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?