As a translator, I’ve travelled all over the world as part of my work.
It’s taken me to a whole host of important meetings and some stunning destinations, but I have often only seen a hotel and the inside of a cab. After a while, I made it a point to explore every city I went to, and I am lucky enough to say that I have basically visited every major capital and interesting metropolis I had on my list.
But the places that stayed with me more, and the places I still want to visit, are usually not quite the cityscapes, and they are not quite what other people have on their lists.
Here is my version of a travel bucket list, and why I think you should visit at least one of these places in your lifetime.
Tsukuba Science City
Japan is a beautiful country with a unique and rich culture. Isolated from the Asian mainland for centuries, it has developed in parallel rather than in unison with the beat of the rest of this part of the world. This has led to some stunning architecture and a cuisine that you simply won’t find anywhere else.
I love Tsukuba because it allows you to visit Tokyo and immerse yourself in Japanese culture without being overwhelmed by the crowds and the pace of the place. It’s an area rich with museums and large shopping centers on the one hand, and parks and lakes on the other. This makes it the perfect base from which to explore every aspect of one of the world’s great cities. If you love trying new foods and tackling a complex new language, then this could be a journey you remember for the rest of your life. When coming from a Western background, spending a few weeks in Tsubaka will have opened you up to new worldviews and experiences.
The Camino de Santiago
There’s no better way to explore rural Spain than to set foot on the Camino de Santiago. This network of trails spans approximately thousands of kilometers and every inch of it is worth the visit. Personally, I love the coastal villages, as they give you a real look at an authentic way of life that you may have thought was lost forever.
Fresh fish and other seafood come in daily and are then traded in the bustling markets just as they would have been centuries earlier. By getting yourself out of the hustle and bustle, and well away from the usual tourist haunts, you can experience something genuine and unique. Perfect for allowing yourself the time to rest and relax that you need at the end of a long few months of work. There are dozens of Camino walks you can choose, so whether you have a month or a weekend to explore, I highly recommend you go for it.
When people talk about the US, the focus is always on the likes of NYC and LA. Nestled across the river from downtown Boston is something of a hidden gem in the form of Cambridge. This is a city next to a city that you have probably heard of before, as the home of MIT and Harvard — two of the most prestigious universities in the world. Not to be confused with Cambridge in the UK, which is also home to a famous university (and my alma mater). Their presence gives the neighbourhood a relaxed and artistic vibe that is ideal if you want to experience city living like never before. I loved the coffee shops and artisan boutiques, the late night bookstores and the bagels. This is American living as it should be: carefree and relaxed at every turn. Plus if you want to head into the city you can stroll across the river and be in the burgeoning metropolis that is Boston in as little as half an hour. Life on campus is not what you would imagine it though – but the one thing certainly not lacking are the ideas and vision of the young minds that cluster there.
Ireland is a country that has it all: great people, amazing landscapes, and a rich cultural history. The music in the pubs and the Guinness on tap are enough to tempt many people to Ireland, but most of them end up in Dublin. Whilst it is a city not to be missed, it has been somewhat gentrified in recent years and has struggled to maintain the true Irish charm of the towns in Cork.
If you want to really experience what life is like on the Emerald Isle, then I can’t recommend Cork highly enough. You could have a relaxing stay at a couple of inns and walk your way between them, or you could treat it as a classic village break for the week. All you need to do is decide which one fits your plans best and the hospitality of the locals will make the trip one you’re never likely to forget.
The final place that has really resonated with me is Helsinki. It’s a city known far and wide, but not perhaps best known as a tourist destination; I can’t figure out why! It’s the most relaxing and homey place you can imagine, with people always smiling and welcoming you around every turn. This is partly due to the relaxed way of life in Scandinavia as a whole, but I’ve always felt that part of it is due to the unique tapestry of this great city.
Staying down by the water is a great way to add some tranquility to your city break so that you can get away from it all at the end of each day. If you combine this with plenty of the sightseeing during the day, then I expect you’ll never forget your time in the heart of Finland.
Rebecca is a translator by vocation, but a traveler in her heart. Luckily for her, she has managed to merge the two and is now a full-time digital nomad, stopping home only to restock her suitcase, and move on. Her favourite place in the world is Iceland, and her least favourite city so far has been Tokyo. You can read more of her work at RoughDraft - if she ever manages to write anything there