Beginning of a new calendar year is always a good time to start thinking about holidays, isn´t it? We often ask ourselves and our friends where we want to go this year, we set new goals, we make new resolutions and are determined to change some habits. For a change, we still have zero fixed travel plans for 2020 (except skiing in Switzerland in March & a couple of weekend getaways) and my eyes are fixed on the world map these days. While surfing online, I caught myself thinking about various places we´ve been to recently and long time ago as well, which have meanwhile developed (or have a big potential to) into very popular destinations. And I can´t help but think how lucky and grateful I am to have had the chance to visit them while they were still pretty undiscovered and wild. So here are my TOP 5 such destinations.
Due to globalisation, cheaper plane tickets, more and better information online and nevertheless travel blogs like this one the once hard reachable, remote and undeveloped destinations have now become more and more accessible and affordable. Sometimes we forget how it was to travel 10, 20 and more years back when we used paper maps instead of car navigation, guide books instead of smart phones and so on. Even if it is much much easier to travel nowadays, I liked those older days of travel – they were special and I enjoy remembering them.
SRI LANKA & MALDIVES in year 2000
Back in high school my parents took me and my brother to this amazing trip which back then was very exotic for Slovenian residents. The north of the country was still not at peace and we knew nobody who has been there, so it definitely felt like a big adventure. There were a lot of “firsts” on this trip for me as well and I will always remember it by that too. To top it off we added a few days in the Maldives at the end of the Sri Lanka part of the trip. This was my first encounter with such “poster-like” white sandy beaches and it was really incredible. Today, holidays on the Maldives are much more affordable as they were 20 years ago (oh my has it really been that long already?). Anyhow, I am really grateful to have experienced both of these countries before the crowds rushed in. They seem to ve very popular destinations for the past few years.
So, how was it to travel over there back then? Thanks to my travel diary which I write ever since I was around 14, I can still remember the trip quite good. Even though we always prefer to travel independently, we did have a driver here. The public transport back then was supposed to be not so safe. The north of the country was unsafe as well, so we skipped it. We booked accommodation in advance and we were good prepared for the journey overall. I also remember we were checked very thoroughly before entering temples and other sites – by women soldiers who, here and there, took our lipsticks and other make up, but left our sun screen at least. And the Maldives, oh the Maldives were of course stunning. But if I am completely honest, I did get just a bit bored after 2 days on a small island which you circled on foot in about 20 minutes. Might have been because I was a teenager and preferred action. Would I ever visit again? I have no interests of going back to Sri Lanka right now and Maldives are also not a priority but you never know.
CUBA in year 2003
Another more exotic destination for that time, Cuba. Cuba today is much more opened to international visitors and gets more and more tourists every year. In 2003 there was still the notorious embargo and everything was much different. We travelled around with a rented car, started in Havanna and continued to Pinar del Rio and all the way across the island to Santiago de Cuba. Here we boarded a plane (with questionable safety levels) which took us to Varadero. I can say this was a very funny trip with lots of laughs, mostly due to all kinds of turns of events, but also because of all those delicious 1$ mojitos.
Our car broke down every day, so we got to know lots of mechanical shops in all the major cities around the island. There was a serious lack of food in restaurants, so often there would be 10 dishes on the menu, but they would just have eggs and rice available. That´s why we couldn´t really enjoy our last days in Varadero (we booked an all inclusive hotel there as there weren´t many other options, in order to relax on the beach before returning home) – there was sooo much food at breakfast & dinner and I´m sure not all was eaten. From French blue cheese to sauerkraut, everything was there around the clock, and the local people had nothing to eat just kilometres away. German schlager music at the piano bar, karaoke at the pool, all those big hotels and so on – it is really not for us and definitely not how we prefer to travel. But the beach was very nice. Today, I´m sure things are much different on Cuba. It must be easier to travel, but I´m really happy we got to experience a bit of that old charm with hardly any tourists outside Havanna and Varadero.
LAOS in year 2007
During a longer SE Asian trip with my friend from University, we reached Laos after weeks on the road in Cambodia and Vietnam. We felt totally different here. Everything was much more calm, quiet, empty and there were much less tourists around. I can´t really explain why, but it was love at first sight, we really liked it there. We´ve also had this great opportunity to spend a few days in a local village where nobody spoke and English. I still count this as one of my all time best travel experiences.
It seems like there was another story of love at first sight as well. Laos is also the country where Charlie and me met now over 12 years ago. Life had other plans for us just up until 3 years ago when we reunited in Berlin, but we will always keep Laos in our hearts – and who knows, maybe we go back to Mekong delta for fun one day.
OMAN in year 2012
Oman has been a very popular destination amongst my fellow Slovenians for the past years. It seems like everyone who likes to travel has visited it already. Might be a slight exaggeration but you get the picture. Therefore I am very happy we made the decision to visit it 8 years ago when most of the people didn´t even know where this amazing country even is exactly. Lu just turned 1 and I was searching for a place which is safe enough for such a young child but adventurous enough for grown ups as well. I don´t even remember how I came to Oman, we knew nobody who had been there and there was not so much information online. Anyhow we went and it turned out to be absolutely awesome.
In general, I am always more intrigued by places which are less known, less visited and more mysterious. It must be a whole different feeling to travel around there nowadays, but despite this I still say it is worth going. It is a great place for family travels, even with small children. I would definitely go again, but next time I wish to see the Musandam peninsula.
VANUATU in year 2018
Some of you might recall I took a 3 months long unpaid leave at work at the beginning of year 2018. Lu, who was 6 and in his last year before the school, and me took off to an epic trip around the South Pacific. It was without a doubt one of the craziest trips ever and I´m so glad we had the guts to do it. After visiting Singapore, New Zealand, Cook islands and Fiji, we landed in Vanuatu and explored 3 of its islands. Amongst other things we climbed up an active volcano, slept in a tent on the beach for almost a week, danced, sang and lived 2 days with the indigenous people of Tanna in the middle of jungle forests and more.
Vanuatu is soooo great. The most visitors come on cruise ships though, or stay in all inclusive hotels so we really didn`t see many other tourists. It is definitely not one of the most visited countries in the world, but who knows, maybe in 10 years those wonderful people will not live in a jungle anymore. So so so happy we grabbed this chance and went over there. Would I go again? I´d love to!
I am still sorry for not traveling to Cuba yet and honestly, I am not sure if I even want to do it now. 🙁
Well, I must agree with Oman – soooo happy I was there years back… And I would point our Georgia and Armenia too…What it looks, these two countries, especially Georgia, have became so popular…
Agree! We could probbaly also add Myanmar to the list and surely some other too. I missed Georgia & Armenia yea, so if then with the car one day 🙂 Still, I think we can both the grateful & happy about visiting so many places before they became popular 🙂 x