I believe in collecting experiences. James Hamblin of The Atlantic writes about this extensively here. “Looking back on purchases made, experiences make people happier than do possessions.” When those experiences can be big and extraordinary, all the better. When they are small and intimate, they leave their mark as well. Traveling anywhere, from the most obvious choices like Paris and Rome to the more off the beaten path unique destinations most definitely contributes to the collection effort.
If you’re looking for unique vacation ideas, here’s my list (for more ideas of special places in the world, check out my post on 10 places to visit before you die).
Much of the Arab world is experiencing difficult times. If you were to base your perception of that region solely on what you see on the news, you wouldn’t step foot there under most circumstances and definitely not for your next vacation. So you might be surprised to read that one of the world’s newest democracies is Tunisia – the catalyst for what is being called the Arab Spring. But while other countries that followed suit have fallen apart into chaos and violence, Tunisia has emerged with a peaceful transition to democracy.
What that means in the context of my list is that it’s a safe and beautiful oasis in a troubled region to visit and enjoy. You can see a mix of beautiful archeological ruins, attend an annual festival on the island of Jerba that brings together Muslims and Jews, stay in gorgeous palaces that are impeccably restored and focused on providing unparalleled service and eat authentic and delicious food.
Traveling to Cuba from the U.S. has recently become possible thanks to some significant changes in U.S. Cuban relations. Given Cuba’s new status as a doable destination that’s just hours from the United States, many are choosing it as their next go-to vacation spot. While the relationship between the two countries is certainly warming up, there’s a feeling of urgency to visit this incredible country sooner rather than later.
Some say the relations could change and travelling there could be harder in the future. Others say it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship and there’s just a few years left before foreign investment comes funneling in and Cuba becomes the next Miami and the unique idiosyncrasies of this country become a thing of the past.
Certain things in Cuba seem stuck in a strange time warp. You’ll see vintage cars and internet cafés – yes, those still exist. The good news for those of you who are happy to disconnect a bit when on vacation is you can easily do so in Cuba. While you disconnect, you can visit Hemingway’s house, relax on amazing white sand beaches and take in the Cuban music that gives the island its own rhythm and beat.
Giraffe manor located in Nairobi, Kenya feels straight out of the Dr. Dolittle film. The hotel is built in a historic building with European colonial flare. It’s elegant interior, beautiful courtyards, sunny terraces, sprawling gardens make for a luxurious African adventure. But that’s not even close to the best part. The manor is home to a herd of giraffe that freely walk around. They are tall, goofy and blend in as if it’s totally normal to be eating breakfast and have a giraffe bend its long neck into your window to say hello.
This is a less travelled destination that should absolutely be visited! With its beautiful mountain regions, seaside towns over the Adriatic (with views that rival the south of Italy and France), amazing cuisine and ancient history it’s a vacation that will give the perfect mix of relaxing fun and interesting touring – and it’s also extremely affordable. The Balkans is a region comprised of several countries– formerly known as Yugoslavia. It is, however a small region that can certainly be covered in one trip. Among the highlights not to be missed are Dubrovnik, Split and Zagreb (Croatia), Sarajevo, Belgrade and Ljubljana (Slovenia). You may have seen pictures of the coasts of Dubrovnik. But Ljubljana (pronounced Lubiana) is a little hidden gem of Europe not many know about. It’s architectural beauty is comparable to Prague, but without the mass of tourists. It has one of the oldest philharmonic cultures with over 10,000 cultural events and 14 international festivals of art, music and theater each year. A 10 day vacation to this part of Europe is a trip that will leave you pleasantly surprised and now versed in a region less travelled.
Paying money and using your precious vacation days to volunteer somewhere is probably a strange concept to wrap your head around. But it’s all a question of perspective. What if I were to say you’re paying money for a once in a lifetime experience to see a special place in the world and experience it from a totally different angle – integrating with the locals and leaving your positive mark on the world. Starts to sound more enticing, right? That’s what volunteer tourism is all about. There is no lack of places in the world that need help. So the best way is to start with where you want to go, then lay out what types of volunteer work you can relate to and then find a project that meets those needs. So you could say “I want to travel to South America” or “I want to travel to Africa” and “I like working with kids” or “I like interacting with wildlife” or “I like building and manual work” and then go from there. There are many travel organizations that specialize in this form of travel, you can start looking here or here to get some ideas.
Hopefully this list has inspired you to take the road less travelled – literally. You’ll certainly be enriched by even the most cliché and obvious travel locations. But a unique vacation idea will linger for longer.
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