I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to travel across most of the lower 48 in the United States, but I’ve never felt that I have had the opportunity to truly explore the character of the region, except the Deep South, where I was born and raised.
The below list includes some of my top destinations in the United States and abroad. Throughout it, you will find my reasons for choosing these locales as my preferred destinations.
A region known for its vast and varied landscapes, Scandinavia is number #1 on my bucket list (and not just for travel and leisure). Norway, as seen below, was ranked the World’s Happiest Country last year. Finland nabbed the top spot this year.
But that’s not the only reason to choose this region. In my almost incessant need to research this region in preparation for an upcoming trip, I read The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by journalist Michael Booth, who lives in the region with his wife and children. From Copenhagen, Denmark to Reykjavik, Iceland, he detailed his account of what makes this region so happy? (And it’s not likely to be their long winters). But Denmark addresses it with hygge and Norway with koselig or hyttakos, which is a get-together with friends – sometimes around cozy fires in cabins or outside to experience the majestic landscapes that surround them.
It is more likely to be their welfare systems supported by each government to provide paid family leave, gender equality, and up to five weeks of vacation. From the outsider like myself, this truly seems utopian to me.
All other international destinations on this list has some form of strong welfare system in place that, to knowledge, ranks high on various indeces for happiness, gender equality, family leave, and education.
Onto my three American destinations of choice: The Pacific Northwest which includes Oregon, Washington State, and British Columbia, Canada; Alaska; and Hawaii.
So why those?
The Pacific Northwest
I have been afforded to be able to travel most of the Lower 48 during my childhood, visiting places like Yosemite in California and Yellowstone in Wyoming. But never the Pacific Northwest. The landscapes again are breathtaking throughout, or so I can imagine with shots like this taking up my Instagram feed.
The West Coast tends to be more liberal in its policies, particularly Oregon and Washington. These progressive states have stricter environmental regulations in place, such as their policy on environmental justice found here.
The Last Frontier. Or so that is the state’s nickname. And clearly it lives up to its name. This is on my bucket list purely because its grand, awe-inspiring landscapes like Denali. It’s rugged. It’s isolated. And it’s very much a frontier.
I have never had the opportunity to visit Hawaii, a seven-island chain in the Pacific Ocean. Like its northern neighbor, it’s landscapes are jaw-dropping and epic. Perhaps reading E.O. Wilson’s The Future of Life figured prominently in choosing this as a destination.
Scotland, like my other international picks, stands out not only for their magical landscapes like this below. (If you feel nostalgic like I do, this would take me back to Harry Potter’s journey to Hogwarts.) Maybe I will someday get to ride this Jacobite train, known as the Hogwarts Express, on my birthday and cross the Glenfinnan viaduct.
But for their progressive agenda in supporting environmental goals by tackling carbon emisions, utilizing alternative energy resources like wind and solar, and much more. Another cool fact is that Nicola Sturgeon is the First Minister of the Scottish Parliament.
And if you’re less interested in history and politics than I, you can always take a shot of whiskey! Because Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, we will still have to wait and see how Brexit will impact their economy.
Five words: The Lord of the Rings.
Want to go Down Under? I know I do. Australia, like it’s southern neighbor, offers a diverse range of options for the adventure seekers and nature lovers.
This is the only Asian country that makes the cut. Albiet, for it’s rich history.
This picturesque scene is one half of the sprawling urban landscapes; the other half, lush forests and mountain terrain.
Japan is one of the most technologically advanced countries, while they maintain some traditional customs and style from centuries ago.
What’s on your list and why?
March 24, 2018 at 4:39 pm
You definitely have to check out the Pacific Northwest!
March 24, 2018 at 4:41 pm
It’s definitely my top US destination. I hope to sometime!
March 24, 2018 at 5:07 pm
Alaska is the best during the Spring! I was stationed there and it is worth it. Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan…the lower areas of Alaska are among my favorites.
March 24, 2018 at 5:09 pm
That is good to know! Did it feel isolated living in Alaska? A road trip through it would be awesome!
March 24, 2018 at 5:11 pm
Somewhat. It definitely is a drive through the woods (haha). The thing that threw me off was the early hours when the sun stayed at dawn and during the winter months, the sun would barely break the surface on the horizon.
