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The Best Places We’ve Been on AFAR’s Dime

One of the benefits of working at AFAR is the $2,000 travel stipend that every employee gets every year—to spend on a trip to an international location they’ve never been before. (The perk was recently touted in Bloomberg News.) We’re a travel media company: we’ve got to walk the walk, after all.

Here, just a few of the places we’ve traveled on AFAR’s dime—click through to the guides to recreate any of these trips for yourself (er, without the stipend).

Ireland
“My wife, son, and I took a 10-day road trip through Ireland, starting in Dublin then heading south and west. I tried my hand at herding sheep with a sheepdog at an ancient stone fort, crammed into the Crane Bar in Galway for a lively traditional music jam session, walked along the Cliffs of Moher, took a horse and carriage ride through the Gap of Dunlow with a driver whose father and grandfather drove carriages along the same route, and discovered the surprising beauty of the remote bogs of Connemarra.” —Jeremy Saum, executive editor

Brazil
“I went to a week-long yoga retreat on Ilha Grande, an island about 2 hours away from Rio and only accessible by boat. I arrived in Rio a few days before the retreat to do some sightseeing and arranged a meeting with ‘Batman,’ who we had featured in AFAR. They took me around the neighborhood and I got to see a part of Rio that I would have never seen on my own. After a few days in Rio I was picked up to be taken to Ilha Grande. Each day we woke up to birds chirping and our yoga instructor singing—we would start and end the day with yoga and during the day we would go hiking, kayaking, swimming and just spend the days outdoors.” —Katherine Kneier, East Coast sales director

South America
For my 2014 stipend trip, I planned the South American adventure of my dreams. I visited a friend in Bolivia, spent a wonderful week in Buenos Aires, trekked and climbed in Chilean and Argentinean Patagonia, and finished with a week in Rio de Janeiro for New Year’s Eve. My favorite part of the trip was going to the places I found listed on AFAR.com. Planning the entire trip myself was liberating, and traveling solo taught me so much about who I am and what I find important in this world.” —Michaela Trimble, AFAR brand manager

Oaxaca
“Puerto Escondido—a small, laid-back, surf-bum Oaxacan village by the sea—was the perfect place to escape the New York City winter. We stayed at Grupo Habita’s beautiful Hotel Escondido, a 30-minute drive from the the village of Puerto Escondido itself—where we explored the public market, fishing beach, and local vendors. But most days we went all barefoot-luxe, enjoying the isolation and distinct natural beauty of the area.” —Lily Soysal, marketing and special projects director

Bermuda
“My mum lives in England, so my wife Cheri and I met her ‘halfway’ for a week of sun, sea, and sand. Even though we ran into some spring storms (Bermuda is full-on Atlantic, rather than the Caribbean that many suppose), we had a great time just hanging out and exploring the picture-perfect beaches and towns. Bermuda is one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been, with a relaxed and classy vibe. I’d definitely go back.” —Nick Rowlands, guides editor

Ecuador
“Last April, I took my son—then 14—to Ecuador-Galapagos and the Andes. A National Geographic expedition cruise was the perfect way to experience the Galapagos—the unreal beauty and wildlife that exists there blew our minds. Then we headed to the Cotopaxi National Park, where we rode horses with the chagras (true Ecuadorean cowboys)—with the volcano right there before us.” —Onnalee MacDonald, West Coast sales director 

Bali
“I went to Bali this last year, about eight months after I started at AFAR. I hadn’t planned to go solo, but the deadline to use our travel cash was looming and none of my friends had the freedom to take 10 days off from work and roam around Indonesia with me on such short notice. It turned out to be one of the greatest travel experiences in recent memory: I stayed with a Balinese family, picked up some Indonesian phrases, did a three-day yoga retreat, met some cool Australian friends and took a cooking class with them, and basically just followed any and every whim I had.” —Aislyn Greene, associate editor

Iceland
“I explored Iceland into the wee hours of the night, which were still filled with daylight. I met locals (which included Hafthór Júlíus Björnsson, aka Gregor Clegane, aka The Mountain on HBO’s Game of Thrones), and snorkeled in glacial pools over tectonic plates where the earth splits in two. Then hopped over to Copenhagen to live the high-quality Scandinavian life, with gourmet meals at a backpacker’s price and sunny bike rides with attractive Danish blondes. It was insanely fun yet with a healthy dose of culture in each place.” —Juliette San Fillipo, associate marketing manager

Montréal
“Not all stipend trips are to far-flung exotic destinations, though my trip to Montréal was a reminder that sometimes you need fly only 90 minutes to explore a very different culture. My Montréal visit included marveling at the city’s 60s architecture and eating plenty of poutine.” —John Newton, senior editor, branded content

Rio de Janeiro
“Last year I joined a group called Journey2Adventure who had organized a trip to Rio for WC2014. In addition to running annual adventure races in South America they also organize trips to Olympics, World Cup etc. We caught a couple of games at the historic Maracana stadium and experienced the worlds party on the most fitting stage in Rio.” —Bryan Kinkade, associate publisher

Photo by Michaela Trimble