Here Comes the Sun-Protection

I’m packing for the US tropical islands for Spring Break. Not the Hawaiian Islands this time, but the Caribbean. The US Virgin Islands don’t require a passport and the average water temperature is about 80 degrees .  The Saints are waiting (as in the islands of St Thomas, St Croix and St. John)  Sun and sea here I come!


Ready for a day of sunshine. SPF clothes for protection by Solumbra.

The #1 item for packing? Sun protection, and I don’t mean sunblock. Yes, I will pack my favorite, but I can also buy it there and not worry about 3 ounce maximums for carry-on. I mean my clothes. I specifically mean clothes designed for sun protection made by a company called Sun Precaution– a line by Solumbra and referred to as SPF Clothing.  I do not want my vacation to be a race to cancer or aging skin! I do want “safe” clothes for outdoor adventure, and sun  lounging.

Most people now know that the sun’s rays can penetrate t-shirts and go through windows and do damage, and that we rarely apply sun block thoroughly and often enough to fully work.  Do you know how many ounces you could go through in a vacation outdoors if you fully followed the instructions?

Shaun Hughes needed sun protection so he invented a wearable “medical solution.”

 “Medical Solution” Fashion

When Shaun Hughes got melanoma skin cancer in his 20s, he got inventive too. He created and patented what he calls a “medical solution” — a tightly woven cloth that is tested to be SPF (sun protection factor) of 100. And then he developed a line of clothing other people would wear too. He has made improvements over the last 20 years based on research and fashion.

There are Sun Protection stores now on the West Coast (Santa Monica and San Diego in California, and Seattle, Washington), but I liked perusing the goods online, organized by item or by activity.

For my last trip to Nicaragua, I took three long-sleeved shirts, two pairs of long pants and two hats to give them a real test (me). They were very lightweight and took up little room, so I could still fly carry-on for an 8 day adventure trip, if I wore my hiking boots and jacket on the plane ( I did.)

The complimentary colors allowed mixing and matching for many outfits. I added jewelry and scarves for accessorizing. The extras also dressed up the outfit and detracted from any sense of Safari motif.

Horseback Riding in Solumbra duds, Nicaragua above Morgan’s Beach

I also supplemented my traveling wardrobe with a skirt, a little black dress,  and two Scottevest items that were also on trial  (a long jacket with hidden pockets and their cargo pants with pockets.  These clothes are not designed for sun protection, but with multiple pockets to free up hands and eliminate the need for a shoulder bag. ) Verdict: Keepers for travel and home. The long -hanging lightweight jacket dressed up my other shirts, travelled wrinkle free and gave me the extra warmth needed in the evenings. It’s flowing lines attracted compliments too.

Solumbra Lessons on the Road

Here’s some of what I learned about my “SPF Clothing” during the active experiment in Nicaragua;

*I was the only one in a group of intrepid wonderful travelers on the Austin-Lehman trip that did not have some part of me get sunburned at some point during full days of city and nature activity.

*The ventilated shirts were well-engineered and breezy, so I didn’t get hot and sweaty the way I would of in jeans and a t-shirt.

*The hats were flexible enough for me to bend back the rim when I needed to for photography. The chin strap saved the windy day when others were chasing after their hats.

Zip-lining in Nicaragua with Solumbra shirt, Scottevest pants, local red hibiscus and helmet on an Austin-Lehman Adventure

*I didn’t suffer from any bug bites either (I had sprayed everything with Sawyer’s Clothing insect repellent before the trip- “good for six weeks protection against ticks chigger, mites and mosquitos”)

*The clothes are versatile and hardy. They (sans hat) worked:

  • upside down while I was ziplining,
  • under the thick overalls worn for ash-boarding down a volcano,
  • after getting splashed in kayaking (they dried quickly),
  • during horseback riding in the jungle under monkeys and on the gorgeous beach of Morgan’s Rock.

They were loose enough for working the press, one of many steps in making Don Elba cigars

* They served well too as good city-tour clothes and kept me comfortable (culturally and physically) when we visited the cathedrals, restaurants and museums of Leon and Granada.

*They are easily hand-washable and so thin they dry relatively quickly. I tested this out after sitting in a wet field to get a better angle for a photo of a volcano, and after getting chocolate spread on the pants accidentally when I went for a chocolate massage (another story for another time.)

*The clothing is so soft that I felt sometimes like I was wearing pajamas. I now like wearing them at home and around town for errands.

 And in conclusion…

So, in conclusion, it’s all going with me to the Caribbean too. I just wish I had thought to get the “skirted sea leggings” and “swim top” and maybe surf jacket for all the time I plan to spend in the water!  Snorkeling, paddle boarding, swimming, maybe the new jetpacks.  How wonderful not to worry about going back to shore and re-lathering legs and arms and back, and trying to do it without acting like a glue-magnet for sand.