March 24, 2018 at 5:19 pm
I’m visiting Norway during the midnight sun, so I will get to experience the 24/7 daylight. I would think if you could ses the aurora during the winter it would make the drive better too.
March 24, 2018 at 7:16 pm
That’s an awesome bucket list! If you plan for Scandinavia, Sweden could be a great choice too! Especially a visit to the Ice Hotel which they build every year with fresh ice in the village of Jukkasjärvi.
March 24, 2018 at 7:19 pm
I definitely agree with that. I briefly traveled to Sweden about 4 years ago. Ice hotels are in most of the Northern counties. I’ll have to check out that village!
March 24, 2018 at 7:21 pm
You’re right, natives of the North surely know how to get creative with their ice 🙂 I wrote a blog post about the Swedish lapland, including the Ice hotel. You might like! https://penandparadise.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/crossing-the-arctic-66n-part-2-ice-hotel-and-swedish-lapland/
March 24, 2018 at 7:32 pm
Awesome that you travel outside of Stockholm too. I’d love to gradually travel around Europe. I just need to decide my base.
March 24, 2018 at 8:24 pm
Living in Sweden for some time now, and wanting to explore as much Europe as possible, I will vouch for the fact that Scandinavia is not the best base if one wants to travel all across Europe. It has limited connections and expensive routes. It’s relatively easier to travel from UK to almost anywhere.
March 25, 2018 at 1:56 am
Hope you get to Australia. It’s definitely worth it. I’d love to get to Hawaii 🌴🌴
March 25, 2018 at 2:06 am
Thanks! I hope to one day, still figuring things out. NZ is a bit higher, since I am a huge LOTR fan, but I would love to travel to both at the same time.
March 25, 2018 at 12:55 am
NZ is high on my bucket list too and given how close it is to Oz hopefully I’ll get there one day soon.
March 25, 2018 at 12:29 am
These places look amazing. I’m not much of a fan of cold weather, but I would have to brave it sometime just to see these landscapes. I have traveled since I was quite young, and although I don’t have a fixed list of places I have two places in mind.
First is Cambodia I’ve wanted to go to Angkor Wat since I was really young, yes because of Tomb Raider, but also because I’m in Thailand and it just makes sense now.
Secondly, I want to go back to Italy, there is a small town I was at when I was twelve, January of this year I woke up with full conviction to go there. But then my holiday got occupied with friends and family coming to visit me (okay its also because of money).
But this post is inspiring me to go to the places I want to go. And sooner rather than later!
March 25, 2018 at 12:36 am
Interesting choices! I’m only interested in revisiting Italy, except Italy. I really need to create another list…I think this is just my top five or six.
While money is tight for me for my Norway trip (since I’m finishing a paralegal degree), I’m hoping it will be better than the last time. (I have a lot of writing to do for this blog.) It’s essentially a graduation trip and my first solo trip abroad. The latter is most nerve-raking to me!
I hope you get to travel to your dream destinations! ☺
March 25, 2018 at 12:38 am
I’m actually going to Cambodia this October. Yay! Good luck for your trip and I hope you see all the sights and hear all the sounds.
Enjoy it and look forward to reading about it.
March 25, 2018 at 12:40 am
Thank you and enjoy yours in October! I am gonna try and write some of it while I’m there. Not just notebooks this time.
March 25, 2018 at 6:54 am
We share your joy in travel. Just as one should live in the present, one can find happiness anywhere; Happiness comes from within.
Thanks for following my blog.
March 25, 2018 at 7:32 am
I definitely agree with that and you’re welcome!
March 25, 2018 at 12:47 pm
Hi Thank you for dropping by my blog. I’m glad you like it. Angela
March 25, 2018 at 2:06 pm
plans to be 🙂
March 25, 2018 at 2:15 pm
Thank you! Hope so, some I already have planned. Others I don’t. NZ would be one of the most challenging.
March 27, 2018 at 11:10 am
Reblogged this on PEP talk and commented:
This is a lovely article by a socially conscious lady. She’s added some stunning pictures, and provided the reader with a bit of crucial political information on every country she’d like to travel to. Visit her blog for more! You’ll love her content and her vibe.
