The pandemic has taught us many things, including the importance of love and compassion for others and how precious life is. As we begin 2021, we should celebrate love, family, and togetherness.

Last November I reconnected with a travel colleague on Hilton Head Island in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. I drove to the island in time to pick her up at the airport upon her arrival from South Florida, which was bracing for Hurricane Eta at the time. We settled into what would be our “home” for the next week, a Marriott resort with easy beach access, swimming pools, hiking/biking trails and other amenities. Playing it safe, we prepared most of our meals in the condo, but enjoyed lunch breaks at local restaurants.

We became quite familiar with the island’s grocery stores, including popular chains, but one of our favorites was the Piggly Wiggly at Coligny Beach. It offers a good selection of Lowcountry products, including fresh seafood, sauces, grits, rice, postcards and T-shirts in every color and size emblazoned with the iconic pig. Dodging daily showers, we enjoyed the beach and island attractions. At the Coastal Discovery Museum on the west side of the island, we met sweetgrass basket artists Dino Badger and Michael Smalls, who carry on traditional African art that has been passed down for generations.

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Carol Timblin

The museum focuses on the Native Americans who lived on the island between 2000 BCE and 1400 CE, colonization (1717-1783), slavery (1717-1865) and other aspects of local history. The museum also has numerous classes and workshops, a gift shop and a farmers’ market on certain days. The island has a storied history. The Spanish established Santa Elena Fort, America’s first capital, in the area during 1566-1587. Englishman William Hilton discovered the island in 1663, paving the way for planters to establish vast cotton, rice and indigo plantations. After the Union Army left at the end of the Civil War, the remaining African Americans lived in isolation on the island for about a century, allowing the rich Gullah culture to flourish. After a bridge was built to connect Hilton Head to the mainland, resort development began on a grand scale in 1957. Today the island is known for golf, tennis, hiking and biking, fishing, kayaking and other recreational pursuits. During our Lowcountry vacation, we reconnected with old friends in nearby Savannah and Beaufort. We were awe-struck by Bluffton’s southern charm, the beauty of the Old Sheldon Church Ruins near Yemassee, and the history of Tybee Island Lighthouse in Georgia and Hunting Island LightHouse, located in a state park near Beaufort (hiltonheadisland.org).

Reconnecting in the Poconos

One of the Mid-Atlantic’s most popular destinations, the Pocono Mountains in Northeast Pennsylvania, is marked by rolling hills, lush woodlands, breathtaking waterfalls and winding rivers. Who is not tempted to check out its hotels and resorts, rustic cabins and campgrounds, charming country inns and bed-and-breakfasts, shops and restaurants, varied attractions, state and national parks? During this time of year expect to find the area’s 163 ski trails ready for skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers, and snow tubers in search of adventures. Find world-class luxury spas, along with romantic resorts known for their legendary heart-shaped tubs as well as resorts that offer activities geared to the whole family, from toddlers to seniors. The Pocono Mountains website (poconomountains.com) provides all the information one needs to plan a vacation. Woodloch Resort, rated the “Best Family Resort” by readers of USA Today last year, deserves a close look, as do other family resorts such as Mountain Springs Lake Resort, Pocono Hills Villas and Carriage House. If splashing in a big indoor water park is your idea of family fun, consider Great Wolf Lodge, Camelback Lodge & Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark, Split Rock Resort and Golf Club, and Kalahari Resorts & Conventions. If you need accommodations for a group, look at The Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, Chateau Resort & Conference Center, Skytop Lodge (rated AAA Four Diamonds), Bushkill Inn and Conference Center, and Himalayan Institute.

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Carol Timblin

Looking for love and romance? Check out Paradise Stream Resort, Cove Haven Resort, Pocono Palace Resort, Mountain Laurel Resort & Spa and French Manor Inn and Spa (home to a Four Diamond restaurant). Resorts that cater to families and couples include Silver Birches Resort, The Village at Pocono, and Lukan’s Farm Resort. Rainbow Mountain Resort attracts LBGT vacationers. Anyone who wants to gamble may seek out Mohegan Sun Pocono and Mount Airy Casino Resort (AAA Four Diamonds).

