January is the perfect time of year to vacation plan! I meet a lot of people who worry a lot about taking time off- the pressure, the deadlines, the go-go-go pace of modern living is very intoxicating. I totally get it. But in my experience, scheduling play is just as essential. I saw Reed Hastings, Founder & CEO of Netflix, speak last year and he talked about the companies “unlimited” vacation policy. Reed himself takes six weeks off a year and encourages employees to do the same, the way he talked about it was interesting. “It’s assumed that people just go on vacation and lounge around and do nothing,” he said, “but in my own experience this was true for maybe a couple of days and then naturally my mind goes to life and work and I can see what’s not working and what needs to be done.”
The act of getting out of our daily routine and stimulating the brain with new cultures and new ways of thinking about the world is invaluable. Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz came up with the world’s most famous coffee chain after seeing the culture of coffee shops in Italy. Meanwhile Uber was famously born on a snowy night in Paris in 2008, when former CEO Travis Kalanick and his friend Garrett Camp struggled to get a cab. Or there’s J.K. Rowling, who first had the idea for Harry Potter while delayed on a train travelling from Manchester to London King.
It’s no coincidence. Novelty stimulates the brain, which can otherwise run on ‘automatic pilot’, taking us through life’s familiar routines without bothering to pay conscious attention. You can see it with the huge success of festivals like Burning Man. Curiosity opens us up in new ways and vacationing with a purpose is a great way to get out of the getting-things-done mantra, which can keep you stuck in the same repetitive cycles.
Not to mention, it fills you with memories that will last a lifetime… Before all the cool events and festivals in 2018 escape you, here’s our carefully curated list of incredible once-in-a-lifetime events and experiences that should be of interest. Whether you love comedy or couture, here are our picks.
JAN 27-13 FEB, 2018: GRAND MASQUERADE BALL, VENICE
This must-go annual event sees the entire city come alive, celebrating the Carnival with lots of romantic balls (and fabulous fashion). Feast of the Venetians “La Festa Veneziana” opens the Venice Carnival on Jan 27th at 18:00. While there is lots going on 3rd/4th of Feb too.
FEB 9th-13th, 2018: MARDI GRAS, NEW ORLEANS
Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday,” always falls on the last day of the Carnival as it is an Ash Wednesday tradition- aka the first day of Lent. Most people, however, descend upon New Orleans the weekend before (this year the weekend of February 9th). 2018 marks 300 years since New Orleans was established in 1718 so you can expect it to be big.
FEB 9th-14th, 2018: RIO CARNIVAL, BRAZIL
The Rio carnival attracts approximately a million people from different parts of the globe every year. The ultimate pre-Lent celebration (traditionally a period of abstinence from alcohol, meat and pleasure) there’ll be dancing, singing, drumming and samba-ing in the street.
MARCH 1ST-2nd, 2018: HOLI, INDIA
India’s most beautiful and dream-like festival of color is also known as the “festival of love”. In 2018, Indian Holi Festival will be celebrated on March 1 and 2. Go to Delhi, Jaipur and Agra to celebrate Holi- each will enthral you with vibrant color and atmosphere.
MARCH 2nd, 2018: SKY LANTERN FESTIVAL, TAIWAN
If you’ve never heard of it before, you’ve probably seen stunning footage of thousands of sky lanterns floating over Tapei’s Pingxi District on Instagram. The annual event where you buy a lantern, scribble your desires on it and then set it free into the heavens attracts 100,000 – 200,000 people. Check to see if there is a free shuttle bus to get there from MRT Taipei Zoo station (the journey takes approximately 1 hour). Go for beauty + wonder.
MARCH 9th-18th, 2018: SOUTH BY SOUTH WEST
SXSW has been growing rapidly since it began in 1987 as a small regional event (that first year they expected around 150 attendees to show up, but over 700 came). Now an annual conglomerate of film, media, music and conferences- it’s a legendary calendar event to attend. Singer-songwriter John Mayer was discovered by his record label there, some say that it was instrumental to the growth of Twitter, while Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerburg have both appeared as speakers.
