Switch It Up: Some New Places to Visit and Some To Leave Behind
A new year means resolutions to travel more and while last year was a good year for travel, this year is slated to be even better! With more countries looking to cash in on the billion dollar travel industry by revisiting visa policies, investing more money into cultural preservation, and marketing harder than ever to get more visitors to their borders, travel buff's options are growing by the day. Even the airline companies are getting with the program by creating more travel classes, slimming down rewards criteria, offering more mileage perks, and chartering new flight routes to even more places, meaning that you get to live adventurously for less!
But, airfare glitches to certain countries and instagram influencers oversaturating timelines with shockingly similar photos resulted in a few places getting pretty much all of the hype last year (I'm talking about you, Dubai). These methods overshadowed some other really great places which left many people feeling like traveling wasn't worth it unless they too were going to those hot spots.
With that being said, here are some of the best places to visit this year, and a few places that we can put off for another time.
Give It a Try
1. Oaxaca, Mexico
When most people think of Mexico a few things come to mind; mariachi bands, mouth-watering food, and colorful party towns like Cancun, Tijuana, and Cabo San Lucas to name a few. But the country is much more than a few international hot spots and good food. Mexico is full of quaint colorful towns, each with their own unique personalities. This year why not spend some time discovering the little known jazz scene in Oaxaca, or wandering the colorful alleyways of San Miguel de Allende, or exploring the Mayan ruins in Tulum? Whatever you do, get off the beaten path and discover the parts unknown.
2. Dubrovnik, Croatia
Right now you're probably sitting here wondering, "Where the hell is Croatia? Is that in Russia or something?" No...no, it is not. Croatia is the horseshoe shaped country in Eastern Europe that borders the Adriatic Sea. While this country doesn't get the same attention as Greece or Italy, it doesn't lack in any of the culture or sights which would make it any less deserving. What makes Croatia such a great place to visit is how unique of an experience it will make for. Quick, what's the capitol city? What currency do they use? (Hint: it's not the Euro.) What language do the people speak? It's something truly special about being one of the first and only people that you know to have visited a place and this is the perfect place to do so. And, if you need any more reason to visit, I'll bet you've probably even seen this place without even realizing it since some of your favorite scenes of Game of Thrones were shot in this coastal country. If it's good enough for King's Landing, then it's good enough for me.
3. Venice, Italy
Every year millions of people travel to Italy to visit the beautifully ruined city of Rome. Tourists spend weeks exploring the cobblestoned walking paths, the masterfully curated museums, and visiting the historic ruins before heading back home, unfortunately missing out on some of the best parts of Italy in the process. This year instead of spending all of your time in one place, why not venture out to the flooded city of Venice. Home of Marco Polo, the city of Venice boasts romantic avenues in the form of waterways instead of traditional paved roads. Imagine spending a night out enjoying good wine and great food and instead of having to call an Uber home, you and a friend hop into a gondola for a romantic midnight boat ride. What makes this year so great for Venice is that you'll be the first to see their state of the art flood gate that will protect the city from the rising waters from global warming.
4. sossusvlei, Namibia
When most people plan trips to the southern region of Africa, Namibia isn't one of the countries that pops up on their places to visit and it's an outright shame. One of the things that makes Namibia such a 'must-visit' place is the diverse free-roaming wildlife. In addition to having the largest population of free-roaming cheetahs (2500-3000) and black rhinos, roughly 100,000 seals make the Atlantic coastal region occupy the area, it's one of only two countries with desert elephants, and several prides of lions, hippos, giraffes and an assortment of other animals make Namibia their home. This coastal desert country also has the largest sand dune in the world which reaches 1,256 feet into the air which makes it ideal for sandboarding. Namibia has tons to offer, especially in the way of active safaris and wildlife spotting, but the one thing that makes it the perfect place to visit are the people....and the lack thereof. Though it's twice the size of California, it has the second least dense population in the world and the majority of the population is made up of 13 different ethnic groups whose cultures have changed very little since becoming independent in 1990.
The Alaskan wilderness is the outdoor paradise that you probably didn't know you were looking for. If you're interested in any kind of outdoor adventure then this is the place for you. Whether it's a quiet weekend retreat in a log cabin, a nice long relaxing vacation, animal spotting, a unique cruise, or just a change in scenery, Alaska has got it and more! Don't let the northern location fool you. While Alaska does see quite a bit of snow, it also gets some pretty warm temperatures during the summers with Fairbanks hovering between 80-90 degrees.
6. São Tomé & Principe
São Tomé is a small cluster of islands just to the west of Gabon. When I say small, I mean, SMALL. The largest island, São Tomé Island, is only 30 miles long by 20 miles wide. What this island lacks in size, it more than makes up in unimaginable beauty. Lush rainforests- check. Breathtaking beaches- check. Good food, amazing people, strong culture-check, check, and check. Also, because it's located pretty much exactly on the equator, it boasts, arguably, the optimum temperature which makes it the perfect place to visit year-round.
Give It a Rest
1. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
A couple years ago there was a glitch fare on a popular airline that priced roundtrip tickets from major U.S. hubs to Dubai for about $200. People jumped at the deal and within hours, thousands of tickets had been purchased. Your instagram feed would never be the same. While this glitch fare may have sparked the millennial travel movement, it may have also marked the inevitable downfall for travel to the city. Over the years, this city has continued to grow in popularity, as well as in size- to the point where some feel that it's too much. Dubai is now synonymous with opulence and luxury, but it lacks the cultural relevancy that it once boasted. The city is more of a Middle-Eastern version of Miami than a rich oasis of Arabic culture.
2. Paris, France
Whether you call it The City of Lights or The City of Love, Paris has long been the romanticize city where artists, poets, and lovers have gone to for inspiration. In the past artists such as Picasso and Monet and Cezanne drew inspiration from the city, while poets and writers of the Harlem Renaissance retreated here to produce some of their most notable works. However, in more recent years travelers searching for the something similar within the city walls lament that it just lacks that certain, "je ne sais quoi," and often leave disappointed. This year, if given the option, it may be wiser to consider a different city. I've heard that the South of France is Nice. (Get it? Nice is a city in the south of France! Hahahaha)
Don't get me wrong, London is an amazing city and it has some pretty cool stuff there too: Piccadilly Circus, Westminster, Double Decker buses, Buckingham Palace....London Bridge....uhh....Big Ben..that's all I can think of for now, but after a short stay, London can start to feel like any other big expensive city. Once you've seen all of the major sites that there are to see, then, more times than not, you'll be left wondering what else there is to see and do. Leave trips to London for longer stays when you can fully invest your time to seeing more than just the tourist spots and really get to know the place.
Besides, Big Ben won't ring again until 2021 so if you can hold off until then, I would.
Look, at the end of the day, you're going to go on the trips that you want to go on and see the places that you want to see. Travel is all about going where you want and seeing what you want and getting to know new cultures. As long as you're practicing responsible tourism and embracing new cultures in a non-offensive way, then keep doing what you're doing and live adventurously!