Chinese New Year may not have the countdowns and party hats of its January 1st counterpart, but what it does have is a mass travel exodus in Asia and a strong sense of mysticism tied to its 12 zodiac animals. Much like the Western horoscope, a person's Chinese zodiac animal sets out predictions in areas like money, family, romance, health and yes, even travel. However, the key difference is that Western zodiac signs focus on the day a person was born, while Chinese zodiac animals correspond with the year of birth.
For example, 2013 marks the year of the snake, and according to Paul Ng, a philosopher and geomancer, Feb. 10 means the start of a boom time in the travel industry.
"This year is favourable to [travel by water] because it's the [year of the] water snake. I've said that cruise boats will do well this year and the aviation industry will do well as well," Ng told HuffPost Canada Travel, adding with a laugh, "they will make a lot of money this year."
Ng wouldn't go into detail as to how he formulates his predictions, but said it all comes down to "many levels of mathematical equations." Readers can take his predictions with a grain of salt, but if history is any indication, the former University of Waterloo computer scientist tends to be right more often than he is wrong. In 2011, for example, he predicted the devastating fires in California, the Canadian government's election (and eventual winner) and a booming housing market for Toronto, according to The Star.
In addition to his predictions on natural disasters (travellers may want to avoid Japan, China and central USA in 2013 thanks to earthquakes and tornadoes), Ng also shared with HuffPost Canada Travel some of the personality traits associated with each zodiac animal and what travel has in store for each one. Readers unfamiliar with their zodiac sign can learn more about their animal here.
Where you should go this year, according to your Chinese sign. Slideshow text follows for mobile readers.
The Snake (2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965, 1953, 1941)
As Ng puts it, "snakes tend to be mysterious and charming." Females born under the snake enjoy beauty and generally speaking, are fairly good looking. However, they're not suckers, have a hard time trusting people and tend to be self-protective.
When it comes to travel, snakes are both adventurous but also somewhat conservative. In general, beaches would make a good destination for snakes, with One Foot Island Beach on the Cook Islands for the more conservative snakes looking for alone time; Miami's South Beach for those who want to enjoy other good-looking people or Wailea Beach in Hawaii for those looking for adventure.
The Horse (2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954, 1942)
Is there someone that you know who can't sit still for more than 10 minutes? Then they're probably a horse. "Horses tend to be very restless with very high energy," said Ng, adding that that they're nontraditional and have really short attention spans.
Needless to say, resorts and relaxing on the beach won't cut it for these equines. Rather, horses can put their energy to use in Iceland hiking through the country's famed "Golden Circle." Iceland also provides opportunities to scale waterfalls, check out geysers and even go inside volcanoes. Heck, horses visiting the island nation can even take the opportunity to ride the iconic Icelandic pony for something out of the ordinary.
The Sheep (2003, 1991, 1979, 1967, 1955, 1943)
If there's one defining feature of the sheep it's that they tend to be very good with numbers, thanks to their logical nature. "They make good accountants," said Ng, adding that by extension they're naturally very good with money.
Now, one might think that sheep could put their calculated ways to use, maybe at a blackjack table in Vegas, but those born as sheep aren't very sociable and tend to hate busy cities. Cheapflights.ca recommends that sheep ought to check out guided tours of cities with history, such as Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina, since it will appeal to the sheep's desire for calm when travelling.
The Monkey (2004, 1992, 1980, 1968, 1956, 1944)
Let's get this out of the way: monkeys do not make great travelling partners. It's not that they're anti-social like the sheep, but they're stubborn. According to Ng, monkeys are not only stubborn, but they're subtle, meaning that they won't argue with you but they just won't do what they're told.
So when it comes to travel, that pretty much means that unless a monkey finds a perfect travel itinerary, group tours and guided tours are out of the question. But monkeys do have a sense of adventure and they like to spend money and know how to live the good life. A week-long excursion to Europe seems fitting for a monkey, allowing them a chance to shop across various boutiques in London, Paris, Milan and Madrid.
The Rooster (2005, 1993, 1981, 1969, 1957, 1945)
As Ng puts it, "roosters are expressive. They like to talk a lot." He also adds that unlike some zodiac animals, roosters aren't that self-centred. With this in mind, it's safe to say that those born as roosters will want to be where the people are, chatting up locals and making new friends along the way. Bars are a good place, to but roosters hit with the travel bug will want to go to Germany, where beer halls are aplenty, or to Ibiza, for the island's legendary club scene.
