The former president has his sights set on South America, among other destinations.


When he’s not empowering the world’s youth through the Obama Foundation or working on his forthcoming memoir, Barack Obama is ticking off destinations on his travel bucket list, from Bali to Richard Branson's private island.

Barack Obama
Credit: Courtesy of WTTC

The ex-president is an ardent believer in the power of travel to broaden people’s worldviews and break down geopolitical barriers. And earlier this week, he shared some of his sage opinions on the subject at the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit in Seville, Spain.

In a conversation with Hilton CEO, Christopher Nassetta, Obama praised travel's ability to remind people of the value of diversity amid growing xenophobia and nationalism.

“I believe in bringing people together instead of separating them out as us and them,” Obama said. “If we try to reassert hard, fixed borders at a time when technology and information are borderless, not only will we fail but will see greater conflict and clashes between peoples.”

While climate change, political upheaval, and biases reinforced by social media rank among his deepest concerns, Obama remains optimistic about the younger generation’s commitment toward change.

“Young people are innovative, smart, creative, idealistic, and ready to go. They understand, instinctively, that this is one world,” Obama said. “National boundaries and ethnic and religious differences don’t prevent them from learning from and collaborating with other people; the politics of looking backwards and erecting walls is a politics that is not going to appeal to them. They fundamentally reject it.

Obama urged destinations to make travel visas more widely available, impose stricter environmental protections, and create safer environments for female travelers. “If you’re part of a tourism council in a city or nation where young women feel uncomfortable where they’re traveling, that will potentially reduce your market,” Obama said. “Young women aren’t going to put up with that; they don’t need to feel harassed or uncomfortable when they travel.”

He credits his solo trip through Europe and Kenya in his mid-20s as a transformational experience that shaped his worldview. His most cherished travel memories, however, are of the trips he took with Michelle and the kids. “There is something spectacular about seeing a new place and experiencing a different culture but when you’re able to watch that sense of discovery in your children’s eyes, that’s more special than anything else.”

Next up on Obama's hit list are two of the world's most famous attractions: the Taj Mahal and Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple complex. But he’s also looking forward to exploring the rugged wilderness of Patagonia and Antarctica and venturing beyond Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo to discover the Brazilian countryside.