The Most Inspiring Travel Destinations on Earth
Looking out from my pint-sized Thailand apartment, I couldn’t help but stand in awe. The bustling city of Chiang Mai scattered below me, with tuk-tuks darting between cars and local merchants selling fresh coconuts from their wheeled stands. The peaks that engulfed the city are the highest in the country, and this northern town was so ripe with history, you could feel it in the air.
Though I was only lucky enough to call this former capital city home for a month, the days were so vibrant and alive, you could live a full lifetime in 24 hours. I’ve trekked six of the seven continents and set foot on 35 countries (and counting) both for work and to feed my wanderlust, but Thailand remains the most inspiring destination in my memory.
Fueled by the aromas, the crooked smiles of locals and the traditions etched in temples and rituals, my work came easier and my creativity soared. But while this northern Thai hub will always be a rose-colored memory for me, everyone has their own magical spot. For some, it’s the mountains of the Azores, or the cobblestone streets of Paris. Others are mesmerized by Cape Town, while the desert sky out West is enough to take their breath away.
Here are the 14 most inspiring destinations, as told by creators:
‘The richness in the culture, specific to art and its appreciation is incredibly moving. It fueled my purpose in being a part of something bigger and being able to give back from all the inspiration I’ve received from my visits to this city. Being in such an old world European environment has pushed me to set bigger goals in sharing my work with the world. What was once a dream, quickly became a reality: I was invited to show my work in Paris at Carrousel du Louvre 2018 and other cities around the world.”
—Nita Patel, artist
“The three years that I have spent there completely shifted my life. I left Canada by myself at 19 years old to go backpacking in Asia. After a couple of months in South East Asia, I ended up in India wanting to have a taste of its culture, its food, its people, its magic. Through my travelling into the vast and diversified country of India, I came across a new way of life. I started to meditate and a regular yoga practice. I met eclectic and interesting travelers and seekers that were living a different kind of life that I was use to then. I became vegetarian and went through several years of deconditioning. I was faced not only with a different reality but I was face with myself, without all my landmarks, my family and friends. I realized that I needed to find the courage and strength within myself, to face my fears and become the person I wanted to be. Suddenly, I felt everything was possible and that I could be the master of my destiny. India is also the place where I met my husband. We opened a seasonal restaurant at 23 in Goa that was a huge success. This experience made me understand why I wanted to work with food, its capacity to bring people together. These formative years gave me all the tools and alignment to open PRANA upon my return to Canada a year later. And that became a huge turning point in my life.”
—Marie-Josée Richer, Co-founder of PRANA Snacks
“At a point in my life where everything felt stagnated—I wasn’t excited about the work I was doing in event marketing and felt bogged down by to-do lists that never seemed to quit—I decided on a whim to do something completely unorthodox. I bought a backpack and a plane ticket to Bali on a week’s notice to meet my best friend who was adventuring throughout Southeast Asia. Time on Bali flows slowly, with a ‘build-your-own’ style of vacation: we spent one day on the beach and another motorbiking across the entire island searching for temples and friendly monkeys. Nothing was planed out more than an afternoon in advance and it sparked a dormant spontaneity and intuition I’d lost touch with under the weight of everyday responsibilities. The island and its people were beautiful, and inspired me to keep a diary of the quirks I observed. Each night from our hostels I jotted down what eventually became this piece on SUCCESS Magazine’s website and I became a regular contributor spot in the roster. Bali reconnected me with my passion for writing and reminded me that ‘real life’ doesn’t have to be mundane.”
—Megan O’Neal, writer
Azores Islands, Portugal
“This archipelago consists of nine volcanic islands, each offering an entirely different look and feel, but all with the same common thread of an unspoiled paradise newly discovered. The natural landscape is breathtaking and just when you think it couldn’t be more magical, you discover another awe-inspiring secret garden blanketed with wild birds or a lake so green, it looks hand painted by God himself. Spending time in the Azores is like no where I’ve ever experienced: a place so dreamy, one can’t help but feel overwhelmingly inspired and deeply connected. The insightfulness and creativity it brings me, both personally and professionally is immeasurable. When I’m in the Azores, I view life with an open heart and from a broader, wiser perspective.”
