Where to travel right now is very much a question of what interests you. Is it luxury? A good place to party? Or maybe you’re just looking for somewhere to relax in the great outdoors, au naturel. Whatever you seek, you can find. And chances are, with overseas travel approaching its apparent peak, you can afford to get there, even if it takes some saving up. But with eyes on the future, it’s hard to imagine world travel the same way. Never mind fickle shifts in popular opinion; possibilities of political, economic, social, cultural and environmental change affect the outcome of the question, Where will we travel in the decades to come? It’s speculative, we know, but that’s half the fun, so here’s a list of four cities that we think will take off in the next 30 years.
As it stands, American citizens require government-issued licenses or must incur the cost of a mostly illegal two-leg flight from the U.S. to either Canada or Mexico before heading to Cuba. Many Americans travel within their own borders to get some sun (Hawaii) or take a trip south to Mexico. But the cost of air travel is bound to increase (making the 2000-mile flight from L.A. to Honolulu prohibitively expensive), and with Mexico becoming increasingly volatile in the throes of an ugly drug war, where’s a North American to go to get tropical? Whether by boat or by plane, Cuba’s not far from a large portion of coastal America, and relations between Washington and Havana haven’t been so warm in decades. Sanctions suck, anyway, so may bygones be bygones; ¡por Cuba libre!
In the aftermath of the fall of the wall, Berlin became a beacon of art and subculture for the bohemians of Europe. But in recent years, an influx of expats and the subsequent flood of real estate developers have driven the cost of living up. And with the impending demolition of the Tacheles, a decades-old artists’ center and internationally recognized symbol of Berlin’s dedication to culture, it seems the crowd could be on its way out. Perfect, then, that Essen, previously an industrial hole known only for its coal mines, was named the European Capital of Culture in 2010. And with the refurbishment of its Bauhaus Zollverein coal mine, the proliferation of galleries and museums in the area and a burgeoning music and art scene, Essen looks to become a future cultural beacon of its own.
St. Petersburg, Russia
Russia might not lack visitors, but with its harsh politics and cold weather, it’s not ranking anywhere near the top tourist destinations. But with such a rich cultural history, there’s plenty to gain from experiencing the real, raw Russia. St. Petersburg is a marvel, both of historic architecture and WTF moments. Know where else the sun doesn’t set all summer and gaudy (not to mention topless) high school grads stream through the streets in Hummers celebrating their academic freedom while men ride horseback down Nevsky Prospekt? NOWHERE. But you may not be able to see it for long: a 2009 World Bank report warned that the country’s rapidly degrading infrastructure, poorly prepared cities and massive stretches of land covered by temperature-sensitive permafrost make Russia especially vulnerable to global warming over the next 50 years. The curious among us will get in there before this glorious country sinks into the marshes.
With the Chinese government pouring every spare bit of attention it has into Shanghai in hopes of drawing the world’s eyes away from Hong Kong (the seventh most visited city in the world), this city of the future (that is also rooted in the near-ancient past) is experiencing growth faster than any other city on earth. It may become exorbitantly expensive to visit, but the allure of greatness is impossible to resist for the average tourist looking for beautiful hotels and attractions, while the search for what lies beneath the surface will attract those less interested in sightseeing. The draw will only increase as this relatively new Alpha-level global city continues to develop its own voice and cultural landscape in the midst of social and political change. We see great things on the horizon for Shanghai, and it’s not all in the sparkle of skyscrapers and coins; it’s also in the reaction such intense attention will drum up amongst the vocal locals.