Lalibela, EthiopiaName: Jessica Schaffer

 Role at Passion Passport: Senior Editor

 Hometown: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Currently based: Chicago, IL

What was your favorite travel destination of 2013:

Ethiopia, hands down. I traveled there with my boyfriend and 4 of his siblings; they were all born just outside the capital city, then adopted by an American family in ’98. It was amazing to see their old home, walk through their old neighborhood, and meet their extended family. My boyfriend and I also snuck off for a while to do some traveling on our own. We visited the amazingly beautiful city of Bahir Dar, where we took a boat trip on Lake Tana and toured the lake’s surrounding monasteries. We also traveled to the holy city of Lalibela, famous for its monolithic rock-hewn churches. Ethiopia has so much history and culture; it is an incredible country to explore.

Where do you hope to travel to in 2014?:

I’ll be traveling to Israel in February and then to the Dominican Republic in May, though both for work and with little time to play. I do hope to visit Quebec City this summer. It’s just a few hours outside my hometown of Montreal but I haven’t been there in years. The city is one of the oldest European settlements in North America and you can feel its history as you walk through the winding, cobblestone streets and past the stone buildings. If you’ve never eaten a “queue de castor” – a beaver tail – Quebec City is a great place to try one, too!

Name: Danielle Haigh

Role at Passion Passport: Marketing Coordinator

Hometown: Canton, MA (USA)

Currently based: New York, NY

What was your favorite travel destination of 2013:

2013 was the inaugural year of my annual, week-long exodus from the NYC winter. Through a friend-of-a-friend connection, my boyfriend and two of our friends managed to snag a very affordable beach-front  house in the sleepy town of Placencia, Belize. After a tiny puddle-jumper plane landed on what can only be described as a sidewalk, we arrived in Placencia ready for a week of relaxation, sun and a little adventure. While it took about 24 hours for the New Yorkers in us to get used to the slow pace of the village, the week was nothing short of amazing. We laid on the beach, swam, ate amazing food, and snorkeled off one of the cays. I even convinced everyone to take a day-trip (with a complete stranger) into the jungle to hike up some waterfalls. We took the shorter route back down, jumping off the cliffs into the water below, producing some of my favorite moments of the trip, terrifying and hilarious all at once.

Where do you hope to travel to in 2014?:

Along with a few weddings around the country and my second annual NYC Winter Exodus Trip (Costa Rica in February), I am in the very beginning planning stages of a trip to France. While I’ve been trying to get back to Paris after a brief visit a few years ago when I fell in love with the food, architecture and “je ne sais quoi” of the city, I am also hoping to make my way East to Normandy. My Grandfather, who passed away this year, was in the Navy during the Normandy Invasion in World War II; he was among the first wave of soldiers who stormed Utah Beach.  I know he would have loved to get there himself, but I look forward to seeing the memorial and paying my respects to him, the historic event, and the brave soldiers who risked their lives.


Name: Arielle Crane

Role at Passion Passport: Social Media Manager

Hometown: Long Island, NY

Currently Based: New York, NY

Favorite travel moment of 2013:

My friend and I had just started our month-long road trip through the American South. After 7 straight hours of driving all the way from New York, we reached Skyline Drive, a 106-mile highway that stretches through the Shenandoah National Park and Blue Ridge Mountains. We were exhausted, but right after we passed the entry point, we rolled down our windows, looked outside, smiled and screamed “we’re here!”. That feeling of driving through (what felt like) the sky, overlooking the mountains and valleys with unsurpassed beauty at every turn, is something I will never forget. We stopped at 40 of the 75 lookouts and met awesome people looking to escape into the mountains and forget about their worries for at least a little while. It was the perfect start to our journey on the open road, and as soon as we completed the drive and made it to Waynesboro, Virginia, we knew we’d meet the road again.

Where do you hope to travel to in 2014?:

Definitely Australia. It’s been on my travel bucket list for as long as I can remember and I’m hoping 2014 is the year I cross it off! I’ve always had this perception of Aussies as down-to-earth adventure- junkies and I’d love to experience what life is like down under. The country itself seems to have everything I’d need in one place: beautiful beaches, diverse wildlife, fun nightlife, perfect weather and, of course, the Great Barrier Reef. More than that though, I’ve only met a handful of people who have traveled to Australia so it would be a travel destination that my friends and I could experience together for the first time.


Anjali Pinto with family in India
Anjali Pinto with family in India

Name: Anjali Pinto

Role at Passion Passport: Photo Editor

Hometown: Peoria, IL

Currently Based: Chicago, IL

Favorite travel destination of 2013:

My favorite travel destination of 2013 was Benaulim Beach, Goa. My family and I traveled to this incredible and beautiful part of India in January 2013. I had been there several times growing up, and it was the first place I ever had a tropical Christmas with my family. Going back as an adult and eating some of the same food, and seeing the same old wooden fishing boats made me full of nostalgic joy.

Where do you hope to travel to in 2014?:

In 2014, I hope to reconnect with classmates that I met while studying in Aarhus, Denmark, in 2009. It will be our five-year reunion of sorts. I was the only American in my program of eight, and my other classmates are scattered throughout Europe. I haven’t purchased a ticket yet, so it’s hard to say for sure, but my goal would be to touch down in Sweden, Norway, France, Spain and Italy. Here’s to ambitious goals!


Photo by: Israel Reza
Photo by: Israel Reza

Name: Elliot Vernon

Role at Passion Passport: Social Media Intern

Hometown: Evanston, IL

Currently Based: Chicago, IL

Most important travel lesson learned in 2013:

Reflecting back, 2013 has been a good year for travel for me.  Most notably I visited my birth country of South Korea for the first time since being adopted from there as an infant — for photos and write-ups, click here — thanks to Passion Passport’s Bucket List Initiative.  This past year, I was lucky enough to also make it to California, Indiana, Minnesota, and New York.  One of my favorite moments was visiting my buddy Joe in Brownsburg, Indiana, and frolicking through snowy cornfields because that feeling of being in the “country” was so uninhibited and different from what I experience every day in Chicago.  So for me, the most important travel lesson I learned this year is that keeping one’s sense of engagement is just as important whether traveling over oceans or just over state lines.  I can’t let those “large” adventures (South Korea) eclipse the “smaller” ones, for once you lose your sense of engagement, you lose your ability to enjoy everyday moments.

Where do you hope to travel to in 2014?:

There are lots of ideas I’m juggling around in my head for 2014, including: New Orleans, NYC, and/or Portland via the Empire Builder.  With South Korea checked off my list, I have my sights set on Turkey.  Getting to Istanbul (“Not Constantinople!”) has long been one of my travel dreams, although I can never quite put my finger on why.  Part of it may be that Istanbul is a meeting between East and West.  Historically it was a focal point of contention between the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Literally you stand on a bridge there and be on the border of Asia and Europe.  But most of all, it seems like such a beautiful and lively city (an idea reinforced by the Instagram feeds of @tanergungor and @yalinbuyukdora).  But when you get down to it, there really doesn’t need to be a “reason” to want to go.  Not knowing exactly why Istanbul holds such appeal for me is part of the excitement.  Oh, and if I have time, I’d love to fit in Australia too.