Where To Go In 2019

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The Grand Canyon in winter

I’m not going to be updating every day, I promise, but since yesterday was just an introduction, I thought I could slide another in.

Publications love lists and, despite knowing that, more often than not, I’ll be disappointed by them, I click them, thus perpetuating the cycle of publications coming out with more lists. And, frankly, I make my own lists. Constantly. So perhaps I shouldn’t be so quick to judge.

At the beginning of the year, travel pages and publications come out with their Where To Travel This Year lists and I often feel I can guess the content without clicking through. But, just like Cosmo got us for years with their 19 HOT NEW SEX TIPS, I always hope I’ll find something surprising, something to add to my own list, something I hadn’t thought of yet. This clicking generally produces Cosmo-sized eye rolls.

And my complaints are multi-fold:

  1. If you ask the average person where she wants to travel in her life, places like Italy, the Grand Canyon, New York City, are going to crop up. This person already knows about these places and plans to visit them. Why would you include them on your list that is supposed to be inspirational and aspirational? Do you think there are some people who are unaware that the Grand Canyon is a thing?
  2. The tonier publications confine their reasons why you should visit a place to the exciting new very expensive resorts that have opened there. Resorts designed to keep you in the hotel, getting spa treatments, eating at the restaurant, and generally having nothing to do with the actual life of the places you’re visiting. To say nothing of the fact that when a publication recommends a hotel to me that costs $800 a night, it makes me feel really bad about myself. Because if this is what the publication is using its space for, there must be a critical mass of people form whom $800 a night doesn’t seem ridiculous.
  3. This is a continuation of 2, but these same publications seem to go out of their way to tell you that you can now feel comfortable visiting an “exotic” place because there’s a Four Seasons there. You won’t have to worry about encountering locals not specifically placed to wait on you. Your vacation in “exotic” place will deviate little from your vacation in Aspen or London. I don’t understand this kind of travel or, frankly, this kind of traveler. Travel is an experience, one which I don’t think is enhanced by a $150 pedicure. Spa vacations are a different animal – not my animal, but an animal I understand. I don’t understand flying 8,000 miles for it, though. My understanding is that we have tons of spas right here at home.
  4. If you’re reading these American-based publications, you’re probably an American. Americans have notoriously little time off. If you’re a mid-level professional who has the means to take a vacation at all, you probably have 3 weeks off. That includes the time you might want to visit family at holidays. With so little time, I think you ought to make the most of it. When I see locations on these lists that you couldn’t possibly make a week’s vacation out of, I wonder whence their inclusion. I then cynically assume there’s some kind of payola from the local tourist board. Because you could definitely get a whole new set of clicks from your article titled, “Where To Spend A 3-Day Weekend in 2019.”
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The road from the Skeleton Coast to Swakopmund

So I took a look at five lists: Travel and Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic, Afar, and The New York Times. Together they recommended a total of 174 places. Of these, 20 places were repeated across publications twice; 4 were repeated three times; and 2 were repeated four times. You won’t believe which ones got the seal of approval from 4 out of 5: French Polynesia and Houston.

Houston.

“Honey, let’s take our conceivably only vacation this year to Houston.” Said whom? Ever? I’m not slagging on Houston, I’d like to go there. Maybe for a long weekend. At some point. Or when I’m there on a business trip, I could bolt on a couple extra days.

And French Polynesia is on the entirely other end of the spectrum. Because you can’t go to French Polynesia for a week. It takes the better part of two days in each direction to get to French Polynesia. This is a place you consider for your honeymoon. Not your week off in August.

Egypt, the Elqui Valley in Chile, Puerto Rico, and Vevey in Switzerland were the three-peaters. I have nothing bad to say about Egypt. You should all go. It’s awesome. Elqui Valley is where you can see the path of totality of this year’s solar eclipse. If I were not going to be at my brother’s wedding, I would probably be in Chile. I support supporting Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the hurricane. It wouldn’t be my first choice of island, but I can’t argue with the rationale.

