As @TheTravelingCEO of TuGo, I’m lucky; not only do I get to travel a lot, I also get a glimpse into some of the amazing trips our travellers take. There are certain destinations that draw us back, that tug on our heartstrings a certain way. I seem to return to a juxtaposition of destinations: where dry desert heat meets deep, mysterious waters. Here are 10.5 places I’d travel back to in a heartbeat (read on to find out what I mean about the .5).
Truthfully, I’d like to go back to many places in India, but I love deserts and Rajasthan in the northwest, bordering Pakistan, is stunning in a unique way.
The sandstone forts gracing hilltops, the camels and the sand of “The Land of Kings” have an effect on me. I like the dry heat, the look of the desert, the space it affords. We were lucky enough to be there during the Holi festival; the brilliant dyes thrown enthusiastically into the air turned into an exuberant tapestry of celebration.
The very far south of India’s marshy rivers and swampy temples is equally enchanting. It’s a complicated but magical waterway of canals and wetlands, best experienced on one of the many houseboats that dot the lakes. From little villages only accessible by boat to endless rice fields, you can lose yourself in the marshes but eat fresh fish everyday, brought straight from the water to your houseboat by smiling fishermen. One of the most memorable sights was a nighttime, waterborne “parade” of canoes with music, singing and lights, serenading us as they slowly drifted by.
Oroville, Washington, USA
I love the desert, and if I had my way, I’d be in a desert destination close to a body of water. Oroville is the perfect site for our family’s cabin in the Sonora desert, in the northeast corner of Washington State on Lake Osoyoos. I love it there so much I even wrote a song about it and a love letter to Oroville that was published in the Huffington Post.The Okanagan is home to the only true desert in Canada. It’s the northernmost tip of the Sonora desert, which extends all the way from Mexico to Canada, linking all three countries. In the summer, there are more or less equal parts Mexican, American and Canadian residents in Oroville; it’s almost a special ‘secret heart’ of North America.
The Drive of a Lifetime: the Pacific Coast Highway Route 1
In my books, a stretch of highway is definitely a destination, and driving the Pacific Coast highway from LA to Vancouver should be something you do more than once in your life. I love the forest and the trees, and of course, the ocean. The coasts of California, Oregon and Washington have a spectacular beauty: sand dunes, ocean cliffs, beating waves and giant redwoods line the way. What more scenery could you want?I’ve driven this highway a few times, but the last time I did it was the most memorable. It was with my dad, just before he became sick and passed away. Just before Fathers’ Day, I flew my dad out to LA to meet me. I picked him up from the airport, and the two of us spent the next few days driving back to Vancouver.
It was one of the best Fathers’ Day weekends ever. It was also the weekend Michael Jackson’s trial was being held in Santa Barbara. There wasn’t a hotel room available for miles—we had to drive for hours out of Santa Barbara to find a place to stay.
Any Golf Course in Scotland
I’m a golfer and I try to go to Scotland each fall to golf. Scotland’s unforgiving, rugged landscape feels like it has really earned its place in the world, as do its unique people. When you golf in North America, the courses are highly manicured, with every convenience and luxury at your fingertips. There are fancy clubhouses and some of the best restaurants. People are dressed up in all the latest fashions, decked out in the latest equipment. Golfing in Scotland is the antithesis of that. Many of the nicest courses in Scotland barely have tee boxes, and even having played a course before, I still have trouble figuring out exactly which direction I should be teeing off.
Refreshment huts, washrooms or shelter are a rarity. I’ve seen local Scottish golfers head out wearing only wool sweaters in rain that would, in North America, cause you to not even get out of your car. Animals play a big role there too; sheep and cattle roam freely, kept off the fairway by fences. One of my favourite sights is a Scottish golfer accompanied by a quiet, well-behaved border collie. Even the dog knows that when its Master is teeing off, it’s time to sit down and be perfectly quiet.
Split and Zagreb, Croatia
There’s a reason Croatia is seen by tourists as the “friendlier, lighter” and I might add—cheaper—version of Italy. Croatia offers as much geographical beauty and delicious cuisine as Italy—only Croatians are still in the honeymoon phase with tourists. In Italy, it can feel like a game the locals play to ignore the tourists. Who can blame them with the millions of tourists that crowd their picturesque squares and cafés every year? Croatians see it differently; I found them very welcoming.
Croatia is less crowded than Italy, and although it doesn’t have the spectrum of heavyweight historical attractions, it does have its share. The geography doesn’t take a backseat either, as anyone who has been to the falls at Plitvic would attest.
