Full of breathtaking destinations and photos that make you drool, but unfortunately somewhat short of substance – “Once in a Lifetime, Travel and Leisure Redefined”, published by Gestalten, delivers against the first part of the title but lacks imagination to really redefine travel and leisure. Let’s start with the good part: the book depicts some of the most fantastic places across the planet and if money were no issue, we would love to visit them all!

Rather than taking a geographic or a thematic approach, the five chapters of the publication cover different motivations or sentiments around travel: the first chapter, Eyes wide open focusses on places that merge into the extraordinary environment they are built in: a hotel in the Norwegian woods, a chalet in the Swiss mountains or bungalow in Indonesia, hidden in a 400 km long coastline part of a natural conservation area. The second chapter introduces hotels that will help you find Peace of Mind. More amazing bungalows, chalets, luxury tents and the occasional igloo. Chapter three is called Getting Wiser and talks about how travel can open your horizons and learn you to appreciate the unknown. Apart from the Metropol Parasol in Seville by Jürgen Mayer and the Folly for a Flyover in Hackney Wick, we couldn’t really see how the rest of the locations lived up to the claim of making you wiser.

Chapter four, titled On the Move, shows some of the most impressive venues in the book. Don’t expect just interpretations of the Orient Expresses or the QE2, here the editor did an amazing job in finding the extraordinary! Our two favorites: the Trollstigen Plateau offers stunning views on the rough Nordic nature, while Tubohotel in Mexico let its guests stay in recycled concrete pipes. And the book finishes off in beauty with a chapter dedicated to The Grand Hotel. Here you get the contemporary interpretation of the magnificent hotels of the past.

The texts get sometimes a bit prosaic. The writer likes to reference other famous writers and thinkers, and this comes across as a bit of a show-off thing. But what is more disappointing, is that the concept of “once in a lifetime” stays very underdeveloped. Especially in today’s world where the “experience” is glorified – and where a whole economy tries to capitalize on the urge of postmodern trendsetters who hunt after experiences in a similar fashion previous generations hunted after status – this publication could have done more. It shows hotels as destinations, links them with the emotion that you can expect when staying there, but it doesn’t link them to the social status that people are looking for, when going on such holidays. There is so much more cultural meaning in “once in a lifetime” (or YOLO as the Instagram generation tend to call those moments) that it feels a missed opportunity to reduce this travel concept to a list of wonderful destinations with a high ticket price.

We would have also appreciated a bit more of practical information: indication of prices and a URL with each article (there is a list with urls, but only in the end of the book) and maybe a world map indicating the locations.

Once in a Lifetime could have definitely done more but it is nevertheless a great source to dream away with on a rainy afternoon or a cold winter evening. Available in all major bookstores or online.

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