By Sam Allen

2020 was an interesting time for all of us, yes? There werr catastrophic wildfires in Brazil, Australia and the Western United States, a global pandemic that has shut down travel for all but the most-essential trips, and the rise of nationalism in nearly every section of the world. What’s next, my friend jokes: flame-throwing otters? 

Beloved reader, I commend you for waiting it out. Heck, I commend me for waiting it out. The members of my bi-weekly writer’s group regale us with tales of long ago (or at least pre-pandemic) trips to Barcelona, Greece, and Yosemite. Nothing recent though, because we were all quarantined since last summer. I bet, like us, you have your own list of spots that you’re lusting after these days.

With three or more vaccines being released in the coming weeks or months, some travel destinations will (hopefully) be reopening soon. But, because those vaccines may not be evenly distributed, many travellers, including yours truly, might have to postpone their travel plans once more next year. Sigh.

What’s a boi to do, but dream on? Below are five of the places that I would love to visit in a perfect post-COVID world. Come with me, and I’ll take you there, if only in your imagination and your heart.

India

I’ve been curious about India since my childhood friend’s dad told me that he had roamed all around it in his thirties. I remember sitting in his church office, gazing with wonder at his wall-length map of the country, trying my best to memorise the Indian states. Months later, my friend’s family and I dined at a traditional Indian restaurant for her birthday, and I was sold. I WOULD go there someday.

Well, I haven’t been there yet. But I will, after COVID. While most travellers might flock to the marble dome of the Taj Mahal, fascinated by its love story, I would venture to India’s many megacities for their urban vibes. Food vendors were, and hopefully will be, lining the streets of Mumbai. North Indian Kathak dance, a form of storytelling influenced by the Mughal Islam and Hindi religions, mesmerises every eye and touches the heart. And then there are the mountains of the northeast. The best time to go might be during the nation-wide festival of Diwali, a celebration of the triumph of good over evil when the streets are festooned with lights and colourful dye.  

Central Asia

I’ve been wanting to visit Central Asia ever since a college Geography professor showed us no less than 100 photos of the lesser-known countries on the Silk Road. The architecture, poetic music, and the magnificent natural scenery is enough for a sensory overload. 

Thankfully, the travelling world is beginning to realise that the countries known as the ‘Stans have a lot to offer. The Commonwealth Club has put together a somewhat expansive tour of Central Asia, encompassing cities like Bishkek, and embracing the culinary wealth of formerly nomadic cultures. Before you go, read Theodore Levine’s absorbing travel journal, or Safarnama, on the religious and musical underpinnings of the region and prepare yourself for extraordinary kindness from strangers!

Ireland

Ah, Ireland. Land of thousands of tourists, as the Irish don’t say. For some reason, Ireland invites me to linger instead of merely sightsee. The music captivates, the scenery enlivens, and don’t get me started on the lore, whose offshoots made their way around the world in Halloween celebrations! I yearn to sit myself down in a pub and sing old songs with middle-aged men

Especially interesting to athletic folks are walking tours or cycling trips in the countryside, and, to kindle a creative spark, writers workshops in the rugged West, along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Ubud, Bali

Musician, philanthropist and activist Michael Franti and his amazing wife Sara operate a large mom-and-pop shop in this mid-sized Balinese city. Waterfalls abound. 

Ubud is a realm of glamping resorts and affordable restaurants, and this is where Franti’s Soulshine Bali makes its mark with its yoga and healing retreats. A short stroll from the city centre and you’ll be entranced by the Monkey Forest and a fabulous art museum + resort.  Because, really, why not? Venture just a bit farther and be enraptured by the neon-green rice terraces of Tegalalang.

Bali has Old religion, hospitable strangers, and, did I even mention the beaches? Bliss!

Prague

Time to dive into some Old World Culture. The light-filled St. Nicholas Church for baroque lovers. The spooky Bone Church for horror enthusiasts. Art Nouveau buildings everywhere. Premium quality beer and delectable cuisine.

Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, has something for everyone, including world-class transportation and vast pastel squares. Please just go already. Or entertain the idea of going.
My brain and eyes are practically salivating at the idea of a Grand Tour, nomad-style.  Although this year is pretty much a bust, some time within the next five years, the perfect opportunity might arise to seize the day, pack a small suitcase, and GO!  Who knows?  Maybe my future blogs will be authored in Bali!