Trav Mags

Swimming in the Gene Pool

Sunday, October 2, 2005

WORTH A TRIP: "I woke up one morning last spring to find my life was a lie," Donovan Webster says in the October National Geographic Traveler. Despite his Anglo-Saxon name and a proper New England family tree, DNA testing revealed his roots went much further afield -- to "click-talking Hadzabe in Tanzania . . . Lebanese Arabs, tribal Uzbeks in Central Asia, and Basques in Spain." Thanks to the Genographic Project (sponsored by the National Geographic mothership), now "anyone can have their own DNA analyzed to discover their ancestors' migration routes." Webster sets off to visit his "genetic family," on a "DNA heritage tour" that spans more than 100,000 years. It may be the most far-flung family reunion ever -- yet these relatives aren't so distant after all: "I could not imagine someone with whom I had less in common," he says of a Rift Valley tribesman in Tanzania. "But as we began talking, it was the things we shared that became obvious."

WORTH A FLIP: Camping Life offers a thoughtful starter guide to kids' backpacking, including pack weight (10 to 15 percent of body weight), duration (three miles a day, max) and fun (pick destinations "that end in a natural jungle gym"). And remember, "Their senses are directed to the small, funny-shaped rocks, ant hills, miniature gardens, smoothly weathered sticks," not the stunning views that dazzle you . . . Have we conquered our 9/11 fears? Travel+Leisure notes that "travel to foreign destinations by U.S. residents reached an all-time high last year," with visits to China surging 72 percent and trips to France up 28 percent . . . But if you'd prefer to stick closer to home, Outside Traveler (a twice-yearly special from Outside) gives you 10 great options, from sled-dog mushing in Minnesota to biking California wine country to a historic road trip down the Natchez Trace Parkway ending up in an 1830s log cabin B&B . . .

For those who thought the Scandinavians invented skiing, Backcountry sets us straight: It all began in the Lake Baikal/Altai Mountains region of Asia. Three intrepid travelers venture to find the sport's origins and discover Tuwa locals schussing through old-growth forests on "huge, wooden, handmade" skis wrapped in horsehair, wielding a single pole taller than they are . . . A world away, another slice of Asia -- Los Angeles's Chinatown -- has "morphed from an area littered with FOR LEASE signs into something approaching official hot-spot status," according to Sunset. Quentin Tarantino is reopening the "classic King Hing Theater" and more than 20 galleries have sprouted. It's a "split screen of now and then," with "art installations in one storefront while retired residents play mah-jongg under fluorescent lights in the next" . . .

This destination has a "prime slice of silky Mediterranean beachfront with the look of Rio and the vibe of Miami," with a Bauhaus core designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Would you believe Tel Aviv? City says that although words like "bombing," "attack" and "targeted" pockmark the headlines, the Israeli capital's original Ottoman-era architecture, and beaches "for every persuasion," rarely make the news. Plus, Tel Avivis "display resilience, an almost aggressive defiance to terror that is both inspiring and slightly mad" . . .

Budget Travel was inspired by companies that "do the right thing" to launch the Extra Mile Awards, honoring a diverse bunch, including Microtel, for free in-room phone calls; Club Med, for creating a teens-only hangout zone; and Continental Airlines, for an online calendar that shows exactly when frequent-flier seats are available.

WORTH A CLIP: Gourmet's 2005 restaurant guide covers 18 U.S. cities, dishing the best eateries for "business," spots with "buzz," "classics" and "neighborhood gems." Then it condenses the results into a nifty tear-out pocket guide. Notable D.C. nods go to CityZen and 2 Amys pizza.

WORTH A CLICK: Sure, your boat may soon "languish under a cover of snow," but a charter in the tropics is the perfect antidote, Sail says. It provides a how-to primer in print, plus an expanded list of bareboat company stats with Web links at (click on "Charter Cruising").

WORTH A GAWK: "Any spa treatment influenced by the Mayans, who ripped out the still-beating hearts of their sacrificial victims, is bound to involve more than a lemongrass rub," Sunday Times Travel opines, introducing us to the Temezcal sweat ritual at Mexico's Kinan Spa with classic Brit wit. If that doesn't appeal, how about a Tasmanian spa that takes you wombat stalking to promote personal development? . . . For those who'd rather not get in touch with their inner selves, try exhibiting your outer self at Florida's annual Fantasy Fest (Oct. 21-30), Islands suggests, including the Epidermal Arts and Torso Tapestries Contest. "And leave all inhibitions at the door!"

-- Gayle Keck

© 2005 The Washington Post Company