From Hurricane Irma’s path towards US shores, the possible location of the secret to happiness and the negative impact Donald Trump is having on US tourism, here’s your wrap of travel news that has people talking this week.
Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, has this week torn through Barbuda (where 95% of properties are reportedly destroyed), Antigua, Anguilla, St. Martin, St. Barts, the US and British Virgin Islands, and is set to hit Florida this weekend. Irma, the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, has led to at least 13 deaths and left thousands of people without homes. In Florida, it’s already causing travel disruptions and evacuations across the state.
Though the exact path of the hurricane is tricky to predict, it’s heading towards northern Cuba at the time of writing—having just raged through the Bahamas—and still has Florida in its sights. The Guardian is keeping track of the hurricane’s path, Condé Nast Traveler has detailed how the storm will affect travel plans, and The Washington Post has published a comprehensive explainer—including safety tips—for those who may find themselves in the path of the hurricane. “It cannot be overstated that Hurricane Irma is extremely dangerous,” reports WP.
Despite reports earlier this year claiming that the ‘Trump Slump’—the negative impact of Donald Trump on US inbound tourism—was overstated, the most recent research is far more pessimistic. The US Travel Association this week warned of “major storm clouds for the inbound international travel market,” based on findings that international visitors to the US were down for four of the first seven months of 2017.
The UK’s annual wellbeing survey declared Scotland’s Outer Hebrides the happiest place in the region, with respondents giving higher marks for the question, ‘How happy did you feel yesterday?’ than anywhere else. George MacKerron, a University of Sussex lecturer who studies links between environments and happiness, told BBC Travel writer Kathryn Macleod in a story this week: “We find that people are happier in the moment in natural environments, and all natural environments are happier than cities.” Macleod goes on to mention the importance of community and social ties—both of which are apparently available in abundance in the Outer Hebrides. We can’t help but wonder if the surprising abundance of great Scottish snorkeling spots plays a big part, too.
US citizens hoping for a quick sojourn to North Korea are unfortunately out of luck, as the ban on tourism to the country came into effect last week. The ban, part of a wider ploy to increase international pressure on the country, follows the recent death of US student Otto Warmbier who was jailed during a tour in North Korea last year. Nicholas Burkhead, a US tourist who arrived home from North Korea on the last flight out of the country before the ban, said: “I was surprised at how friendly everyone was. It was very relaxing—beautiful scenery and they fed us very well in the restaurants there, but the exchange rate wasn’t too good.”
This week, aerial imagery company Nearmap celebrated its upcoming 10-year anniversary by unveiling 10 stunning bird’s-eye view images of Australia. The photos—featuring idyllic waterways, open-pit gold mines, red-dirt airport runways and more—showcase several sides of the country that you’re unlikely to see in the tourism adverts.
Ray and Wilma Yoder love Cracker Barrel (a chain of US restaurants and gift stores). In fact, they may love it more than anyone has ever loved anything. Since the 1960s, they’ve been on a mission to visit every single one of the 645 stores across the US. Their passion was kick-started by Ray’s RV trips cross-country, and soon enough the pair began keeping a tally of every single Cracker Barrel they visited.
The Yoders completed their quest by visiting the Tualatin store in Oregon last week—where they were flown courtesy of Cracker Barrel—and were greeted by cheering staff and customers, and given a raft of gifts. “We knew we liked to be with good food and good people,” Ray Yoder told ABC News this week. “But at the start of it, we never thought it’d be this.”
In 2018, it will be easier for travelers to get visas for Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Uganda, Vietnam, Zambia and Zimbabwe, wrote The Telegraph; Outside Online explored what happens when you’re forced to unplug; and the South China Morning Post explained why now’s the time to visit Nanjing, China’s ex-capital.
Oliver is the Australia editor of Adventure.com. Originally from the UK, he's lived in Melbourne since 2011 and writes for a range of international travel and music publications.