In a speech last year at Tufts University in Massachusetts, TV reporter Lisa Ling shared one of her own personal FAQs: No, she was not in "Charlie's Angels." That would be Lucy Liu.
Then she told students what shaped her world view. "The best education I have ever received was through travel. You'll become more conversant, poised and smarter," she said, according to Abroad101, a study abroad blog that recapped the speech.
Ling, who hosts the TV show "Our America" on OWN and often reports on CNN, will appear at this weekend's L.A. Times Travel Show at the L.A. Convention Center. I asked what places are on her bucket list this year, and she sent an e-mail with "four places I'm dying to visit."
Cuba: Since the 1959 Revolution, Cuba’s been shrouded in intrigue, off limits to most American visitors. But now, the country is about to open its doors just a bit wider, and the uber-curious can get a license to go. What's there to see? Everything -- classic American cars, bongo-playing locals, Havana's 18th century homes, Spanish Colonial buildings -- but mostly it's about soaking up the sights and culture of a long forbidden land.
Croatia: It's time to venture outside the "euro zone." That's advice from Travelzoo senior editor Gabe Saglie, who says, "Croatia is a perfect example of a place that is exotic but still off the radar." Dubrovnik, Split (where modern-day apartment dwellers live elbow-to-elbow with history in the spectacular Diocletian's Palace) and the Dalmatian Coast? Yes, yes and yes. And it's a short hop to islands like Brac and Hvar for a quiet beach stint. Saglie says Croatia is still a good value for Americans, except in crowded July and August, because after all, Europeans do know about it.
Morocco: Last year's Arab spring prompted the country's king to float pro-democracy measures and enact a new constitution. Politics aside, the issue isn't whether to go, but where to go: the Sahara Desert on a four-wheel trip; Fez, Casablanca and Tangier to visit souks and sites the Berbers, Roman Empire, French and Spanish wanted as their own; or beaches along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts. Marrakech too is an option, particularly on a night tour of its exotic markets.
Mongolia: It's just not that remote anymore, but still beautiful. That's Lonely Planet's take on the Asian nation that retains the untouched beauty of the Gobi desert juxtaposed against 21st century herders talking on mobile phones and Internet cafes in capital Ulan Bator. "Since the fall of communism, Mongolia has done just about everything in its power to open itself up to the world," the company's website says. Don't worry, there's still time to sleep in a ger (nomadic tent), take a camel ride or go on a high-altitude trek -- all far from the cellphone chatter.
Ling also identified three places she encourages Americans to visit this year: Nepal, for the beautiful Himalayas; China, which changes every day; and the Greek island of Santorini, one of the most "beautiful places on the planet," she writes, and likely pretty inexpensive because of the country's debt crisis.