Groundhog Day

Punxsutawney Phil will make his annual appearance on Feb. 2 at the Groundhog Day celebration, planned for Gobbler’s Knob in Western Pennsylvania. If Phil shows his shadow, expect six more weeks of winter weather; if not, spring may be around the corner.

Visitors who come to meet Phil may also take the half-mile Gobbler’s Knob Trail, open daily from dawn to dusk. It features informational signs about the history of the holiday and metal art displays crafted by local high school students (814-618-5591 or groundhog.org). Make sure to check out the website for virus-related updates before planning a trip.

Future Travel

National Geographic staff writers showcase “Destinations on the Rise for 2021” in a recent feature on “timeless places that will define our future itineraries” (nationalgeographic.com). The list of destinations includes:

— Katmari National Park, Alaska, “In the Shadow of the Volcano”

— Dominica, “Caribbean Adventure Tourism Helps Fuel This Island’s Climate Resiliency”

— Los Glaciares National Park, “Where to Hike in a Kingdom of Ice”

— Svaneti Region, Georgia, “A Remote Land of Warm Welcomes”

— Tulsa, Oklahoma, “A Hub for Discussions on Race in the U.S.”

— Pueblo Nations, New Mexico, “Surfacing Native American Voices in the American Southwest”

— Guam, “Revisiting Magellan’s Legacy in the Pacific”

— Gyeongju, Republic of Korea, “This Ancient Korean Kingdom Still Glitters”

— Vitorio-Gasteiz, Basque Country, Spain, “Jazz and Legends in a Basque Cultural Capital”

— Tonglu, China, “A Chinese Landscape Made Famous in Paintings Lands Its First Art Fest”

— Isle Royale, Michigan, “Wolves and Moose Roam This Lesser Known U.S. National Park”

— Cerrado, Brazil, “This Brazilian Wilderness May Be the Closest Thing We Have to a ‘Jurassic Park’”

— Lord Howe Island, Australia, “A ‘Last Paradise’ in the Tasman Sea”

— Yellowknife, New Territories, Canada, “Northern Lights Shine Here for 240 Nights a Year”

— Indigenous British Columbia, Canada, “Where Nature and First Nations Connect”

— Space Coast, Florida, “A Launchpad of Wonders in the Sky and Under the Water Below”

— England Coast Path, United Kingdom, “An Epic Walk to Remember”

— Hortobagy, Hungary, “Cowboys and Cranes in Europe’s Wide-Open Spaces”

— Transylvania, Romania, “Finding the Real in a Land Famous for Fantasy”

— Denver, Colorado, “A Green Giant of a City in the American West”

— Alonissos, Greece,” Mediterranean Haven for Seals — and a Deep Dive into an Ancient Shipwreck”

— Gabon, “More Than 11 Percent African Country Is National Parkland”

— New Caledonia (UNESCO World Heritage Site), “Where Marine Life Frolics in the South Pacific”

— Copenhagen, Denmark, “A Cosmopolitan Capital Creating Sustainable Solutions That Pay Off”

— Freiberg, Germany, “This German University Town Is Schooling the World on the Best Green Practices”

World’s First Energy-Positive Hotel

The Svart Hotel, now under construction at the base of Norway’s Svartisen glacier, just below the Arctic Circle, will produce more energy than it uses when it opens in 2022.

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Carol Timblin

Located in the municipality of Meloy, the hotel will offer a panoramic view of the surrounding Holandsfjorden fjord. Snohetta architectural firm implemented the Norwegian fiskehjell, a wooden structure used to dry fish, and a rorbu, a fisherman’s traditional seasonal home, in the design of Svart. The environmentally friendly hotel will have 99 guest rooms and four restaurants, offering locally inspired tasting menus, with many dishes made from produce grown at the farm on-site. A variety of traditional Norwegian treatments, including massages and facials using sustainable, locally sourced products will be offered at Svart’s 3,300-square-foot indoor-outdoor spa (afar.com).

Traveling Tribes, a new book by group travel expert Jeff Gayduk, guides readers on a journey, exploring this new opportunity of leading your own tribe of travelers on expeditions around town or around the globe — and getting paid for it.

Carol Timblin welcomes travel news at ctimblin@gmail.com

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