form; and we all have our own hurdles to get through. The thing is, the Boomer generation and Millennials actually have one big thing in common: desire to experience and travel.

As of now, there has been a shift of focus coming from major travel brands. They are taking attention away from my dad’s generation, and focusing on us: Millennials.

There is a simple reason for this: my generation is the most global and hyper-connected in history. Wecrave experiences. We prioritize “experiential affluence.” Now, I know that this is not true for everyone but it is a major shift on how the world has operated thus far.

But guess what? We inherited this immense curiosity of the world through our parents: the Baby-Boomers. Surprised? I would be, if it wasn’t for the fact that I acquired my hunger for travel through my dad’s desire to turn us into a nomadic family at least twice a year. So far, I have visited 20+ countries, and that’s a smaller number than some of my peers. The truth is, Boomers, compared to older generations, are more self-empowered and individualistic.

As Millennials, we are more time constrained than many Baby-Boomers who have gotten to the point in their lives of time affluence. At least in the US, people who are over 50 have 70% of the country’s disposable income. They are also a lot more experienced and sophisticated buyers. And because they know they are running out of time to try new things, they have an increasing appetite for experience. Millennials, we are time constrained, yes, but we are also time expansive. Primary reason luxury travel brands are now turning to us. We have a whole lot of time ahead of us.

Why does this relate to luxury travel?

Well, as I mentioned, Boomers are wealthy and time affluent. Travel brands should not be taking their attention away from this generation. At the same time, Millennials, even though some more willing to stay in youth hostels, are also interested in traveling in style. Plenty of them will forgo owning a home for being able to freely move through the world. In fact, only in the United States, there are 5 million millionaire Millennials (try saying that 5 times fast), that is 1 million more millionaires than Gen X. And that number is only bound to keep growing as Millennials get older. What do you think they will spend their money on? Safety? Or experiences? I would bet on the latter.

The thing is, the old ways of travel advising need to change. It’s happening with companies like Airbnb that now provide the option of purchasing an “experience.” But we no longer want a travel agent to book a ticket for us. We can do that ourselves. We want a personalized experiences, and agencies who know how to make that happen. Otherwise, we’ll figure it out ourselves – we also happen to be the DIY generation (we can learn almost anything through the internet). Boomers, though not necessarily inclined to turn to Youtube to learn new skills, are also fiercely looking for new experiences and ways to grow. Some of them also want a personalized experience. I have gone on plenty of trips that our family’s travel agency planned for us. My parents stick with them because they cater to their tastes and needs. As millennials we are more connected to social media, and we turn to our peers to imagine our dream travel destination and journey, but in truth, it might be time for a business to provide us with some “dream advisors.”

We want to engage with the brands, we want to see the humanity behind them. We know how to find CityGuides and the best rated restaurant on Yelp. We don’t want a travel guide. If travel brands can figure out a way to connect with us in a more personal level. You got us.

Thoughts? Questions? Emojis? I would love to hear your thoughts! Don’t hesitate to comment below, or even contact me!

Cheers!