March 27, 2018 at 11:45 am
Thank you! ☺
March 28, 2018 at 8:28 am
Love this list. My grandmother was Finnish so I’ve always wanted to visit Finland and Scandinavia too. I’ve only been to Washington but PNW is as stunning as you’re led to believe 🙂
March 28, 2018 at 8:38 am
I’m visiting a cousin who lives in Finland in May…and will visit Norway too. Some of these places I’ve visited before, but not how I’d like to travel, so they remain on the list.
March 31, 2018 at 12:41 pm
Great post! New Zealand is on my list, too–I hope to go next year 🙂
March 31, 2018 at 1:48 pm
That’s awesome! ☺
April 1, 2018 at 4:00 am
Wonderful list!! I am intrigued with Japan since long and hoping to visit it in the coming years.
April 1, 2018 at 8:44 am
I would like to visit Rome because I like the romantic atmosphere and the historic buildings. I want to visit Norway because of the beautiful landscape also New Zealand (LOTR) it looks amazing. India I should be going in October. I have been immersed in their culture because I look after an Indian lady. I have learnt a little Hindi so I can talk to her in her language.
April 1, 2018 at 8:49 am
That’s awesome! I’ve been studying Norwegian and their culture, particularly because I’d love to live over there.
April 1, 2018 at 8:56 am
Yes that sounds lovely I don’t know much about Norway and I suffer with Trigeminal Neuralgia so going somewhere cold is not easy..i want to see the snow and stay in a glass and ice igloo and see the Northern lights.
April 1, 2018 at 11:17 am
I hope you get to all of these wonderful places.
April 1, 2018 at 11:19 am
Some of these I have…i just need to write stories on them. Though it’s great to find that one place to really settle down too. To me, it might be Scandinavia. Thank you!!
April 1, 2018 at 3:57 pm
Great list and beautiful images
April 1, 2018 at 4:17 pm
Thanks! They definitely are talented photographers who took the images.
April 2, 2018 at 4:19 pm
I dream about Hawaï since i am 10! And Japan because i want To discover this amazing country IRL With my Love !
April 2, 2018 at 4:50 pm
Thank you for sharing! Hope you visit Hawaii and Japan someday.
April 14, 2018 at 1:43 pm
Norway is like my toppest on the bucket list too. You re lucky to have been to almost the US. My dream is to see the Grand canion in Arizona .
April 14, 2018 at 1:48 pm
I’m visiting Norway soon, so I hope to have stories to share. I’d need to revisit the Grand Canyon again. Hopefully you will see it someday!
May 3, 2018 at 1:51 pm
Australia and Japan😍✨
August 19, 2018 at 8:52 pm
I tried to read the book you mentioned about living in Scandinavia. . . .I got highly irritated by it. I could not stand reading it. I read other books to prepare moving there like In Cod We Trust. Have you read other books about the North you recommend?
August 19, 2018 at 10:45 pm
I have one about Denmark specifically called The Year of Living Danishly that I plan to read, but because I have been trying to write a poetry collection inspired by the North I haven’t been reading as much. I will have to check out In Cod We Trust, I haven’t heard of that one. Is it this one: https://www.amazon.com/Cod-We-Trust-Living-Norwegian/dp/081665624X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1534733019&sr=8-1&keywords=in+cod+we+trust.
August 20, 2018 at 11:31 am
Yes, it is that book you found on amazon. OOOOOOOHHHHH Have you tried wattpad? You might find even more people to read your poetry on there.
August 20, 2018 at 11:55 am
No, not yet. I want to finish the collection and try to get it professionally published here before I try alternative methods of publishing. I may also consider self-publishing as well.
August 21, 2018 at 3:16 pm
I’ve been to Scotland and I’ve been to Hawaii, but I’d go back in a heartbeat! Especially because I feel like my trips there only barely scratched the surface of all there is to see.
My next travel hopes would be Scandinavia (also), and a cross-country trip across Canada (where I live). I’ve been from Toronto to Newfoundland, but I’ve never gone west.
August 21, 2018 at 3:29 pm
I only spent three days in Scotland about 4 years ago. Definitely one I’d love to discover more. I think I left my heart in Scandinavia, though.
I have visited Canada a few times, but not Alberta or British Columbia. It was the first country I read so much about. Still very much fascinated by it, but not as much as Europe.
Thank you for sharing!