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1 & 2. Conquer your fear of heights

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Via Ferrata
Mt. Norquay, Banff National Park

Ever since Canada's national railway pushed through the Rockies in the late 1800s, intrepid travellers have flocked to Banff National Park to conquer, or at least dream of conquering, its peaks. But what if you're scared to look down from your ladder while changing a light bulb? Fear no more – Banff has a new Via Ferrata ("iron road" in Italian) that will have you safely reaching for new heights in only two hours (the Explorer Route) or four (the Ridgewalker Route). More often found in Europe, this type of mountainside trail combines hiking and climbing up metal rungs, and requires no prior training, so even a newbie can feel like a mountaineer. Kitted out with a climbing harness, a helmet and instructions from your alpine guide, clip onto a metal wire thicker than your thumb that runs along and up the side of the mountain. Before you know it, you're scaling across sheer limestone faces and up buttresses that seem to hover over the town of Banff far below. And when you stand close to the summit, looking out over the iconic Mt. Rundle to the south, you might just realize that climbing a mountain on this route is a little like climbing a molehill.
Discover Banff Tours, 877-565-9372,

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Glacier Skywalk
Jasper National Park

January 2015 Resolutions

Photo: Brewster Travel Canada (Glacier Skywalk)

People with restricted mobility, or those who simply can't trick their neurons into believing that Via Ferrata is a good idea, can still get the thrill of floating above ground on the Glacier Skywalk. After a ridiculously gorgeous drive along the Icefields Parkway from Banff to the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper, take a deep breath and step onto the glass-floored cantilever that juts out from the mountainside above Sunwapta Valley, 280 metres below. Don't forget to lean forward and look past your shoes, or you might miss a band of mountain goats passing right under your feet.
Brewster Travel Canada, 866-606-6700,

3 & 4. Teach your kids something new (without having to do it yourself)

You're fond of your kids. Presumably, they're fond of you. And since they say absence makes the heart grow fonder, here are a couple of family vacations that allow kids to flourish while parents hit the spa – or the links.

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The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba
Palm Beach, Aruba

January 2015 Resolutions

Photo: The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba (The Ritz-Carlton)

With Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society as a partner, Ritz Kids offers children aged 5–12 the opportunity to experience the island as the little scientists they naturally are (while you get to experience the resort, opened in the fall of 2013, as the parent-in-need-of-relaxation you are). Drop them off for a morning with the Nature Scouts where they'll use their lizard brains to hunt for the spotted Aruba Whiptail while you head to the spa for the Dushi Tera Treatment. It starts with a facial, customized by skin type and delivered as you're cocooned in a warm silk sheet, followed up with a Black Beach stone massage using local coconut oil.

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Mohonk Mountain House
New Paltz, New York

January 2015 Resolutions

Photo: Jim Smith (Mohonk Mountain House)

This Victorian castle resort, a few hours north of New York City, has been welcoming families since 1869 (though it's grown somewhat from the original 10 rooms, now being able to accommodate 600 guests). The Mohonk Kids' Club (ages 2–12) and Teen Program (13–17) are complimentary and let younger guests make new friends while they exhaust themselves with activities ranging from arts and crafts to tennis clinics to frog hunting. While they're discovering the beauty of the Shawangunk Mountains, get in a quick nine holes on the historic course (opened in 1897, it's one of the oldest in the United States) with your personal golf concierge, who can help you navigate the tricky first hole.

Find serenity (now)
Learn stress-reducing, well-being-enhancing techniques that you can apply in a snap at the Mindfulness in Minutes workshops regularly held at Mohonk, led by the aptly named Dr. Nina Smiley.

5. Refine your style

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The Style Academy
The Peninsula Hong Kong

January 2015 Resolutions

Photo: The Peninsula Hotels (The Style Academy)

A trip to Hong Kong's Peninsula Arcade, the site of Chanel's first boutique outside of Paris, which opened in 1979, can feel like coming home for the trendsetting traveller. But for those who don't know their Prada from their Piaget, Hong Kong's oldest hotel now offers an introduction to the world of fashion. Launched in 2014, the Style Academy begins the school day with croissants, coffee and a consultation, to establish just what kind of help (and how much) you need. Based on your answers, you'll get a customized crash course in current trends, and how to make them wearable, with an in-house style expert. Next, it's off to the Arcade, which occupies three floors of the hotel's original building, for a personalized tour with exclusive previews of and access to limited-edition items from some of the 80 local and international luxury brands, including Tiffany & Co. and Louis Vuitton.

Educate your palate
A new 60-minute Caviar Connoisseurship class will teach you the "how, why, from where and with which wine" when it comes to fish roe. The Peninsula Hotels' group executive chef Florian Trento will guide you through a taste test of four sustainably farmed varieties of osetra and beluga caviar at a special table in the kitchen, lecturing on provenance and flavour profiles as you sip Veuve Clicquot or Grey Goose cocktails and nod knowingly.

6 & 7. Give camping another try

If the notion of camping conjures bug-spray-scented memories of an after-dark struggle against a tent that did not want to be assembled, eating undercooked hot dogs and overcooked marshmallows, with nothing but a yoga mat between you and a bed of rocks, and you still – for whatever reason – hear the call of the wild, check out these campsites that take the rough out of roughing it.

