Seven billion people experienced this day in a different way. This soaring revelation is the sort of truth that you can stumble across when you travel. It is what you realize looking up at washing strung over a cobble stoned street, or finding an unseen stranger’s footprints in the snow.
Each of us lives a life of equal vividness and complexity. This truth is harder to find in the tourist hotspots, those places where you can explore for hours without seeing a local go about their day.
This is a guide for those who want to skip the tourists traps this year, a wish-list of destinations where you come to whispers from the locals and their unique realities.
Samoa is all the colors of a vivid daydream but the people and their exquisite culture remain grounded - feet in the sand - to a beautiful reality. Savai’i is the largest of Samoa’s ten islands and perhaps the most wild and stunning. You will arrive expecting the usual tropical delights, the white sands and fresh coconuts. You will leave wistful for a tree house knotted into an ancient trunk, for the crystal waters of an ocean trench, for the frenzied dancing of Fia Fia night.
Robert Louis Stevenson lived and wrote on this treasure island. In local lore he is called “Tusitala”, the teller of tales. Samoa has that magic - it will leave you speechless, then turn you into a storyteller.
Edgar Allen Poe declared that there is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness. This is what makes Tirana such an exquisite city to visit, it's element of strange. Private vehicles were banned here until 1991, so the traffic in unimaginably bizarre. Tourists are still something of an anomaly here, so you can expect the warmest welcome of your travels. The locals have embraced the quirkiness of this city, and there are plenty of unique restaurants and hotels decorated with an eccentric, vintage vibe that reflects a city - still blinking - after being thrust into modernity.
Corsica is one of the few remarkable places on this earth where you can easily ski and surf in the one weekend. Corsica’s picturesque beaches are far from a secret. The real discovery is to be found further up amongst the clouds. Go discover Corsica’s mountains. Here, both the food and the people are earthy and real. The nature is raw and untapped. Hike over crumbling stone bridges to find waterfalls or camp with views across the valley.
In the summer months, Budva is honestly best avoided. Visit in autumn or spring to really explore the incredibly scenery that gave Montenegro it’s name - the black mountains rising straight from the bluest of seas. Those with their heads full of clouds should follow their day dreams up, up and away. From Sveti Stefan island you can take a hike that follows the mountain up. The path connects six monasteries like a constellation. Chances are, you won't see another tourist over the day. What you will see, however, is breath taking views over the island and an incredible stretch of coast.
Stone Town, Zanzibar
Stone Town is like a dream, with fragments of different times and places stitched together in a way that just simply, works. The architecture draws from the Arab, Persian, Indian and European influences of the island’s unique history. Though that might seem like a throw away line from a guide book, in reality these influences color the everyday life of locals, who you can glimpse going about their day through carved doorways and ornate arches.
Let this be a year where you dream more often than you sleep. Get out from your house, leave the place you feel safe, allow yourself the room to grow. That is the best reason to take the path less traveled; you will find authentic experience, genuine people, and the opportunity to widen your worldview.