Thursday, June 21, 2012

Westglow Resort and Spa

Westglow Resort and Spa made such an impression on me, I couldn't help but make it my next Examiner piece.  Escape the summer heat with a trip to the mountains as I did last weekend.  What better way to do it than while being pampered with a day of beauty?

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Monday, June 18, 2012

A Vacation that is Out of this World via The Examiner

The first installment of publications as Raleigh Travel Examiner.  Enjoy!

For many of us, imagining the most exotic destinations would include experiences like tasting street food in India, strolling down the historic streets of Rome, lounging on a beach in Fiji, or even trekking through the frozen tundra of Siberia.  But there a is new, scantly charted frontier that a select few are lining up for, and it’s only around 60 miles away (that’s less than the distance from Raleigh to Greensboro!)

Thanks to Richard Branson, billionaire adventurer and founder of the Virgin empire, and other likeminded entrepreneurs, there is a new option for those who have seen it all.  For a cool $200,000, folks now have the option to blast off in a bona fide rocket and exit the Earth’s atmosphere.  Passengers will be able to experience the ultimate thrill of being launched into space, enjoy the sensation of weightlessness, and be afforded a unique opportunity to peer down at island Earth.  But according to experts, these three tangible value points don’t come close to comparing to the core benefit of one of these trips.

Beyond intergalactic discoveries, zero gravity, and moon walks, there is an underlying mental, emotional, and even spiritual sensation that astronauts experience as they exit Earth and witness our globe from outer space.  What experts call, the Overview Effect, is a powerful sensation of instantly changed perspective that those who have undergone space travel consider to be one of the most moving experiences of their lives.  According to the select few who have ventured into outer space, there is a sudden awareness that the world is merely a fragile blue ball of life, surrounded by a thin layer of atmospheric protection.   “On my four space shuttle flights I struggled constantly to make sense of an avalanche of new sensations and perceptions,” explains four time space pilot, Thomas Jones.

Critics argue that with so many problems occurring here on Earth today, why invest the time, technology, and money on the likes of space tourism?  The response is that this Overview Effect has great philanthropic and humanitarian impactful.  Actually seeing the biosphere from an outsider’s perspective is the only way to witness how delicate the sliver of atmosphere around our planet truly is. Suddenly, individuals realize we all reside on the same landmass, creating an overwhelming sense of oneness with the entire world and a dramatically increased environmental and social consciousness.   As former space tourist Richard Garriot puts it, “Going to space is a phenomenal, life changing experience…  If we can get 10% of people into space, society would be different.”

For now, making the two hour journey above the clouds is reserved for those with hefty bank accounts and a burning desire to see what lies beyond.  Branson’s mission, however, is to pump as much of the profits back into the project as he can to create more “space ports” (airports for launches, with the flagship currently located in New Mexico) and reduce the price of a ticket significantly.  He hopes that within a decade the price of one of these thrilling rides will cost around what you would pay for a used car.  Travel agencies throughout the world are already booking tickets, including Maupin Travel, located right here in Raleigh.  And if it is not price but safety holding off potential buyers, this billionaire visionary will be on the first flight out with his two children and elderly mother, proving that this is one adventure he is completely comfortable with.

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