People often asked me what has been my most favorite destination abroad or even most recently, the best meal I’ve had abroad. Talk about hard questions! It got me thinking though and inspired me to try to come up with a list. Here are my top 5 at the moment…
1. ICELAND..all of it!
Have I mentioned how much I absolutely LOVE everything about Iceland? Iceland is one of those countries you just yearn to get back to. I’ve been twice already and am constantly thinking about when I can make my third visit. The land of Fire and Ice and of course, elves, has so much to offer. And, despite the picture most people have in their head, it is actually not covered in ice and is a heck of a lot warmer than Boston in the winter. If you are looking for natural beauty, adventure, and a chance to see some of earth’s most stunning wonders, go ahead and book a ticket! Iceland is truly magical and transports you to a place that seems almost supernatural.
Iceland is also a great country for solo or first-time travelers who want to get some international experience without the stress of figuring out a foreign country. It’s a great ‘ease-in’ destination. There is no traffic, no crazy streets with optional road rules, and you would have to try really hard to get lost on the ring road, which is a literally a ring around the country. But, you’ll be rewarded with stunning sights at every turn, and geysers, volcanos, and glaciers co-existing. Plus, lamb hotdogs!
2. CHIANG, MAI, THAILAND
Chiang Mai really caught me off guard. Like super off guard. I arrived from Bangkok during my first trip to Asia and was a little traumatized after trying to navigate such a bustling city, witnessing craziness on the train trip to Chiang Mai, and still recovering a bit from jet lag from the flight that seemed to span three days. But when I arrived in Chiang Mai, a strange peace came over me. It oddly felt like home. Something about the city just resonated with my spirit and I instantly fell in love. The people were wonderful and welcoming, the streets were full of life and the night market…my goodness, the night market is the most magical thing!
In Chiang Mai, you can visit some of the most incredible temples, eat amazing food, hang out with Tigers, and learn everything you ever wanted to know about orchids. But, you can also enjoy a slower pace of life with some incredible locals and strong expat community. As an added bonus, I even managed to find a country music bar right in the center of town…..what?!?!?!
3. DORNECY, FRANCE
Let me guess, you’ve never heard of Dornecy? Well, I am not surprised. This small town, with a population of just a little over 600, is nestled in the Burgundy region of France about 2 hours from Paris. My dear friend Mylene lives there with her family and it’s like a second home for me. A tourist would find nothing special about Dornecy, but as a lover of small towns, it really fascinates me. Whenever I visit, it is an absolute requirement that I walk to all the neighbors houses to have a drink and say hello, usually in that order, lol. I know their life stories, have shared special occasions with them, and they are ALWAYS trying to find me a husband.
Dornecy literally has a butcher, a baker, and even a candlestick maker (and some nice vineyards, too) and is well-positioned as a stopover to places like Guedelon, Auxerre, and the famed Vezlay! I’ve spent holidays and birthdays here and each time has been a memorable and heartwarming experience. I’m heading back there this summer and absolutely cannot wait!
4. ATHENS, GREECE
I am so enthralled by history and architecture and there simply is no better place to get your fill of both than Athens, Greece. My first trip here left me in absolute awe. I even almost cried once while visiting the Acropolis and the Theatre of Dionysus. It was just so beautiful. The Greek people are also wonderful and besides the one shop owner who badgered me asking if my people were ‘the Mexicans,’ everyone I met was super eager to ensure I was enjoying Greece.
I visited during the ‘unrest’ and it was an yet another eye-opening experience to just how much the media sensationalizes conflict in other countries. The unrest was in fact well-orchestrated protests that were far from dangerous and certainly did not warrant the strong advisories from the embassies. I barely even noticed. But what I did notice was the prolific lounge scene, spectacular food (feta!), and people who love to have a good time. And honestly, I don’t think I have visited a cleaner city.
5. KRAKOW, POLAND
One word. Pierogis. Quite honestly the second best food on the planet (I can’t deny the greatness of cheese). Aside from the proliferation of yummy pockets of cheese and onion, Krakow boasts a stunning display of colorful buildings, vibrant centres, and a lion’s share of castles and cathedrals. You could spend months in Krakow and still not see all the historic sites, museums, and splendid scenery. But make sure you visit Wawel and the dragon lair…because, well, dragons. Krakow is also a gateway to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps.
My first real experience abroad was in Poland and though my time there was rough it will always have a special place in my heart.
All my travels inspire me and I leave loving (most) every place I’ve been to. Most importantly, all my experiences leave me with perspective, history, and interactions that leave a lasting impression. This of course is an ever-changing list. I have some exciting plans for this year and can’t wait to find some new favorite places!
What are some of your favorite international destinations?