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Every year, at the start of the year, I ask freelance travel writer Steenie Harvey to compile a list of her favorite travel destinations for the upcoming year — all places you can travel to, write about, and photograph to earn money from your travels.  

Take a look at what’s on her wish-list this year…

SEVEN STUNNERS: MY NEW YEAR TRAVEL WISH-LIST
By Freelance Travel Writer Steenie Harvey in Ireland

Travel writers always have another dream, another milepost, another place to go. January is always a good time to shake off the post-festive lethargy, forget grim winter, and start plotting your escapes for 2012. Here are seven destinations where I would love to go—or return to—this coming year.

** Uzbekistan’s Silk Road splendors

Topping my own New Year wish-list of ‘please send me there’ places is Uzbekistan in Central Asia.

With its storybook cities of dusty bazaars, carpet weavers, and dazzling mosaics, it’s the most exotically alluring of the ‘stans.’  Conjuring up visions of camel trains laden with silks, spices, and precious stones, cities such as Khiva, Bukhara, and Samarkand of the turquoise domes were all once stopping points on the Silk Road.

The dark side of places can be enthralling, too. And so I wouldn’t want to miss the Bug Pit of Bukhara. Two 19th-century British army officers who managed to offend Bukhara’s deranged Emir spent two years of imprisonment inside this cramped stone hole.

** New Zealand—home of the hobbits

Tolkien fans are on tenterhooks waiting for the reappearance of dwarves, elves, and furry-footed hobbits. Once again, New Zealand’s primeval beauty of snow-capped peaks, geysers, and stalactite caves will be showcased by movie director Peter Jackson to evoke Middle Earth.

After premiering in the capital, Wellington, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is scheduled to hit movie screens worldwide in December 2012. It’s a two-parter, and the second film, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, is slated for release the following year. Location shooting is still on-going, but one place to put on your own journey is Matamata on North Island. Two hours south of Auckland, this is the location of Hobbiton and the Shire—it’s set to be a permanent tourist attraction once filming has finished

** The Maremma, Italy

Picture yourself tucking into wild boar washed down with a glass of ruby-red Morellino di Scansano. Until last summer, I thought I knew all there was to know about Tuscany. But there’s so much more to this acclaimed region than the Chianti vineyards, Pisa’s leaning tower, and Florence’s art treasures.  The Maremma, an old name for southern Tuscany and a small corner of northern Lazio, is largely unknown to North American visitors.

Threaded with wine routes, studded with castles and small medieval towns, this is Tuscany without the tour buses.  Stopping places include arty Massa Marittima with its mysterious mural of a fertility tree…Soverano, once steeped in banditry… dramatically perched Pitigliano with its Jewish heritage and Etruscan ‘roads’ hollowed from the rock. And I haven’t even mentioned its beaches and little seaside towns, the Maremma National Park, or the natural hot springs of Saturnia where I spent an afternoon lazing for free in thermal waters.

** Summer at a city beach: Copenhagen

Beach life versus culture is often a vacation dilemma for readers. If you’re the same, you may want to target some travel-writing escapades toward seaside cities. You may have already targeted some of the usual suspects—Miami, Sydney, Cape Town, Rio, Barcelona—but how about Copenhagen, the stylish and cozy home of the Little Mermaid?

The recent cult crime series The Killing, has delivered a new set of fans to the streets of Denmark’s capital. But Copenhagen is also surrounded by islands and pale, sandy beaches. Around 70,000 locals hit the beach during summer weekends—a favorite is Amager Beach Park—the place for bonfires, barbecues, and music on Midsummer’s Eve.

You can explore many more beaches from Copenhagen’s picturesque old town either by water bus or on two wheels—2,000 city bikes are available free of charge. Make sure a summer trip coincides with a Friday night for Fredagsrock, (Friday rock concerts) in the Tivoli Gardens, one of the world’s oldest amusement parks.

** Stomp it up in Calgary, Canada

If you adore a party, pancake breakfasts, and barbecues—and have a yen to get togged up in cowboy/cowgirl gear, 2012 is a banner year for Calgary. ‘The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,’ the Calgary Stampede, marks its 100th Anniversary (July 6 – 15). This is the world’s largest outdoor rodeo. Cowboys from around the globe gather for an extravaganza of bull-riding, steer-wrestling, and chuckwagon racing.

** Learn to Sail in the Whitsundays

One of the fastest growing travel trends is learning a new skill—whether that be painting, cookery, or something sporty. Personally, I’d love to learn to sail, and the Whitsunday archipelago looks the perfect place.

Rated as one of the world’s most beautiful sailing grounds, the 74 islands that make up the Whitsundays have a range of sailing and adventure sport options as well as trips out to the Great Barrier Reef, home to thousands of species of brilliantly-colored fish and other marine life. Located off the coast of Queensland, these islands are Australia’s jewels—a magical world of crystal blue waters, coral cays, lush rainforest, and white-sand beaches.

** Berlin’s Christmas wonderland

An excellent way to end the year—and how I ended 2011— is with gluhwein and sausages in Berlin, Germany’s capital. With over 50 Christmas markets, it’s guaranteed to be in glittery, festive splendor. But what struck me was how many layers there are to Berlin. Its dark history is compelling, but it’s also one of Europe’s exciting cities for quirky bars and crazy nightlife. From its anarchist collectives to former punk hangouts, it’s the kind of place that made me contemplate a new life as a street artist. As an added bonus, prices for eating and drinking remain closer to eastern European rather than western European levels.

Incidentally, Calgary isn’t the only place to mark a notable anniversary in 2012. It’s 600 years since the birth of Joan of Arc—the Maid of Orleans who was burnt at the stake in Rouen, France. Domrémy, Orleans, Reims and other locations prominent in the Joan of Arc story will be marking the anniversary. 2012 is also the centennial of the sinking of the Titanic—Belfast, Northern Ireland; Southampton, England; and Cobh, Ireland all plan major events.

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]

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