I have only just boarded the plane to Bogotá, and the reflexive question of a weary traveler creeps in: Why, again, am I going here? There’s Colombian food in Queens. Hills to hike in the Catskills. Carlos Vives on Spotify. Miss Universe on network TV. Why am I jetting down across the Caribbean, in this era where the world can come to me?

The obvious out is that travel is for the vistas, the solitude, the crowdedness, the history, the collections, the physical experiences, the cuisine, the culture and the people who can’t be duplicated away from their own place. Sure. We all know that. But those are only ideals, and it takes a finer weathervane than naming them to feel these things deeply and in a worthwhile way when venturing forth. In the end it means nothing to dine there, do this, see that, if it doesn’t transfer into experience.Absorption of adventure doesn’t come in listing experiences. It’s how those experiences happen in the time and place that one intersects with them — and how the traveller receives those moments.

Travel resonates in the small nuances: the pride of a chef when presenting his cuisine at the table (“I want my food to do the highest good”); the feeling of breathlessness when a sea-level dweller lands in a city at 8,500 feet; and the rhythms of riding in a diminutively portioned Hyundai i10 that bounds over poorly kept roads in Bogotá, reggaeton playing through the stereo and the cabbie at the helm in steep denial about the contaminación that hangs over the city like an immovable cloud. “¿Acá? ¡No! ¿Acá? ¡No!”

Those distinctions of place, those subtle cadences. To find them, to feel the high that comes with recognizing that newness of experience, there is only travel, be it to a country across the world, or the National Park in your own backyard. And so whether we travel to build a small part of ourselves by learning slang in the local parlance or tasting fruits from a new latitude, or to leave a small bit of ourselves by conquering that mountain or swimming in that sea, the one reliable constant of travel is this: The observant traveller will not leave unchanged. – Matthew Ankeny

Criteria for Inclusion: Our picks reflect locations that inspire unknown adventure — from exotic foods to barren mountains and indigenous people that don’t yet know the taste of a Big Mac. Some are undiscovered jewels. Some are revisited favorites. But they all work in this way: when we answer the question of “where to next?” a coy smile comes across our face, and there’s a sense of pride in pointing to the map and saying: right here.

Now, On to the Destinations…

Ireland’s West Coast

A vast and remote expanse of bogs and beaches
Eschew the commonplace visit to Dublin, Ireland’s biggest tourist draw, for a journey along the island’s closest coast. The jagged, fractured coastline is a quiet country all to itself. Peat bogs, soft light and world-famous beaches run from Donegal to Cork, offering adventurous exploration or lazy relaxing days, depending on the visitor. Along the close to 500 miles of coastal roadways, bring a camera for the picturesque views, like the famous Cliffs of Moher and the untouched National Park. A ferry will take you to the Aran Islands, where you should stay overnight among limestone rocks etched with Gaelic history, or stay on the mainland in nearby Doolin for traditional music. The trip is largely your own to create, with an uncountable number of quaint pubs serving local lamb, pork and cheese, crab clays, Clew Bay mussels and oysters on the half shell, along with tuna, haddock, scallops and, of course, fish and chips. One unmissable night’s stay needs mentioning: the Ballynahinch Castle Hotel set in the mountains of Connemara makes for a perfect midpoint rest from your drive. – Travis Smith

A Visit to the Home of Jameson Irish Whiskey | Search Flights + Hotels | Ireland Travel Bureau

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Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan

Where Japan does skiing better than Europe
Hokkaido is the ultimate winter sports destination. In terms of snow quality, it is one of the best backcountry skiing and snowboarding destinations in the world. In the town of Niseko, visitors are greeted by the Japanese version of a ski village, and lodging at the Chalet Ivy offers decadent accommodations complete with a spa for après-ski muscle therapy. After getting in waist-deep turns through white birch forests, head down the hill to Milk Kobo for delicious Japanese pastries and ice cream on a dairy farm. – AJ Powell

The Best Snowboards of the Year | Search Flights + Hotels | Niseko Tourism

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Trinidad, California

Nor-Cal’s answer to Big Sur
An hour and a half south of the Oregon border is Trinidad, California, a quaint oceanside town near Redwood National Park. With stunning ocean views and dense forests, this stretch of coast rivals the central coast’s Big Sur, but is refreshingly less traveled. With a population shy of 400, the best bet for a place to stay is a local B&B, and the Lost Whale Inn puts you right on the picturesque rock-strewn beach. Indulge in the local seafood after hiking the Trinidad Head, or relax with some beach-combing. Any trip to Trinidad would be remiss without some time spent in Redwood National Park, exploring miles of backcountry trails and camping among the trees and dense ferns. With the coastline pairing with the forest, a trip to Trinidad is one part of California not to miss. – John Zientek

3 Backcountry Camping Kits | Search Flights + Hotels | California Travel Bureau

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Dubrovnik, Croatia

If it’s good enough for King Joffrey, it’s good enough for you
About a 15-minute drive from the Old City, there is a restaurant, carved into the side of the cliff, nestled on the eastern flank of a quiet Adriatic bay, where a smiling Croatian man might park his boat a stone’s throw from your table. He will carry in a grip of langoustines, mussels, or a cuttlefish, and your waiter will happily tell you that that’s what’s on today’s menu at Gverovic Orsan. That waiter will then point to the lounge chairs situated on the nearby shore, offer you a bottle of local white wine, and tell you to swim and sunbathe for the next hour while the chef cooks your meal. It’s there, floating in the Dalmatian coast’s greenish-blue waters, that any worry of Dubrovnik being overrun by tourists will fade from your mind.

The city’s ideal balance between old-world charm and modern European flare has contributed to a surge in popularity (and Game of Thrones, which is filmed on the city’s iconic, well-preserved medieval City Walls, surely helped), but gems like Gvervic Orsan are still waiting to be discovered. After you’ve exhausted the rich history of Dubrovnik, get on a ferry and visit Hvar or Mljet in the nearby archipelago.– Hayden Coplen

A Guide to Sarajevo and Eastern Europe | Search Flights + Hotels | Croatia Travel Bureau

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Santa Fe, New Mexico

“The City Different” lives up to its name
Nestled at the outskirts of Santa Fe National Forest near the foot of the Sangre de Christo Mountains, Santa Fe has a vibrant arts scene, delicious food and ample outdoor opportunities. As a home base, stay at either the Drury Plaza Hotel or the Inn of the Five Graces. From there, explore Santa Fe’s historic plaza — a National Historic Landmark. For a taste of what the outdoors offer in the Land of Enchantment, head off on a hike into the Pecos Wilderness where you can climb to around 11,000 feet and bathe in an alpine cirque. For a literal taste of what Santa Fe has to offer, Maria’s is your best bet — a local favorite where over 176 different margaritas (including a $50 version made with Milagro Silver Barrel and 100th Anniversary Cuvee Centenaire Grand Marnier) are slung alongside authentic Mexican cuisine. – AJ Powell

The 15 Best Campgrounds in the West | Search Flights + Hotels | Santa Fe Tourism

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