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“If you’re twenty-five, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and wide as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live, eat, and cook. Learn from them wherever you go.”

From a very young age, my parents instilled in me a love of travel and exploration. My sisters and I were enrolled in French Immersion from age five, and spent evenings and summers learning Ukrainian. While vacations to Hawaii and Mexico are a favourite among North Americans, my parents were far more eager to take us beyond what was comfortable. My most memorable travels include visiting the remote regions of Ukraine, where we connected with our cousin, Ljuba for the very first time, exploring the sacred (and relatively tourist-free, at that time) temples in Ubud, Bali, and navigating the poverty dynamics in a nation that was re-discovering itself post-apartheid. And so, as my 25th birthday approaches, I have been pouring over travel blogs, Pinterest, and friends’ travel photos. Here are my top travel picks for 2013/2014:

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1. Bolivia

A country unlike any other, Bolivia is a haven for adventurous travellers. With its arid deserts, tropical rainforests, snow-capped peaks, silver mines, and colourful inland lakes, there’s much more to this landlocked country than you’d ever expect! Not to mention, Yungas Road has been declared the world’s most dangerous road, a must for any daredevil!

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2. Brazil (Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo)

Rio is known for its stunning architecture, abundant museums, and delicious food. I’d also like to see the massive Cristo Redentor statue in person, and visit the multitude of beaches (there are 23 just in Rio!)

I have a few friends who reside in the massive metropolis of São Paolo: my first RA at MSU is from Sãn Paolo, and four of my exchange friends are from Brazil. Latin Americans possess a loveliness and warmth that I’ve always tried to embody, the demeanour of my Brazilian friends is especially attractive to me.

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3. Havana, Cuba

I’ve had a strong desire to visit Havana ever since first watching Havana Nights. I’m kidding, but I do have a soft spot for any dance film. After discussing the lively locale with one of my most well-travelled friends, I am certain Havana and I would hit it off. Katherine spent a semester in Havana during her undergraduate degree, and described it as one of the most exuberant cities she’s ever visited. Not so secretly, I plan to extensively visit all the places Ernest Hemingway frequented while he penned two of his best novels. I’d even like to spend a night in the hotel where he spent his days producing the masterpiece, For Whom the Bell Tolls.

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4. Japan 

There are endless reasons why Tokyo is considered the greatest city in the world. Its public transport, for one, is efficient and sophisticated and it possesses more Michelin-starred restaurants than Paris! It has taken over as the fashion capital of Asia, and the skyscrapers are remarkable! I could go on, but I’ll just say as an urbanite, Tokyo has topped my ‘must-visit’ list for awhile now. I’ve also heard wonderful things about Kyoto, Osaka, Sapporo, not to mention Mount Fuji and those cherry blossoms… Needless to say, I’ll be sure to do an extensive tour of Japan when I finally get a chance to visit!

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5. Turkey

I’m aware that this may be a controversial addition to the list. As of late, many travellers have been hesitant to travel to Turkey given what’s happening across the border in Syria. While each traveller has a different level of tolerance for risk, it’s important to remember that Istanbul is a long way from Aleppo. I’ve been reading a lot about Turkey for one of my jobs, and appreciate all the work that’s being done to provide equal opportunities for Turkish women. There are many organizations dedicated to helping educate and send Turkish girls to school. The more I delve into my research, the more intrigued I become with this transcontinental country. I’ve known a few people who have studied in Istanbul, and it’s a hotbed for culture and history.

I haven’t planned any trips outside North America for 2014 yet, but I will be visiting Boston, Mont Tremblant, and New Orleans in the coming months. 

Check out my Pinterest board, Travel o f t e n to see where else I’ve been (and would like to go!)

Where would you love to travel in 2014?

Need more travel inspiration? Check out National Geographic’s Tours of a Lifetime.

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