As I’ve thought about where I want to go next year and listened to travelers explain what they are seeking in a trip, I have noticed a trend. At first I thought it could be dubbed anticrowding: the desire to go away from the buzz of the new, the whirl of the groups. But then I realized that it is more than that. What I want, and what I think others are beginning to recognize as the ultimate luxury, is an experience that delivers true isolation.
On a recent trip to Morocco, starting in Marrakech and ending in Fez, I got a taste of this new quiet indulgence, and it made me crave more of it. Marrakech is a city full of new energy and old friends, where I can go from browsing at my favorite jeweler in a courtyard on the second floor in the souk to meeting a friend for lunch at the new expat hangout. Even after four frantic days of nonstop exploring, I never feel that I have enough time to see everything new or hit the stops that I have long loved. That may be why I go back every year. But this time, after my days in Marrakech, I headed south over the High Atlas Mountains via the Tichka Pass to Skoura oasis. Friends and members had raved about a small Relais & Chateaux hotel tucked into the palm groves in the desert, and I decided to make the five-hour trek to try it. The casbah-turned-hotel did not disappoint, offering acres of gardens; exquisite rooms, each decorated differently; a lovely spa; and the best food I’ve eaten in Morocco.
On the first afternoon, I set out into the palm groves with a local guide. We visited Berber potters and the dramatic 17th-century casbah, whose architecture is so iconic that it appears on the fifty-dirham note. At dusk we drove in a 4x4 into the desert that surrounds the green oasis. We stopped on a high rocky dune to watch the sunset beside a small coal fire over which Moroccan mint tea was brewing. We were miles away from other people, with no cell service, only the sound of the wind, having nothing to do but watch the moon rise behind us and the sun set before us, to feel the ground beneath us and the vastness above. There were no distractions from the beauty of the moment, and I realized that that is exactly what I would like more of—for myself, for my family, for my friends and my fellow travelers. It is so hard not to be distracted today by technology and the frenetic pace of our life that the ultimate luxury is having time to focus and appreciate fully the place where you are or the people you are with. Being in a truly isolated place allows you to do all that in a particularly pure way.
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