11 Unforgettable Travel Destinations Our Editors Love
According to science, it’s experiences—not things—that make us truly happy. You may be thinking duh, but we love the reasoning behind it. Experiences, from the very moment they happen, reach into our hearts, stretch far into future, and become ingrained in our identities. For years, perhaps even the rest of our lives, we’ll talk about these happenings—good, bad, wild, and wonderful. Case in point? When we asked Who What Wear, Byrdie, and MyDomaine editors to share their most memorable travel experiences, they were excitedly recounted with details that had our hearts aflutter and our wanderlust flaring up. From an off-the-beaten path Colombian surf town to a backpacking trip that led to love, these tales of adventure have us itching to explore.
“My favorite travel experience is one that I've returned to every year since I was 8 years old. My family has a house in the southeastern region of France, specifically in the alpine town of Annecy, where we spend time every summer and winter hiking, swimming, and skiing (depending on the season). People think of France as very luxurious, but this is no Paris, and that's exactly why I like it—it's all about being out in nature, leaving behind the stresses of urban life, and spending time with the ones you love over the freshest food and the best wine.
“What's more, I always find that I'm challenged in some way while there, whether it's having to conquer any fears re: zip lining between two mountains or navigating a particularly scary off-piste ski slope, and those moments are much more rewarding than lying by a pool every day (not that we don't make time for that, too!).” — Jessica Schiffer, Who What Wear fashion features editor
“My most unforgettable travel experience was without question going to Barcelona, Spain. The city is so artistic and visually interesting. The architecture, parks, outdoor markets, graffiti—it's all a sight for your eyes, and you could explore for years and still discover new alleyways and streets to get lost in. Barcelona also has the best tapas, best wine, best jamón and cheese—it's a foodie's dream. Also, like Los Angeles, it's nestled between the mountains and the sea, so there are so many gorgeous vistas from different vantage points, and it has such a rich and interesting culture. It's my favorite place on earth besides L.A.!” — Alina Gonzalez, Byrdie editor
“After spending a few nights in Colombia’s remote Tayrona National Park, sleeping in a breezy raised tiki hut over the waters of the Caribbean Sea, I was incredibly sad to leave. I couldn’t imagine the next time I’d be able to visit such a relaxing, picturesque place. As my boyfriend and I headed south to the city of Santa Marta on a rickety local bus, we overheard a traveler raving about Costeño Beach, a surf camp located northeast of where we were headed.
“Not quite ready to return to civilization, we more or less jumped off of the bus and began to walk in search of this spot. We wound up walking for a few miles down a dirt road and eventually begged some locals to give us a ride on their motor scooters. When we arrived, we discovered one of the most magical places: an old oceanfront coconut farm turned ecolodge/surf camp situated on miles of private coastline. There were only a handful of other travelers staying there, and we spent the next five days there eating fish fresh out of the sea, chopping coconuts open with machetes, swinging in hammocks, exploring nearby waterfalls and rivers, making new friends, playing beach volleyball, surfing a little, and watching the sun set from our oceanview bedroom. It was so off the grid, and breathtaking in every way, that I could do nothing but clear my mind. I didn't have a care in the world.” — Julia Millay Walsh, MyDomaine editorial director
“When I go on vacation, I prefer to do nothing but sit on a beach with a drink in my hand, but on my last trip to Kauai, I ventured out with my boyfriend. We hiked up a mountain, sat with each other (with a glass of rosé—in a plastic cup, of course), and just stared at a beautiful waterfall for about an hour. It was magical.” — Bobby Schuessler, Who What Wear senior editor
“While studying abroad in Argentina, I took 10 or so days to backpack from Santiago, Chile, up to the Lakes Region just south of Patagonia with a friend from my program.