The Dog (2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958, 1946)
Much like the real animal, those born in the year of the dog tend to be loyal. However, they are one of the most self-centred animals in the zodiac. "When dealing with a dog, you have to let them express themselves," says Ng.
It may sound unorthodox, but when it comes to expression, dance may be one of the dog's best outlets for their emotions, making Brazil, the birthplace of the samba, and Cuba, the founding country of the rumba, ideal for dogs. If South America isn't in the cards, Ng also recommends short trips (think long weekends) for allow dogs some alone time.
The Pig (2007, 1995, 1983, 1971, 1959, 1947)
2013 may be the year of the snake but it terms of travel, the pig has it the best, according to Ng. "It is the number one travel sign for 2013," he said, adding that if pigs — or boars as they're sometimes referred to in other circles — do not travel, then they will get sick this year. By nature, pigs are all encompassing or neutral, meaning that they don't make many enemies among the other zodiac animals. They're also sociable and make awesome travel partners. We'd recommend pigs taking up backpacking this year with a friend, either in Europe or South-East Asia as the regions will allow pigs to see the most number of countries in the most efficient way possible.
The Rat (2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960, 1948, 1936)
Since rats and snakes are both land animals, they share many things in common. However, they can either be the best of friends with a snake or mortal enemies, says Ng. "Rat can go on vacations fairly safely. In about 80 per cent of cases, [rats and snakes] are very similar and get along, 20 per cent they would hate each other. Personality-wise, rats are quite sociable, detail oriented and very good with money. Cheapflights.ca recommends that rats visit Spain or Sri Lanka for those looking for the most value for their money, while places like Rome, Dubai or New York will satiate a rat who has too much money to burn.
The Ox (2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961, 1949, 1937)
Good news for those born as an ox: if you're going to plan a vacation this year, then it will definitely happen. Bad news: it's because you're pig-headed. Oxen are the number one stubborn sign of the 12 animals, according to Ng. That stubbornness can cause trouble with other zodiac animals as they tend to be the least forgiving animal of the group. "Don't make an ox your enemy, otherwise you have an enemy for many years," said Ng.
When it comes to travel, Ng says oxen will enjoy their vacation this year and meet many interesting people along the way. But he also says that digestion problems may plague oxen this year, making destinations known for wild street food, like Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, a risky culinary adventure. Instead for oxen who like to eat, stick to resorts and cruises where the food is either cooked in front of you or handled by professionals in a sanitary kitchen.
The Tiger (2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950, 1938)
According to Ng, tigers are the equivalent of Leos in Western astrology, meaning they like to express themselves. In general, tigers like to be recognized and bask in the spotlight. When it comes to travel, tigers love the nightlife of cities, and New York City, Amsterdam and Berlin offer plenty of options, whether it's a stroll in Central Park, dancing till 4 am at Hotel Arena or hitting up a lounge with your entourage at Cookies.
The Rabbit (2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951, 1939)
The saying "go big or go home" pretty much captures the personality of those born in the year of the rabbit. According to Ng, rabbits are the moodiest of the 12 animals, meaning there is no such thing as a middle ground for them. They typically lean to the extremes, meaning there can be rabbits who've never travelled at all, or rabbits who are constantly on the move.
For the rabbits who seldom travel, a trip to some place that's familiar or feels like home — like a cottage or a time share — may be your best bet in 2013. For travel-hungry rabbits, a cross-Canada road trip or a few months backpacking through the U.K., France, Germany and Spain ought to do the trick and keep rabbits on the move for 2013.
The Dragon (2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964, 1952, 1940)
Like the horse, those born in the year of the dragons are restless, high-energy people. However, what's unique to the dragon is their imagination, according to Ng. This creativity translates to unique travel opportunities for dragons who can do better than the usual tourist traps. Mount Rushmore? Yawn. Dragons will be riding horses out in Mongolia. Other far-flung places include Arctic excursions and mountain climbing at Mt. Kilimanjaro. We'd go on, but dragons are already hatching more exotic travel ideas that make whatever we suggest sound like a trip to Grandma's.
What's your Chinese zodiac animal? Let us know in the comment section below or via Twitter @HPCaTravel.