As usual, this post is super late. I try to do these year end round ups, but they are seldom done in time for the time crunched months of December and January. Nevertheless, 2017 was another year of exciting travel for me. In 2017, I visited 15 countries, a decrease of six countries from 2016. Four were new countries for me: Maldives, Korea, Fiji and Cuba. But since countries have so many diverse destinations within them, I avoid generalizing what individual nations are like in these write ups. My favorite destinations of 2017 are in a forthcoming post. As a reminder, nearly all my trips are work related and not vacations.
So what makes a destination a favorite for me? It’s something I try to analyze without getting nationalistic, which is no easy task these days, also before I used to choose my destinations based on my budget. I’ve been writing Where To Go travel round ups for various publications for about ten years now, and I can tell you that while most publications favor travel news and development as the criteria for these lists, my own lists here on this blog are purely subjective and based on my own personal likes and dislikes. In 2017, I was especially drawn to destinations that distracted me from the dour news cycles in the US and Europe. For many travelers, 2017 was all about managing the disgust of politics and like them, I frequently slipped into various states of low-grade rage and despair, but found travel to be the ultimate balm. I spent a month in Japan in 2017—and am always restored by its devotion to nature, its indirectness, and its relatively peaceful isolationism. Why is it so soothing for me? Perhaps because I typically spend much of time in Japan trying to adjust to its customs and translate its menus, which leaves me little time for reading the news. Or maybe its culture is not prone to media frenzies or confrontation, so then is Japan a better country? No, of course not.
In 2017, I was also heartened by the peaceful Anti-Trump protests I witnessed in Korea, nicknamed the Hermit Kingdom. I was impressed by the multi-linguistic talents of the Cubans and moved by the ease of life with which the Fijians live by. Italians living in the moment, Swiss refusing to complain, the Basque celebration of food, and Scotch refusal to be affected by rain were equally inspiring for me in 2017.
If anything, 2017’s destinations taught me how to find comfort and refuge during challenging geo-political times. They also taught me to take a deeper look behind the scenes of travel. We travelers need to examine who owns the hotels, we need to better understand the policies and politics of the airlines we fly, the booking engines we use and the car rental and tour agencies we use. Did you know that plastic straws are one of the single biggest pollutant of the oceans? Did you know that flying business class doubles your carbon footprint? How much do you know about about the grotesque amounts of airline, restaurant, and hotel waste, much of it brought on by extra security measures. (Those bins of plastic water bottles at airport security lines get bigger every year!) We travelers need to ask bartenders to stop using plastic straws! (Why make a craft cocktail and then stick a petrochemical plastic straw in it anyway?) We need to tell airlines to stop using disposable plastic wrapped items and tell hotels—especially luxury hotel brands— to stop using tiny single-use plastic shampoo bottles. Plastic is not luxury! Tourism has the potential to make great changes, but it can also cripple our resources and pollute the same pristine ecosystems we travel so far to experience. I’m personally trying to write less about mainstream destinations and am pledging to promote more sustainable tourism and focus on lesser known and off-the-path destinations to help prevent the bottlenecking and anti-tourism demonstrations we witnessed in Iceland, Spain, Italy and Croatia in 2017. I’ve always been a fan of getting off-the-beaten-track and even spent a few trips in 2017 doing only that. Travelers need to check less boxes, and instead enjoy where they are and accept what they see. I saw my own shocking share of mass tourism and overcrowding in 2017, in the Isle of Sky, Scotland, Lucerne, Switzerland, Miami Beach, Kyoto, Amalfi Coast and the Maldives to name a few. There’s enough beauty in this world to go around. We needn’t cluster in the same old places year after year.
All Destinations I Visited in 2017
In 2017 I traveled to 102 destinations in 16 countries. Here they are in chronological order of when I first visited each country.
