Life

Travelers Tell Us The First Place They Want To Go, Once Travel Is Safe Again

At this exact moment in time, no one really knows what travel will look like in the future. Or even when it will open back up. Will the quarantine lift closer to the Fourth of July or Labor Day? So much remains murky. All that travel aficionados can do right now is daydream on Instagram or book tickets for some future date that they hope to hit open road, knowing that if they have to change plans it likely won’t cost them extra.

To help keep the dream of travel alive during these trying times, we reached out to some of our favorite long-term travelers, travel writers, and influencers to ask where they’re keen to go once exploring the wider world is safe and financially viable again. Their answers were as varied as they come, touching on everything from nostalgia to rebuilding efforts to family to adventure.

As passionate as we are about travel, we’re not blind to the fact that for much of the world a global recession is looming unlike any we’ve seen since World War II. The very idea of traveling is a privilege-filled prospect and the thought of bringing sickness to a place with little medical infrastructure is a scary one. But economies around the world are also highly dependent on visitors to survive and rebuild, and the human impulse to see new places and make new memories is only going to be heightened by a few months spent indoors. It’s a balancing act that will depend on a wide-range of factors — from your job and savings to your personal desire to leave home and anxieties about actually contracting the coronavirus.

Whether you’re likely to travel as soon as the quarantine ends or not for another year or two, let these picks help inspire your next journey.

Benjamin Setiawan (hungryeditor) — WUHAN, CHINA

Once we are able to travel again, there are two places that I want to go, actually. The first is Philly to see my family. It’s been tough being in NYC and not being able to go home to see them, but I know it’s the right decision. Everyone has to make sacrifices during this time.

The second is Wuhan, China. I know it sounds crazy, but I know there’s more to Wuhan than what we’ve been hearing in the news the past few months. I read an article on NPR about the Chinese American artist, Laura Gao, who is from Wuhan. We are missing so much when we choose to define a place myopically by just one trait.

As a journalist, I know there’s more to this story. I would love to discover the food, history, and rich culture of Wuhan. In a time when racism is on the rise globally, I want to help debunk the misconceptions and myths people have about the city that was ground zero for COVID-19.

Kinga Philipps (kingaphilipps) — GET BACK TO NATURE

I personally think the restrictions for travel will lift slowly and in sections — hiking trails and beaches will reopen, parks and campgrounds will follow, then we will once again be able to hop on a flight to more far-flung destinations. We also will emerge from quarantine like sleep dazed critters, coming forth from hibernation.

Personally, I want to run free on my local hikes to catch the end of the super bloom. Carrizo Plain National Monument is my go-to, little known spot for wide-open space and carpets of flowers as far as the eye can see. It’s also BLM land surrounded by Los Padres National Forest, so dispersed camping will be on the agenda. Nights spent under the stars by campfires with coyotes will be in order.

From there, I’ll first seek “comfort food” travels. Hawaii’s warm water freediving, tropical hikes, kalua pork and spam on rice purchased at gas stations en route to my favorite north shore shark dive are on the agenda. Hawaii Adventure Diving is a must.

Next, I’ll dust off the passport and head to La Paz, Mexico in time for the arrival of orcas feasting on Mobula rays, which usually happens in early summer. Let’s all dream about this until it’s real again.

Melanie Sutrathada (melaniesutra) — KAUAI, HAWAI’I

Once it’s safe for all parties (locals and travelers), I’m dreaming of hopping on a flight to Hawaii’s Kauai. Think hours spent watching giant sea turtles and wild dolphins, rainbow shaved ice enjoyed roadside, walks on the beach with the bluest waters lapping up on your feet, and long winding hikes along the towering sea cliffs of the NaPali Coast. I’m yearning for fresh poke bowls, spam musubi, and all the saimin I can get my hands on. I’m pulling out all of my bathing suits and planning on wearing shoes as little as possible. I’m ready for more of that Hawaiian magic that Kauai is known for.

After all this time spent indoors, all I want is to feel the warm sun on my face as the sun sets and the golden sand under my feet at the Garden Isle. Let’s just say that Kauai is going to be an absolute must when we come out on the other side of this.

