In the year 2015, it’s harder than ever to escape our technology-centered lives — but it is still possible.
Freelance travel writer Debbie Pappyn and her photographer husband David De Vleeschauwer began exploring remote corners of the world during a decade of almost non-stop travel. During their adventures on six continents, they stayed in more than 1,000 hotels. Their visual anthology, “Remote: Places to Stay,” is now available in hardcover and includes a look at 22 remarkable off-the-grid destinations.
Business Insider asked Debbie and David, who run the award-winning blog Classe Touriste, to share their favourite photos and stories from their travels.
'We have always been unconsciously drawn to remote and off-the-map places,' Debbie said in an email to Business Insider. The couple, who's based in Antwerp, Belgium, spend 80% of the year travelling.
Debbie contributes regularly to travel magazines in the Netherlands, Germany, UK, Mexico, Singapore, Australia, and Hong Kong. She writes on the couple's blog that she caught the travel bug when she boarded her first plane back in the 1970s. From there, Debbie decided to go into tourism, 'the biggest and most exciting service industry in the world.'
David works as a freelance photographer for several international titles, including Travel + Leisure. He writes on their blog that some of his favourite photography experiences included shooting cities in North Korea, Sumo wrestlers in Tokyo, and gorillas in the Congo.
'Life in the fast lane often pushes people to remote and far-flung corners of the world, in search of stillness, solitude, pitch-black skies and empty beaches -- all things we seem to miss more and more in our daily lives,' Debbie said.
Today much of the hype around hotels is focused on design, coolness or luxury, Debbie said. 'We felt there was a need for a collection (that was) completely different, not just based on the level of luxury, the looks or hipness factor.'
'The new luxury is all about having time, space, silence, privacy … So we looked at all the places we ever travelled to and made a meticulously handpicked selection. Not only geographically but most of all, in feeling,' Debbie said of their hardcover collection.
This 'otherworldly' location is one of the couple's favourites. 'After a long drive between the looming sandstone rock formations so characteristic of the region, the hotel emerges on the horizon like a mirage,' Debbie said. 'Guests come here to disconnect from the real world, which seems almost non-existent when you gaze out over this vast and empty desert.'
'What (all these places) have in common is that you tend to switch off very fast,' she said. 'It doesn't take two days to realise you are not in your normal or daily life anymore. It's very instant and very abrupt.'
According to Debbie, remote travellers 'go in search of emotions and pure experiences that get lost in a world filled with fragmentation and distraction.'
And while they may all provide a form of escape, each remote place has its own distinctions. 'Some (of the places) are more striking in location and absolute solitude ... others are extremely intimate and cosy ... and others are super relaxing and ultra-deluxe,' Debbie said.
This location is another one of Debbie and David's favourites. 'Thanks to the untouched nature surrounding the village, the clever design and thoughtful restoration, this is one of the most calming and remote places to stay in Europe,' Debbie said of this hotel, which is made up of 32 restored houses in the tiny Italian village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio.
The couple spent time 'driving over the frozen Baltic sea to a secret island in Estonia; hopping on a bush plane to disappear into the vast wilderness of Alaska; boarding a mountain train to be transported away from normal life down in the valley...'
Debbie and David discovered many of these remote destinations through travel magazines. 'The first time I read about Padaste Manor was in Condè Nast Traveller UK. Sometimes colleagues or friends in the travel industry give us tips or pass on contacts,' she said.
The couple has stayed in more than 1,000 hotels during their decade of almost non-stop travel around the world. On their blog they keep track of the numbers, from the miles they have travelled to the hotel beds they have slept in.
'These days a lot of listicles and collections are written too easily without even visiting the places,' Debbie said.
'We saw the six continents and four corners of the world,' she said. 'From luxurious to basic chic; from the Arctic North to the desert landscapes of Africa; from a comfortable refuge in the Himalayas to an abandoned village in the heart of Italy.'
'It's clear it's not always obvious or easy to travel to certain remote places and as a traveller you have to know if this place is going to be your cup of tea,' Debbie said.
Still, it can be rewarding to take a chance. 'You will have to have an open mind and be willing to submit (yourself) to the place,' she said.
All these places share one common trait, according to Debbie. There's 'a strong sense of place,' she said. 'Often because they are run by idealists who believe in preserving traditions and respecting the scene, the purity and essence of the location.'
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