Now, where’s my swimsuit? And what books should I bring ?

Lisa TE  Sonne,  Luxury Travel Mavens

Photo of Shaun Hughes from Sun Precautions Website as well as first story image

Feature image of St Croix provided by US Virgin Islands Tourism

others taken on  Austin -Lehman Adventures Nicaragua trip

People who have journeyed on some of humankind’s most expensive, amazing trips gathered at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York last weekend to celebrate a kind of travel that often means forgoing hotels or restaurants— exploration. The annual mid-March tradition is known as ECAD- (The Explorers Club Annual Dinner.)

Winners celebrating exploration travel. Erden Eruc, the first person to circumnavigate the globe via human-power and Don Walsh, the first human to visit the deepest part of the ocean.

John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Charles Duke, and Don Walsh all traveled in very cramped quarters (Mercury capsules, the last Apollo, and the Trieste submersible ) in the 1960s to push the boundaries of human exploration travel up- orbiting earth- and down to the deepest ocean floor.

They enjoyed greater amenities last weekend, when they joined a sold-out crowd in the three-tiered Waldorf-Astoria ballroom to receive their own kudos, and to honor other intrepid luminaries including James Cameron.  Cameron took time from Avatar movie sequels, to receive the prestigious Explorers Medal, in his words “the Academy Award of Exploration” and a greater honor. His latest feat was to the depths of the Marianas Trench.

Erden Eruc, the first per­son to cir­cum­nav­i­gate the globe via human-powered travel (row­boats, bicy­cles, walk­ing) received a Certificate of Merit. Exploration exemplars Chhiring Dorje Sherpa, Christos Nicola and Monika Rogozinska were also given awards and shared inspiring words about their contributions to exploration.

Crocodile or alligator? Part of the wild appetizers for ECAD.

Many of the guests, outstanding explorers in their own realms (caves, mountains, deserts, rain forests, cultures,) with their own exotic exploration travel tales came to New York for the events, and were staying at the historic and elegant Waldorf-Astoria. Every President since 1931 has rested his head at the Waldorf and the corridor walls are lined with black and white photos of famous people who walked the halls.

Overlapping the two illustrious worlds of exploration and the Waldorf Astoria  created intriguing juxtapositions of kinds of privilege.  In the Waldorf Tower suites, the bathroom alone and the chandeliered dressing room were probably bigger than the honorees’ rare exploration vehicles (space- capsules & highly customized submersibles)

Great views and lots to write home about from this corner of magnificent, antique-filled Waldorf Towers suite on Explorers Club weekend.

The lofty views of bridges rivers, and skyscrapers, from my 41st floor suite were from only a fraction of the altitude of Mt Everest, a very different vista that  seemed particularly wondrous after meeting Jim Whittaker the first American to summit Everest, and another of the weekend’s honorees.

Upscaling the kind of food that explorers sometimes eat, “The Exotics” served at ECAD have become a culinary tradition and good for press.  Appetizers before dinner included unusual game and champagne drinks with a male goat’s private skewered instead of an olive or lemon. The popular dessert tables were eaten out before I could get to the fare, but I heard about it.

The next morning at  the hotel’s luxurious Peacock Alley Sunday brunch, the pastry chef recalled, “Instead of our normal adornments, we were adding crickets, mealy worms, and tarantulas to desserts.”

In view, the Lobby’s iconic gold clock tower chimed. Other times, live music wafts from a nearby grand piano that once belonged to Cole Porter who lived in the hotel and refers to it in his song “You’re the Top.”  Celebrities from Marilyn Monroe to Paris Hilton, and gangster Bugsy Siegal to inventor Tesla have also had Waldorf addresses. Last weekend the hotel was visited by people who summit and dive and crawl and kayak, and measure, record, and observe endangered species and remote geographies, when they aren’t wearing their ECAD best.

For decades, The Explorers Club  (TEC) arguably the world’s most distinguished club to honor and promote exploration, has hosted ECAD (Explorers Club Annual Dinner)  at the historic Waldorf. Tickets for members and their guests range from $350 to $40,000. Proceeds go to help further exploration for the sake of scientific endeavor and knowledge.

The Sunday after the dinner and post-parties, the Club also offered an Open House at its legacy-filled HQ building on East 70th, another New York architectural treasure.  I loved visiting with some of the honorees and other explorers including Milbry Polk who founded Wings WorldQuest and is author of Women of Discovery, underwater queens Sylvia Earle and Anne Doubilet, and Jeff Blumenfeld who publishes the captivating (for people who love exploration) Expedition News . It’s titilating to hear where they are traveling next. Sylvia to the Maldives and Jeff to Nepal on a humanitarian expedition. It’s inspiring to hear about the huge efforts being made to conserve natural and cultural systems.

