by Crystal Mendoza Paulin

Mid to late April was always my favorite time to travel. The spring breakers had returned to their books to study for their final exams, kids are still in school so crowds of families aren't out and about, and the warming weather is pleasant without being absurdly hot. As such, this time of year always puts me in the mood to travel. Of course, working hard on ThermApparel will keep me busy for the foreseeable future so I'll have to stay grounded for the next year or two.

Still, a girl can dream, right? If I had the time and money, here's where I'd go in a heartbeat:

5. Yucatan, Mexico

  Templo de los Guerreros  (Temple of the Warriors) in Chichen Itza..  Templo de los Guerreros (Temple of the Warriors) in Chichen Itza.. 

There are times when I wish Mexico wasn't quite so big or quite so beautiful. The country is so large and so rich in culture, that even natives like my family have not seen everything our homeland has to offer. It's been a lifelong dream of mine to reach the southernmost point of Mexico, the Yucatan peninsula. Beaches, historical cites, and beautiful cities await! 

4. Taipei, Taiwan

 Shuangxi Park and garden in Taipei. Shuangxi Park and garden in Taipei.

Alright so you're probably thinking, Taiwan? What the heck is in Taiwan anyway? Listen, Taiwan is rumored to be the secret food capital of the world. Quiet and unassuming, Taiwan is largely unknown to the Western world and generally free of crowds of tourists. Yet the country is almost always highly rated to have the best food, particularly street food, in the world. I'm not a foodie by any means, but that kind of review is the sort of thing that makes me want to try Taiwan for myself!

3. The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

 Giant clam shell in the Great Barrier Reef. Giant clam shell in the Great Barrier Reef.

Who doesn't want to catch a glimpse of the natural Great Barrier Reef before it disappears from the world? Diving here is a lifelong dream of mine, and one that I may not complete if I wait too long. (It's entirely possible conservationists may make it illegal to dive or visit the reefs in the near future.) Plus, if I head out for choppier waters, I can fulfill another dream of mine of diving with sharks!

2. La Sagrada Familia Basilica, Barcelona

 La Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona, Spain. La Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona, Spain.

I could spend a month here. Honestly. This basilica is over a hundred years in the making and it's so exciting to live in a time where it will finally be completed. If I could, I would happily spend an entire month just staring up at the high ceilings and facades. There's so many details in the design that I'm sure there would always be something new to see. Plus, there's always something very humbling about standing in a place where so many different people have lovingly worked on it for generations.

1. Istanbul, Turkey

I've actually had the immense pleasure of visiting Istanbul on several occasions. Each time I gaze upon the Bosphorus feels like the first time, breathtaking and magical. There's definitely an ancient feeling of love throughout the city and it's waters, from the Blue Mosque to the Dolmabahce Palace. The people are warm and hospitable and the food is famous for a reason. I would give almost everything for a slice of Turkish ice cream (unparalleled throughout the world!), my heart belongs to Istanbul. Whenever I think of travel, I immediately think of Istanbul, the shining jewel of the world!

So great food + ancient history + bodies of water = my dream vacation! And there are so many other locations I really want to visit that are not on this list. What about you? If you could travel anywhere, regardless of financial or physical ability, where would you go? Do your travel spots have a recurring theme too? Want to challenge my list? Let me know in the comments!