The lesbian-owned Kimber Modern elevates Austin's hip SoCo district Crocheted table runners and fussy florals have no place at the Kimber Modern, the perfect new complement to artsy Austin and its rebellion against Texas's pervasive cowboy conservatism. Kimber Cavendish and Vicki Faust, a couple for 16 years, turned the B&B concept on its ear with this sleek, built-from-scratch guesthouse, located in a residential area a half block from hot, restaurant-packed South Congress Avenue. Minimalist gray concrete panels coat the exterior, but slip through the door and relax your eyes with floor-to-ceiling views of an oak tree-dotted interior courtyard. The five anything-but-standard rooms and one suite come with custom platform beds, frosted glass-walled bathrooms with Philippe Starck sinks, Eames desk chairs, and splashes of whimsical color courtesy of local lesbian artist Martha Gannon's paintings. Form also meets function with nine-foot-tall, foot-wide slivers of blue glass that open toward the courtyard for added ventilation in each room. Self-serve, mostly organic breakfast, wine happy hour, and all-day cappuccinos make this the complete package for the independent urban traveler. KimberModern.com
Q&AQ: My partner and I are still able to travel during this economic crisis, but not without some guilt. Is there any way to give back to the less fortunate in the exotic places we visit?
A: Zoom Vacations teams up with local schools, community centers, or AIDS hospices in virtually every destination it serves, giving travelers the opportunity to volunteer time or make donations to legitimate organizations. Pack a few gently-used items you have from home that you can donate. You'll be making a difference to worthy recipients, and you'll also free up space in your suitcase for souvenirs to take back home. ZoomVacations.com/PRVoluntourism.htm
International relief agency the Rainbow World Fund also sponsors humanitarian journeys to countries with people in need, providing volunteers and raising money while giving visitors direct contact with local cultures and individuals. RainbowFund.org/Journey
HOT LIST Invigorate your body and mind on these adventuresBike Tour Through BurgundyAlyson Adventures' men-only biking trip begins June 13 in Beaune, France, and travels through Burgundy to ancient towns like Chateauneuf and Semur-en-Auxois. Most meals are included, promising the full experience of regional wines, cheeses, and local specialties like coq au vin. Don't sweat the caloric intake: With up to 40 miles a day of cycling, you will eat, burn, repeat. AlysonAdventures.com
Grand Canyon RaftingThis 10-day trip, starting July 1 in Las Vegas, includes a 280-mile rafting adventure down the Colorado River. Along with "luxurious camping" at night, meditation and "group movement rituals" help participants fully experience the uplifting effect of the Grand Canyon. SpiritJourneys.com
Active Alaska CruiseRSVP offers a breathtakingly gorgeous summer Alaska cruise, August 23-30, on the five-star Westerdam , that leaves from Seattle and travels up the West Coast. Options for active travelers include glacier hiking, kayaking, dogsledding, wildlife walks, and even helicopter sightseeing. And for those who can't go on a cruise without tanning, the ship has a retractable glass dome that lets in the sun but keeps out the chill. RSVPVacations.com