Travel and Leisure – April, 2003

The Deprivation Vacation

There’s a wave of travelers who are making do with less?deserted islands, silent retreats, anti-smoking cruises. Has abstinence become the new indulgence? -By Erik Torkells


“It doesn’t get much more real than that, unless you do it in Africa. In addition to high-end safaris, the Colorado-based outfitter Explore Inc. has started specializing in edgier experiences?such as a $9,000 trip to Niger that owner Cherri Briggs calls “seriously minimal and very hard.” This can mean lying in a camel trough to cool down in 140-degree heat or finding a spring to do your own laundry. “If you went in a more luxurious way, you wouldn’t be able to interact with the locals properly,” says Michael Fitzgerald, a serial entrepreneur who’s taking his 14-year-old nephew on the trip. And interact with the Tuareg people they will: Explore not only hires native guides, but also has them organize a festival with hundreds of tribe members. The safari-goers will be sleeping in nomadic tents.

“Depriving yourself is a perfect anti-materialist, anti-affluence gesture,” says David Brooks, who tracked the lifestyle of “Bourgeois Bohemians” in his book Bobos in Paradise. “People like to vacation among those who have the lives they’re too ambitious to lead themselves. Whether it’s Tuscan peasants who know their mushrooms or back-to-nature ranch hands at dude ranches, they seem to be leading honest, simple, more virtuous lives?not that any of us would actually want to live that way.”