What My Least Favorite Destinations & Olives Have In Common

Derek Croatia, Perspectives, Switzerland 118 Comments


There aren’t many things I truly hate in this world. In fact, olives might be the only one. I’ve tried to eat olives, I really have, at least a dozen times throughout my life. But ever since I was a child, the only reactions I can remember having to even a tiny bit of olive is gagging and making a genuinely disgusted face. Sometimes I’ve even gagged before I’ve taken a bite, just when the olive hit my lips or began to enter my mouth. The thought of olives right now has just made me cringe. I don’t even know why I’m writing about them.

One of my good friends loves olives. She loves olives so much, and I hate them so much, that we have had lengthy discussions about these little oval things. I think I can even remember one time when we actually started arguing about them. We argued back and forth until both of us realized that absolutely no progress was going to be made, leading us to sit across the table from each other in silence for about ten minutes. Eventually, we changed the subject, vowing never to bring up the word ‘olives’ in each other’s presence again.

The point of all this olive talk is that it occurred to me that my feelings towards olives is, in a way, similar to my feelings toward certain destinations I’ve visited over the years. While I’ve never actually “hated” any destination as much as I hate olives, there are a few locations that I’ve really tried to like, some more than once, but have not been very successful at doing so.

And since a few people sometimes point out that I’m overwhelmingly positive about the destinations I travel to, and that I rarely talk about anything negative, I’ve decided to put together an ‘olive’ list of my least favorite destinations below.

These are the destinations that, while they don’t make me gag, usually do lead to a contorted face when I think back to my experiences. With that said, I’d still visit them again if I had the chance…most of them at least.

Least Favorite Destination - Dubai, United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates – If you ask me what is my least favorite country that I’ve been to, the UAE will always be the one I mention. I’ve been several times due to a long layover, visits to friends living in or passing through Dubai or Abu Dhabi and while working on board cruise ships, and I can’t really think of anything too positive to say about my experiences.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik, Croatia – Beautiful? Indeed. But after one hour of walking around, I was ready to leave. I can’t pinpoint the exact reason, I just had no desire to spend much time there at all. As for the rest of Croatia, while none of the country would be in my list of favorite destinations I’ve visited, they wouldn’t be on my list of least favorite either. I guess that makes them average to me.

Cayman Islands – During my cruise ship days, I must have visited these islands at least fifteen times and after a few visits, it became one of the only ports in the world where I would often stay on the ship instead of getting off. A destination is clearly not a good match for me when it offers white sand beaches and I prefer to take a nap or hang out in the crew areas of a cruise ship instead of making a beeline for the sun and sand.

Budapest, Hungary

Hungary – I’m ready for the angry mob with this one but I did not connect with this country at all, including the city of Budapest. I even tried a second time but with the same results and I even visited with a local Hungarian friend of mine as well. I personally found it to be a little boring and didn’t find the atmosphere or energy of the country too appealing.

Switzerland – It’s nice but a little too bland for me and after two visits, I’m not terribly interested in visiting again.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong – After telling you about the very cool view of the city from the harbor at night, I’ll have some difficulty talking about anything else from my two visits here, mainly because nothing really stands out as very memorable. I remember having a good meal over there once but the details, such as what I ate, are a little fuzzy.

Now back to the real olives. A few days ago, I ordered a vegetarian pizza without olives at a restaurant here in Bucharest and twenty minutes later, out came a vegetarian pizza with olives, plenty of them. And even after picking the olives out, I had extreme difficulty eating that pizza. I’m used to it now though as that’s pretty much what has happened every single time I’ve ordered a vegetarian pizza without olives during my time in Romania. The waiter or waitress repeats “fara masline” (without olives) and they even write it down, but by the time that pizza arrives in front of me, it becomes quite apparent that the chef doesn’t give a hoot. He or she is going to make the pizza their way and there’s no changing that.

And sometimes, that’s how travel works too. As we head off around the world, we are always trying to order an interesting, rewarding and educational experience in every destination we visit. Usually, that’s what we receive. But every now and then, at least for me, my order is indeed ignored and I get something different.

Sometimes that ‘something different’ is a travel experience better than what I had ordered, but sometimes I get an experience that I just want to spit out. It’s bound to happen.

Of course, I’m not saying that the above destinations are ‘bad’ or should be avoided, not at all. These are just my own personal ‘least favorite destinations’ based on my own experiences, interests and who I am as a traveler. There are so many factors involved when it comes to how well we connect with a particular place and some of those factors don’t even have anything to do with the destination itself (for example, when you’re in a bad mood before you even arrive). I certainly recognize that.

And that’s why I highly recommend you travel to every single one of the above locations and find out what they’re like for yourself. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if you absolutely love some, or even all, of them.

We’re all different people in the end and we all enjoy different kinds of pizzas.

What’s your list of least favorite countries you’ve visited? Or countries you have no desire to visit? Do you like olives?

Since 1999 I've been traveling and living around the world nonstop. Sign up below for personal stories, real advice and useful updates from my adventures. Only good stuff, no nonsense.

Are you ready to earn money and travel?

How to Work on a Cruise Ship and Travel eBooksClick above and get started!

Comments 118

  1. Jeremiah

    Well that was certainly a surprising read.
    Croatia and Switzerland are probably my 2 favorite European countries I’ve visited; and Budapest, Hungary is one of my favorite cities.
    Quite interesting to hear about other peoples experiences.

  2. Blanka

    Hi Earl,

    I love olives now, after several years of wondering what people meant, as it tasted horrid at first… tastes, as everything else, change :-))

    Have a great time and please let us know when are you comming to central/east Europe.

