21 Places to go in 2021 and Beyond
The end of the year usually comes with reflections and a look back at the last twelve months of our lives. 2019 was far and away the best year I’ve had for both travel and personal growth. 2020, on the other hand, well- we all know what 2020 was. So, instead of looking back I want to look forward. There is still a lot of uncertainty in our future. In many parts of the world traveling for pleasure is not even an option and in those that are, it’s not necessarily very safe to do so. With the rollout of the vaccine, hopefully we can find a balance to continue to stay safe while also helping struggling economies and entire industries in shambles. If nothing else, it’s fun to daydream since right now that’s all we’ve got.
I am often asked my favorite destinations. It’s a loaded question because there is so much that goes into your individual experience that it’s hard to make generalizations. It’s also impossibly hard to choose because each and every country is wonderful and has a lot to offer those lucky enough to visit.
I am also very often asked what dream destinations are still on my list. Preliminary travel research is one of my favorite ways to procrastinate so I spend hours and hours browsing the internet and making lists. Besides the obvious answer of – everywhere I haven’t been yet- I do have a few standouts. So, to jump start that travel spark and get everyone excited for a year that can only get better, I am sharing a few of my favorite destinations and a few of the ones I’m most looking forward to in 2021 and beyond.
8 of my Favorite Countries
(In no particular order)
I couldn’t have chosen any better place to be for the duration of quarantine and beyond. Buenos Aires is now one of my favorite cities in the entire world and the country has stolen my heart.
You’ve also got the tallest mountain outside the Himalayas, jaw dropping Patagonian scenery, picture perfect desert landscapes, one of the most famous waterfalls in the world, vineyards of the world’s best Malbec’s and some of the best steak you meat eaters will ever eat – just to name a few.
One of the most picture perfect places I have ever been. Slovenia is beautiful in photos but when you get there, there’s something else there too. Something in the air I can’t quite put my finger on that really makes this place special. The capital city of Ljubljana is the perfect size. It’s big enough to have a city feel but small enough where you don’t get crazy traffic or constantly feel rushed.
Farther west there is a small slice of Slovenia that touches the Adriatic where small towns line the shores and fishermen spend their days. But the real heart of Slovenia is in the mountains. The Julian Alps and surrounding lakes are straight out of a fairytale.
Be on the lookout for a more in-depth look at all Slovenia has to offer in the complete travel guides that will be coming in the next few weeks!
As you’ll note based on this list, beach vacations aren’t really my thing. Except for Indonesia. There is something that happens on the Gili Islands where time stops and here and now is all that matters. I spent days upon days lounging at the beach, snorkeling amongst the fish, sipping cocktails, learning how to surf and watching the sun set into turquoise waters. That’s your reward for climbing volcanoes, whizzing through fields of green rice paddies and trekking through the jungle.
With roughly 6,000 inhabited islands and over 17,000 (yes, you read that right) islands in total you’ll find not only a wide variety of landscapes and activities but also people and cultures. Those seeking adventure, relaxation, spirituality and wildlife will it all here in Indonesia. There is so much to do and see you’ll have to keep coming back!
This week we are diving deeper into Indo with travel guides to Bali, Lombok, Sumatra and the Gilis. Check out my Facebook page or sign up for emails so you don’t miss out!
Croatia went under the radar for a little bit but the world is starting to wise up to this place, and for good reason. Here, you’ll find the best of the Mediterranean life with strong Italian influences along the coast.
Game of Thrones fans will love visiting the Meereen, Quarth, Kings Landing and more! Those who don’t can skip the tours but still enjoy the scenery. It´s clear why some of the show was shot here, in many places you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into a different world.
Make sure you don’t miss out on the capital city of Zagreb either. It’s got a different feel from the rest of the country but the history there is well worth learning about.
Come for the shopping but stay for the mountains. Snuggled between two major western European countries Andorra often gets overlooked. Many come for the tax free shopping or stop through on a day trip from Barcelona or Toulouse to check off another box. Do not make that mistake. Winter is high season as many come to hit the slopes and you’ll need to book far in advance. In the summertime, riders hang up their boards and trade them in for mountain bikes and as they take to the mountains on two wheels instead.