1. Switzerland. I live here, but I count it since I visit so many new Swiss destinations each year. I started 2017 in Switzerland at a friend’s chalet in Davos, hiked in Samedan, visited luxury watch factories in La Chaux de Fonds and Neuchâtel, skied Hoch-Ybrig, and discovered lesser-known lakes of Agerisee, Wallensee, Murtensee, Lac du Vernex, Klingnauer Stausee, and Greifensee. I revisited the Axenstrasse with visiting American friends, and spent time hiking and exploring Kaiserstock, Felsenegg, Chasserugg, Val Bregalia, Vicosoprano, Jaun, Furstenau, Chasseral, Chexbres in the Lavaux, Switzerland’s UNESCO-listed wine terraces. I also spent time in Bern, Gruyere, Charmey, Chateaux d’Oex, Yverdon, Romainemoiter, Grandson, Orbe, visited Fribourg twice, Geneva twice, Basel four times, and of course Zürich, where I live, numerous times.
2. Japan: I made two different visits to Japan in 2017, a two week February trip to Kyoto, Iya Valley, Hiroshima, Tokyo, and Matsuyama and because I loved it so much, I returned for another 16 day autumn trip to Matsuyama followed by visits to lesser known destinations like Onomichi, Tamba Valley, Takatsuki, Osaka, Teshima, and Tokyo neighborhoods like Kichijoji.
3. Spain: One of the more, uh, drunken trips of 2017 was a long February weekend in San Sebastian and Bilbao, which occurred unexpectedly during their raucous Carnival festivals.
4. Germany: I made two trips to my northern neighbor this year, a rainy March rivercruise from Worms to Koblenz to Mainz along the Rhine and a Sunday daytrip in May to Laufenbrucke, also on the Rhine
5. France: I also visited my western neighbor twice in 2017. I spent a lovely March day in Strasbourg and a few sweaty summer nights in Megeve in August.
6. Maldives: I had a star-studded week exploring two private islands in March, Kunfunadhoo in the Baa Atoll, and Medhufaru in the Noonu Atoll.
7. UAE: After Maldives, I spent a few nights in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
8. Italy: I made six visits to my southern neighbor in 2017, all but one by train. In April, I visited Milano for a day before taking the train to Genoa and then an overnight ferry to Sardinia where I visited Tempio Pausiana, Isola Rosa, Valle Delle Luna, Su Guruppu, Cala Gonone, Bosa, Alghero, Oristano, and ending in Cagliari. The same month, I visited Lago di Como, and then in June, celebrated my husband’s 50th in Napoli and Amalfi Coast, Marina del Cantone and Capri to be precise, followed by a rewarding visit to scruffy Cilento and the ancient ruins of Paestum. July brought me to Valle d’Aosta, Piemonte, and Varese, and August to Chiavenna. I spent a September week exploring Emilia Romagna, including spots like Varignana, Bologna, Modena, San Leo, San Patrignano, and Rimini.
9. Scotland: A long and surprisingly sunny September weekend brought me to Stirling, Glasgow, and Skye.
10. Denmark: I spent 3 October days foraging for oysters in the Frisian Island of Fano, in the dunes of Henne, with a brief overnight Aarhus.
11. Korea: I spent 6-nights in Seoul in October and November.
12. Australia: I spent 7 nights in the Northern Territories in November including Darwin, Cobourg, and the aboriginal homelands of East Arnhemland, followed by one night in Sydney.
13. Fiji: I spent a week on the main island of Viti Levu, two private islands Yaukuve Levu and Laucala, and chased waterfalls on the lush, lesser visited island of Kadavu.
14. USA: In December, I spent 18 days visiting friends and family in Florida in Miami Beach, Brickell, Ft Lauderdale, Cape Canaveral, Wilton Manors, Orlando, Daytona, Wilbur By The Sea, New Smyrna, Port Orange, and Ponce Inlet, where I was raised.
15. Cuba: In December, I spent three nights in Cienefuegos which I accessed by cruise ship.