I recently talked to a friend about how my favourite places aren’t always particularly beautiful, or special, or off the beaten path. But they all have a certain special atmosphere – a spirit that I can’t find in other places. They’re never cities. That’s one thing they all have in common.
1. Change Islands, Newfoundland and Labrador
I’m straight up obsessed with Change Islands. This tiny island in Central Newfoundland is home to maybe 300 people year-round, as well as a number of critically endangered Newfoundland ponies. The light always seems a little softer here; the wind is a little slower. On my last trip, I took a seat on a rock near the shore and soaked in the absolute quiet. I could have stayed there forever. Hardly an electrical hum to break the silence.
2. Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland and Labrador
Gros Morne National Park was the first place ever to make me realize how much more comfortable I am in a small town setting. The scant communities that live here are intertwined, peaceful, and active. The Tablelands, the exposed red earth’s mantle, is a stark contradiction next to the green forests surrounding it. The Great Somber Mountain sticks out like a sore thumb. And then there are the fjords, the bays, and the unlimited rocky coastline. This place is all drama on the surface. Their annual Writers at Woody Point Festival is also my all-time favourite festival, and I’ve been to quite a few festivals.
3. Sligo, Ireland
Sligo was an accident. I showed up here on a whim, coaxed by a Facebook friend named David. I certainly never expected to find a busy surf and SUP scene in a less well-trodden part of Ireland. My friend Julia and I made friends with the locals immediately, and spent most of our days hiking or exploring, and our evenings listening to live music at Shoot the Crows or McGarrigles Pub. My happiest travel moment of all time took place here: a day of SUP on the River Bonet with newfound friends, and the kind of impromptu Irish trad session at The Thatch Pub that dreams are made of. And then I slept in Johnny Cash’s former room at the Markree Castle. All in the day of the life of Candice Walsh.
4. Ios, Greece
There’s not much to do in Ios, other than lounge around Mylopotas Beach, or rent an ATV and explore the island, or spend the evenings in Ios town wandering the pubs and clubs. But it was my favourite destination in Greece. My days were idle, and the nights jam-packed. My friend Matt and I met so many wonderful people on this leg of the journey, and the locals themselves became old friends. How many times did we stop by Fun Pub to chat with George? I can’t even count. We became so close with our hostel hosts, we were calling the matriarch “mama” by the time we left.
5. Kotor, Montenegro
I only expected to stay in Kotor for two nights. I stayed for a week. The walled fortress around the Old Town was more beautiful than Dubrovnik to me, and I quick learned the complicated and confusing maze-like streets. I loved my slow mornings: coffee in the town square, followed by work from my hotel room. I’d hike the fortress stairs, or wander around the shops. Making friends was easy, and every night called for a glass of bubbly at the Wine Bar. I lived like a princess, and it was fun as hell.