The birthplace of humanity, the long-distance foot traveler, and coffee
Dollar dollar bill y'all: The African Union is headquartered in Ethiopia's vital capital of Addis Ababa, making it a crossroads of global humanity, travelers, and currencies.
How you'll spend it: Search for Ethiopia on the US State Department's ominous travel-warning website, and it'll scare you off, just like it will for most of Africa's 54 countries. But don't fret. And don't dote too much on its unjust government. Your visit will help locals survive or even thrive -- they need help in whatever form it comes. Contact outweighs isolation. Summon the courage, the time, and the funds, and you'll encounter one of the most amazing countries on Earth. Ethiopia's ancient underground rock-hewn churches -- Lalibela -- are 12th-century free-standing, hand-chiseled mind-benders. Imagine an epic church's roof even with the ground and having to descend a long, narrow tunnel underground to explore its first floor.
Walking is a way of life here. The country that invented wandering (everyone's DNA traces back to Ethiopia) epitomizes religious coexistence. Muslims and Christians marry and are often seen holding hands while strolling. This remains one of our planet's most Christian countries -- Ethiopian Orthodox, mostly. Foreign but familiar, Ethiopians will teach you about patience -- theirs, mostly. I'm seldom star-struck, but minute-by-minute moments in Ethiopia resemble a blockbuster Jesus-era movie set. Assigned a hue all its own, this part of Africa remains a deep-rooted destination for pilgrims and anyone drawn to humanity's starting line. Don't miss out.