People diving in the sea in Salvador, Brazil

Diverse destinations:
Where positivity is paramount


 

David Bowie once said, ‘I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring’. With a whole new year ahead of us, we’re ready to embark on a whole new set of intriguing adventures. But wait, OutThere travellers are telling us that they’re all about embracing positivity when they travel this year. So, The Experientialist® has been researching the places to go that spark joy – and it’ll come as no surprise that the countries that caught our attention are the ones that celebrate diversity and inclusivity. Here are the diverse destinations that we think you should consider travelling to this year to pick up on the good vibes… with a few surprises thrown in.

In over a decade of traversing the world to bring back our favourite recommendations, we’ve found that we fall hardest for the places that celebrate inclusivity and bring to life the diverse history and richness of the people and communities that live there. They’re the places that make us feel the most happy. And in an increasingly worrying geo-social-political climate, we think it’s important to imbibe this kind of positivity and support the destinations that are moving forward rather than back. Here are some diverse destinations oozing in feel-good factor, that we can’t wait to visit this year.

Bhutan

You had us at ‘Bhutan’. The mystical attractions of the ‘Dragon Kingdom’ are sure to capture our imaginations, but it is the fact that their barometer of national affluence is not just economic – but considerate of the contentment and quality of life of their citizens – that has us fervently planning a trip there this year. They call it ‘Gross National Happiness’, which gives us a big dose of the feels. Perhaps it’s this dopamine-driven guiding principle that makes visiting Bhutan safe and wholly gratifying for travellers of all backgrounds. And in October 2020, against a backdrop of bigger socio-political problems in the country brought on by the need to grapple with a global pandemic, lawmakers in Bhutan still found the time to decriminalise homosexuality, in what is expected to become a snowball for greater LGBTQ+ equality and rights of gender-expression. Bhutan is still a stronghold of old-worldly Buddhist traditions of course – and with that religious-based conservatism (although the quaint phallus symbols signifying fertility and abundance you’ll see wherever you go may make you think differently) – but what is ultimately soul-enriching, is that it is a society based firmly on mutual respect, with a people who truly care for about who you are and how you feel. www.bhutan.travel

Brazil

What a difference a change of government makes. The vast Latin American nation, under the governance of a new President, is promoting its rich brand of diversity-led, tourism to the world like never before. At the forefront of these new initiatives are Afro and Indigenous tourism initiatives, creating unprecedented opportunities to pedestal the people and places who haven’t had their fair share of the tourism limelight in the past. The thrust is firmly behind reclaiming the unspoken stories of the African (Brazil is home to the largest Black population outside Africa) and native people from the periods of slavery and colonisation, bringing their nation-defining narratives into the mainstream.

Other traditionally marginalised communities across Brazil are being celebrated as well. From female-owned viticultural tourism in the Paraná (they produce wine of acclaimed vintages because they sing and read poetry to the grapes), to immersive tours of women-run coffee plantations in Cerrado Mineiro, to disability-led, accessible waterfall-chasing at Iguazu, to the outpouring of diversity of all kinds during Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador or Trancoso for that matter, to celebrating over 115 years of what is now a 1.7million population strong Japanese-Brazilian culture, to the world’s largest LGBTQ+ pride festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s diversity star is rising this year. www.visitbrasil.com

Canada

Canada has long been one of the world’s most diverse destinations, but as the Canadian government continues its ongoing ‘amende honorable’ to its indigenous populations, there has been a boom in the celebration of First Nations culture, providing a vibrant and enriching experience for those like us who seek a deeper understanding of the country’s rich, pre-colonial heritage. With a renewed focus on authentic interactions and storytelling, organisations like The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada provide inspiration and opportunities for OutThere travellers to engage with the diverse traditions, histories, and even contemporary lifestyles of the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples.

There are many different experiences to partake in… from tours that take in traditional storytelling, arts and dance, to deeper-dive immersions that showcase archaeology, anthropology, ancient crafts and skills, to visiting parts of the country where there is still a strong connection – and contemporary fusion and appreciation – for indigenous culture. Moreover, purpose-driven, responsible tourism practices across the country now ensure that the economic benefits flow directly to the indigenous communities, fostering cultural preservation, empowerment and economic development and developing a conscious-driven tourism model that we can feel good being a part of. travel.destinationcanada.com

Cook Islands

One of the latest – if not the coolest – countries to decriminalise homosexuality is the far-flung, but fabulous outpost of the Cook Islands. This landmark legislation goes far to recognise and acknowledge the local rainbow community’s value, importance and rightful place in society. But it is also a resounding welcome (echoed firmly by the country’s government and tourism authority, Cook Islands Tourism Corporation) for LGBTQIA+ travellers and their friends to visit. And there’s no rainbow-washing here, Karla Eggleton, the CEO of the tourist board is a proudly queer woman, wife and parent.