—Paula Ramirez, proprietress of Historic Mankin Mansion.
Park City, Utah
“Getting out of the Florida heat and breathing the mountain air was invigorating and inspiring. While we were there I decided that I needed to move my business there in the summer — both to get more of the environment, but also to be able to work somewhere so beautiful. Now we work from Park City for part of the summer and in the next few years plan to be there for the whole summer. We plan a few weddings there each summer and the creativity that comes from being in completely different geographic topography, enjoying a small town Fourth of July, meeting new friends and spending time outside in gorgeous weather has helped create joy in my life and business.”
—Tracie Domino, founder of Tracie Domino Events
Los Angeles, California
“While New York is still fashion-obsessed, I find myself surrounded by other beauty entrepreneurs in Los Angeles. This first shifted my career when I moved to LA to shoot for NBC for my makeover segment on Steve Harvey, and I started to spend more time there and got a chance to meet other women in my business. I quickly started to realize that digital focus was primarily in beauty and studios like Ipsy existed in LA for a reason, again, more beauty focused. I have been so inspired by the love for all things beauty in LA as well that it’s inspired me even more to see how women consume all the lifestyle there. From hair/nail salons on every corner along with the insane amounts of plastic surgeons/derms the love for beauty is another level in Los Angeles. Beauty and wellness is engraved into the DNA of Los Angeles and it’s one of the many things I love so much about it, I am happy to be able to call it my home.”
—Liz Kennedy, beauty expert and host of Inner/Outer Beauty
Round Hill, Jamaica
“I travel a lot for work, catching one flight after the next, dealing with delays, cancellations, and rude passengers. My job often calls for me to answer close to 400 emails in a day, and an endless array of texts, emails, and phone calls. The only way I can recharge from the daily grind is checking out for a week. By checking out, I mean no internet, no TV, no texts or calls. Essentially, stepping away from the real world, and detoxing with my eyes closed, and ears enjoying the relaxing sounds of the ocean waves. Round Hill is a quiet, secluded getaway that has been host to some of Hollywood’s elite for over 50 years. They know how to make their guests one with nature, pampering them with great meals, and taking them far away from the stresses of life. The villa you rent has your own cook, maid and property caretaker. You can choose to enjoy your quiet days by your own pool or head down to the beach to meet other guests. You onsite cook prepares a healthy meal for you each morning to start your day off right, and there are yoga classes, a healthy lunch spot and a spa that offers massages on tables placed in the ocean should you choose. For the last 15 years, I have found this to be the only way I can reboot from my weeks of 12+ hour days, and by the time I head home, I am ready to take on whatever life throws at me next.”
—Reyne Hirsch, TV personality and luxury goods expert
New York City
“In my journey as an entrepreneur, my family was my inspiration, but New York was my launchpad. Growing up in South America, I visited New York often in my childhood, I became immediately enamored by the power and energy of New York. I loved the juxtaposition of the people – despite the diversity of backgrounds and passions, they all shared the common dream of finding success in the city. The conviction of these New Yorkers inspired me to move for college and, since then, I have never left. Today, I turn to these same people to inspire, support and challenge me as I grow my company in New York City.”
—Sandra Makarem, founder and CEO, The Collective Child
Cape Town, South Africa
“I intended to come on an editorial project for Unsettled for four weeks and within the first 48 hours, I knew this was going to go far beyond that time! The energy was so inspiring, with so many young companies and entrepreneurs changing the travel and hospitality landscape in South Africa and beyond. So many growing travel brands that needed a voice beyond African borders which is when I quickly realized this is exactly where I needed to be and work with.”
—Carolina Ramirez Herrera, founder of CRH Collective
“Visiting Japan was like picking up a self-help book that I was not even looking for and being immersed in inspiration and wisdom. The incredible culture and heritage that has evolved over centuries juxtaposed with youthful, forward thinking, boundary pushing creativity. The graciousness of the people and their pride in their work and respect for that of others. The unwavering pursuit of perfection and attention to even the most seemingly inconsequential details. It all combines to create a transformative experience. Spending time in Japan informs my way of thinking. I make decisions differently. I approach my work with humility. And I endeavor to instill that in my team. Our goal is to create experiences that are more rooted in the heritage of our communities and grounded in our culture while at the same time reaching forward, always. We eschew elitism but take great pride in perfecting even the smallest interactions and moments in our hotels. This is the delicate dance we dance and it is no small part inspired by those travels.”