Whether you want to barrel down the face of a mountain or go hiking, Andorra is the perfect place. Stay at Mountain Hostel Tarter where you can meet fellow travelers who are also escaping into nature. Your days are spent in the mountains and evenings in the hot tub watching sunset. At night everyone cooks in the kitchen and hangs in the common area. It has a backwoods feel but with internet strong enough to support a digital nomad. The perfect combo. I spent a week there and easily could’ve stayed longer if I’d had a little more time.
What isn’t there to say about Peru? Rolling sand dunes, epic mountain ranges, Incan ruins, surf towns and lots and lots of alpacas can all be found here. The capital city of Lima is one of the largest cities in Latin America and a culinary hotspot. Enjoy the world´s best ceviche as you watch the waves roll into shore.
Did you know the world´s second deepest canyon is in Peru? It´s twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. TWICE AS DEEP. Did you know the mountain in the Paramount logo is in Peru? And alien conspiracy theories? You want it, Peru’s got it.
It’s also a great place to learn Spanish since they speak a relatively easy version of the language with minimal slang and a more neutral accent that’s easier to understand than others (lookin’ at you Chile).
This country isn’t usually on the top of people’s list. Its reputation portrayed by the media certainly doesn’t help. The culture is also very different from Western culture making it extremely intimidating. Its sheer size and population can make it seem both unrealistic and uninviting. The Chinese tour buses have become infamous around the world as obnoxious and overwhelming. But all those reasons are exactly why China is one of my favorite countries and my favorite trips.
We travel to see something different than what we are used to. Whether it’s close to home or slightly farther away, it’s a change from our norms. For those of us used to western culture China embodies that idea to the fullest extent. It is hard. Communicating can be extremely difficult as many don’t speak a word of English. This is never an expectation, however, one does get used to the privilege of being able to communicate where English is not an official language. Google translate doesn’t work (unless you have a VPN) and translating apps don’t always convey the correct meaning anyway.
But you will adapt. You will learn some useful words and you will learn how to mime. You will learn why China is the way that it is and you will start to look at the differences from a different perspective. And with that knowledge, you will come out the other end of it a better person for it.
Beyond all else, though, China is beautiful. It’s more than beautiful. It has a history dating back thousands of years. You will not find General Tso’s or orange chicken here but what will you find is a wide variety of food and flavors that is much healthier and more complex than the oily, salty (albeit delicious) reputation it gets elsewhere.
You knew this list wasn’t going to be complete without my favorite place in the whole wide world. I think we can all very objectively agree this place is insane. Your expectations of this country might be high but they are NOTHING compared to reality. The reality is, you cannot imagine a place like this in your wildest dreams. I know, I know, I sound dramatic. But Italy brings something out in me that just makes me want to shout from the rooftops. I think it’s called love. True love.
Be prepared to gain weight. And I mean, a lot of weight. Accept it now so you can enjoy yourself while you’re there. When you’re here it’s all about the food. You will visit historical landmarks and see iconic art and incredible views, but those are the things that you do to fill the time between meals. Make sure you know which food to get in which city and region because it makes a huge difference. (Don’t worry, you can find all that info and more in each of my city guides for Italy.)
This country, slightly larger than the state of Arizona, has the most UNESCO World Heritage sites out of any country in the world. And it’s not even close. Take that in for a second. No matter where you go you’re never far from nature, art, history and the most delicious meal you’ve ever had in your life.
5 Favorite Cities
To me, cities are all about the vibes. It’s something that I can’t really explain and it’s something that presents differently to each person. These are the cities that I want to wander the streets for hours and sit outside to people watch on a sunny afternoon. They’re the cities that always leave me wanting more and keep me coming back. There’s just that little something extra that makes them oh so special.
London and I got off on the wrong foot. On my first visit here it got its biggest snow storm in the last 60 years and the city completely shut down. I was stranded in Gatwick airport for 32 hours and there was approximately 2 inches (5 cm) of snow on the ground. I understand why that amount of snow is a lot of snow for somewhere that has no equipment to deal with it – but when 2 inches of snow is a regular afternoon in April where I’m from it was hard for me to fathom. It would be ten years before I returned.
