One of the most popular questions I receive from people who learn of my travel bug is, “So what has been your favorite place to visit?” This question usually makes me all queasy and stressed. The thought, “How dare they ask me to name just one!” creeps into my mind, and then I typically expel a deep breath and respond with a weak smile, “Oh, that is a hard one!”
However, today I have decided to take on this intimidating question and actually list my top five travel destinations to date! I chose these five because my experiences in each place left such an impression that I dream of going back time and time again. These destinations took over all my senses and evoked emotions that, well, just got me addicted.
Of course, it would be remiss to say that I have not been forever changed by my encounters in all 35 countries I have visited and lived in, but for now, these 5 corners of our globe lead as stand-out destinations. Let me know if you agree :).
In no particular order (because that would really cause my brain to spiral into collapse), here are my five:
1) Jerusalem, Israel
To be in the city that is considered sacred by three of the world’s most predominant religions is quite overwhelming. The history and significance of this ancient city are palpable; there is a magic in walking the narrow, stone streets of the Old City, witnessing worship at the Western Wall and gazing upon the golden Dome of the Rock, that doesn’t exist anywhere else on the planet. Jerusalem, traditionally speaking, is where Jesus walked, Mohammed made his ascent to heaven and Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son. How can that not make a remarkable, lifelong impression! I made the trip in February 2010 after seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls at the ROM in Toronto, Canada. Although I am not one for organized tours, I decided that in order to fully appreciate and learn about the religious and geopolitical importance of this part of our globe, I would make an exception. I chose to accompany acclaimed radio talk show host and scholar, Michael Medved, on one of his annual visits. I plan to return with this same group in 2015. The thought of visiting the Kotel (Western Wall) at night still gives me tingles. A return visit also means I will be able to properly blog about the experience, as my last visit was before this travel log even started!
2) Udaipur, India
There is a romance I found in Udaipur that I haven’t felt in other cities. I was completely captured by this “jewel of Rajasthan,” and found my five days there wasn’t nearly enough. Udaipur kept me intrigued and entranced by its regal history, a palace that seemed to be floating, and storybook sunsets. It also helped that I befriended a local whose family provided cashmere to the Majarana himself…so my shopping fix was more than satiated. Although my time in Udaipur wasn’t completely roses and rainbows (read all the juicy details here), it hasn’t stopped me dreaming of going back!
3) Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
I lived in Costa Rica for a year as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar back in 1998, so it may have an edge for that reason alone. However, I think anyplace where one can find toucans, an active volcano, zip lines, adorable monkeys and my favorite insect in the world, leaf-cutter ants, has to make a “favorites” list! I am particularly fond of their famous national park, Manuel Antonio, on the Pacific side of the country. To learn more about all the reasons I find this country so special, read about my experiences there this past October. You will be planning your trip soon, I promise!
4) Djenné, Mali
Generally speaking, there is no method to choosing the countries to which I set course, usually just madness. Such is the case of Mali. After seeing a photograph at an art fair in Tempe, AZ of the Grand Mosque in Djenné, Mali (made of mud!), my internal compass set its course to this West African country. All I could think as I gazed upon the photo admiring the exotic and colorful clad women selling their goods at its base was, “If that place exists on our planet, I must see it.” Two visas, seven vaccinations and six months later, I was witnessing the mud spirals and the weekly market firsthand. There is something very powerful about the human will, and I was extremely proud and happy when I glimpsed that mud mosque with my own eyes for the first time. This encounter with an art fair photo led to the experience which launched this blog (see my first post here) and so many other adventures since. I so wish to go back to Djenné someday. Read about all my experiences in Mali here, and see how even a little meltdown in this city was the impetus of the entire journey!
5) Paris, France
Knock you over with a feather, right!? Ah, yes, I know this is no surprise, but in some ways it is. I was never one of those girls that dreamed of Paris; I was never a Francophile nor wanted to learn French. It all just sort of happened…but it was one of the best things that ever happened. There is indeed something – a je ne sais quoi, right?! – about the famous City of Light that resonated with my soul, and it may very well be my favorite place in this world, although, since I haven’t been everywhere yet it is indeed too quick to say (but I have a feeling I am right!). I love Paris for all that it is – elegant, timeless, intimate, historic, charming, artful, formal, food- and wine-centric, and I loved the way I felt living there–romantic, cultured, sexy, sophisticated, charming, natural. This blog I wrote after I returned home from living there for almost two years details perfectly all that I loved, and now all that I miss about this city which I feel is part of me.
Voila! I did it! I named my top five travel destinations….and I didn’t melt! In fact, this list is indeed an accurate reflection of my favorites, as it was so easy to compile.
In the month of August, I will be making my way to South America for the first time to visit Bolivia and Peru. Who knows, this list may evolve after I witness Salar de Uyuni or Machu Picchu! But we will cross that bridge when we come to it….assuming I survive the most dangerous road in the world in Bolivia! (I will, Mom!)
Now tell me your 5 favorites…or 6…or 2!
P.S. If you want to discover some of the creative, extraordinary art I discovered in each of these destinations, jump over to my boutique to do a little shopping–always a great way to learn more about a culture!
- French Discoveries
- Costa Rican Discoveries
- Israeli Discoveries
- Indian Discoveries
- I don’t have pieces from Mali in the shop YET. Given the political situation there, it has been hard to get some of my wish items out, but don’t worry; I don’t give up easily. I will have some in the shop soon!