2016 was the year for chasing a few adventures. My husband and I quit our stressful jobs in New York, packed up our tiny Brooklyn apartment and moved into an even tinier 1985 Volkswagen Westfalia camper van, determined to see a country we had called home for six years but knew precious little about.
Our journey took us from New York to Newfoundland, across the vast lands of the Southwest, north through the Rockies, Canada and finally the West Coast. In between, we somehow squeezed in a few antipodean weddings, work assignments in Europe and Cuba and visits home to family.
It was a good year living out of a suitcase on the road, and if you’re looking to see a bit more of the beauty the world has to offer this year, these places should have very little trouble making your list.
1. Zapata Ranch, Colorado
If asked to pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with the American West, it would be Zapata Ranch, amidst the sage brush and cottonwoods and junipers, shadowed by the mighty Sangre De Cristo mountains. Zapata is a working bison, cattle and guest ranch with a commitment to conservation—and it’s hands on. We got stuck into a cattle roundup and explored abandoned homesteads scattered across open ranges.
If you go: Don’t miss Zapata Falls, a spectacular snowmelt waterfall with the iciest water in the world (seriously, my toes are yet to defrost).
2. Oaxaca, Mexico
Two of my favorite travel destinations this year are La Punta, a small dirt road surf town in Puerto Escondido and Oaxaca City, a melting pot of art, textiles, culture and craft. In La Punta, eat the best fish tacos of your life at Pepe’s (along the main street) and the insanely good seafood pasta at Alivo Kuauitl. In Oaxaca City, the food at Casa Oaxaca is incredible, as is the mescal tasting at Mezcaloteca (eat beforehand!)
If you go: Save your own life by avoiding the 10 hour hairy-as-hell bus journey from Puerto Escondido to Oaxaca City and instead take a 45 minute flight over the mountains with Juan Carlos in his very old (but seemingly very reliable) Cessna. The views and the experience are incredible and the guy is a legend. Call or email to book: 0449545880062 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Deer Isle, Maine
John Steinbeck said of Deer Isle in Travels With Charley, “There is something about it that opens no door to words.” This magical, mystical little lobster fishing town is in my opinion the much quieter, more beautiful alternative to Bar Harbor and even in peak season seems to retain a quiet pace.
If you go: Dinner at Aragosta is exceptional as are the lobster rolls from almost anywhere in town. 44 North Coffee is a great little spot for a locally roasted drip coffee and in summer, freshly picked flowers.
4. White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument is an otherworldly experience of miles upon miles of gleaming white sand dunes and arching cerulean skies. Avoid the masses and hike one mile into the backcountry campground for the night. You’ll be rewarded with views, silence and most importantly, solitude. We had the entire dunes to ourselves (spare a few kit foxes) and woke to the most incredible sunrise.
If you go: It’s definitely a BYO-food/alcohol-type situation, so stock up beforehand.
5. Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole, Wyoming
One of my favorite places on our road trip. Where else can you find staggering, soul awakening wilderness right next to a super fun town complete with a rodeo and good coffee. We hiked to Amphitheater Lake and backcountry camped in the shadow of the Grand while all around contented black bears nibbled on berries.
If you go: In Jackson, don’t miss the Jackson Hole Rodeo and coffee and breakfast at Peresphone.
6. Vernazza, Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre is touristy and crowded but rightly so because it is stunning. I found Vernazza to be the quietest and most picturesque of all the towns and from there either hiked or took the train to the surrounding towns.
If you go: Stay at Albergo Barbara, it’s simple, cheap and offers an amazing view over the main square and to the fishing boats boats bobbing on the water beyond. The restaurants here are all tourist traps, instead buy fresh bread, tomatoes, anchovies and prosciutto from one of the little grocery stores and find a quiet spot to sit on the rocks.
For more globetrotting goodness, check out 7 Creative Globetrotters Worth Following on Insta. Keep up with Lucy and her travels in 2017 via her Instagram, @lucylaucht, and website, These Foreign Lands.