This time I chose to go in summer. And of course, was there for the second hottest day ever recorded in the UK. But alas, this time it didn’t stop me from falling in love. You’ve got the massive tourist attractions such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the London Eye, Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey and my all-time favorite, Tower Bridge, to name a few. But the real beauty of London is getting into the neighborhoods. From the houses to the book shops and cafes, London has so many hidden gems. There is diversity in the people and the food that shapes the city’s culture and I just can’t get enough.
As mentioned above, this city quickly became one of my favorite cities in the world. It took me by surprise. I didn’t realize how easily we’d click but as soon as I got here I could tell it was a match. I have no real desire to put roots down anywhere so there are very few placers that make me think, “I could live here”. But from the very beginning those thoughts started to creep in and I find myself back here, 9 months later, thinking the very same thing.
Life here is full of energy. It is tango and empanadas; it is sunshine and cervezas. The mix of Latin culture with European influences is a perfect mix to create an atmosphere that is uniquely Buenos Aires. It challenges you to explore more and it’s a place that just pulls something out of me that nowhere else can.
Sure, I am from right outside Chicago so this might not seem fair. I only ever lived in the city for a year and a half so in some ways it feels very much like home to me and in other ways I still feel like a visitor. The winters are too long and brutal but they build character and make you even more grateful for the summer and fall which are utter perfection. Outdoor patio brunches in the mornings, afternoons spent on the shores of Lake Michigan, and evenings on a rooftop bar overlooking the best skyline in the US. Try the deep dish pizza, Chicago style hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches and local craft beer as well as some of the country’s best chefs. Don’t miss blues or jazz music, the architecture river tour and the museums nor a chance to hang with the best sports fans in the country as they experience the emotional roller coaster that is Chicago sports teams. It’s a big city but with Midwestern flare (and manners).
Photo by Max Bender on Unsplash
While you won’t get the pristine beaches that you find in Sydney, you go to Melbourne for a different reason. It’s the culture and the way of life that suck you in. It has similar vibes to Chicago which is perhaps why I took to it but beyond that there is just something, extra about this city that makes it so lovely.
Visit the different neighborhoods for a different feel in each. Make sure to go to brunch as often as your wallet will allow. Think you’re into coffee? Think again. The Melbourne coffee culture is a way of life here.
Head just outside of town to one of the world’s top rated road trips on the Great Ocean Road. Follow the coastline to see adorable slumbering koalas and towering cliffs that jut out to meet the sea.
If there was one word to describe Medellín it would be “alive”. This place is bursting from the seams with color and music and soul. Nestled in a valley between luscious green mountains, the scenery alone makes this city great. But step off the plane and you can’t help but shake your hips to the sounds of the city.
Sip on tropical fruit juices and try the local specialty- bandeja paisa, a massive plate of meat, beans and other delightful treats. The Paisas (people of the region) are proud of their region and their history as well as their future. Do not be fooled by what you heard from the 90’s or watched on Netflix. This city has seen some dark times and it has fought back tooth and nail to get to where it is today. Once you get here, you’ll find it extremely hard to leave.
8 Bucket List Destinations
I’ve already been to Oslo for a brief visit but I dream of the day I can return to get out of the city and into some of the most jaw dropping scenery I have ever seen (pictures of). The prices in Norway are infamously high, which is mostly why I haven’t made it back there yet. It’s also a trip that seems best done as a road trip which is much better done with friends. Scheduling time off and availability in coordination with other people is another reason it’s still sitting on my list.
Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash
Photo by Yuriy Chemerys on Unsplash
South Island – New Zealand
I have also already been to New Zealand. I went on a Lord of the Rings road trip around the North Island and had a great time but due to budget and time constraints I couldn’t head south. The South, though, is what everybody means when they say they love New Zealand. Nothing but adventure and some of the nicest people you’ll meet await you here.
