America is my home. I was born and raised here and there is a reason as to why they call it the "land of opportunity". We are a melting pot of cultures from all over the world. You can find essentially any cuisine, connect with a diverse range of people who are interested in so many different things, you can find lakes, rivers, oceans, volcanoes, 14,000ft peaks, waterfalls, jungles, geysers, desert, you can go skiing, surfing, train with the classical ballet or race in a Tough Mudder. You can start a business, fail at one, and find the good in all of it because you're just grateful to live here and have the opportunity. Women are (generally) respected and have the freedom to do what they please. It's a wonderful country and for all of the above reasons, it's my favorite.
There's something so captivating and indescribable about Antarctica. I traveled there in 2017 with Quark Expeditions, and I wouldn't have traveled there with any other company after my experience with Quark. We traversed through a Category 10 storm with winds reaching 60mph and waves as high as 30ft crossing the Drakes Passage, only to find peace and silence on the other end. I created a YouTube vlog on my experience which you can find here. But as someone who loves nature, Antarctica tops all of my experiences as my most memorable and favorable one. Who knew that penguins could be so adorable and green moss could grow on the land masses down there? Mind blown!
Peru and I go way back. When I was 21, I backpacked through from Bolivia to Ecuador, making Aguas Calientes home for a couple of months. I was able to obtain free room and board by working as a waitress at a hostel in the village, and on my off days would provide sustainability consulting for a luxury hotel called Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. Peru holds memories that are dear to me because it was the first country that I devoted quite a bit of time to in order to begin to develop my career, which at the time I thought was going to be sustainability consulting. I spent my 22nd birthday at the top of Machu Picchu. The second time 'round, I visited Lima and stayed at a lovely Airbnb. I also experienced my first and only red light robbery, which was a wake up call. Still, it makes my top 5 favorite countries!
People are often surprised when I tell them that Pakistan is one of my favorite countries. I attribute this to the fact that I spent quite a bit of time traveling around from Karachi to Lahore to Islamabad, and I'm grateful that my hosts were able to truly provide me with the full experience. Some of the more memorable ones were experiencing the Waga Border Ceremony between Pakistan and India. But above all else, I love that the natural landscapes vary from beach to cloud forest to vast mountain ranges. The food is also divine with my favorite being probably the sweet Gulab Jamun, yum! As a woman, I felt safe and it was a nice surprise to find that I didn't have to wear a hijab (which I would have happily done out of respect) but it was totally unnecessary.
This should be no surprise, purely because of its pristine and intrinsic year-round beauty. I've been to Iceland on several occasions, and find the natural history fascinating. One can literally see the tectonic plates meeting one another, one of the only places on earth where it can be seen. From volcanoes to glaciers to the Northern Lights and then the infamous Blue Lagoon, it's the perfect travel spot for your novice or expert traveler. Depending on how deep into nature you want to travel, you can always discover something new and of unique value.
Oman is one of those interestingly beautiful countries that tends to get washed out by UAE, which is of course safe and beautiful as well. Then there's also the fact that Yemen is it's neighbor as well, which perhaps makes the unaccustomed traveler a bit weary. However, I like Oman because it is less touristy than its neighbor, I like it because it neighbors Yemen (it gives it a testing appeal) and it offers an unmatched sense of culture, kindness and local heritage. It's a country that boasts massive financial success which allows for a clean country with much to offer to tourists that choose to spend some time. I love the desert, the kabsa that locals eat with their hands (it was fun to try! and deliciously filling), as well as the ocean, which is just turquoise blue.
This country is able to maintain its peaceful beauty thanks to the massive tourist tariff that visitors have to pay in order to even enter, not to mention that it must be achieved by a tour agency. At the time, it cost me $250/day just for the visa. I ended up staying several days and I'm glad I did. Never in my life have I encountered such a strangely captivating country. The flight in on Druk Air (the only airline that flies there) was not for the faint of heart as we navigated the mountains to land; it's considered one of the most dangerous flights on earth. But once I arrived, I was greeted by my tour guide and when we started heading to the hotel where I was sponsored, there were these spiritual phallus's painted on buildings everywhere, which was fascinating. We planted trees in an area where, in previous years, they broke a Guinness World Record for the most trees planted in an hour, a whopping 49,672!
Since childhood, it was always a dream to visit the great country of Mongolia. I purely wanted to visit for the vast natural landscapes. And for my 27th birthday, I did just that! I was sponsored at this beautiful yurt camp called Jalman Meadows Wilderness Camp where for a full week, I detached from the "real world" and enjoyed myself in the wild. I rode yaks, milked cows, visited a local family who lived in a yurt, bathed with river water, warmed up by the fire every night and made friends with a local Siberian Husky named Jack, who went on hikes with me every day! I wasn't much of a fan of Ulaanbaatar to be honest, I'm not much of a city gal and I felt that I was able to truly experience the culture of the people and nature through paying a visit to their wilderness.
Ahh, the Maldives. Some could see it as just another island, but I see it as a cultural immersion with tropical sand banks and diversity. One thing I loved about the Maldives is the fact that is is indeed an Islamic country, which, though the locals of course take it seriously (even the female staff at many of the hotels are required to cover up even if they're not Muslim), they totally respect the tourists who choose to lounge in their bathing suits and shorts all day. The beaches and hospitality of the hotels there is unmatched (I've stayed in several). Highly recommended for a Honeymoon or just a solo, relaxation trip!