If you've been paying attention to the news at all this year, or worse yet, scrolling maniacally through your myriad social media feeds, chances are you could use a big old vacation right about now.  Before your soul hardens up like a fire ant mound that's just been doused in molten aluminum—it's a thing—here are five incredible trips that may just bring a little hope yet to your new year.   

These are our best travel stories of 2017. From low-key countries you've never heard of to cool Texas destinations just a day trip away,  let our year's top coverage guide you to a more relaxing end of year... if the universe will allow it.    

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Outdoor swimming pool on the top floor of Hotel Raouche Arjaan in Beirut.

Image: Shutterstock

1. Afraid of Visiting Lebananon? Here's Why You Shouldn't Be

Where you're going:  Beirut 

Why you're going: "The capital city of Lebanon seems to go on forever, filled with traffic-snarled streets, great restaurants, upscale hotels and scenic walkways along the water. Unlike the Big Apple, however, it’s a mix of very old and new. It’s not unusual to find yourself in a brand-new high rise, looking at 2,000-year-old ruins below your balcony."

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 2. 10 Things You Must See, Do and Eat Near Big Bend National Park

Where you're going: A fake Target in Altuda

Why you're going: "Every hipster with a Leica has a photoset or five of the Prada “store” outside Marfa. Stay true to your Tarzhay-loving roots by snapping a shot next to the Target “store” (actually a cleverly decorated, completely empty railroad switch station) in Altuda on your way to Alpine coming out of Marathon. It’s not cliche yet, having only materialized earlier this year, and trust us: the Prada store is not worth the significant drive." 

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Image: Shutterstock

3. The Most Amazing Country You’ve Never Heard of

 
Where you're going:  Azerbaijan

Why you're going: "Much of the western world isn’t familiar with this small, petroleum-rich nation and is even less likely to be able to locate it on a map. Information about it is sketchy at best. Take, for instance, my own first thoughts when I first heard of Azerbaijan: that the name sounded like a vaguely Middle Eastern newly-developed country full of goat herders and antiquated Russian buildings. "

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 4. The Local’s Guide to Galveston Island

Where you're going: East Beach

Why you're going: "In 2103, East Beach unveiled a new pavilion, boardwalk, and entertainment stage, courtesy of a $1.6 million makeover. With plenty of chairs and umbrellas available for rent on this sprawling sandlot, and summer concerts most Sunday afternoons, it’s the perfect place to spend a summer weekend."

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5. 5 Ways Costa Rica Makes for a Ridiculously Easy Vacation Destination

Where you're going: Rincón de la Vieja National Park

Why you're going: "Southwest Airlines offers routes that fly into both San Jose (the capital, smack-dab in the middle of the country, close to popular tourist areas like Punta Arenas) and Liberia (a small town in the north that offers a quick means of getting to the beautiful Nicoya Peninsula). Both are non-stop flights, both take around three-and-a-half hours, and both cost around $350 round-trip. And once you’re here, lodging can be found at every price point, from tidy hostels for $30 a night, boutique hotels for $90, or flat-out luxury resorts where you’re treated like royalty for $200."

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