Phil Calvert (philwaukee) — SOUTH AFRICA

I can hear South Africa calling my name. The incredible wildlife is calling me — the giraffes, hippopotamus, lions, and leopards. I want to experience penguins flocking to South Africa every May. Most of all, I want to go to Kruger National Park — one of Africa’s largest Game Reserves — and see the cirlce of life with my own eyes. Yes, I’ll break out in song! I might even come to tears when I finally see a hippopotamus in the wild. I relate to them as it looks like hippos love to eat and well… I love to eat!

Speaking of food, there is this South African dish I want to taste called boboties (a sort of spiced meat and egg casserole). I also crave days spent in Cape Town. It’s full of culture and that’s what I’m all about. South Africa is called the Rainbow Nation, just like the colors of their flag, rich in diversity and featuring many different cultures coming together. That’s what I’ll be looking for most after this.

Justin Walter (atwjustin) — ITALY

I never imaged not having the freedom to travel. I miss my jet-setting ways and spending time — in-person — with people I love. When I think about traveling again, I want to make sure one of my first trips is to a destination that has been hit hard by this crisis and is meaningful to me. Traveling to Italy with my family keeps resurfacing to the top of that list.

Right before the pandemic exploded globally, my brother-in-law was about to pitch a family trip to Italy for my parents’ upcoming 70th birthdays. I’ve never been more excited at the thought of ditching my solo traveling ways to visit my homeland with the people I love and miss the most. To date, I’ve only been to Cinque Terre and when I was there I was brought to tears by a feeling of connection to my ancestry and family. What a blessing it will be to one day explore the rest of the country, eating pasta and drinking wine (less than six feet apart) with those who I love most.

Cameron Lee (thecameronlee) — THAILAND

It is going to take a while before the travel industry will return to normal after the coronavirus. In many ways, coronavirus will have a lasting impact on many destinations. Travel writers and influencers will be a key component in driving tourism again, as many of us have been part of the driving force behind many destination-based and hotel-based campaigns.

That said, when it’s safe again, I’m going to go to Thailand. I have Sitges and London already on the books for the summer, assuming things calm down, but I think Thailand will be the one place I really want to make the effort to visit once it’s safe to travel again. It’s got the best of both worlds — nightlife and beautiful beaches — and I’m ready to be around people and lay out on the beach after spending so much time at home. I look forward to navigating the crowded streets of Bangkok, visiting ethical elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai, and spending time at some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world — from Railey Beach in Krabi to all the beaches around Phi Phi Island and Koh Lipe.

Matt Payne (mattpaynetravelphotography) — CARMEL, CALIFORNIA

There is no more purifying place in the world to me than Carmel, California. There’s a clarity to the morning light as it casts its dewy gaze across the Pacific and onto Point Lobos across the cove. Surf hammers the rocks. Otters play. Shorebirds trace the waves along the coarse sand. A Frank Lloyd Wright home hangs over the water, augmenting nature’s finest piece of shoreline in stirring fashion. Carmel is a quiet mismatch of wealth and eccentricity. Sport and silence. A place where the fingerprints of the artist and the entrepreneur are equally dispersed.

The rugged coastline is demonstrative of how beauty comes from eons of oceanic tumult and physics. A testament that so often, beauty emerges as a byproduct of opposing forces. Landlocked now, I dream of seafood, salty air and the kind of silence you find when you’ve finally arrived someplace else. That feeling of inspiration and timelessness that comes when you look out onto the merging of land and water. As I consider a world, that for a period I’ve no longer had access to, I think of exploring that stretch of coastline again. South to Big Sur and north to Monterey. That is where I know that even now, the waves and the shore whisper in unison: “this too shall pass.”

Amanda Burrill (amandauncharted) — VIETNAM

On my longest ever streak at home in New York City, and, at time of this writing, on day 25 of solitary social distancing, I’ve had plenty of time to ponder which destination rises to the top for me. It’s pleasure, not business: Vietnam.

When it’s safe, my 70-year-old mother and I will tour the country top to bottom, just the way she lived it. Bich Nga, aka Mom, was born in Hanoi. At a young age, her family moved south to Saigon. She escaped to Guam three days before the city fell, becoming a refugee who then made her way to the United States. Raised with the backdrop of war, she’s a resilient woman but has never wanted to go back.

