By Veronica Lescay
With the passing of a tumultuous year, traveling to expand one’s world view should be a priority in 2017. Since moving to the South Pacific late last year, I have encountered a culture so vastly different from what I am accustomed to. I have learned that there is no “common sense,” no one way of doing things or looking at problems. And perhaps that is the single most important aspect of travel – to recognize that there are diverse outlooks on any given point and that the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. With that said, I will share with you travel inspirations for the new year, of places that can give you a fresh perspective on life.’
To fall asleep to the rhythmic pounding of the waves against the 18th-century seafront ramparts in Essaouira, a port city on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, was a very quixotic moment in my early travels. Perhaps romance is not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Morocco, but for me, the country is beset with excitement and mystery. From clambering up dunes in the impossibly dreamy Sahara Desert, to the exotic cities old-world towns of Marrakesh and Fez, this jewel of the Arab world is yours to discover
“Where happiness finds you” is Fiji’s marketing slogan to attract tourists. I used to work in the advertising industry, so I usually dismiss marketing campaigns upfront. But Fiji is really up to something. Their focus on happiness is quite factual! I wandered away from the expensive resorts that could be found worldwide and found the friendliest locals ever, who are all too quick to invite you for a kava ceremony or a family picnic on the beach. The beautiful island of Taveuni, popular with Americans, offers an opportunity to chase surreal waterfalls throughout the large island. A ferry service offers island hopping through the Yasawa Islands, which present picture-perfect beaches and even hiking opportunities. Welcoming, warm locals and a multitude of tropical landscapes, from sandy coastlines to jungle environs, make Fiji an ideal location to reinvigorate yourself with a dose of happiness.
I’ve been to Colombia a total of three times since 2013, and for good reason – it’s THE destination of South America. The colonial gem of Cartagena offers colorful Caribbean charm, stunning architecture, and nightlife I have a hard time forgetting. Tayrona National Park has rich bio-diversity that you have to trek through to get to your hotel or camping site (no short cuts here!), but the tropical views of certainly worth the effort. The capital city of Bogota has an up-and-coming food scene and great museums, and in San Gil, Colombia’s adventure capital, I tried paragliding for the first time. Soaring alongside an eagle in Chicamocha Canyon was an enlightening experience that made me fall in love with Colombia even more.
4. Bagan, Myanmar
Myanmar tends to be a destination that travelers gravitate to only after they’ve covered the rest of South East Asia. Hence, you get the exotic culture and ancient cities without the crowds. Bagan is one such place, with over 2,000 Buddhist monuments sprinkled throughout a vast area of plains. Foreign visitors are few and far between, and you are more likely to encounter busloads of local tourists on a pilgrimage to this spectacular site. I climbed too many pagodas to count, and each time was awarded panoramic views of temples, dotting the landscape as far as the eye can see. Get here before the crowds descend!
Greece’s intoxicating pull on travelers is nothing new, but the draw is certainly warranted. It is a country I visited in the early days of my travel-focused lifestyle, and I became instantly enamored by its history, people, and dazzling islands. After a mandatory visit to the Acropolis and Parthenon in the ancient city of Athens, a boarded a ferry that whisked me off to Mykonos, the white-washed island famed for its beachfront nightlife. After a few intoxicating (in a positive way) days later, I was off to Santorini. Quite possibly one of the most beautiful islands I’ve ever been to, Santorini is honeymoon central. I was a solo traveler, but nonetheless, strolling through Fira and Oia, with cubiform houses that picturesquely cling to cliffs above a crater, was a magical experience, despite being a party of one. My final stop in Greece was Rhodes, where I met an awesome group of locals and stayed much longer than my anticipated couple of days. After one week of experiencing boundless Greek hospitality and navigating my way around the medieval streets of Old Town Rhodes, I reluctantly took a ferry to Turkey. This was over 5 years ago, and after visiting almost 70 countries, Greece is still a highlight of my travels.
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