Lonely Planet Writer

2010 predictions

Everyone seems to like taking a stab at annual forecast lists. (Lonely Planet packed a hearty bunch together in a book of 2010 travel trends.)

Some obvious inclusions in any such list would include South Africa and British Columbia, both of which will see a boost in exposure and interest with the World Cup (June/July) and Winter Olympics in Vancouver (February) hitting world-wide TV screens.

But here are a few others I fully expect to see in the first year with a four-digit number featuring a doubled integer and its halved equivalent since 1809*.

IT'S ON! TEA VS COFFEE
Tolerant rivals for so long, tea is going to start playing with prison rules in 2010. No more bowing to coffee-culture of the Western world in the form of $5 coffees at Starbucks. Tea, of course, has always been the world’s number one beverage, but in places like the USA, it trails. But that could change. Between 2007 and 2009, US coffee drinking fell from 57% of Americans over 18 to 54%, with the number of cups amongst new hot-beverage drinkers (age 18-24) falling from 3.2 cups/day in 2008 to 2.9 cups/day.

Meanwhile, tea is rising. Per the Tea Association of the USA, there’s a 10% rise annually of away-from-home tea consumption. Most of that’s iced tea. For now. January is hot tea month, and I predict health effects and coffee hangover will lead to a bigger year for hot tea.

This may mean fewer cappuccinos and more people hitting the tea plantations around Darjeeling, sipping cups at the famed Sichuan teahouses of Chengdu, China, or haggling for 'monkey king' teas at hillside tea gardens of Anhui, China. My favorite tea is the spirited canelazo, a body-warming yerba buena tea found in cafes of La Candelaria section of Bogota.

US COMEBACKS
I recently wrote on Yahoo a handful of long-neglected and –slighted American cities that have quietly staged their own comebacks quietly over the past five to ten years. Such cities as Pittsburgh, Albuquerque, Oakland, Baltimore and Oklahoma City won’t take over final destinations for travelers in 2010, but will snag more time to those on cross-country road trips or visiting more famous neighbors.

I enjoyed my Pittsburgh visit last year; also here's my video of Pittsburgh and pilgrim talk from Oklahoma City’s famed stockyards.

BEST BIRTHDAY: HANOI
Birthday travel seems to be becoming a bigger part of the travel experience. Birthdays are often more than just a fireworks show; it means dusting off the stories of something of fading familiarity, and particularly special events – like the re-staged death of Edgar Allen Poe in Richmond, Virginia, last year, Poe’s 200th birthday.

This year's best, by far, is for Southeast Asia’s finest city, Hanoi, which turns 1000. The Vietnamese new year (Tet) is on Valentine’s Day, so if you’re all about new year’s eve parties, you can have two. The city has been planning their 1000th birthday for years – the royal citadel in town is supposedly reopening to the public.

My favorite thing to do in Hanoi is wake up early -- 4:30am or 5am -- and walk around central Hoan Kiem lake, when locals Jazzercise their way into a new day.

ROAD TRIPS WITH FRENCH POODLES
Speaking of birthdays, John Steinbeck made his unique road trip around a different America 50 years ago. Summed up in his throw-away-the-map-and-just-go Travels with Charley, the anniversary (along with increasing flight security measures, renewed interest in Americana, and a recession) should mean another bump-up of meandering, off-the-interstate, blue-highway trips around the US this year. Just don't test your dog with Yellowstone’s grizzlies; Steinbeck didn’t believe the warnings, which led to a quick exit during his visit with an enraged Charley.

Considering much of Route 66 has been taken by the interstate, drive the classic, other-worldly Hwy 50 across the Nevada desert.

POSTCARDS
The next logical step in the ongoing technological race towards a full, 360-degree augmented reality is a breather from all things plugged in. The best way to do so, travel-wise, is by sending post cards.

I always try sending a couple (like the fantastic one, right, from Oberlin, Kansas). Doing so puts you into a couple parts of the travel-sphere that has lost grown the past decade or so, beginning with post card vendors and finishing by choosing neat stamps and deciphering post office lines. Usually you learn something new of a destination by surviving its bureaucracy.

DEATH OF VAMPIRES

The question arose around 2004: what would be the next pirates? TV ads took a stab at big foot, Vikings, cavemen, but by 2008 the clear winner was vampires. In a steady stream of movies (Twilight) and HBO series (True Blood). In 2010 will see them, at last, die. At least for a while.

What’s next? My money’s on a conquistador renaissance. But this time, friendly conquistadors. Ones into crafts and poetry.

* 1809: 18 is double 09; 2010: 20 is double 10. The next such year? 2211. Until then, at least we have 2112.