Despite the strong pull of my DNA calling me home, I downright avoided travel to Vietnam over the years to wait for her. In late 2019, she decided she was ready and we started to firm up plans just as the pandemic hit. When the light turns green, it’s go-time because Vietnam, with its opposing monsoonal season, is good for travel at any time of year.

So that’s what’s up next, whenever the time comes. All the Phở, Bún riêu, and Bún Thịt Nướng deliciousness awaits.

Dan Clapson (dansgoodside) — SOUTHERN QUEBEC

I had a month-long European adventure in May that’s been put on hold, so my first instinct is to say I want to head overseas. But since 80 percent of my travel — work and pleasure — is done in Canada, I’m really missing seeing different parts of the country on a regular basis. Last fall, I went on a trip to the rural part of Southern Quebec and fell in love with the vibrancy of the autumn colors and charm of the countryside, all hues of red and yellow.

Only a short drive from Montreal, there’s plenty you can explore, eat, and drink in Southern Quebec. Sip on unique ciders at Ciderie Michel Jodin in Rougemont (definitely try the ice cider, a Quebec creation best described as a more palatable version of ice wine) and stroll through the Foresta Lumina (Coaticook, QC) once the sun sets for a charming and slightly magical hike.

In Warwick, you’ll find the church-turned-cheesemaking facility, La fromagerie du Presbytère. Interesting in and of itself, on Saturdays the cheesemaker is especially exciting — with an outdoor raclette set-up. Grab some gooey cheese, a pint of beer or two, and find a spot on the grass to soak up some live tunes.

It’s joie de vivre at its best.

Mark C. Stevens (markcstevens_) — LIGURIA, ITALY

Truthfully, when called to answer this question I had the urge to pick somewhere obscure or to satisfy some long-held destination crush. We’ve all had so much time to think about where we’d like to go next. However, I find myself missing the place I grew up: The Italian Riviera.

Our family is from the Golfo di Tigullio, several train stops north of Cinque Terre. My 95-year-old Nonna and her sister — my great aunt, 98 — live together, a stone’s throw from the beach. Jutting out from each side of their panorama on the Lungomare are the points that shelter Porto Fino on the right and Sestri Levante on the left. I can sense them now when I close my eyes, a hint of the salt air and sound of motorinos zipping by.

At this point, I may not see my noona and aunt again. If I do, then it will be a cherished reunion of my favorite activity since I was old enough to remember: making the rounds of the shops in the caruggio — think archway-lined covered sidewalks — with Nonna Yvelise. A proper cappuccino, focaccia pizza (Liguria is the land of focaccia), and an aperitivo all await, before an embarrassingly large meal of trofie col pesto or some other delight.

It will be important to support tourism-dependent countries that were impacted heavily by the pandemic. Northern Italy fits that requirement. Despite initial sluggishness in combating the virus, when the Italian federal government shut it down, they did so with respectable commitment and Italian medical professionals and journalists have attempted to share their experience with countries behind them in the curve. Especially impressive has been the Veneto region, which has set an example in the testing and contact tracing requirements necessary to combat COVID-19. I would like to visit there as well to show appreciation and support.

Kristin Sluyk (bowlsbabe) — PROVENCE, FRANCE

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As an avid traveler and social butterfly, it’s been challenging to be confined to the walls of my New York apartment. So I’ve been creating space and finding comfort through meditation. The Calm App has a story narrated by Steven Fry called ‘Blue Gold.’ The story is set in the sprawling lavender fields of Provence, France, and Fry’s mesmerizing voice and descriptive storytelling truly create an escape for me, transporting me from my living room to the South of France. (To really set the vibe, I’ll diffuse some lavender essential oils and maybe enjoy a glass of my favorite Henri Bertrand Provence rose afterward.)

I’ve listened to the meditation maybe six to seven times now. It calms me and keeps my wanderlust alive. The lavender flowers bloom from June through August, so I hope that it’s safe to visit the South of France later this summer. If so, that will be the first plane ticket I book. I look forward to when we can all travel again, but for now, I’ll keep dreaming of what it might feel like to walk through the fields, taste the effervescent flavors of Provence rose, and explore the quaint sun-filled villages of the Luberon Valley in the summer.