But Vevey, Switzerland? It’s on the list because this year it’s celebrating its once-in-a-generation wine-growers festival. Swiss. Wine. Yeah, it’s not ringing any bells for me either. Don’t get me wrong, geographically speaking it would be ridiculous to think that sandwiched between Italy, France, and Germany, the Swiss don’t have wine, but can you think of the last time you drank Swiss wine? Or the last time the sommelier at the restaurant waxed rhapsodic about Swiss wine? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Which leads me to believe that the nice people at the Vevey Chamber of Commerce worked overtime to get this into three publications this year. I’m thinking that unless you live and die by Swiss wine, you can probably take a pass.

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Looking towards Cairo from Giza

The two-fers are too many to list individually, so I’ll call out the ones that are on my personal top-20 list: Oman, Rwanda, Cambodia, Tunisia; and the ones that made me go, “really?”: Toronto, Santa Barbara, Lyon. Not that there’s anything wrong with Toronto, Santa Barbara, or Lyon, but in the context of “this might be the only trip my sad, American ass is taking this year,” nope.

Namibia made the list twice. A place I just got back from and heartily recommend. But in both cases it was recommended because of the ultra-luxe hotels and resorts that recently opened there. And while I looked longingly at the Hoanib Desert Camp because it allows you access to a part of Northern Namibia you literally cannot get to by car, but the cost of three nights there for a couple was more than the entirety of our two-and-a-half week trip. (And yes, I’m going to talk about money on this blog because I think it’s important. Not every budget can accommodate every kind of travel, but I talk to people all the time who think they can’t afford to go places when the places they do go are frequently more expensive than the places they think are out of reach. Disney World just raised its daily ticket price to nearly $200 – which means your family of four is shelling out $800 a day for the magic kingdom…before you find a place to sleep for the night.) Namibia was amazing and, even had we not spent so many nights camping, affordable in the overall context of travel that requires a plane ticket. (For context, the hotel in Houston recommended by both Travel and Leisure and The New York Times costs $405/night; the most expensive place we stayed in Namibia when we decided to truly splurge on a five-star resort was under $300 and they fed us breakfast and dinner as part of that.)

So I want to open this up: where would YOU love to travel in 2019? And what’s stopping you? If it’s budgetary or logistical, let me take a crack at helping. Because the folks who’ve made these other lists aren’t doing much for you.

6 thoughts on “Where To Go In 2019

  1. I’m glad to see you blogging again — I enjoy your writing and hearing what you have to say!

    After a 2018 with no vacations at all, we’ve got a couple things in the works for 2019. I’m taking a lady vacation to Paris in June and then we’re trying to take a long weekend trip for our anniversary — thinking SF or Chicago, but speaking of “Where To Spend A 3-Day Weekend in 2019,” I’d love your ideas!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Emily, thanks so much, it’s really nice to hear!

      A lady vacation to Paris sounds amazing, especially in June. Please eat all the things for me.

      We don’t take nearly as many 3-day weekends as we should – we procrastinate until the week of the holiday, then complain that everything is booked, then end up doing nothing. I am therefore confining my recommendations to places I’ve actually been with one place I keep meaning to go:

      Montreal
      Portland and the Maine coast (only in late summer)
      Raleigh Durham area
      Charleston
      Savannah
      Cartagena, Colombia (have not done this, but there are direct flights on JetBlue and I really want to)
      Boulder
      Yosemite (drove by it off-season, want to actually go spend time there – but if you live in SF or nearby, you could easily take a great 3-day here)
      Portland, OR

      Personally, I keep trying to get back to Montreal. I really loved it, despite visiting in March during a blizzard. That was nearly 10 years ago. Maybe this is the year I make a return trip.

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  2. These lists should say “go to ________ because the economy is in crisis and the dollar will go very far,” or “go to __________because bookings are down after political violence that has subsided.” I say that because I’m always looking for a bargain.

    Having said that, I’m headed to Japan this summer for 3 weeks and I’d like to go to Uzbekistan in October if I can convince my wife.

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    1. We often joke about “conflict travel,” because we seem to have a habit of arriving or departing places just before or just after something…conflicting…has happened. And you’ve just given me an idea for my next post!

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