MARCH 9th-18th, 2018: ART BASEL, HONG KONG
Art Basel connects leading art patrons, galleries and buyers across the globe. 2013 marked the first year of Art Basel in Hong Kong, and it targets a rising number of collectors from mainland China. Expect more eclecticism and unconventional to be on display than the western Art Basels.
APRIL 9th-14th, 2018: SNOW BOMBING, AUSTRIA
Taking place 8,497ft above ground level, in Mayrhofen, Austria- this is the world’s leading music festival on snow. It’s young (average age is about 27 years old), and it’s super-friendly. If you love apres ski, you should probably go check it out.
APRIL 13th-15th, APRIL 20th-22ND 2018: COACHELLA, PALM SPRINGS
Situated just outside Palm Springs, Coachella is another festival that has come along way since it started in 1999 (and made a loss of $800,000). In 2017, it broke all its own attendance records and grossed a staggering $84,264,264 in ticket sales from a total of 198,000 tickets sold. This year Beyonce and Eminem will head-line.
APRIL 27th 2018: KINGS DAY, AMSTERDAMN
King’s Day (formerly Queens Day) on April 27 is a really well kept secret. The entire country has a party that lasts for days. All over Amsterdam the bars and restaurants are open and the city is full of people dressed in orange having fun, while the canals swell with boats and dancers everywhere.
MAY 18TH-19TH, 2018: CANNES FILM FESTIVAL
The most glamorous of all festivals, the Cannes Film Festival attracts almost quarter of a million actors, directors, producers and agents every year. It launched in 1939 and is centred around Palais Des Festivals on the boulevard of Promenade de la Croisette.
MAY 20TH, 2018: BAY-TO-BREAKERS, SAN FRANCISCO
The oldest consecutively run annual footrace in the world and a staple to the City by the Bay since May 1912- on the morning of Bay-To-Breakers, the city of San Francisco comes alive with racers, yes, but also costumes and cocktails and street parties galore. It has a positive, inclusive, anything goes energy that literally fills the streets and feels reminiscent on a 1960’s parade. Oh and yes there are a few naked people too.
MAY 22ND-26TH, 2018: CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW, LONDON
For five days in May, London’s always elegant Chelsea comes alive with blooms and botanicals. Hosted by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), a tradition since 1862, this one is a must for anyone with a love of plants. Housed under a giant marquee (which was honoured in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest tent) garden exhibits are built from scratch in just 19 days.
JUNE 14TH-17TH, 2018: ART BASEL, SWITZERLAND
The original Art Basel and generally seen as the unrivalled barometer of the art market- this is a must-do calendar event for the culturally savvy. Basel floods with art parlours and European high society- with many parties and restaurant/hotel events.
JULY 1st-5th, 2018: HAUTE COUTURE WEEK, PARIS
The second haute couture week of 2018, these shows are like the Oscars of the fashion world. With dresses that take hundreds-upon-hundreds of hours to create, the price tags are so high that there are only ever around 2000 customers- but, of course, many more fly in from all over the world to be in the presence of the glamour. Be sure to pop by Hotel Plaza Athénée for a cocktail if you are in town and want a little atmos.
JULY 1st-5th, 2018: COMIC CON INTERNATIONAL, SAN DIEGO
The largest comics and pop culture event in the United States, Comic Con is world-famous- and the mothership of geek conventions. Attracting thousands of artists, celebrities and fans- there’s elaborate costumes and lots of lines, not that anyone seems to care- the shear size and star power of the event makes it impossible for anyone who loves comic books not to have fun.
AUGUST 3RD-27TH, 2018: THE EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FRINGE FESTIVAL
Edinburgh is my home town so I can tell you with certainty that this is definitely one for the bucketlist. Throughout August, the city throws open its doors to performers from the worlds of music, theatre and comedy and the statistics are staggering – more than 4.5 million people attend every year and there are about 50,000 performances scheduled.
