Editors’ travel picks
My favourite place that I have been has to be Australia. I lived there for three years, and it has become a second home for me. Everyone knows that everything in Australia is dangerous and trying to kill you, but people often overlook the beauty and just how odd things are down there. It is a strange and beautiful country, and I think that everyone should make their way down there to check it out at least once
in their life.
I’m a huge baseball fan, so a trip to Santiago de Cuba, which serendipitously coincided with the Cuban National League championships, was a game changer for me. Cuba is an incredible country to begin with, I’ve gone back many times because of the people, the music, and the culture – but baseball is a religion there. My hotel overlooked a shantytown on one side, and the baseball stadium on the other. While I could sit on the surrounding wall and watch the championships, the Cubans living on the other side would pile into flimsy shacks with corrugated tin roofs, crowding around a radio or black and white TV to follow the games. Many of the hotel employees lived there and invited me to join them every night. Unable to afford a ticket to a game only a few blocks away, their generosity and passion for the sport was unprecedented – and offered an experience unmatched by anything I could find in a stadium.
Finland easily takes the cake as my favourite travel destination. This quiet, calm and picturesque country is off the beaten path, receiving few travellers from North America except for the odd exchange student and hockey enthusiast. The summers are warm, the sun doesn’t set and the saunas are hot – a perfect combination if you ask me. The traditional east combined with the ultra-modern and Swedish-influenced west creates a truly unique experience unavailable anywhere else I’ve travelled. From the bustling Helsinki nightlife to swimming in one of Finland’s 187,888 lakes under the midnight sun, Finland has something for everyone.
Comprised of over 7,000 islands in the Western Pacific, the Philippines has a diverse terrain unlike any I’ve seen before. You want a bustling metropolis? Manila and Cebu will fill your quota plenty. What makes the Philippines different? North of the country you can check out the Banaue Rice Terraces carved in the Ifugao mountains. Or head south to the province of Bohol, to see the infamous Chocolate Hills—roughly 1,200 symmetrical hills that turn chocolate brown during the dry season. Being a beach bum more your style? El Nido, Palawan is the tiny beach town most travellers dream of, with it’s hidden beaches and relaxed nightlife. While you’re there, stop at the UNESCO-listed national park, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River. Three weeks was not enough time to see everything and more.
I recently went on a backpacking trip through Colombia, which I feel is an underrated destination. It has a little bit of everything – big cities, rugged coastline, ancient sites, coffee region and the Amazon rainforest. I’d recommend going to Tayrona National Park in the northern region. At this time, the beaches are only accessible by hiking, so there are very few tourists. There’s also the opportunity to camp near the beach for cheap. I think a lot of people have a misconception of Colombia still being unsafe, given its history in the 90s, but it has come a long way. I never felt in danger, even with taking long-distance buses through small towns and walking around Bogota at night. It’s a beautiful country and I’m already saving up for a return trip.