Pearls of Wisdom: Pico Iyer Sheds Light on Life, Travel & Santa Barbara

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
photos courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara and Danielle Methmann

A toast to Santa Barbara tourism
At Visit Santa Barbara's latest Annual Tourism Luncheon, the numbers wowed.  Some 6.1 million tourists visited Santa Barbara's South Coast in 2015.  And the local tourism industry's impressive economic impact continues: $1.5 billion in annual traveler spending, $45 million in yearly tax revenues and 12,000 jobs along Santa Barbara County's South Coast.  Nationally, tourism's economic impact is $2.1 trillion.

The upscale luncheon event, held May 4, 2016, at the seaside Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club in Montecito, also starred The Rivvies.  These Annual Destination Awards honor community members who've made a positive impact on the local tourism industry.  The '16 Rivvies went to Morgen McLaughlin, Executive Director of Santa Barbara Vintners, and Susan Jang-Bardick, special events supervisor for Santa Barbara's Parks & Rec Department.

The star attraction at this year's luncheon, however, was keynote speaker Pico Ayer, the admired travel writer known as much for his unattached lifestyle -- he doesn't own a cell phone and lives part-time in rural Japan, car-free, and a Benedictine hermitage in Big Sur -- as for his accomplishments. The prolific essayist and author has been traveling full-time since the mid-80s and is well-known for his inspirational TED Talks.

Mr. Iyer signed copies of his book, "The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere"
Mr. Iyer, it turns out, also has strong roots in Santa Barbara.  "This marks the 50th year since I first arrived in Santa Barbara with my parents," the British-born world traveler told the crowd.  And what followed were a series of poignant, even humorous pearls of wisdom that succeeded in opening the eyes, and perhaps even the hearts, of the Santa Barbara tourism leaders and politicians gathered before him.

Among the quotes that inspired me most:

·      "Santa Barbara suffers from Charlize Theron Syndrome: it's so gorgeous, it's easy to underestimate its depth, talent and sophistication."

·      "Every time I come back to Santa Barbara, I feel as if I'm seeing things with fresh eyes. Aside from being home to world-class vineyards... Santa Barbara is home to remarkable people."

·      "A destination is much less important than the eyes we bring to it.”

·      "More important than the sights is what's between the sights, and between the lines."

·      "In Santa Barbara, even the everyday things take you to places of such beauty."

·      "If there's one place for which the notion of the staycation should have been invented, it's Santa Barbara."

·      "One of the great riches of Santa Barbara are the tourists, who open the eyes of the locals, who in turn open the eyes of their neighbors."

·      "When you live in a place, you notice what may not be quite perfect... But if you're attentive, you notice the new developments that are making that place even more special."

·      "It takes someone visiting our town to remind us of the treasure we're sitting on."

·      "These days, people are so bombarded by information that what they're aching for is liberation."

·      "Luxury is a function of scarcity.  Nowadays, that's simply having a lot of time... and being able to let one's mind off the leash."

·      "These days, you have to go to the ends of the earth to do nothing at all."

·      "We travel not to leave our homes but to leave our habits.  It's about what I call the three 'trans:' transport, transcendence, transformation."

If it's not in a Shelby Sim selfie, it probably didn't happen
The luncheon also welcomed Visit Santa Barbara's incoming board members, including chair Matthew La Vine, GM at The Fess Parker -- A Doubletree by Hilton Resort.  It also screened "Thank You, Santa Barbara," a fun video thanking the community for creating a welcoming environment for visitors.

Guests were treated to a lovely spring meal, a sparkling wine toast, a fun doling out of gifts (from sunglasses to complimentary attraction passes) and copies of Mr. Iyer's book, "The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere," which he signed.

For more on Pico Iyer, click here.

Follow Visit Santa Barbara on social media: @SantaBarbara.


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