AUGUST 29TH, 2018: THE TOMATINA FESTIVAL
The Tomatina Festival, the Tomato Battle, or Tomatina Festival is a festival that is held in the Spanish Valencian town of Buñol and it gets messier than most. Tens of thousands of participants come from all over the world to fight in a harmless battle where more than one hundred metric tons of over-ripe tomatoes are thrown in the streets and not one person escapes the splash.
SEPTEMBER 6-14TH, 2018: NEW YORK FASHION WEEK
It’s a little known secret that it was New York and not Paris that witnessed the first Fashion Week in 1943. Now routinely drawing the likes of Kim Kardashian West and Bella Hadid, it’s a big deal in the city as hotels and stores and restaurants pull out stops for the fashion calendar. This summer, big names such as Alexander Wang, have withdrawn from the schedule- meaning New York will have to up its game to keep relevant.
SEPTEMBER 14TH-18TH, 2018: LONDON FASHION WEEK
Victoria Beckham announced that in September she is headed back to London for her 10th-anniversary show. And the city pulls out the stops as the direct value of the fashion industry to the UK economy is a massive £21bn. Be sure to book a brunch at the new Petersham Nurseries in Covent Garden, which is close to the centre of the action Somerset House.
SEPTEMBER 22ND-OCT 7TH, 2018: OKTOBERFEST
Held annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, Oktoberfest is a 16-day folk festival that’s notoriously fun. Beginning on October 18, 1810 to commemorate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen- 6 million people now fly in from around the world to celebrate.
SEPTEMBER 25TH-OCT 3RD, 2018: PARIS FASHION WEEK
Big shows from the likes of Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Chloé, Balmain, Hermés makes this one of the most glamorous and star-studded weeks in Paris. Pop by the newly revamped Hôtel de Crillon to people watch, the British Vogue team refer to it as their ‘home away from home’ inbetween shows.
OCTOBER 6TH-14TH, 2018: ALBUQUERQUE BALLOON FIESTA, NEW MEXICO
Located at the heart of New Mexico, once a year the skies just outside the city of Albuquerque fill with hot air balloons. With 700 balloons, is the largest ballooning event on earth, arguably the most photographed event on earth, get up early, have a cup of hot cocoa and marvel at the sight (or get involved and float up high).
OCTOBER 19TH-23RD, 2018: DIWALLI, INDIA
The Hindu festival of light is India’s biggest and most important holiday of the year (think Christmas for Christians). While it’s traditionally a time for family celebrations, if you stay in Mumbai or Delhi you’ll see the entire city illuminated with lights- a total bucketlist sight.
OCTOBER 31ST-2ND NOV, 2018: DAY OF THE DEAD, MEXICO
Every year Mexico celebrates The Day of the Dead with ceremonies related to cemeteries and death- it’s not a sad occasion, in contrary it’s a vivid celebration of bright color, street parties, beautifully decorated altars and markets full of neon sugar skulls and papier-mâché skeletons. The pre-historic state of Oaxaca, known for its archeological sites and indigenous culture makes a great spot to visit.
NOVEMBER 23RD, 2018: CHANG MAI, LANTERN FESTIVAL
Held on the night of the full moon in November, this is arguably Thailand’s most charming festival. Growing in size annually (perhaps due to Instagram popularity), a large crowd congregate on the Mae Ping River, where hundreds of people assembling to float their banana-leaf containers (krathong) decorated with flowers and candles onto the river to worship the Goddess of Water then hot-air lanterns are launched up into the sky.
DECEMBER 6TH-9TH, 2018: ART BASEL, MIAMI
Since the 1970’s, Art Basel has served as a meeting point for the international art world- in Miami, it’s one of the highest-profile week’s of the year and you can expect glitz, glamour and air-kissing galore. Pop by Soho House Miami for a brunch and soak in the atmosphere.
(Photos on Unsplash: India by Vitaliy Lyubezhanin, Balloons New Mexico: Ian Dooley, Venice by Tj Holowaychuk, San Francisco; Ian Schneider, Color festival: Maxime BHM, Lanterns: Ryan Franco).