Elegance is outdated

by Brian Jewell 23. September 2013 21:48

I rarely use this column as a soapbox, but one particular element of traditional travel has been getting under my skin lately. So I hope you’ll indulge me for a few minutes while I make my case for this idea: “Elegance” is outdated.

You may not realize how prevalent the idea of elegance is in tourism. But when you begin to notice it, you’ll discover that it’s everywhere. Many resorts, cruise lines, restaurants and other tourism companies use their atmosphere of “casual elegance” as a selling point. Many of the best international airlines — those that fly to destinations in the Pacific or the Middle East — use television commercials to brag about the elegant experience their passengers will have if they fly in first class.

Elegance isn’t a bad thing. But I question whether it is still relevant in the world of travel and tourism. When I read that I’m going to be participating in a swanky event or visiting an establishment that has a dress code of casual elegance, I feel frustrated, not excited. When you say “elegant,” I hear “stuffy.” What is so fun about that?

I realize that elegance was once part and parcel of the travel experience. I’ve heard plenty of people talk about the “good ole days” of air travel, when everyone wore their Sunday best to board a plane. Films like “Titanic” can paint enticing portraits of sea travel in the Gilded Age, when passengers dressed in black tie to attend elaborate dinner galas onboard. These romantic images seem to appeal to people. But they’re not realistic.

When we think about the good ole days of elegance in travel, we often forget that the only people who could afford to fly across the country or sail around the world were people of extraordinary financial means. Travel had to be elegant because it was also very expensive, the domain of rich people. And in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the wealthy lived a life of rigid opulence that would make most of us uncomfortable today. If you’ve ever seen an episode of “Downton Abbey” and squirmed at the thought of wearing those period clothes to dinner, you know what I’m talking about.

Today, we’re a world away from the elegant age of travel. Flying, cruising and vacationing at resorts are popular among the American middle class and working class. We use hard-earned money and scarce vacation time to take these trips. The last thing we want to do is dress up like we’re going to work.

If you think about it, the trends in travel today are moving in the opposite direction of elegance. Many travelers don’t get excited about going to fancy restaurants — instead, they’re turned on by great local gastropubs and barbecue joints. We hear over and over that people are looking for experiences that are more authentic. And authentic life is rarely elegant.

In my opinion, the tradition of elegance in travel is a holdover from a generation that is quickly aging out of the market. Baby boomers are notoriously independent, and their children are known to wear jeans to even the most formal events. Requiring travelers from either of these generations to dress up for nightly dinners is no way to attract them to travel.

After all, it’s their vacation, and they’ve paid for it. Why should they let someone else tell them what to wear?

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Travel Thoughts

My "Thumbs Up" Nominees

by Bob Hoelscher 19. September 2013 20:36

Bear Stew, McCleary, WA Bear Festival

Last month I complained about there being so many cruise and travel industry awards being given these days that it is virtually impossible to determine who or what is really the “best.”  However, I also commented that there are certainly companies and places out there that are indeed worthy of accolades, so following are several of these which have come to my attention during my travels over the past couple of years.  Please be aware that this in no way intended to be anything resembling a “Top 10” list!   


GREENVILLE, SC – Extraordinarily attractive, intelligently-planned downtown area

LAS VEGAS McCARRAN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – Exceptionally efficient and friendly TSA staff

SUBWAY – Amazingly consistent (and tasty) products at stores worldwide 

NORTH DAKOTA – Excellent interstate highway rest areas

CONGAREE NATIONAL PARK, SC – Fascinating natural environment in a national park few travelers have ever even heard of

GRAND PORTAGE NATIONAL MONUMENT, MN – Incredible living history presentations in an equally obscure national monument

VIKING CRUISES – Innovative new ocean-going cruise line

MICHIGAN - Countless well-maintained roadside parks throughout the state

WALGREENS – Outstanding, very effective customer service program

CLAUDE MOORE COLONIAL FARM, VA – Wonderful colonial fairs…spring, summer and fall

FLIGHT 93 NATIONAL MEMORIAL, PA – Beautiful landscaping design

McCLEARY, WA BEAR FESTIVAL – Unusual (and delicious) featured food item…bear stew!

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Travel Thoughts

Scenic Lighthouses Part Two

by Bob Hoelscher 19. September 2013 20:28

As promised last month, here is the second installment of particularly attractive lighthouses that I have encountered during the past few years.

Photos #1 and #2:  Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, MN – 1910 – 54 feet in height  

Cape Meares Light, Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint, OR – 1890 – 38 feet in height

South Manitou Island Lighthouse, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, MI – 1871-72 – 65 feet in height  

Nauset Light, Cape Cod National Seashore, Eastham, MA – 1877 – 48 feet in height

Raspberry Island Lighthouse, Apostle Islands National Seashore, WI – 1863 – 43 feet in height

Admiralty Head Lighthouse, Whidbey Island, WA – 1903 – 30 feet in height

Grand Island East Channel Light, Grand Island National Recreation Area, MI – 1868 - 45 feet in height


Grand Traverse Light, Leelanau State Park, MI – 1858 – 41 feet in height

Brant Point Light, Nantucket Harbor, MA – 1901 – 26 feet in height

 Rock of Ages Light, Isle Royale National Park, MI – 1908-10 – 117 feet in height

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