Where to travel in 2017

If you’re wondering where to go to escape this year (or over the next four years for my fellow U.S. residents), pick a happy place.

National Geographic actually ranked the 10 happiest countries in the world last year, and the list might be a little outside of what you’d think, if you think about things like this. Denmark won as the happiest place in the world, followed by Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Canada, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden. All a little Nordic, with fjords and ice and lakes and greenery if you ask me. And if that’s your thing, boom, you’ve got a built in travel bucket list.

But to me, happy places are where you’re going to feel happy, not necessary where NatGeo considers happy. Go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Go somewhere you can eat your favorite food, or somewhere you can see your favorite person. Those are the things that make for joy.

Here are 10 of my happiest places if you’re looking for any inspiration on where to travel in 2017.

1. Tobago

It’s beautiful, it’s warm, the beaches are the best and bluest, the people are friendly and the food is drool-inducing. For me, it’s home, but you could very likely feel that way about it too. See here for some tips on what to do there.

2. Barcelona

Barcelona is equal parts romantic and historic, cultural and inspiring. It’s where you’ll suddenly feel like becoming an artist or a writer (if you aren’t already), and where you’ll want to make it your business finding the absolute best place to partake of tapas and sip on vino. Here’s what I did there and why I loved it.

3. Dubai

If you want to feel like you’ve completely left your world for another, visit Dubai. It’s rich and fancy and full of abundance, but it can also be simple and beautiful if you venture away from the mega mall and head to the desert to ride a camel over sand dunes that stretch as far as you can see.

4. The Grand Canyon

Of all the beauty in this world that I’ve been fortunate enough to see, the Grand Canyon is still up there as one of the greatest. It’s hard to put the place into words without being obvious and saying it really is grand. So just go see it. You’ll likely have one of those peaceful, quiet moments of awe where you just take in the world’s wonders. Also, here’s one thing not to do while there.

5. Ecuador

If you want to go one place where you can explore the Amazon rainforest, straddle the equator, eat fresh fish at a beach and hike up a snow-capped volcano, it’s Ecuador. The place is stunning, the people are sweet and four course meals (good ones) can cost as little as $1.5o. What place could be happier than that? Here’s a tip for if you visit.

6. Belize

Belize is known for its beaches, but it’s got a pretty sweet mountain region too. In the Mayan mountains of Belize, you’ll find jungles to navigate and waterfalls to chase and sacrificial caves to kayak into—and you’ll likely have most of it to yourself since the place is anything but overrun. It’s a good place to go solo too.

7. Jamaica

A place that coined the term irie—which means everything is alright, it’s all good, it’s excellent even—can’t be anything but a happy place. From beaches to jerk chicken to bioluminescent lagoons to sins you might find yourself inclined to indulge in, Jamaica is one of the best places to give your mind and spirit a well-deserved holiday.

8. Medellin

It might not make most lists of happiest places to visit, but Medellin is legit. It’s artsy and cultured and creative and a far cry from the dark days that plagued the city and Colombia in general. And, of course, the bad never completely leaves a place, but there’s so much more to Medellin than what comes to mind first. Like it’s ridiculously delicious food scene. Here are five things you didn’t know about Medellin.

9. Egypt

Egypt may also be an atypical addition to a happiest places to visit list, but it’s my list and I like to be atypical. If you’re after culture and history, this is the place. And regardless of where you’re from, this ancient civilization may have had at least something to do with how you got where you are. You’ll relish in the true ancientness of it all and discover that King Tut defined “baller” thousands of years before we got the term. Here are five things to check out in Cairo.

10. Brooklyn

Here’s a plug for my city. Which could genuinely be the coolest city in America (and I’ll welcome any pushback on that). It’s got a collective of residents creating art, movements and living lifestyles they outline themselves. There are full-on parties amidst Renaissance art in the Brooklyn Museum, there’s a free summer concert series and there’s always some young innovator opening a neat new restaurant that will make major foodie lists all over the world. It’s got a little of everything, really. Here are a few of my favorite things to do in Brooklyn.