A schedule of lectures about current explorations interwove with informal visiting as people cross-pollinate and gather support for future expeditions.  What advances can be made to technology and knowledge and human spirit before the next ECAD?

Post Script:

Retrieving Lost Treasure

After heady conversations about advances in technology and the glories of curiosity in action, I returned to the Waldorf for my late check out. Ironically, only when I was in the clouds 40,000 feet over the U.S. flying back to Los Angeles, did my head come out of the clouds (and sea trenches and caves) to remember that I had opened the safe in my room but forgotten to take out my jewelry and pack it.

I reminded myself that the Waldorf was among those highest-end hotels where you could probably count on getting your things back and the staff members I had seen all seemed wonderful, but it’s a rough economy and challenging times, with people’s views of entitlement sometimes morphing. I called the hotel when I landed at 11pm, and left a voice message with security. It was a “first” for me and I hoped it would have a happy ending.

Since the weekend was a special trip and I would see international friends, I had eclectically brought some of my favorite pieces – unusual amber necklaces given when I was covering space in the Soviet Union, a bracelet from a recent trip to Morocco, a hand-made woven necklace from a Karawari tribe in Papua New Guinea, sea fossil earrings from when I worked on a television series with the Monterrey Aquarium in California.

None of it has significant monetary value, especially compared to the jewels that have adorned other guests of the Waldorf like the Queen and Elizabeth Taylor. But they were unique and had sentimental value as catalysts of memories and stories. I thought about the curiosity cabinets people used to fill with artifacts gathered from around the world to inspire. And wondered how many other people used jewelry these days in a similar vein.

John Glenn and Jim Cameron had both talked about the driving force of curiosity in shaping the world’s history and economy via initial explorations.  I thought how fortunate I was to have spent the weekend with remarkable people who are still questing, and ponderd gratefully for perspective of the times I had been able to be even a tiny part of expeditions and explorations. The “things” from the trips are not the true riches of these experiences.

Still, when a package arrived this morning with my little treasures, I admit I was glad- to have them back and to witness integrity.  I would like to give call out thanks to the Waldorf’s security and house-keeping staff –Javier Carranza, Erika Gonzalez, Sam Koening and Eric Perez- for honesty and efficiency!   On the phone, Perez told me calmly, “This happens everyday. People leave things from cell phone chargers to a child’s favorite teddy bear to thousands of dollars of jewelry. We get it back to them. That’s what we do.”

-Lisa TE Sonne, Luxury Travel Mavens



Lisa’s Luxury Likes- Papua New Guinea Picks

Cultural Diversity in Papua New GuineaPapua New Guinea is a bucket list best for anyone who wants to explore cultures and nature, not homogenized by chain stores, cookie-cutter tourist attractions, and popular media. Over 800 languages are spoken amidst 300 islands, in a varied realm promoted with the tag “ a million different journeys.”

Known as “PNG” to more savvy travelers, the country lies south of the equator and North of Australia.  Tribal village ceremonies, giant purple clams, and tropical orchids are just part of the alluring diversity.

Amazingly, “remote” and “roughing it” are not synonymous in chosen pockets of PNG. Travelers with a sense of adventure can still enjoy great comforts while gathering indelible memories and authentic mementos, instead of staged photo opportunities and factory made souvenirs.

The Luxury Picks

*The Sepik Spirit Lives up to its claim as “ A floating luxury lodge” that takes people up rivers to remote Papuan villages famed for word carving, Spirit houses, and tribal dancing.  Birders, photographers, art collectors, and amateur anthropologists- sign up now!

*Lissenung Island Resort: A private island with contextually classy R & R–great food, snorkeling, diving and culture.

*Karawari Lodge – A real tropical beauty set on a ridge above dense jungle; a great home base to experience Highland cultures and festivals.

*Malolo Plantation Lodge on the Bismarck Sea – A short paddle from this cozy north shore sanctuary, Tadwai Island offers corral cays, ancient reefs and views of paradise

Click here for more information on travel in Papua New Guinea

Click her for more on high-end PNG tours.

Click here for Check Lists Before going on any International Travel

and for Luxury Travel Mavens top  tips on Long Distance Air Travel 


-Lisa TE Sonne, Luxury Travel Mavens

© Lisa TE Sonne

 International trips organized around annual festivals and remarkable events may be packed and unpacked with “Ah!” and awe at human nature and earth’s nature.

Iceland, Solstice Celebration in June, photo courtesy of Kensington Tours

A camel beauty pagaent in India? Cherry blossoms in Japan? A solstice  celebration in Iceland? A leg rowing contest in Mynamar?  These are trips you can take that few have (and links to intineraries for that festival travel are below).