Gabrielle Pharms-Barr (gabbynikki) — TEL AVIV, ISRAEL

This is one of those enchanting coastal cities I’ve had on my bucket list since I was a child. It’s rich in history and chock full of beautiful beaches along the Mediterranean Sea. Plus, it’s one of the few locales in the world where you can hit a ton of the city’s hot spots for free. There’s Jaffa Port that dates back to Biblical times and access to picturesque beaches doesn’t cost a cent.

I’m a fan of the arts, especially hubs that support local artists, so I look forward to visiting the Sommer Contemporary Art Gallery. In addition to promoting Israeli artists in the global art scene, the gallery also exhibits an international array of artists as well. However, the greatest work of art is the display put on by sky: a Tel Aviv sunset.

I’d love to indulge in local eats and wine while taking in the gorgeous sunsets I’ve seen only in photos. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my envy of travelers who have had the privilege of visiting “The White City” — a UNESCO-recognized World Cultural Heritage Site, home to 4,000 Bauhaus and international-style buildings from the 1930s. Amazing architecture amid a vivid blue sky!

Megan Murphy (thisgirlcaneat) — FLORENCE, ITALY

There are several experiences I’d love to finally tick off my travel bucket list: witnessing the Aurora Borealis light up the sky, eating and drinking my way through Basque country, getting advanced dive certified while in Phuket, and so many more. However, once it’s safe to travel internationally again, I’ll be heading straight back to Italy as soon as possible.

I feel extremely fortunate that I had the opportunity to live in Florence for a stretch, and the city has become a home-away-from-home in my heart. Learning how Tuscany’s enchanting capital — and the entire country of Italy — have been hit particularly hard from the coronavirus pandemic is crushing. Over the years, Firenze has provided me with a wealth of inspiration, incredible memories, and unparalleled amounts of gelato … and pasta … and vino, all filled with joy. I can’t wait to support this bella città, its people, and the economy once again.

Driving through the lush rolling hills of the countryside and making stops at quaint towns around the region — such as Siena, Montepulciano, and Greve in Chianti — is an absolute must, too. Andiamo!

Stacey Leasca (sleasca) — ZAMBIA

It took me 30 hours and four different planes to arrive in Zambia. My feet, eyes, and back were swollen from scrunching up in different positions while sitting in the way way back of the coach. But I’d do it all over again — a million times over — because Zambia is the place where I finally had a one-on-one meeting with Mother Nature.

Every other trip pales in comparison to a safari, especially to a place like South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. There’s no cell service, no WiFi, and no one you need to dress up for. It’s just you, the animals, and the stillness of the Earth. It’s the place I truly learned the power of shutting off. Of listening. Of falling asleep to the sounds of nothing. It’s a place I learned how to calm the beating of my own heart on walking safaris, coming face-to-face with elephants and nothing in between us. It’s the place where I truly understood how animals are supposed to live, and how we aren’t doing enough to protect their way of life. It’s a place where everything else falls away and you’re left bare with only the things and feelings that matter.

Zambia will always be special to me. And it’s a place I can’t wait to return to again, and again, and again when the time comes.

Karl Watson (karlwatsondocs) — GREEK ISLANDS

I want to go on an island-hopping sailboat trip to Greece. What am I missing during this time of isolation and social distancing? Well for one, interaction with other people. I live by myself. So the perfect antidote for this will be traveling in a group. This won’t be the time for a soul searching solo travel adventure, I want to be hanging out with people the entire time. Hopefully, some friends will join me and we’ll make some new ones along the way.

What else am I missing? Being outdoors. This won’t be the time for exploring museums, old buildings, or whatever. I want to spend every moment outdoors and go swimming in the sea! Each place we visit, I want to enjoy eating food that I haven’t cooked (badly) myself — everything from street food to fancy restaurants. And don’t forget the bars! Crowds of people drinking and dancing away. Hopefully, social distancing will be a thing of the past in this scenario and we’ll have a newfound appreciation for the simple things in life.

