Coming attractions: Tomorrow’s next big destinations

Don’t you wish that you would have gotten in on that vacation rental property in Barcelona before the Euro and the depreciated dollar? Or jumped in on that investment in Costa Rica before the cruise ships brought the Central American country to its tacky, souvenir-decorated knees?

Hindsight at 20/20 is a cruel, cruel mistress, and as one gleans the profits that savvy investors can make in an up-and-coming country, it’s hard not to think about destinations that are at their respective tipping points of tourist attention.

Oracles we are not, here at Gadling, but we have spent a fair amount of time on the road visiting those off-the-beaten path destinations — those places to where few westerners travel and where many can still score a great deal on a dirt cheap vacation. As many of us believe, these are the true gems of the road — where it’s still possible to grab a beer in a restaurant surrounded by locals, buy trinkets really made by indigenous artisans and stay in a stranger’s guest house for free.

Starting with Sarajevo, Bosnia yesterday and Iran today, we’ll take you on a brief tour through lands not far off the radar — places where not too long ago it was forbidden or outlandish to think of a visit. Hopefully with our help you’ll consider them for your future travels. You can follow along through next week at this link.

Coming attractions: Sarajevo

The memory of the Yugoslav Wars is too fresh for many of us to think of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a tourist destination, but in the ten years since the conflict, the country and its capital city, Sarajevo have made enormous strides. Long gone are the days of ethnic conflict, strife and war crimes — 2009’s Sarajevo is a charming, cosmopolitan city surrounded by hills, cafés and culture.

A great deal of momentum has been building in the travel community around Sarajevo and its surrounding country, perhaps most notably garnering heavy praise among the Lonely Planet brands. As the ever-balanced Wiki-travel gushes:

Sarajevo is a cosmopolitan European capital with a unique Eastern twist that is a delight to visit. The people are very friendly, be they Bosniaks, Croats, or Serb. There is very little crime. Also there are not nearly as many tourists as on the Croatian Dalmatian coast and a wealth of architecture (not to mention history) to see.

Outside of the rich culture that you can simply soak in by loafing around the city, there is plenty of tourist fodder to consume. Among the most famous are the Latin Bridge, where archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated to start World War I and the Bosnian Historical Museum, a stunning tribute to the tumultuous past of the former Soviet-state.

More inspiration can be found in Stephanie Yoder’s article over on Twenty-Something travel. Her photos alone are worth the visit, deeply contrasting with all of that war-torn CNN footage that many of us still have in our heads. Reading the captions and narrative along with the photos, one begins to realize the depth and charm to the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Sarajevo unfortunately isn’t the easiest European capital to get to. Any voyage from the states to the Eastern Mediterranean nation is going to require at least one layover, and tickets can be pricey. As a result, it’s best to plan your vacation well in advance and spend some solid time in the city — else you risk spending all of your time in transit.

As an alternative to the oft expensive mainline routes into Sarajevo Airport (SJJ), it also may be worth buying a ticket to a major hub like Frankfurt or Amsterdam and then connecting onward on a low cost carrier. Check for possible routes.

Not-so Dangerous Destinations

“You’re going where?!” my father asked when I told him of my plans to go to Colombia. The Colombia he knows of, the one from the 1980’s, is filled with cocaine, street violence, and Pablo Escobar’s thugs. The country’s days as a dangerous destination are gone, but its stigma still remains.

Colombia isn’t the only now-safe country still considered by the masses to be too dangerous to visit. Forbes Traveler has put together a list of other destinations that aren’t as dangerous as you might assume.

Along with Colombia, the list includes places many experienced travelers wouldn’t think twice about visiting – Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Ethiopia are all included – plus a few a little farther off the beaten path, like Haiti and Tajikistan. The list also includes two spots that become a lot more dangerous if you travel there illegally: Cuba and North Korea.

There’s no such thing as a completely safe destination, but still most of these spots have earned their reputations. At one point, they were lands of famine, war, and strife. Now they’ve become safer, though in some (like Haiti and certain parts of Colombia, for example) problems continue and there are still areas you should not venture.

If you plan on visiting one of these “not-so-dangerous places”, do your research and be sure you know what you are getting into. The bad reputation in some of these places can mean lower travel costs and few tourists, but there may still be an element of risk.

Five crazy Parisians

You never know what you’ll see when you hit the streets of Paris. From performers to beggars to local strange, there’s an endless supply of color. Everyone has a Paris story, I’m sure, involving the bizarre. So, definitely add yours to the comments below. I’ll kick the process off with five of my favorite crazy Parisians.

1. The “Bosnians”
If you’ve been to any major attractions in Paris, you’ve seen them. Clad in a flowing skirt and headscarf, the woman approaches you, asking, “Do you speak English?” Then, she unfolds an index card with a sob story about escaping from Bosnia. Reply to them in rapid French (even if your accent and vocabulary suck, as mine do), and they’ll give up easily. Early in the morning, you can see dozens of them gathered in front of Gare du Nord, as if there’s about to be a shift change. That’s the beauty of France: even the beggars seem to be unionized.

2. The Nursing Student and Bride
This is one person, actually. A young lady needed money for her upcoming honeymoon, so her fellow nursing students dressed her up and paraded her through the Latin Quarter. I just had to give her a few Euros, even if only for the performance. This was much more entertaining than the brides-to-be wearing sashes and giggling as they enter the porn shops on Eighth Ave in New York.


3. The Frightened American
When you’re lost, running late or have any other question, you rehearse in your head what you play to say – I do, at least – and unleash it on the most sympathetic-looking local while trying to sound like a pro. I found my target and cut loose. He looked scared and slowly pushed the cuff of his sleeve back to reveal his watch. The poor guy had hoped I was asking the time.

