5 trips to take this year

January 14, 2014

forwardswingSo if you’re like me, you’re always looking for good advice on where to adventure in the world. As I find a friend’s advice usually to be much better than any guidebook’s, I will try to be that friend for you.

Last weekend I was playing board games with some fun people here in Hong Kong, and the question “what is the best vacation you’ve ever been on?” was posed. It made me stop and think. What was the best trip I’d taken?

I had time this week to head to a coffee shop (notebook & pen in hand) and brainstorm my all-time top 5 vacations (so far). So here they are, for all your planning pleasure!

california

Driving along the California coast is probably the ideal American vacation. Especially if you’re in a convertible with the wind in your hair. I, of course, was in a rented van with my boyfriend and all my family, but the vacation still made it into my top 5. I used to hate on California (East Coast – West Coast!), but the state is kinda incredible. I think I can admit that now. And to be so high up above the ocean on a cliff while driving along, all the while pretty sure you’re going to die, is something that all you dreamers out there should do.

We chose to drive along Highway 1 starting in Monterey (via San Francisco) and ending in Los Angeles.

Sites to see along the way:

  • Hearst Castle in San Simeon (they have zebras and a museum about journalism #heckyeah)
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium (world-class. Got to see a video of a seahorse male giving birth. #mindblown)
  • Big Sur (lots of hikes you can do along the beach, along with camping. And there are redwoods to see!)
  • Check out the elephant seals (out of all of these, you HAVE to look for the road sign that says “Elephant seals coming up” and turn off. It’s right on the side of the road, and we almost missed it. At first we thought they were bodies, but no, they were just huge elephant seals chillin’ on the beach. There are volunteer tour guides (mostly retired educators) out there during the day that will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about these amazing creatures. It’s one of the only places in the world that you can easily view elephant seals in their natural habitat without hiking for hours (so our tour guide said). But don’t venture onto the beach. They will kill you. #nojoke But luckily you can view them from your living room on their 24/7 webcam.

vietnam

Vietnam was just so different from any country I’d ever traveled to. The people were really nice, it was safe and the only downside was the price of visas. (We paid about $100 USD for one-time entry). Once you get there, though, everything is so cheap that it more than makes up for it. Our 5-day vacation included going to a remote resort in a national park (which I posted about here) for three nights and one night in the UNESCO heritage village of Hoi An. Think: lanterns and magic!

northernitaly

Diarmuid and I did a 10-day trip across Northern Italy two years ago that was so much fun (even if it did rain a lot.) We started in Milan, headed on to my great-grandfather’s village of Fiorenzuola d’Arda in the Emilia-Romagna region (which I wrote about here), went to Verona and finished in Venice (aka Venezia!). I would only spend a day in Milan (head to La Scala opera house) looking back. Hands down my favorite place was my great-grandfather’s village (might be bias, though, sorry). I’m kindof my family’s historian, so any trip that includes genealogy research spells out a good time in my book. But, either way, small town Italian life you really must check out. Verona and Venice can vouch for themselves because both are as amazing as what you’ve heard. Venice was actually more amazing… just book a hotel in advance if you can (or you can stay on Lido Island like we did, which was still really nice), wander the streets at night, and get lost in the maze of canals that is oh, so romantic, and timeless fun.

dingle2

Dingle or, as we now lovingly refer to it as, Dingie! I went for a weekend with Diarmuid to visit the charming peninsula of Dingle back when I was living in Ireland. Just make sure you stay at Heaton’s Guesthouse. Nuala and her husband run this lovely bed and breakfast that overlooks the ocean (and is steps away from the town center), and they make the best. breakfast. ever.

Things to do in Dingle:

  • Go hiking on Mount Eagle (arrange for a cab to drop you off and pick you back up again.)
  • Go on a boat tour to see Ireland’s most famous dolphin (FUNGIE!)
  • Grab a pint at Foxy John’s (hardware store during the day, bar at night. #mindblown #again)

sequoia

And my all-time top trip that I have taken is actually in the United States. Kinda crazy that we have to travel so far (i.e. Europe) for what we feel is a real taste of history when the oldest and the largest trees in the world are right in the U.S.

So, the one trip you must take in your life is to Sequoia National Park in California. The Giant Forest is completely and overwhelmingly awe-inspiring. Seeing the largest tree in the world (and all his friends) just lifts your spirits and makes you want to move to a forest straightaway. And if trees aren’t your thing, there are also waterfalls. And bears!

We drove from Los Angeles to the park. (Make sure you start the drive early in the day. We had to do part of the drive in the dark, and it was rather treacherous.) Definitely camp out at King’s Canyon or one of its sister campgrounds. Don’t miss climbing Moro rock at King’s Canyon for breathtaking views, and bring your lunch. You’ll be hungry once you reach the top, and it’s kindof a cool place to eat a sandwich.

thin-gold-line

Here’s to discovering more amazing places in 2014! What’s the best place you’ve ever been to while traveling?