“What’s your favorite place?” A common and seemingly benign question for frequent travelers. I can’t speak for other travelers, obviously. Maybe they have that one place that makes their heart swoon; their happy place, where the stars align and they could give up everything and retire there yesterday. My answer is not so straightforward. …”It’s hard to pick just one of my top travel destinations because they’re all so different.”
Someone once followed up by asking if I treat my travels like children, where you can’t declare a favorite because you might hurt another one’s feelings. While amusing, that’s really not it. You’re literally comparing apples to oranges. I also don’t have children and I’m an only child, so I don’t know how that works. I was always the favorite; my parents had no choice. (Is that a thing?) But, hypothetically speaking, how do you compare Tokyo to the Galapagos Islands? That’s just strange to me.
The #AdventurePartnerForLife and I were having this discussion the other day—in anticipation of this post, actually—and we decided the true tell of your top travel destinations was whether you’d go back. Let me explain: I balance travel with a full-time job, so my time away is limited. In my mind, choosing a place to go means putting off going to another place for the foreseeable future. This being said, what new countries might I actually put off visiting to go back to one I’ve already experienced? And what are those places, anyway? What do I want more of? Please, continue, for this month’s Reader’s Request.
In no particular order…
Japan was the #AdventurePartnerForLife and my introduction to Asia and—wow!—it did not disappoint. In fact, it left me desperately wanting to explore more, not just of Japan, but of all of Asia.
Ever been to Times Square at night? If so, you know what it’s like to see so many lights you’re almost fooled into thinking it’s broad daylight. Well, Tokyo is Times Square on steroids. And, while I’m generally not a fan of crowds, something about the sheer number of people there just adds to the explosive energy that city has. Then you have Kyoto, which is littered with amazing temples and gardens. In fact, there’s beautifully maintained greenery everywhere in the cities of Japan, little zen centers at every other corner. Mostly, I just loved the people. This is a culture that truly values kindness. So much so that we had four random strangers at once helping us process our metro tickets at the subway turnstiles. This just doesn’t happen in my hometown of DC.
Favorite sights included the Nara Deer Park (feed baby deer by hand!) and the Fushimi Inara Shrine (think “Memoirs of a Geisha” orange posts!) Things I missed that I won’t be skipping next visit: Aokigahara Forest (legendary spirit forest) and Shinjuku’s Golden Gai (just look!).
So, yeah. I would go back. There’s more to explore of the cities and there’s so much to explore outside the cities. I have not had my fill of Japan.
2. The Azores
If you’ve clicked through my blog, it’s pretty clear that I’m a big fan of Europe. In fact, at this point, I think I’ve tackled all of Western Europe, with the exceptions of mainland Portugal, Wales, and San Marino. I’ve also been to a solid half of Eastern Europe (though it depends on what all you consider Eastern Europe). Of the many incredible destinations, I really enjoyed Sao Miguel in the Azores. And I’d like to go back to visit some of the other Azorean islands.
The great thing about the Azores is that it has that familiar European ease and flavor, but with tropical rainforests and dramatic island scenery. I know, it’s hard to picture. But that’s why you have to go! And that’s why you have my blog photos. Flights run regularly out of Boston and, while that means you have to pay to get to Boston first, the prices once you get to the Azores completely balance everything out. In short, a fantastic budget destination. I highly recommend. Bonus: Groupon regularly advertises an Azores package. $799 for 7 days, including airfare and lodging! Just Google “Groupon Azores.” They run them all the time.
Most people swoon over Sete Cidades on Sao Miguel—and it was beautiful!—but I much preferred driving the northeast coast (above) and Lagoa do Fogo (featured image). What will I do if I ever go back? Visit the other islands. Duh.
3. New Zealand
New Zealand is more than just the “Lord of the Rings” filming location, it’s an outdoor wonderland! Want beaches? It’s got it. Want forests? Check. Want mountains, or rolling farmland? Yep. It even has protected swamps if you’re into that kind of thing. (I know I am.) And it’s easy to simply drive from one point to another. (The best way to soak up the country!) It’s a solid investment to get there, but no way, no how will you be sad you made the trek. Do what the #AdventurePartnerForLife and I did and take a stopover in Fiji on your way; Air New Zealand offers flight packages that include them! Still not sold? Check out Global Debauchery’s four-part “Road-Tripping New Zealand” series. I don’t just want to go back to New Zealand, I fantasize about living there.
Fjordland National Park and the Catlins on the south island were my favorites. What shall I do next time? I’d like to hit up some of the islands and explore the very, very north coast of the north island.
Yes, yes, Iceland is the hottest ticket in town right now. It seems everyone is doing a quick stopover or a weeklong Reykjavik/Golden Circle package. And why not? It’s an insanely awesome travel destination. The landscapes are other-worldly and the people are so friendly. I would really encourage anyone planning on visiting to drive the Ring Road and move beyond the standard tourist destinations, though; you’re missing out on so much.
It’s ridiculously cheap and easy to get there. A heads up, though, it is not cheap once you get there, another “balance-out” scenario. If you’re looking to keep your expenses down, I would suggest staying at the hostels. They’re clean, they’re safe, and you can always book an individual room with a private bathroom. More Global Debauchery Iceland reading here.
You have to do the Golden Circle, but it is a tourist circus. I recommend the volcanic desert, or Skeiðarársandur. When I go back, I’m hitting up the Westfjords and kitschy little islands like Heimaey.
5. The Pacific Northwest
I’ll be honest, I surprised myself with this one a little bit. I think because it’s not as exotic as my other picks… for an American, anyway. I was torn between the Galapagos Islands, the Atacama, and the Pac Northwest, but the truth is, while the Galapagos and Atacama were once-in-a-lifetime amazing and unique experiences, I probably wouldn’t ever go back. (I wouldn’t turn down a free trip there or anything, but I wouldn’t go back on my own accord.) The Pacific Northwest, on the other hand, deserves to be on my list of top travel destinations.
I actually had the good fortune of graduating high school and completing a couple of college years in Washington state. I thought it was gorgeous when I lived there and, well. I’ve been back. A few times. I just had to show it off to the #AdventurePartnerForLife. And guess what? He loves it, too. The United States is vast and diverse, but this region is truly something else. Also, full disclosure: I’ve been to all fifty states.
The cities all have a bohemian vibe and the beaches have massive rock formations and rainforests right on them. You’ve got islands and mountains and even deserts further east. Don’t miss out on your home turf! Must do Seattle, the San Juans, Olympic National Park, and Mount Rainer.
What Are Your Top Travel Destinations?
So, there you have it—Global Debauchery’s top travel destinations to date. Have you been to any of these incredible places? What do you think? What are your top spots?