When the United Kingdom abruptly elected to Brexit its way out of the European Union last month, it showed us just how quickly our world and the lines that divide it up can shift and heave.
In recent years we’ve seen everything from melting permafrost in Alaska to pulverized world heritage sites in Aleppo reshaping the face of our planet. When physical geography and political borders change, so do the countries they delineate: Shifting borders can signal shifting laws and even shifting attitudes toward foreign visitors.
Forces like conflict, secession, and climate change don’t make special exemptions for tourist favorites, which means your dream itinerary can’t wait for “one day.” Here are six places to book a trip to today, because they might not be there tomorrow.
#1: The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: Not So United?
Although the Brexit vote isn’t likely to topple the rocks at Stonehenge or wash away the stunning seaside of Cornwall, it’s prompted a series of reactions that could lead to a much less united kingdom and a series of new hurdles and headaches for travelers.
As soon as the UK’s plans to divorce Europe became clear, leaders in the Scottish and Northern Irish governments announced their intentions to investigate leaving the United Kingdom and remaining EU members. That would mean heavy revisions to the destinations listed on the official Visit Britain tourism site.
The dissolution of the United Kingdom won’t make the countries that currently comprise it dangerous or any less attractive tourist destinations, but it could shuffle up visa requirements and even flight prices, leaving travel to and between England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland more complicated. In a couple of years Hadrian’s Wall, the historic line separating England from Scotland, could renew its status as official border, joining the likes of Niagara Falls and other border-straddling attractions whose exploration require a trip or two through customs.
#2: Jordan: Hospitality in the Heart of the Middle East
When travelers are confronted with generalizations about the dangerous Middle East, Morocco and its many hidden gems may be the standard counterexample; but there’s another peaceful and historically rich country right in the heart of the region many avoid out of misguided fear. Jordan is a pillar of stability in a region that usually makes headlines for the wrong reasons, and today it’s your best opportunity for exploring the cradle of civilization.
Some say that we’re living through a rebirth of the Arab World, and others argue for a more pessimistic interpretation; but everyone agrees that it’s the world’s most unpredictable region today, and the Syrian Civil War is proof enough that neither cosmopolitan cities nor world heritage sites are immune to the fallout of social struggles. Seize the day with a trip to backpacker favorites like Petra and the Dead Sea, or take a camel-back tour of the Valley of the Moon.
#3: Hong Kong: Counting Down the End of “One Country, Two Systems”
Unlike most of the others on this list, the Chinese Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong is virtually guaranteed to disappear in 21 years with the expiration of the “one country, two systems” policy in 2047 and its reabsorption into China.
Hong Kong currently maintains its own immigration system, independent of the notoriously difficult-to-navigate visa laws of mainland China, allowing most residents of North America and Europe up to 90 days of visa-free travel. But it’s not just the formalities of coming and going that separate Hong Kong from the mainland: Everything from the language to press freedom and censorship contribute to Hong Kong’s distinct identity and unofficial status as “Asia’s World City.”
There’s no telling how much of traditional Hong Kong culture will survive its looming reunification with the mainland, but the kind of budget shopping tours Hong Kong is famous for seem unlikely to stay after Beijing jumps back into the driver’s seat.
#4 Bosnia and Herzegovina: The Country That Was Never Supposed to Be a Country
Of all the countries that emerged from the former Yugoslavia in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Bosnia and Herzegovina is probably the one with the least staying power. The Dayton Accords that brought peace to the region left the country divided into three autonomous federal entities governed somewhat chaotically by three presidents, leading to frequent and unsurprising separatist movements that may one day lead to further fragmentation in the Balkans.
The Stari Most bridge in Mostar is both one of the country’s most popular tourist sites and a symbol of the tenuous unity between its disparate groups, spanning the river that marks the boundary between the Catholic Croat-majority western side and Bosniak Muslim-majority eastern side of the multicultural city. The bridge was destroyed in 1993 during the Yugoslav Wars, but reconstructed in 2004, and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site the following year.
When you visit Bosnia and Herzegovina, give yourself plenty of time to explore the starkly contrasting yet peacefully harmonious west and east sides of the city, each offering different but stunning views of the Stari Most.
#5 Turkey: Anatolia’s Complicated Conundrum
The crossroads of East and West is a favorite among travelers worldwide, probably because Turkey’s unique geographic situation assures its landscapes and the people who inhabit them are different than those of anywhere else in the world. With pressure from conflicts in neighboring Syria and Iraq, tensions inside Turkey may in the future lead to a violent civil war and the possible separation of long-marginalized Turkish Kurdistan, yielding a messy situation for travelers.
Be sure to visit the rugged landscapes of Eastern Anatolia, enjoy rich Mediterranean cuisine, and explore the area around Lake Van, the region of the country most vulnerable to being cut off to travelers in the coming years.
#6 The Maldives: The Country that’s Literally Sinking
An island vacation in the Indian Ocean sounds like a dream come true for many, but in a matter of years your choices of islands may be drastically narrowed.
Of the many island nations whose very existence is threatened by climate change and rising sea levels, Maldives stands high on the list. Former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed has stated that “If carbon emissions continue at the rate they are climbing today, my country will be underwater in seven years”, a humanitarian disaster for the archipelago nation’s nearly half million citizens.
To enjoy Indian Ocean sunsets without contributing to the Maldives’ climate struggles, consider soaking up the sun at one of the country’s growing number of eco-friendly resorts.
Part of travel is getting to see and live the world as it is right now, because the world of yesterday will never be the same as the world of tomorrow.
Don’t let the possibility of social unrest or seismic events in the near future scare you out of your dream itinerary. If you’re unsure about security conditions but still inspired to carpe diem, you can check the US State Department’s country-specific travel advisories, or consult with other experienced travelers via communities of travelers like Couchsurfing or the Lonely Planet forums.