Reality Tours Offer Alternative Ways to Celebrate the New Year

Most people go out to dinner or attend parties on New Year’s Eve, while others prefer to stay home with family and friends. The more adventurous souls plan a trip that will take them outside of the country on New Year’s, for a chance to experience the local form of celebration in different cultures.

This winter the Reality Tours program, is offering four decade-straddling trips for revelers who want to learn about the world, glimpse the future — and enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime New Year’s party.

Three different winter Reality Tours, running from Dec. 27, 2010 to Jan. 4 or 5, 2011, offer participants three distinct visions of the present and future in warm and sunny Latin America.

In Brazil, former urban guerrilla and political prisoner Dilma Rousseff was elected the country’s first female president in October. Her election signals the changing role of women (and grassroots activism) in the largest and fastest-growing country in South America.

In addition to getting an inside look at this dynamic regional superpower, tour members will experience New Year’s in Rio de Janeiro — the second biggest party in Brazil after Carnaval!

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Cuba, which is struggling to maintain the ideals of its 1959 revolution in the midst of the global economic recession, which is forcing Cuba to become a leader in energy and agricultural sustainability.

Raul Castro, who took over from his brother Fidel in 2006, recently announced that the government — which remains Cuba’s largest single employer — will eliminate 1 million workers, or roughly 20 percent of the nation’s workforce.

With the results of the U.S. mid-term elections threatening hopes that restrictions on travel to Cuba will be lifted or even eased, Reality Tours remains one of the few licensed delegations to Cuba. Participants will spend New Year’s Eve in the cabaret of notorious Miami mobster Myer Lansky’s old Riviera Hotel!

Between Brazil and Cuba (politically, at least) lies Ecuador, where President Rafael Correa was briefly held hostage by mutinous police in what was seen as a failed coup attempt.

Though short-lived, the incident highlighted ongoing tensions in the country as an indigenous majority struggles to overcome political and economic inequality, including exploitation by foreign corporations such as Chevron.

Delegates will participate in New Year’s Eve celebrations with the indigenous Sarayacu community in an eco-lodge in the Amazon rainforest.

The fourth New Year’s trip, running Dec. 29 to Jan. 11, is to India, which President Obama recently hailed as a rising regional and economic superpower. Though India has experienced enormous economic growth in recent years, nearly half of its 1.1 billion citizens continue to live below the poverty line.

To meet this challenge, a variety of grassroots organizations, fair trade collectives, and micro-lending projects are promoting people-led development in agriculture, housing, irrigation, re-forestation, textiles, and more.

The tour is led by Dr. Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and includes visits to Gandhi’s home and ashram. Participants will celebrate New Year’s in the club car of a 1st-class train as they travel across one of the most ancient yet rapidly-changing civilizations on Earth.

Reality Tours provide in-depth understanding of other countries and cultures by connecting travelers with community organizers and social change advocates around the globe.

For more information on their New Year’s trips or other 2011 Reality Tours, visit