“That entire trip is peppered with some of my most unforgettable travel experiences: riding a horse through wildflower-dotted countryside and epic, otherworldly sand dunes; holding on for dear life as said horse galloped at full speed along the beach; arriving in Pucón, a city with an active volcano, Villarrica, at its back, so sore from galloping that I could barely walk—let alone hike that very beautiful volcano, which was the plan all along; taking a bus to and from remote mountain hot springs to soothe my weary bones; and finishing the last pages of On the Road for the first time, literally as the sun set outside the window of the bus. Also, at the end of our trip, we somehow ended up meeting the Nine Inch Nails while at the luggage carousel. We were 95% clueless the entire time—and ended up getting to go backstage at their very well-attended concert at the giant arena in Santiago. Adventures aplenty! Take me back.” — Dana Covit, MyDomaine editor
"My most unforgettable travel experience was traveling to Paris alone. It was my first-ever trip to Paris, and I was able to experience the city in such a powerful way by traversing it by myself—I went to an early-morning Easter service at Notre Dame, saw the Mona Lisa, took an unplanned cat nap at the Centre Pompidou, and feasted on escargot, sipped café au lait, and drank red wine to my heart's content—all while really watching and learning about the city and internalizing everything in a way I don't think you can when you're with other people. It was amazing: an experience I would never trade for anything, and will certainly never forget." — Meghan Blalock, Who What Wear managing editor
“My most unforgettable travel experience was when I went to Cambodia during my sophomore year of high school for a mission trip. I had never been to a Southeast Asian country before, and it was truly an incredible, eye-opening, life-changing experience. We stayed in Phnom Penh but traveled outside of the city to volunteer and work with the children of a small, remote village; the second week, we stayed in the city and taught English to middle and high schoolers.
“The food, the (slightly nerve-racking) transportation via rickshaws they called tuk-tuks, and, most importantly, the people, have stayed ingrained in my mind and make me determined to go back. I recommend everyone take at least one volunteer or service trip in their lifetime—it will change your worldview in ways you'd never expect.” — Faith Xue, Byrdie managing editor
“When my fiancé graduated from business school, we booked a trip to Bali to celebrate. While there, we took a few days to travel to the Gili Islands, an archipelago off of the coast of Bali and Lombok, the largest of which is Gili Trawangan, or ‘Gili T.’
“With no automobiles on the tiny island, the preferred modes of transport are rumbling donkey carts or bicycles. One day we rode our bikes around the entire circumference of the island, one side of which is virtually uninhabited. For half a day we were totally isolated and didn't see another person until making the approach back into town on the return. That was a good day.” — Liz Lynch, MyDomaine senior editor
“In 2009, I traveled to Europe for the first time with my family. We went all over Italy, and our second-to-last stop was to visit where my father's side of the family comes from, a tiny, and I mean tiny, town called Casacalenda, with a population of under 3000 people. The city has been mentioned in both Greek and Roman writings, and let's just say the town next door had only 150 people. My grandparents who normally live in California have a small home in Casacalenda, and it is where a lot of my family members still live.
“There was no air conditioning or Internet, and very few people spoke English. Long story short, I was mainly conversing with my mom, dad, and brother the whole time. The town was up in the hills, and we had to drive hours through fields filled with sunflowers to get there. Looking back, I was still in high school then, and I didn't really appreciate it and just wanted my typical American necessities. But, I'll probably never have that experience again, and it was worth it to unplug and just be with my family members who have always been there. I mean, who can say that their family lives in a town founded by ancient people? Not many!" — Maddie Sensibile, Who What Wear associate social media editor
“Backpacking solo through Europe was full of unforgettable experiences, but perhaps the most life-changing would have to be the moment I met my now husband. We first met in Nice, France, where we hung out drinking the local vino with fellow travelers at the coolest hostel on the hill, overlooking the French coast.
“After a few days, it was time to part ways and continue on our individual journeys, but it turned out he was off to Venice and so was I! So we met up in the romantic, historic city just for one day. We spent the whole time exploring the canal-lined streets, chatting about life, philosophical musings, and enjoying the magic of Italy.
“As the sun was setting, we indulged in some traditional gelato (this was pretty much a diet staple during my tour of Italy), and to my horror I spilled my favorite pistachio flavor all down my white top. In an attempt to brush it off I said "pure enjoyment" and quickly diverted his attention to some historic monument ahead of us. Years later, he told me that "he fell in love with me in a way" at that moment because he thought it was "so cool" how I handled it. Phew!” – Sacha Strebe, MyDomaine lifestyle editor
"This past holiday season, my family and I embarked on a Thailand adventure. We traveled from city to city (mostly in the north) and ended in Koh Samui, a beautiful city surrounded by beach. It was the night before New Year’s Eve, and we spotted a huge crowd on the beach. Naturally, we went to investigate, and thank goodness we did: About 100 paper lanterns were floating and lighting up the night sky. I'll be replaying that memory forever." — Raleigh Seldon, MyDomaine social media editor