– Bashar Wali, president of Provenance Hotels
“During an around the world trip in 2013, we spent a month exploring Vietnam, from the rice paddies of Sapa in the North to Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong Delta, and the island of Phu Quoc. We were captivated by the beautiful, hardworking, and honest people of Vietnam and enamored with the cuisine. It stuck with us long after we returned to New York, so in late 2015 when we started developing our plan to open a restaurant, Vietnamese was the first cuisine we explored. We had a fondness of the small alley stalls in the Old Quarter of Hanoi and our experiences with Bun Cha, Cha Ca Ha Noi, and Northern style Pho. When we returned to Vietnam in 2016, we spent time with local chefs learning to make these dishes and better understand what motivates Vietnamese cooks. The foundation of Hanoi House was to represent what’s happening in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City now; creating a balance between well-executed traditional dishes and those that push the boundaries of what’s expected of the cuisine.”
—Sara Leveen and Ben Lowell, Owners/Co-Founders of Hanoi House and Hanoi Soup Shop
Southern Utah and Death Valley
“In the Spring of 2018 I was burnt out with wedding blogging and the social media influencer life. I sold my business — and my Instagram following — to focus on living a life of simplicity and peace. After more than a decade of photographing weddings and portraits, I was tired of never getting to see my kids on the weekends or being unable to travel and experience things with them, because of the start-up hustle. Once my blog sold, my family and I headed out west for a two-week road trip. We drove from Big Sur to Zion National Park, with a pitstop in Yosemite and Death Valley. Everyone told us to skip Death Valley, but I am so glad we didn’t. The warm, still, silence is something that can not be properly described in words. When night fell, the sky came alive. I walked out into the darkness and just sat with the universe. Everything was breathing, moving, shining above my tiny head and the entire experience moved me to emotional tears. It was in that moment I knew I had made the right choice in pivoting my efforts to better balance my family life. In that moment, I decided to only photograph what brought me the most joy and freedom… that was food! I owe the stars all my gratitude for that life-changing shift.”
—Danielle Calhoun, natural light food photographer
“Montana always reminds me of what is really important in life. Simple pleasures, unique experiences, time connecting with the natural world, and rediscovering who I am as an individual. I love taking a few days every now and again to slow down, clear my head, and refocus. These trips provide clarity and direction when I tune out all of noise that normally consumes my thoughts. A day trip floating down a river chasing trout is my version of paradise. I agree with Thoreau that many men go fishing without knowing that it is not the fish they are after.”
—Kyle LaFond, founder of American Provenance
The sea itself
“I recently went on a cruise for 45 days and sailed from Hong Kong all the way back home to San Francisco. We stopped at many beautiful and interesting places, such as Korea, Taiwan, China, Japan, Russia, Alaska and Canada, but what unexpectedly inspired me the most was the sea itself. Whenever we encounter stress, negative feelings and pollution, we encounter positive ions, which are not good for us. The sea is full of negative ions, which neutralizes the positive ions so it brings upon feelings of relaxation, happiness and inspiration. It was when we were traveling from country to country across the ocean that I felt the most inspired both personally and professionally. I felt closer to nature and it made me really focus on and appreciate the environment. This inspired me to think more about how my company can produce products with less packaging and more post-consumer recycled materials. While this is something we already strive to do, there’s always room for improving sustainable efforts.”
—Susie Wang, founder and chief creative of 100% PURE
Your inspiration destination
If you’re seeking to travel for inspiration then try giving some of these locations a shot, but they certainly aren’t the only options. Not everyone needs to travel to get inspired, but at the very least, you should get to experience new cultures and energy. Inspiration is ultimately a state of mind and these locations may work to put you into that mindset.
These are the most inspiring destinations for others — what’s yours?