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El Cosmico
Marfa, Texas

January 2015 Resolutions

Photo: Nick Simonite (El Cosmico)

This 18-acre property sits on the outskirts of a dusty West Texas town (population 1,981) where cattle ranching and minimalist art intersect. From vintage trailers and Mongolian yurts to Sioux-style teepees and safari tents (all of which include an electrical outlet),
various accommodation options are available, depending on just how close to actual camping you want to get. Stock up on provisions at the on-site Lobby House and Provision Co. (and check your e-mail if you must – this is the only spot in the campground with Wi-Fi), cook up a meal in the communal kitchen, rent a bike – or a hot tub – and hang out in the hammock grove, enjoying the out-of-this-world Chihuahuan Desert light.

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Ikara Safari Camp
Flinders Ranges National Park,
South Australia

January 2015 Resolutions

Photo: Wilpena Pound Resort (Ikara Safari Camp)

Drive 400 kilometres north of Adelaide and you're well into the bush and in the vicinity of Ikara Safari Camp, the latest addition to the Wilpena Pound Resort. Start the day feeling like a person, thanks to the tiled ensuite bathroom, air conditioning, hair dryer and French press (with Vittoria ground coffee) available in each of the 15 tents, organized around a central barbecue area, lounge, bar and dining room, where you will be served a bacon-and-eggs breakfast hot off the barbie. Take the leisurely 1.5-kilometre Champagne & Shadows hike to the heritage-listed Old Wilpena Station, the dilapidated site of one of South Australia's most important working ranches, which was retired in 1986 after 135 years of use. Then let the sounds of the outback (crickets, finches, warm winds) send you to sleep in comfort on a king-size bed. But – no worries, mate – there's no television in these canvas-walled hotel rooms, so you can still tell your friends you went camping in the outback while keeping a straight face.

Build something with your own two hands
Earn your builder's badge at the campground's annual four-day workshop, Camp Design Build Adventure, which each year focuses on a different need in the community. This year, participants will work with Alabama folk artist Butch Anthony to design and build junkyard chairs that will be auctioned off to benefit the West Texas Food Bank.

8. Get fit

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January 2015 Resolutions

Photo: Franck Fife, AFP (Molitor)

Since it opened in 1929, this 16th-arrondissement pool has always been something of a temple: to architecture, with its Art Deco, cruise-liner-inspired design; to beauty, as the host of pageants and fashion shows in the 1930s; to the bikini, which was modelled here for the first time in 1946; and to graffiti, which blanketed the walls within months of the pool's closing in 1989. Now, having recently reopened as a health club, spa and 124-room hotel after 25 years of dereliction, Molitor is once again the place to swim and be seen swimming in Paris. From its heated outdoor pool, with lanes interrupted by an underwater bench, to the new fitness centre featuring leather armchairs and a foosball table (oh, and a few state-of-the-art treadmills), if you're looking to get fit, this is the perfect spot to take the plunge – or, more in keeping with the vibe at Molitor, slip easily into the shallow end, kept at a very comfortable 28°C year-round.

9. Take a tech break

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Eremito Hotelito del Alma
Parrano, Umbria, Italy / Ombrie, Italie

January 2015 Resolutions

It's easy to switch off at this new eco-resort because there's nothing to switch on: no phone, no TV, no fridge, no lights, no Wi-Fi. Built on the ruins of a 14th-century monastery, Eremito is less about modern comforts and more about Old World luxury. Wander through the 3,000-acre nature reserve that surrounds you (keep an eye out for local hares, presumably also there to slow down), then take a dip in the small, heated relaxation pool or unwind in the stone steam room as Gregorian chants echo off the walls. At night, you'll dine (by candlelight and in silence) on vegetarian Italian cuisine, like chickpea and rosemary soup, inspired by monastic traditions and using seasonal fare from the property's garden, orchard and vineyard. And because this Umbrian retreat is where you go to get away from everything, prepare to sleep alone: Each of the 14 celluzze is single-occupancy only.

Be Better to the Planet
With no A/C (the building's stone-wall construction keeps it plenty cool during the summer), electricity provided by solar panels and candlelight as the main source of lighting, Eremito is a thoroughly eco-friendly structure.

10. Build your art collection

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The Thief

January 2015 Resolutions

Photo: Mattias Hamrén (The Thief)

Tjuvholmen (or "Thief's Island," as it was known in the 18th century when it was Oslo's shadiest quarter) is currently home to 10 independent art galleries – 11, when you count the Thief, Norwegian tycoon Petter A. Stordalen's design hotel opened in 2013. Curated by Sune Nordgren, formerly of Norway's National Museum of Art, and in collaboration with the neighbouring Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, over 100 pieces from artists such as Andy Warhol, Peter Blake and Antony Gormley are featured throughout the hotel's public spaces and 118 bespoke rooms on a rotating basis. And why not take some art home with you (without channelling the islet's former inhabitants)? Order a Damien Hirst from the comfort of your hotel room: Working with local gallery Stolper + Friends, the Thief's new Art on Demand catalogue contains 67 fine-art prints by Norwegian as well as international artists represented by the neighbourhood's galleries.

(Finally) Learn to Play Chess
Inspired by a game that took place in the Thief Lounge between grandmaster Garry Kasparov and a former Norwegian cabinet minister, the Thief Chess Corner features an exquisitely handcrafted chessboard as well as muted lighting, perfect for practicing the Queen's Gambit in relative seclusion.



Comments… or add another

Cecil Kendall

Monday, January 12th 2015 15:27
Ihave asked before but never really got an answer.
When if ever will Air Canada Vacations start flying back to Holguin Cuba from Halifax direct?
Pls advise
Thank you
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