A major article in the March Condé Nast Traveler by Lauren Lipton, “All That Money Can Buy,” is concerned with the vacationing style of the 0.01% of citizens who are considered super-rich. The author indicates that there is a growing number of people who fall into the category of the really, really rich (2,000 billionaires plus 187,000 others worth $30 million or more) who spend $50,000 or more on leisure travel annually, half of them going over $100,000. Lipton quotes a travel agent boldly claiming that “We’ll do anything for a client, as long as it’s legal.”
Aye, there’s the rub that rubs this plebian the wrong way and in the direction of the way of the wrong or hazardous. Adventurer Steve Fossett never let his wealth take him down the road of conventional travel; that gallant millionaire was driven to seek new pathways in the skies. In this age of pushing the boundaries of right and wrong and of extreme sports, the lure of taking risks should be the carrot travel agents dangle before the noses and wallets of customers who may be searching for pulse-pounding excitement.
Let a Los Angeles tycoon dole out $2.5 million to reserve 20 vintage autos for a road rally in France. Adrenaline will really be flowing when those who book through Finish Line Tours can be speeding through the streets of L.A. in borrowed cars pursued by the scions of Sergeant Joe Friday.
It takes six figures to arrange for a polar expedition that comes with hot-air balloon flight and a filmmaker to record the trip. Stay warm and closer to real action by bringing your own camera for hair-raising treks down the corridors of sleazy motels with unlicensed private detectives. Not only will you be enraptured by the surprised expressions on the bedmates when forced doors spring open but you will also gain notoriety when serving as star witness in high-profile divorce cases.
Reserving Disneyland for the family is possible for the elite who can’t stop ‘till they get enough juvenile pleasures. The March to Your Own Drummer agency gives its clients specific instructions on how to organize their own improvised parade down Main Street U.S.A. before the costumed performers do. The travel booklet even includes this helpful tip: If security guards pursue your jolly companions, beat it.
Let George Gotdough spend $165,000 a night renting his own Caribbean island paradise, complete with house, two pools, five hot tubs, and four boats. For a mere $500 and half of the haul, Second Story Tours will arrange it so you can have the run of a 30-room mansion while the owners are away. The only booking requirement is that you must plan your visit between 1:00 am and 3:00 am. Sneakers optional. BYOF (Bring Your Own Flashlight).
One affluent father paid $25,000 for the privilege of having his daughter brought on stage so Justin Bieber could serenade her at a concert. For just $1,000 anyone with sporting blood can step in the ring with grappler Bustin’ Bruiser. Those wishing to sing to the police about injuries or refusing to pay Half Nelson Trips will likely find Bruiser doing a benefit performance in their living room.
To get away from the paparazzi, notables like Mike Jagger and William and Kate flee to secluded hideaways on Mustique. Just as much privacy is assured in the more thrilling pursuit of hidden collectibles in musty storage units. No boring bidding a la Storage Wars is involved, just boring with power tools through locks and clamps.
There is no need to turn green with envy or the color purple with anger because you do not have the $1.3 million necessary to charter Stephen Spielberg’s yacht for a week. For just $250 you can rent a little red dented rowboat that in high seas may bring you into close encounters with buried treasure while you raid some lost, submerged ark. Wetsuit, snorkel, and aqualung advised.
It took $1.5 million for a well-heeled family to gain entrance to a Buddhist monastery in Burma, where they were served a catered meal and permitted to witness a special ceremony. For just $300 Hungry Hobo Holidays will teach customers how to cadge meals on the street or in restaurants. Price includes a set of bedraggled clothes and three “get out of jail free” cards. Freddie the Freeloader rates this service 4½ cigar butts.
Do not envy the deep pockets that allowed Oprah Winfrey to take 1,700 guests to Europe and CEO Dennis Koslowski to spend $2 million hosting a party for 75 friends on Sardinia. For just $1,500 anyone can play the numbers game by bringing up to 25 agile acquaintances for the ride of a lifetime arranged through Boxcar Expeditions. Clients are expected to get a running head start and jump on this offer when it rolls their way. Price includes first aid kit, a gross of granola bars, and sing-along booklets featuring such favorites as “On the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe” and “Rock Island Line.”
The divergent paths of travel described here certainly verify the sentiment that the rich are different from you and me as expressed in All the Sad Young Men by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Members of the moneyed class have the means to take stayaways, which usually insulate them the public eye. For the other 99.99%, try one of my getaways.
P.S. Let me know if you get away with it.