When it comes to online travel information, there’s no shortage. Top 5, Top 10, Top 20…lists, lists and more lists.
Lists telling us exactly which countries in the world we need to visit right now, what to do when we get there, where to stay, what we should see, where we should eat and so on. It’s only a matter of time before we start seeing Top 10 lists that list the best Top 10 travel lists. (Does it already exist?)
With such a plethora of lists about every destination, every traveler ends up doing the exact same things as every other traveler that visits the same place. Even a list of the Top 10 Authentic Travel Experiences ensures that everyone has the same ‘authentic’ travel experience. Nothing is spontaneous any more. And that doesn’t seem right to me.
Popular sights are nice and they make for good photos but often, that’s about it. The major benefits of travel tend to shine when we find ourselves in the little known areas where nobody cares if their corner of the world ever appears on any Top 10 list.
And the only way to have those un-listed authentic travel experiences is to arrive. Just arrive, go outside and wander around, without a clue.
All we need for this to be successful is an openness to the neighborhoods, markets, people, parks, local eateries and more that come our way, wherever we end up, regardless of their popularity online.
Have you been to Dubrovnik, Croatia? The walled old city over there is absolutely jam packed with people running around following their Top 10 lists. I just read that tourists outnumber locals 20 to 1 within those walls.
It’s an impressive old city and spending a day there checking off everything on a list or two will lead to some nice views and neat experiences. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. You got to see it.
But is that all Dubrovnik or Prague or Bali or Costa Rica has to offer? Can the true value of a place be discovered through a list?
What if we toss our lists in the trash (actual or virtual), walk 20 minutes away from the tourist shops and restaurants and below average gelato stands and the big buses, and into the less photogenic neighborhoods instead?
We’ll no longer be in the famous Dubrovnik that everyone talks about.
But we’ll also quickly forget about our Top 10 lists as we encounter the local people (at a rate of 20 locals per 1 tourist!) and regular places that make this town real. It’s just normal life in Dubrovnik, right in front of us, there for us to connect with and most importantly, learn from. The learning is the main benefit of travel after all.
In my experience, those must-see’s and must-do’s can rarely compete with the memories built from the unexpected encounters and the unplanned adventures that inevitably arise away from the crowds, famous old cities and picture-perfect main squares.
Of course, I understand perfectly well that an attention-grabbing list has some appeal. And there’s nothing wrong at all with taking advice from those who have traveled to a destination we’re about to visit.
My only point is that our travels should not exclusively consist of those mass tourism activities or the things that get classified as ‘must-see’.
Let’s ensure that we also sprinkle in some time among the interesting people and places that tell the real story of a destination, the people and places that no list has ever known.
Of course, with that said…
The Top 197 Countries in the World You Should Visit
In my opinion, this is the only list travelers need.
Antigua and Barbuda
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Central African Republic (CAR)
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Republic of the Congo
Papua New Guinea
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Sao Tome and Principe
Trinidad and Tobago
United Arab Emirates
United States of America
Vatican City (Holy See)
So that’s the list. All the countries in the world. Go everywhere. Go anywhere.
Okay, check if it’s safe first. But if it is, go there. (It’s alright to skip a few though.)
Wherever you choose to go, simply walk outside and start wandering. Don’t plan it. Just keep your eyes and mind open and enjoy.
And whatever you do, leave the other lists behind. At least for part of your stay.
How do you travel? Do you try to venture away from the main sights? Do you like your travels to be structured or spontaneous?
(For those who have joined my Wandering Earl Tours, you’ll know that I aim to offer a mix of the main sights and significant time exploring neighborhoods and regions that far fewer travelers know about. I truly believe in this style of travel!)