Lying halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii, this 15-isle archipelago nation is easier to reach than you may think… and is the perfect, paradisical add-on to a visit to Australia or New Zealand, with great (and this year, bolstered) connectivity by way of air from major Antipodean hubs. Boasting rare, unspoilt beauty, an idyllic climate, warm welcoming people and a pace of life unsurpassed for peace, the Cook Islands is a veritable island paradise. It will hold its first Pride celebration in April this year, Cook Islands Pride Day, as part of a week-long programme of inclusion in addition to the Anuanua (Rainbow) Festival. Come and join us, The Experientialist® already has their ticket booked! www.cookislands.travel

Costa Rica

Costa Rica sums its positivity up in their tourism war cry, ‘Pura Vida’, a phrase that captures the essence of the country’s culture and way of life. It’s a mindset, philosophy and a reflection of the Central American nation’s laid-back approach to life. Costa Ricans are known to overwhelmingly focus on the good in people, valuing happiness and expressing gratitude for what they have above all things. It’s easy to understand why when you live in a place with phenomenal natural beauty: lush landscapes, diverse wildlife, and pristine beaches. Then there’s also the sense of community, strong social connections and appreciation for the value of peace (it is one of just 20 countries in the world that has no armed forces and limited defence spending). All this combined is an outpouring of optimism, national pride and joy.

If like us, you’ve been to Costa Rica before, there are many reasons to return. There are more provisions than ever before for visitors to experience Afro-Latin culture, for example. Its coastal regions are rich in Afro-Costa Rican history and traditions, with lesser-known festivals, art and sites providing real insight into the community’s heritage. The experiences on offer don’t just skim the surface… we were thrilled to hear about trips that help visitors understand the ways of life of the Garifuna community in Limón, a group that has unique traditions and culture that differentiate them from other Afro-Costa Ricans.

For solo travellers who want to traverse the length and breadth of this amazing country from the Caribbean to the Pacific, Costa Rica is safe, one of the safest in Central and Latin America. But for added assurance, solo female travellers will be happy to hear about the Red Sofia programme, a network of member hotels and tourism providers committed to ensuring the safety and security of travellers in the country through training, collaboration and communication. Travellers on the programme can rest assured and focus on their journeys as travel providers will work together to mark you as ‘departed, on the way and arrived’ between attractions and properties on your itinerary, meaning that there’s always someone looking out for you when you travel. A Ministry of Tourism backed programme, the government is also looking to extend a similar programme to LGBTQ+ travellers. www.visitcostarica.com

San Marino

San Marino, the small but mighty microstate (and the world’s first Republic) surrounded by Italy, has a distinct approach to inclusion that sets it apart. While its population is relatively homogenous, primarily composed of people of Sammarinese descent, the country has made strides in embracing diversity, recognising the importance of respecting individual differences. The emphasis on social cohesion is evident in the nation’s commitment to protecting the rights of all residents, regardless of their background. It comes from a long history of resistance, first to religious persecution, then to unification under Italy. An example lies in their politics. To ensure that no one could ever dictate how people should live in San Marino, the head of state is changed every six months! Many of them have been women and two years ago, this diverse destination had its first LGBTQ+ Premier. It also holds the record of having the world’s youngest-ever head of state, who entered office aged 26.

At the end of last year, the World Tourism Organisation and the Government of the Republic of San Marino jointly organised the UNWTO International Conference on Accessible Tourism, entitled ‘Tourism for All: Advancing accessibility for destinations, companies and people.’ As part of this, San Marino has developed an action-oriented agenda for the country, a game changer for disability inclusion in Europe and beyond. It includes measures to advance training, develop measurement systems and use digital solutions to ensure that accessible tourism experiences reach all travellers. San Marino intends to be a leading – if not the leading – destination for accessible travel by 2030. You may think that’s easy for the third smallest country in Europe, but it’s a big task considering the Republic’s medieval infrastructure. www.visitsanmarino.com

Mauritius

In a surprise move back in October 2023, Mauritius’s highest court decriminalised homosexuality on the basis that ‘everyone should be allowed to love and live without fear.’ The ruling comes at a time of increasing homophobia and horrendous anti-LGBTQ+ policies in other African nations, but the Mauritian Supreme Court insisted that the law did not reflect any indigenous Mauritian values. Instead, it deemed it as an unwanted legacy from colonial times and not an expression of modern democracy, as it was imposed by a foreign ruler. We’re impressed.

Travelling to Mauritius is an enriching experience for many reasons. African at heart, with Indian Ocean influences, culturally diverse and presenting an opportunity for visitors to engage authentically with local people, the island nation’s cultural mosaic mirrors the richness of its landscapes, incredible beaches, rich marine life and spellbinding nature.

So, whatever your background, you will find comfort in the multicultural and difference-celebrating society that now warmly welcomes individuals from all walks of life. In the vibrant capital of Port Louis, visitors will witness the coexistence of various ethnic communities, with local traditions, cuisine and culture influenced by Indian, Chinese, Creole, and European heritage. It’s hard to describe in words, but travel there and you’ll feel an almost otherworldly energy. We have it on good authority from The Experientialist® who is there right now. www.mauritiusnow.com

Featured photography of Salvador, Brazil by Martin Perry




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