Believe it or not we are well into 2020 and after scouring lists of my favorite travel sites, taking a moment to assess current events (which I know can change at the drop of a dime) and doing a little boots on the ground regarding upcoming destinations at the New York Times Travel Show, I’m ready to give you the NAPW 20 Perfect Places to Go in 2020 list. Some of the places on this list, I’ve been to myself, others are bucket destinations to me as well that I hope to get to in the next two years — I’m really into slow travel not just checking a country off the list and living between NYC and Italy has me exploring Europe more — FUNDS! I started with 24 and wanted to dwindle down to 20, the Coronavirus epidemic and locust plague in East Africa did that with a few for me, so I’ll have them in the honorable mentions section. I also would like to note that this is my international list. This year I’ve made a promise to myself to see more of my own country. I’ve only really explored the coasts and a few select southern hubs. In March, I’m going to Indiana and adding another state to my list. I can’t wait to see more of the USA, I’ve been to 22 states so far. This year, I want to get to 40, and by 2021, 50.
Accra, Ghana. Ghana has been on my travel bucket list for quite some time now after seeing beautiful imagery of the country and reading about its booming economy. The country has experienced a surge in black American tourism after last years “Year of Return” campaign culminated by Afrochella around new years. This year the country is focusing on “After the return” and keeping that connection between African Americans and the country going.
Tbilisi, Georgia. Do you ever have a feeling a country is calling your name? That’s happening with me and Georgia. A visit to the doctors lead me to chat with a temp originally from Georgia and suggesting I visit. She briefed me on the countries almost ancient wine traditions as well as its delicious cuisine. A few days later, over drinks with my cousin, he suggested we go on a hiking trip to Georgia! Seeing photos of Tbilisi’s old town, it seems to be a romantic jumble of winding streets, beautiful villas and crooked churches.
Madagascar. Michele’s parents went last year and I’m desperate to go to the island in the Indian ocean. Like Australia, it’s a beautiful unique pocket of biodiversity and you can find some beautiful animals not found elsewhere on earth. I’m also eager to try the food of Madagascar at the crux of the Indian-African spice trade, the cultural make up of the island would lend to delicious cuisine!
Oaxaca, Mexico. Speaking of cuisine. Mexico’s culinary capital of Oaxaca has been on my list for quite some time. The city is known for its seven classic varieties of mole sauce — I’m a mole-fiend and that alone is worth a visit to me. However, this UNESCO World Heritage site is recognized for maintaining a quaint and charming small town vibe within a big city. Sierra Norte and Puerto Escondido are just a few of the natural charms of the region giving me the ability to do beach and mountains in the same vacation. I can’t wait!
Vancouver, British Columbia. No, it’s not because Meghan and Harry escaped there, we’ve been hearing about the natural wonders of Vancouver for decades and not just avid ski-bunnies that love Whistler. Mountain biking trails are less than 30 minutes away from the city! Rivers, beautiful forests lead to some of that peaceful Canadian positivity. The port city is considered among Canada’s most dense, ethnically diverse cities. Which is always a good sign on the culinary scene!
Namibia. I would love to see the Namib desert, the oldest in the world and from what I’ve seen, possibly the most breathtaking. Lions hunt seals on the beach, dessert adapted, elephants and giraffes, the wildlife of the country is incredible. Photos from my friend Lisa were reason enough for me to add this to my list.
Sicily. So close, but so far. Sicily, the other Italy. Italian American culture is heavily Sicilian and certain traditions that are so familiar to me growing up in NYC, Michele, as a Northern Italian, has never heard of. From its beaches that have managed to escape tourism to its cities and architecture touched by the Romans, Greeks, and Africans, and of course the food. Sicily is calling my name!
Lesotho. As a geography nerd, I’ve always had a deep fascination with this country, landlocked by South Africa. Then, when Marvel’s Black Panther came out, it took my fandom of the country to a whole other level as the geographical inspiration for the country was taken from this mountainous nation bursting with natural beauty. And I love a messy country, I mean hello, American here? And other faves, the French, remember a few years ago when the President of France’s wife was put out by finding out about his affair and busted up with presidential palace? Well get ready for some very intriguing and sad mess from Lesotho currently developing. The current first lady has been arrested for killing the former wife of her husband! I still want to go to Lesotho and stock up on some beautiful blankets. The tradition knitwork of Lesothans is gorgeous and can be find in many South African designers collections.
Bahamas. The last time I visited the Bahamas was my senior year of high school for Spring Break. Needless to say, now, I’m looking for a considerably different Bahamas trip and use my tourism dollars to give back and visit a place that was hit pretty badly during the last round of hurricanes. There are 700 islands in the Bahamas, each as beautiful as the last with that perfect shade of turquoise waters. This year, I’d like to visit, deep diving not only into the islands beautiful pink sands but it’s cultural history!
Brazil. Brazil’s president’s racist policies are pretty abhorrent and they say tourism to Brazil is a bit down and site that as a potential cause. Whether it’s this or theft and violent crime on the rise, I would understand if Brazil is not on your list to visit this year, but after chatting with friends who just returned from Rio and Sao Paolo the country and the beautiful people who make it up seem to be still beautiful and vibrant as ever. With $160 visa restriction being waived for US citizens, Japan and Canada in hopes of encouraging more of an exchange between the countries, maybe now is indeed the time to go!
Indonesia. One of my best mate’s mom is from Indonesia and she was born there. Over the years I’ve learned about Indonesia through her strong appreciation for her maternal culture and I’m hoping this is the year we go to the country together. A trip with Naomi will show me the Indonesia beyond Bali, the natural beauty, home cooked food and everything else!
Taiwan. After the New York Times Travel Festival and Taiwan’s beautiful and convincing PR push, I was sold on visiting the country — seeing it’s beautiful mountains and countryside and great cuisine. During the press conference, they even addressed the Corona Virus and assured us that at the time, there were no cases in Taiwan and Taiwanese officials are taking the proper precautions to keep it that way. Unfortunately, over the last three weeks, things have changed.
Ethiopia. Living in Italy, Ethiopia comes up. Whether it’s their failed conquest of the country or coffee culture, Italy has more ties to Ethiopia than they’d care to admit. And I guess, so do I. I’ve been fascinated by the country for quite some time and its millennia old kingdom and royal family — some say the oldest in the world tracing to the biblical Queen Sheba. My Jamaican roots and the Rastafari religion also tie me to the country and I’ve been keen to explore Shashemene, the area of the country where a lot of Jamaicans made Exodus.
Rwanda. Rwanda has recently been labeled as one of the fastest growing African economies and is in the midst of a major revitalization. The country is shedding being known for its cruel past of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and in the last few years, the country has been more synonymous with things like gorilla trekking. What a great way to welcome in a new decade and a time of rebirth — maybe even in a gorilla naming ceremony!
Ayampe, Ecuador. Pristine beach, sleepy surf town, Ayampe, Ecuador is right up my alley — the kind of place I like to escape.