Journeys Into The Millennium

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Where will you be on December 31, 1999? How about hopping aboard a cruise ship in November for a 127-day round-the-world adventure, visiting Tunisian deserts, Chilean fiords, and Australia's Great Barrier Reef, then bringing in the new millennium in Santiago, Chile. Or perhaps you'd rather explore the steamy volcanic region of Siberia and enjoy New Year's Eve in a Russian night club, then jet across the international date line to Alaska to celebrate the coming of the millennium once again. Or maybe the wonders of ancient Egypt are more your style. You could ring in the New Year at the Karnak Temple in Luxor, then spend the first day of the new Millennium exploring King Tut's tomb and the temple of Queen Hatshepsut. Or perhaps your ideal would be experiencing sunrise on New Year's Day at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

These are only a few of the exotic options available to you when you're planning your New Year (and New Millennium) celebration. And folks in the travel industry are betting that people will set aside worries of Y2K computer bug transportation snarls, and take off for an epic journey. "There is no doubt that there is a public fascination with the biggest change to our calendars in a thousand years," said Mike Spinelli, president of the American Society of Travel Agents, "and as a result, there is a growing desire to be somewhere special to ring in New Year's 2000."

The reasons for undertaking such a special excursion are many. Some people just want to do something special to commemorate this once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. "There is a certain excitement that comes with round numbers," said David Kessler, executive administrator of The Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University. "They're just waiting to have meaning attached to them, and humans are really great at attaching meaning to things."

Others are finding religious or spiritual significance in the big calendar change, since the year 2000 is supposed to mark the two-thousandth anniversary of Jesus' birth. "Millennial years are pilgrimage years," said Kessler. In this spirit, Christian tour companies are making arrangements to shuttle pilgrims to Israel in the year 2000, and travelers are flocking to Oberammergau, Germany. After being devastated by the bubonic plague in 1634, the small town began putting on the Passion Play, a dramatization of the life of Jesus, every ten years. It's now performed at the beginning of each decade, and the performances from May to October of the year 2000 are expected to be extremely popular.

Folks with survivalist tendencies may have an entirely different rationale for spending New Year's Eve in some remote location. Fear of the consequences of the Y2K computer bug, which may affect everything from air traffic control systems to elevators, is driving some people out into the wilderness, where they won't be affected by possible mayhem on New Year's Day. Real Goods, a supplier of solar energy systems, says that eight out of every ten phone calls to its renewable energy department have been inquiries about Y2K and disaster preparedness. Even if you're not worried about civilization collapsing on New Year's Day 2000, it would be a good idea to be aware of possible snags in your travel plans. "Maybe you want to get to wherever you're traveling before midnight on the thirty-first," said Kessler, adding that it wouldn't hurt to call your airline and airport and ask them if their computer systems are ready for the year 2000.

It may seem like there's plenty of time until the turn of the millennium, but you'd better start making those phone calls and making plans now. Patty Zinc of CMH Helihiking, an organization that flies travelers up to lavish lodges on remote mountaintops, says they're nearly completely booked during that time. "The new millennium presents a unique opportunity for travelers to fulfill their favorite vacation fantasies at sea and on land," said Bonnie Ammer, president of Fodor's Travel Publications. "With so much more to see and do, travelers need to research and plan now to take advantage of the diverse world-wide travel opportunities that the new millennium has to offer."

Special thanks to the Center for Millennium Studies at Boston University for help with this article.


Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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