We’re all living with constant anxiety at the moment. Challenging adventures can wait for future trips. But for my first trip, I just want to relax without a care in the world. Hang out with great people in beautiful places, soak up the sun, and eat and drink as much as we want — where our only priority is to have a damn good time.

Joe Sills (joesills) — PHONG NHA KE BANG NATIONAL PARK, VIETNAM

Screeching monkeys and jungle chickens. Confined to my apartment in Memphis, my thoughts have drifted — almost daily — back to the sticky forests of Vietnam. I spent three weeks there in 2017, meandering most of the backpacker’s trail from Saigon to Ha Long Bay; but the most powerful experience I had in Vietnam was inside of Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park.

Though I’ve heard whispers that the once forgotten outpost of Phong Nha is now bristling with day hikers and glampers flocking to natural wonders nearby, I’m more interested in returning to a village deep inside of the park’s borders. The thatched roofs of Ban Doong Village are just a waypoint for Oxalis Adventure Tours en route to Hang En and Son Doong caves, two otherworldly caverns that require an overnight trek down what was likely once part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. At the time, I took access to the off-the-grid villagers there for granted. I was in too much of a rush to see the sights. Now, I’d like to go back and really spend time there. I’d like to really settle in for a few weeks and document their daily lives.

Amelia Mularz (ameliamularz) — CALIFORNIA’S HIGHWAY 1

As much as I love the square mile of terrain I’ve been covering during quarantine walks in my L.A. neighborhood (I seriously know each succulent by name now), I’m craving real nature. I’m also feeling guilty because it’s only now that most hiking trails and beaches are closed in Southern California (due to coronavirus) that I realize I haven’t been taking advantage of them in the first place. That’s why the moment we get the green light to travel, I’m heading on a Highway 1 adventure.

Bidding farewell to my newfound, water-wise friends (see ya, Pablo, the Packard Street Cactus), I’m beelining straight to Nipomo to live out my lifelong dream of visiting a luffa farm. Did you know luffa sponges grow on vines? Then, I’ll head to Cambria, where there’s a new hotel called Oceanpoint Ranch right on Moonstone Beach. I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve never been to Hearst Castle, so I’ll swing by there, too.

Finally, I’ll make my way to Big Sur for hiking and Carmel-by-the-Sea for terrace wine sipping (I hear Talbott Vineyards has a brand-new tasting room). I’m sure soon enough I’ll be back on long-haul flights, but for right now, I’m just fantasizing about being outside, on the California Coast.

Reuben Mourad (reubenmourad) — SOUTHERN ITALY

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If there’s one thing that being quarantined has made me appreciate, it’s that I’ve taken the freedom of being able to travel freely and so innocently for granted. I’m fortunate to have a lot of photos and videos of my travels, and the carefree and buoyant mindset shines through every frame. For me, this has often been enhanced by equally serene and natural surroundings. For me, southern Italy encompasses all that I long for in my international adventures — a breathtakingly tranquil landscape with a matching warm-heartedness by its locals.

Italy’s islands all boast a smorgasbord of true European decadence. Capri with its unforgettable blue waters and majestic cliff faces and Sardinia with its juxtaposing grandiose mountains and serene shores show just a shadow of the enormity of southern Italy’s appeal. The food, oh the food, deserves an entire catalog of consciousness of its own. The region’s respect for its true heart and soul that’s collected from the sea, the land, and close family traditions is my strongest reflection of my time spent there.

I fondly recall a local banquet I was fortunate enough to experience while at Ischia’s Regina Isabella, and the heart-stirring spread of local Neapolitan foods that were laid out in the most monumental fashion. Every bite was a thrilling discovery of regional flavors and culinary traditions that I still cherish to this very day.

While my desire to return to southern Italy is selfishly to satisfy my own pining to once again experience the exquisiteness of this truly unique part of the world, it’s also important to be reminded of how vital tourism is to these island regions. The majority of their economy places their trust in tourism — both domestic and internationally — and instilling some level of reassurance after such a heartbreaking time, especially leading into their high season, is sincerely needed after this distressing time.

