Change Your View: Inside Robb Report’s May Design and Travel Issue

Welcome to an issue where we’ve done something new, combining two of my favorite subjects: travel and design. While they may seem uncommon bedfellows, they’re joined by more than separates them. Done well, both can take you out of the moment and transport you somewhere entirely different (figuratively, and also literally). At their best, they offer a new way of seeing, changing how you look at something, sometimes forever—whether that’s a dinner under the stars on a secluded beach that sparks romance or the first time you set eyes on the lines of a Bugatti 57SC Atlantic Coupe and realize that not everything modern is necessarily an improvement upon what came before.

A recent book, Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life, examines our relationship to that intangible, often overwhelming, emotion we’re filled with when witnessing something extraordinary or beyond our comprehension. In our Field Notes column, writer James Stewart notes that, according to author Dacher Keltner, “awe silences our narcissistic egos. It makes us look beyond ourselves to ask big questions about existence and the universe, maybe to seek answers, whether spiritual or scientific.”

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Travel can do that. And, I’d argue, so too can design. One story that combines the two is our feature on the luxury trains that ensure the journey is as memorable as the destination. The beauty of rail travel is that speed is not the goal: There will always be quicker ways of getting from A to B. What we’re looking at here are experiences that will stay with you. By offering a five-star hotel suite on wheels, designed to evoke the glamour and sophistication of a bygone era, be that Art Deco or Belle Epoque, train companies such as Belmond and Accor have tapped into the mood of the moment, bringing a sense of celebration to your passage between some of Europe’s most elegant cities.

Indeed, luxury tourism is booming. Elite travel operators tell us of demands from clients wanting to go further and deeper, immersing themselves in unique adventures. The usual high-end but predictable destinations no longer suffice. Which is why, in these pages, you can read about a 17-day expedition to the North Pole, now offered by a ship that combines all the indulgences imaginable with ice-breaking robustness—“It’s the poster child of future tech,” enthuses Michael Verdon, our marine and aviation editor, who was on board one of the first voyages.

And there’s Mozambique’s sprawling Gorongosa National Park, which encompasses more than 1,500 square miles at the bottom of the Great Rift Valley. It was largely devastated by the 16-year-long civil war that killed a million people and destroyed so much of the wildlife population—but it has now been reborn as a magical safari destination thanks to $100 million from a deep-pocketed benefactor who fell in love with the country nearly 20 years ago. Read our exclusive interview with him at the link here.

One of the most intriguing design trends to emerge in real estate over the past few years is the rise of the branded residence. Admittedly the first was way back in 1927, so we’re not claiming to have uncovered a phenomenon here. But what’s certain is that the appetite for plug-and-play turnkey homes is surging, up 150 percent in the past decade by some estimates, and as the pandemic has waned, the thought of buying into an aesthetic delivered by your favorite fashion or jewelry designer, car marque, or hotel chain seems to have struck a chord.

Why? Status, perhaps. These properties are viewed as a “trophy purchase” by many. Investment, quite probably. They provide, theoretically at least, an assurance of quality and discernment. They also offer a playground where every possible amenity can be found under one roof. And when purchased as a second, or third, residence, as is often the case, they allow for a personal immersion into a different and rarefied realm—a design vacation, if you will. Perhaps that’s the best of both worlds.

Enjoy the issue.

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