What better way to learn about a culture than by being part of the festivities it honors?  One of my most remembered (and photographed) trips was customized around the Tshechu dance festivals held in the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan in the Himalayas.  Our private trip beautifully developed by Bridge to Bhutan included a local guide, great access to the festivals and temples, and some luxury accommodations (Zwha Ling in Paro, the first Bhutanese owned-and-operated hotel and resort to receive five stars, Uma Paro for peaceful pampering, is part of the upscale Como Hotels and Resorts,   Taj Tasha, a modern landmark in Thimphu and a Taj Resorts and Palaces.)  I hope to return this summer to Bhutan with my husband to provide luxe trav readers updated details.

LTM Festival Travel

Pushkar Camel Fair, India, courtesy of Kensington Tours

You may have a destination in mind and start checking into what festivals are celebrated as a memorable portal to unique experiences or you may know of a festival you like– St Patrick’s Day in Ireland in March, the big Hot Air Balloon Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico in October, or the Water throwing festival in April that is part of Thailand’s New Year. You can start creating your own adventure with or without a company that customizes trips.

You may want to join a festival trip that has already been carefully planned. Since many destinations can be well booked by locals and foreigners for annual events, and festivals may have specialized customs, the expertise and clout of a seasoned travel company  could save you time and trouble. I have not experienced the festival trips below, but the photos and descriptions are beguiling:


Cherry Blossom Festivals in Japan Photo provided by Kensington Tours

Japan`s Cherry Blossom Trip

As described by Kensington Tours: “Picnic under trees radiant with cherry blossoms and take part in the centuries old Japanese tradition of “hanami” on this private journey showcasing Tokyo and Kyoto during the most desirable time of year. Delve into this ancient spring custom and more, as you’re swept into a land of kimono-clad geishas, zen gardens, sushi, samurai castles and shrines, all narrated by private guide.

“Stroll the flowery “Philosopher’s Walk,” tiptoe across nightingale floors, cruise the Sumida River, visit mountain temples and behold cherry blossoms season at its finest!”



Iceland’s Summer Solstice Tour: June 21, 2013

As described by Kensington Tours “Celebrate the Summer Solstice in “the land of the midnight sun” on this exclusive tour to the top of the world. Honor this mystical ancient tradition marking the longest day of the year in Reykjavik, Iceland.

“From druid priests, live music, bonfires and culinary feasts with the locals to champagne toasts, drinking “Viking blood,” carving sacred runes and unveiling legends of old with private Icelandic folklore guide, this northern adventure makes the most of all 24 hours of light.”

Nature’s spa at Iceland’s Blue Lagoon during the Midnight Sun, photo from Kensington Tours


Spain’s San Fermin Festival: July 6 – 14, 2013

As described by Kensington Tours, “Not for the weak of heart, this wild Spanish fiesta is known for the Running of the Bulls which dates back to 14th-century Pamplona. Over time it has evolved into a daring weeklong fête where 2,000 people

San Fermin Running of the Bulls Fiesta In Pamplona, Photo provided by Kensington Tours

run in front of 15 charging bulls.

“Led by a real picador guide, behold the spectacle from a private balcony as Ernest Hemingway did and head to the country where the famous bulls are raised. Not ready to take life by the horns? Fireworks, gigantes y cabezudos, contests, dancing and spirited locals will keep any globetrotter on their toes.”


Myanmar’s Leg-Rowing Festival: Oct 5 – 22, 2013

In the words of Kensington Tours: “Cruise the waters of time back to a celebration evocative of Southeast Asia centuries ago with a pilgrimage to Phaung Daw Oo – otherwise known as Myanmar’s Leg Rowing Festival. Held upon the shores of Inle Lake, a trip to this spiritual 18-day pageant is true cultural nirvana. Watch as a golden barge holding four Buddhas is towed by ornamented leg-rowers from private boat with expert guide.

“Take part in the eclectic festivities, from magic shows, dancing, leg rowing races and fireworks to fortune tellers, spiritual blessings and Burmese banquets. To amplify your experience, plan your visit to coincide with Thadingyut, the festival of lights!”

Myanmar Leg rower contest, Photo provided by Kensington Travel


Pushkar Camel Fair – India: Nov 6 -17, 2013

Kensington Tours: “There’s nothing quite as mind boggling exotic as a trip to India’s Pushkar Camel Fair. Held every year in the desert of Rajasthan during the full moon, this spectacular event attracts over 300,000 people and up to 50,000 camels.

Family at the Pushkar Festival in India, Photo from Kensington Tours

“Led by expert private guide, plunge into this cultural spectacle while staying at a whimsical luxury tented camp. From camel painting, beauty pageants, races, livestock trade, religious rituals to music, gypsies, mouth-watering feasts and other lively events, this exotic festival has it all!”


Keep clicking in for future luxury festival trips as readers and luxe tour operators share their favorites. Coming up: Food and Wine Festival Trips

-Lisa TE Sonne for Luxury Travel Mavens

Photos provided by Kensington Tours