Aaron Sagers (aaronsagers) — SCOTLAND

Where to go when this has passed? I ponder this question hourly from the confines of a Brooklyn apartment without an outdoor space. My initial inclination was to seek a lot of sun, and a long patch of sand in French Polynesia or Thailand, or somewhere more local such as the Turks and Caicos. Then I realized, nah, I want space and a lot of green. Like David Byrne sang, covering the old Roy Rogers cowboy ditty, “give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above; don’t fence me in.”

For me, that means Scotland. Though I have no familial connections to the country, it has always been a spiritual home — frequently calling to me. I will begin by stretching my legs with a hike along the Assynt coastline on the white sands of Achmelvich Beach, taking in views of eagles, seals, and Hermit’s Castle, Europe’s smallest. Then I’ll head to the village of Lochinver to rest.

I likewise crave the cool air and open spaces on the coastline of Muckle Flugga, on Unst in the Shetland Islands. Referred to as the northernmost tip of the British Isles, Muckle Flugga’s clifftop views, and the wildlife of the Hermaness National Nature Reserve, will reset me after being surrounded by the limited cityscape scenes of my squat, concrete Brooklyn forest.

And of course, after reconnecting with nature, I plan to break social distancing rules with old friends around the country at Scotch whisky distilleries Lagavulin and Balvenie. When I’m ready to really be around people once more, I’ll wrap my trip up with a stay in one of my favorite cities, Glasgow, for live music and, of course, ghost stories.

Writer’s Pick: Zach Johnston (ztpjohnston) — OLYMPIC PENINSULA, USA

I’ve spent so much of my life looking for new places to go. I was extremely lucky to come into adulthood in the late 90s/early 2000s right after the world opened up to travel in massive ways. I’m old enough to (vaguely) remember the 80s when traveling to places like the Soviet Bloc was an ordeal, to say the least. Then it all opened up and the travel bonanza was on. Until now. Now, I cannot even leave Germany (where I live). The borders are straight-up closed between countries in the EU to passive tourists. I get email updates from the U.S. Embassy in Germany telling me which flight routes from Europe to the U.S. are still open and which are no longer flying. It’s a strange time.

What’s on my mind the most is my dad’s ancestral home, The Olympic Peninsula. I moved away from there in 2003, and since then, there hasn’t been a day it doesn’t come into my mind. My mom and dad’s entire family is there between the Hood Canal, the Skokomish Nation, and the Seattle area. I always miss it but now I need it. I need to spend time with my family on the Rez, eating all the smoked salmon, throwing crab pots into the Canal, and hanging out in Potlach on the beach. I miss eating gas station broasted chicken and jo-jos in the pick-up truck on the way to the high country of the Olympic Mountains. I miss visiting my friends at Hama Hama Oysters up in Liliwaup. I miss sitting next to the crackling fire at Alderbrook while watching the rain pitter-patter outside. Hell, I even miss the damp camping trips into the forests around Staircase and Lake Cushman or hitting the Duckabush into The Brothers Wilderness.

When I can travel to the U.S. again, this is where I’m going. I’m going home. I’m going to spend my tourist dollars supporting the taverns, oyster farms, small hotels, and people around the Hood Canal and Skokomish Nation for as long as I can.

Editor’s Pick: Steve Bramucci (stevebram) — CENTRAL OREGON

When my dad was dying, he pointed to a photo hanging above the fire and said, “look for me in the thin places.” The phrase refers to a Scottish concept that there are certain places where the veil between heaven and earth is transparent. For my dad, the headwaters of the Metolius River in Central Oregon was one of those spots. We scattered his ashes there and baptized my son there a few years later. With another baby on the way, it’s one of the first places I long to return.

In part, I want to go to the Metolius to commune with my dad. But it’s also the perfect destination for a little semi-socially distanced adventure. I imagine walking the river with a fly rod, reading a book on the grassy banks, and cooking up trout fried in bacon fat. My travel agenda for the foreseeable future is going to be places where my tourist dollars can help rebuilding efforts. Italy is high on that list. So is Navajo Country. But before that process begins I want to return to a thin space my pops loved and do a little healing and restoration of my own.

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