Casey Horner on Unsplash
Photo by Pakata Goh on Unsplash
History was never a particular interest when I was in school. It was just too dense with too many boring details. As I’ve gotten older I’ve been able to see the obvious benefits that come from learning history which made it slightly easier to swallow as facts were thrown at me. But as I’ve traveled I realized both how crucial it is to understanding a culture and a people as well as how interesting it can be. You feel like a real asshole standing in the Colosseum having very little idea about Roman history or watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat not truly knowing what you’re looking at. You can look at a wall and think, that’s just a stone wall– until you learn that each stone weighs multiple tons and nobody knows how they were cut to geometrical perfection hundreds of years ago. The Mona Lisa is just a disappointingly small portrait of some lady until you learn about the intrigue of her story.
Anyway, I think you get it. And that is why Egypt is on my list. The trip practically plans itself. I cannot wait to dive into the history that awaits there.
Photo by fynn schmid on Unsplash
Photo by Adrian Dascal on Unsplash
You’ve probably seen the Insta worthy photos of Cappadocia. They’re pretty hard to miss since they’re so stunning. But beyond the picture perfect destinations (and it looks like Turkey has its fair share) is a culture and a history I’d really love to dig into. I got a small taste when I traveled around the Balkans but I cannot wait to explore this country that has had such an influence on the world.
Photo by Giuseppe Mondì on Unsplash
Photo by Fatih Yürür on Unsplash
This is in both Zambia and Zimbabwe so ideally I’d like to go both. Massive waterfalls never get old. And they’re all different. Victoria Falls is no exception. I think the pictures can speak for themselves.
Zambia: Photo by paul milley on Unsplash
Zimbabwe: Photo by Jason Zhao on Unsplash
This has been sitting on my “really want to go but haven’t been putting in any effort to make it happen” list for a while now. It always seems to get pushed to, “maybe later”. The food has been a favorite of mine forever and the culture has made a name for itself around the world. It’s also a “can’t miss” for those interested in World War II. After seeing how much I’m interested in doing there, it’s more than just a 10 day vacation. Prices have been the main reason it keeps getting pushed but an overall lame excuse for continuing to avoid this raved about country.
Photo by David Edelstein on Unsplash
Photo by Walter Mario Stein on Unsplash
Not to be confused with South Africa. Obviously South Africa is included here, but I am talking about the region. The dream is a safari and this area of South Africa, Botswana and Namibia seem to be very popular. I haven’t done enough research to know exactly which one yet and to be honest it’s so far away for me that I’d like to visit all of them in some way or another while I’m there. There is still a lot more research to be done on my part for a trip like this but rest assured you guys will be the first to know when I go!
Photo by Birger Strahl on Unsplash
Photo by Sergi Ferrete on Unsplash
The United States of America
“Home will always be there.” “I’ll do it later.” “If I’m going to go on a trip it’s much more exciting to go abroad.” I’ve been telling myself those things since I started traveling. When people find out I’m from the States they will often tell me about their trips there. I can contribute very little to the conversation except “I’ve heard it’s amazing there.”
Two years ago I took a trip to Arizona and when I laid eyes on the Grand Canyon I started to realize that the United States is just as awe-inspiring, interesting and exciting as anywhere else in the world.
I want to dive deeper into our history in Boston and Philly and listen to music while I eat everything in sight in New Orleans. I want to road trip the National Parks in Utah, climb volcanoes in Hawaii and cruise around Alaska. Snowboarding in Tahoe, watching the sun set behind the Golden Gate Bridge and hiking the Pacific Northwest? I want all that. I want to get to know my country better.
Photo by Ben Stiefel on Unsplash
Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash
The future is still uncertain and each country is dealing with Covid in their own way. Some need a kick start to their economy and have begun opening back up slowly. Others who have successfully fought the virus want to leave borders closed and keep it contained. Some nations will get vaccines sooner than others. The travel industry has been rocked and the future of travel might be forever changed. Right now it’s all still just a guessing game and travel and regulations in 2021 will different country to country. All we can do is prepare ourselves with the information we have available and adapt as we go. Happy planning!