I would love to go to the Roman-fortified city of Split again. Located halfway down the Dalmation coast, the multitude of islands around Split are best appreciated by boat. Cruise the islands in a 30-foot boat for the day, or take a full cruise.
The capital, Zagreb, is fantastic too; it’s like a smaller version of Prague (in the same way Victoria is to my native Vancouver.) The food is great—cheaper than elsewhere in Europe— and it’s true; it seems like there’s a vineyard in every Croatian yard. Add phenomenal pasta, pizza, schnitzel, and you have the perfect vacation destination. Amazingly enough, I actually came back from Croatia thinner! I just enjoyed walking so much there; sometimes, up to 10 hours a day.
We visited Rwanda as part of the Lake Victoria circuit (Rwanda/Tanzania/Uganda), but the people in Rwanda really stood out for me. We all sensed something incredible from the people we met; such hope and desire to move on as a society and culture. It was remarkable to see how hard they were trying to make an about-face from the events of the genocide. Their efforts to move forward, all without forgetting the past, were palpable. I’d go back to Rwanda for its heart.
On our tour, we had both a Tutsi and Hutu driver and guide (two of the groups involved in the Rwandan genocide). We observed how well they got along, and their clear understanding of the role that foreign countries played in the problems. They were obviously embarrassed and felt bad about the brutal violence, but wanted to move past it.
We drove past entire villages where men, women and children worked together in the terraced fields. It seemed that every available hill was used for terracing; the rolling green fields of tea were a lush reminder of a nation moving on.
We also got a chance to see mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. That was truly a bucket list highlight. To be so close to such majestic creatures is truly an experience I will never forget and one I would want to relive.
Alaska Hwy, Alaska
For an experience that is all too unique in this day and age, I highly recommend the drive from Vancouver to Alaska. I remember driving up a rise, where we suddenly felt compelled to stop. We got out of the truck, and as we slowly turned in all directions, realized that besides the road, there wasn’t a single sign of civilization. That was a “wow” moment for me.
This is why I like to experience destinations by driving. You can get a much more direct feel than you can by flying, stopping to interact with people and places along the way. This is my motto when travelling; walking is better than driving, and driving is better than flying. It makes for the best experiences. Flying is sometimes a necessary carbon evil, but once you’re at your destination, get out of the machine, and get out on foot.
There’s a reason some Canadians spend every winter in Bali. There’s something about that place; a sort of spiritual energy. I have to admit, I was skeptical before I went. I had heard too many things that made it sound like a bad romance novel, but it’s really as special as they make it out to be.
There’s a beauty and a peaceful quality about the place. You’ll find that the island of Bali is quite unlike the rest of Indonesia; the zen-like spirit of the place is undeniable and a perfect reminder for busy professionals to slow down and enjoy life.
Manhattan, New York
I love New York. I had a day to myself once in Manhattan while I waited for my wife to arrive. I stored my bag in a hotel near central park, and killed the day walking to Wall Street and back, following as non-linear a path as I could. If I was hungry I’d grab a bite to eat. If I was tired, I’d sit in café with an espresso or glass of wine, watching the world go by. There’s something to do, or see, or that you recognize, on every block. If you go to Manhattan, I recommend not doing a tour, or at least save a day where you don’t overplan it. Just walk, meander, and have a day to take it all in.
10.5 A truck stop in Austria
One of the best meals I’ve ever had, and definitely the best schnitzel of my life, was at a truck stop! Driving through the spectacularly beautiful countryside from Croatia to Prague through east Austria, we stopped at a gas station. My wife ordered schnitzel at the diner and it was the tastiest plate of schnitzel we (thankfully she gave me some!) had ever had: crispy on the outside, golden brown, tender, juicy and delicious. I didn’t order it and I’ve been forever regretful since. I would literally go back there just for that, oh and the view was amazing, hence the 0.5!
Where would you go back to in a heartbeat? I’d love to hear why.
Next on my list is Berlin. I’ve been all over Germany, but I haven’t experienced this city yet. Let me know if you have any suggestions!
Check out my other articles for more travel inspiration:
- A Travel Insurer’s Response to Unpaid Claims
- A Love Letter to Oroville, Washington
- Top 10 Places to Busk
My name is Patrick Robinson, and I run TuGo (TU). TU is one of the top travel insurance providers in Canada, and has been around since 1964. It began in my parents’ living room 50 years ago, and has managed to remain family-owned to this day. I can’t compare to those who travel for a living, but I have been to some amazing places in my lifetime.