Whilst I have regrets about not doing the travelling thing when I was young and fresh out of uni or school – (you have such freedom then, though you don’t realise it at the time), I have been lucky enough to live in Belgium and France, as well as studying for a while in Spain.
I have visited Canada twice and also spent nearly a month driving round California with my family, back in 2001. I have travelled. Just not to the ends of the earth or for longer than a holiday.
I never had enough money saved and never was enough of a do-er to just tell myself: right I want to go and spend a year in Bali, so I’m going to work my butt off doing 3 jobs to save enough money to do it. I always thought I would be better off just going straight into the career thing, you know, ‘getting on that ladder’ rather than seeing the world and living life but hey. Choices were made.
Now I’m nearing my mid-thirties and have a 2 year old, so the chances of packing up my life and going backpacking are slim – but I will dream, I will plan and I will save. And one day I will take my little boy out into the world and explore it with him.
I have a list of countries/places I’d most like to visit, so here they are!
Honestly, when my friends were all travelling over to NZ, I never had much interest because I sort of thought it was much the same as Australia (somewhere I still have no interest in visiting) – hot, expensive, dry andfull of things that can kill you. What I had learned of aborigine history made me sad and angry too.
The more I have learned of NZ in recent years, the more I am desperate to go.
I mean, it’s just so so beautiful. Its dramatic landscape has been the backdrop for epic films like Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. There are breathtaking lakes, volcanoes, mountains, rain forests, beaches and glaciers. Glaciers and fucking volcanoes on the same islands. Anywhere where such extreme and diverse environments live alongside each other has got to be pretty damn special.
The other thing that attracts me about NZ is that I’ve always heard that Maori culture and traditions are so much a part of New Zealand’s cultural makeup (as it should be) and this rich culture has grown, aged and evolved with the times, while still carrying ancient customs and its essence which shapes their manners, education and national pride.
Lastly – it’s remote, economically stable, safe and wholly unspoiled. What’s not to love??
Even though one side of my family are from the North of Ireland, many of whom still live in beautiful remote farming communities near Belfast, I have never been to the South.
I have a really idealistic, romantic view of Ireland as this jaw-droppingly beautiful place with unspoiled countryside, a landscape that is home to mythical fairies and leprechauns, a landscape that has inspired so much literature, that is peppered with stunning castle ruins and communities of friendly, funny, wise and traditional people….The air smells of whiskey and cheese and you can hear a distant fiddle playing wherever you go.
I want all this to be true. And it might be! I simply must go and find out.
In the meantime, I will rewatch ‘Ondine’ and dream of mermaids and long haired Irishmen….
I once planned an entire trip to Romania with a mate, a few years back. We bought travel books, made an itinerary, booked time off work, nearly got train tickets before we’d booked flights. Then for some reason, it never happened. Life got busy, someone postponed it and it just never happened.
I fully intend to do this trip within the next five years, with my little goblin by my side.
I dream of Transylvania, fairy tale castles, the Carpathians, folklore, tiny farming villages who still travel by horse and cart and forests populated by wolves…Another idealistic, romantic view of a country.
But the landscape really is beautiful, mountainous and peppered with rural villages who have a strong sense of tradition and links to the past.
There are over 150 castles in Romania and Transylvania, a historical region in Romania really is the birthplace of Dracula (based on Vlad the Impaler- a Romanian prince from the 15th century).
It is a truly a place of fairytales and folklore.
I am also drawn to their food – which I have read to be hearty and full of flavour, designed to be comfort food (my favourite kind). I mean just read this guide to Romanian cuisine, you’ll see what I mean.
Oh Cuba. This one has been on my travel bucket list since I was about 13.
I see Cuba as a land full of colour, rhythmic music, vintage cars and rum. I want to go to Havana carnival, dance in the street and eat plates of rice, beans, plantain and spit-roasted meats.
Stunning beaches, drinking out of pineapples, gorgeous smelling cigars, old American cars, socialism, food, music, beautiful architecture….Just take me there.
I have been to Venice – and I loved every inch of it. I have a love of Italy for its food and wine most of all, the art and rich history, the idyllic landscapes and strong sense of tradition.
I also read ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ and fell in love with Tuscany through words and imagery- as I often do.
I would love to explore the Tuscan vineyards, farms and explore Florence, visit the Uffizi and the Pitti Palace – Tuscany is of course the place that produced the likes of Da Vinci and Donatello. And Dante!
Sun drenched countryside. Tuscan bruschetta. Chianti. Renaissance art. Pasta. Hot springs.
Oh Tuscany, I will be with you one day.
I worked with a guy who’s family was from Montenegro, and before I met him, I had shamefully never heard of this beautiful country sitting on the borders of Sarajevo, Albania and Kosovo.
I was so fascinated to see pictures of this amazing place, so I started reading up and it was on my bucket list that same day.
From what I have seen and read, this pretty Balkan country is made up of dramatic mountainous regions, rugged coastline and ancient villages. The people are friendly and welcoming, travel is cheap and the food is heavy on the meat (this might be a problem, as I tend to eat meat about once a week only). The architecture in the towns looks like you’re stepping into the past – something I’m so drawn to.
I imagine this would be an adventurous trip when my little one is much older and it would require lots of research and prep beforehand, as well as a little language learning as I hear very few people there speak English (why should they?) so I would need to learn as much as possible but Montenegro is firmly on my list!
I made so many Moroccan friends during my year in France, that I have been itching to visit this gorgeous North African country for the last ten years or so.
Moroccan food is exquisite and full of flavours that transport you there. Slow cooked tagines, sweet pastries, teas, flat breads, stews… I had the pleasure of attending several Moroccan weddings during that year and the food was always so good I never strayed from the table. I remember chicken infused with lemon and olives, little pastry parcels containing minced mutton that was both spicy and sweet. Then so many little cakes that were so sweet they made your teeth ache.
The other things that attract me to Morocco are its architecture and interiors – ‘Moroccan style’ is a concept well known in the Western world, involving mosaic patterns, rich colours and textiles, arched windows, lanterns… It’s inspired by hundreds of years of historical and cultural influences, and would of course look most at home in Morocco, accompanied by the sounds of Arabic, the smell of mint tea and mutton and spices.
I’ve gone all idealistic again, but there it is.
The desert, the small rural villages, the incredible architecture of the cities, the plush tropical gardens, the bustling markets, the clay walls and ancient mosques…The entrancing Chaabi music, the dancing… Paradise!
I always hear Bulgaria described as ‘underrated’, ‘inexpensive’ and ‘stunning’ – kind of the best kept secret in Europe. I have the pleasure of having a Bulgarian in my family – a gem of a lady, married to my cousin. She embodies Bulgaria to me: friendly, helpful, loving, creative, petite, good with food and absolutely gorgeous.
Bulgaria seems to be a total melting pot of cultures and traditions as well, given its proximity to Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia.
Of course the coast and beaches are popular spots in Bulgaria – they are picturesque and unspoiled. Exploring beyond that, you’ll find some of the most incredible historical sites, old churches and ruins, medieval villages and idyllic countryside. Not to mention the Balkan mountains where you can ski too! And the food! The wine! Let’s go!!
There are a couple of other places that should make this list, but I shouldn’t get greedy. I will be a lucky lady to visit even half the paradises on this list so I will quit while I’m ahead.
Where in the world do you want to go?