4. The Openly Intimate
Another young lady, to honor her favorite fairy tale writer, brought her bed onto Place des Abbesses in Montmartre. Like the writer, she wanted to “share her intimacy” (not in that way, sicko). You could kick off your shoes and hang out in bed with her for a while. Definitely strange, but it was an interesting concept.

5. The People Drawn to the Openly Intimate
Yeah, these drunks were real weirdoes. Unsurprisingly, Ms. Shared Intimacy packed up her bed and left by midnight.

Talking travel with Patricia Schultz, author of “1000 Places to See” (plus book giveaway)

Patricia Schultz is a well-traveled woman. She single-handedly launched the mini-industry of travel list books with her 2003 #1 New York Times bestseller, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler’s Life List (Workman), which has sold more than 2.8 million copies and translated into 28 languages. Since then, she’s written a sequel, 1,000 Places to see in the USA and Canada Before You Die, produced a Travel Channel show based on the concept, and was named (as of this week) by Forbes as one of the 25 most influential women in travel.

She was recently a panel member for ABC’s Good Morning America, a judge in selecting the 7 New Wonders of America, and a seasoned writer for Frommer’s, BusinessWeek, “O”prah, Islands and Real Simple. Her next book of the series is in the works.


Her publisher, Workman, has kindly offered to give away five book copies and two calendars of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die to Gadling readers (shipping included). See the end of this interview for details on how you can win.

What was life like before your eight-year odyssey in writing your first 1000 places book?

I have had a great life – a wonderful, though travel-limited childhood (unless the Jersey Shore counts), followed by high school near my home town in the mid-Hudson Valley when friendships with the Latina students opened my eyes and ears to their exhuberant language, music and customs. Then 4 extremely impressionable years at Georgetown University, whose international climate and student population opened up my world – for the first time I understood something of the exciting possibilities that awaited anyone armed with curiosity and conviction. I would have majored in “Travel” – but they didn’t quite offer that. I needed to be creative in mapping out the future I wanted, and took a gap year (well, many) to see something beyond academia.
Fast forward to my mid-30s, and I was writing for magazines and travel guides such as Frommer’s, Access and Berlitz (despite needing a trust fund to supplement paltry pay checks) and dividing my time between Europe and NYC.

Have you always had an itch for travel?

Yes, in a modest although real way. My earliest memory ever is from the summer when I was four, and we took off in the family clunker of an old station wagon for Atlantic City. I wandered off the family beach blanket to explore a world of sun and sand – it was pretty intoxicating to feel so untethered and as if the world was mine! It felt to me (and probably to my mother who had mobilized every life guard on duty) that I was gone for hours, though they tell me it was just a few minutes. (The following summer, we never made it past the end of our driveway because the gas tank fell off. I cried for a week.)

How many countries would you say you’ve visited?

I have always found this a curious question, as I – unlike legions of travelers who like to collect countries and tick them off – have never really counted. I mean – what do you count? Early this spring when we were driving down Croatia’s gorgeous Dalmatian Coast and passed through a snippet of Bosnia Herzegovina for a few kilometers? Do I get to check off Bosnia Herzegovina? When we walked across the bridge to spend a few hours in Zimbabwe when visiting Victoria Falls in Zambia? A 3-hour layover for refueling in Cape Verde when en route to South Africa?

I suppose I have always given more thought to the countries I haven’t visited. Of those I have visited, I never really feel like I’ve had the luxury of saying I’ve “done” it – never having the time to give it the attention it deserves. Should someone really check off China after a 10-day, 3-city tour? Or say they’ve visited Australia if all they’ve seen is Sydney? Imagine the foreigners who feel they’ve experienced the US after a long weekend in Disneyworld!

What is your travel style?

I like to mix it up – car, train, plane, it’s all good. I always travel light, but if it is an easy and direct-flight trip where extra clothes will come in handy, I bring stuff I know will never get worn (this was in the era before the airlines started charging for every piece you lugged behind).

I love family-owned B&Bs, though pinch-me white-glove hotels that ooze with history and celebrity status feed my fantasy – if only for loitering in the lobby or a stop for high tea or a brandy at the bar. I love cities, but know that the countryside is where you’ll usually grasp a truer sense of place.

I travel a lot solo, though sometimes with my significant other Nick or my best girlfriends or my sister Roz and her family – some destinations lend themselves to different traveling-companion dynamics. I need the freedom of independent travel, though organized trips with small groups can work best for destinations such as my recent and awesome trip to Bhutan with Asia TransPacific Journeys.

I generally hit the ground running, attempting to see the maximum possible – when will I pass this way again? – but know that sometimes just staying put in one place can promise an experience that trumps all others. The simplest moment can be the richest memory. A moment of people watching in the Moscow subway can rival an afternoon at The Hermitage in St Petersburg. Experiencing food can run from extravagant unfasten-your-belt-buckle tasting menus by world-class chefs, to a self-styled picnic with fresh and artisanal ingredients from the day’s local market.

Do you take any guide books with you?

Much of the excitement in making a trip for me is the research I do beforehand and I usually buy 3 or 4 (sometimes twice that) guidebooks and see what the different authors have to say. I’ll bring one with me, never more than two – and I sometimes just pull out the pages or chapters if it is a short trip to one destination only – why schlep the whole book?

Contest details

  • To enter, simply leave a comment below telling us one of your own personal place to see before you die.
  • The comment must be left before Monday, June 30 at 5:00 PM Eastern Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • Seven winners will be selected in a random drawing.
  • Five random winners will receive a copy of 1000 Places to See Before You Die, the book (valued at $19.95) and two random winners will receive a copy of 1000 Places to See Before You Die, the calendar (valued at $12.95)
  • Click Here for complete Official Rules.
  • Open to legal residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.