  3. dan

    Strangest blog I have ever read. Croatia and Switzerland are p paradises on earth. Natural beauty like possibly no where else in the world. Dubrovnik is probably more large town than city but what a town it is. George Bernard Shaw called it heaven on earth, and the game of thrones series is filmed there because it is such a unique and majestic city. U must have been in your pre menstrual period when u travelled here and then yet again you rate all these places in Romania etc as some of your favourites. Each person is entitled to their own opinion but I don’t think you and I would get along. The alps of Switzerland and possibly the most beautiful coast in the world in Croatia and you compare them to olives. . . .weird if you ask me. All I can say to readers is put these places at the top of yr travel lists, two of the most amazing small countries in the world.

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Dan – There’s not a single destination in the world that doesn’t have some people who love it and others who don’t 🙂

      1. Mawz

        I must say I agree with Dan. Croatia is a very beautiful country with a lot of things to see and do. You were probably there in winter. Have you ever spend summer in Croatia?

        1. Wandering Earl

          Hey Mawz – I’ve been to Croatia twice now and both times were during the summer. It’s nothing against the country, some places work better for some travelers and some places for others!

  4. Carola

    Olives, I love them!
    Hard to tell which is my least favorite destination. Going by car through Salvador was full of hassle. Hungary is on my list to. While walking across Hungary along the Danube River, we had difficulties to find a small placevto pitch our tent, the people were less friendly than in the neighbor countries.
    I liked our time in the UAE. It was so different from what I would have expected. We slept two times on a dhow from Irak right in the Dubai Creek. Awesome! Our time getting around with the local bus and hitchhiking and trekking in the Hata Mountains and to Fujairah and Korfakkan was wonderful.

  5. Charles Rahm

    Ha! I think, I found the connection for some!
    The Cayman islands, Switzerland and Hong Kong are financial centres. And the Emirates are not too poor either.
    So it’s valid for 4 of the 6! 🙂

  6. Kirsten W

    To each their own, of course, but I LOVE Dubrovnik. It is one of those places I dream of bringing people. It can be a bit touristy but strolling and getting lost and the views…yeah love that city. However, I’m totally with you on olives:)

  7. anna

    Interesting post! Croatia and Switzerland are definitely near the top of my ‘favourite places’ list, but agree with you on the UAE. My least favourite places would have to be Barcelona, Athens, LA and New Caledonia.

  8. Mia

    Olives, I agree with you on. Croatia on the other hand, not at all.

    Dubrovnik can be a bit touristy and a little lacklustre if you only pass by. But have you gone to Hvar, or Cres, or Vis? Maybe it’s because turquoise was the only colour I wore until the age of 8, but the sheer vibrancy of the seawater made me cancel my travel plans onward to Slovenia and Italy and spend a month there. I was supposed to be backpacking Europe – instead I decided to relax and woke up one month later, still somehow island hopping in Croatia.

  9. Shelley

    I love olives! But I didn’t particularly get the appeal of Venice. Is it beautiful, yes definitely! But it was so crowded, and I didn’t eat at one restaurant that was great. They wanted us out so quickly to make room for the next patron, so the food was mediocre at best. Plus the prices were so expensive. 100 euros to take a Venetian Gondola ride. Of course we paid and did the boat ride, but what a disappointment. I guess compared to Florence, Tuscany and Rome, Venice just didn’t do it for me.

  10. Andrew

    Interesting post Earl. For me, my most disappointing country to visit is Spain. Beautiful sites but the rude nature of the Spanish people has turned me off from ever visiting again. After visiting forty-seven countries to date, Spain is the only country where I have encountered such disrespect on both occasions that I have visited.

  11. PedroZZZ

    I love to see lists of countries which people dont like or like. Especially from people who have traveled a lot. I have been in all of the places that you mention except the Caymans and I can understand your list.

    UAE, is definitely not my favorite either. Abu Dhabi was ok, but last visit to Dubai was enough. No need to go there again. I love most of Middle East though. My favorite countries include Syria and Lebanon. So much nicer (ok Syria nowadays is unfortunately a mess).

    Agree also about Switzerland, Dubrovnik and Cayman. Yep, I already that I have not been in Cayman, but I have visited enough Caribbean islands and countries to be totally confident that I will not like Cayman.

    The two a bit more surprising ones are Hungary and Hong Kong. Most people like Hungary, myself included. Hong Kong is not for everyone, but if you compare that to many other a bit similar cities like Singapore (too clean, boring), Shanghai (boring), Beijing (ugly, difficult) I think HK has something special.

    The places what I dont like (besides the already mentioned) are most of Caribbean, Costa Rica (yes that might surprise many), South Africa (maybe because I have only been around Johannesburg), Jakarta, Laos, Germany, Kazakhstan. But there are over 70 countries which I like…

    And just one addition to my favorites. Burma. I was shocked to read the one very negative comment about it.

  12. Jacqueline

    I was taken aback when I saw HK listed in your post. And the comments. Honestly, I don’t recommend HK as a place to visit because even after living there and returning once in awhile, I still don’t have any sightseeing destinations to recommend apart from seeing the skyline.

    But if you’re extremely lucky to find a decent residence, it’s a great city to live in. At least, if you don’t have kids to raise. I’m not interested in living there nowadays because of what’s going on in politics but it’s a bummer when I see these negative comments about HK.

  13. michelle

    ironically, olives are the bane of my existence… and my least awesome travel ever was to rome. after a quick eight or so hours wandering around the old city (as an art historian, believe you me i knew how important these ruins are)… there was nothing to do. in, around, or near, just boutique shops aimed at tourists and an awful transit system. i recognize will definitely get some flak for this but olives and rome ruin me. however, on the same trip, i did solidify my absolute love for tomatoes (i know, late to the game)… so i can’t really get mad.

  14. Mike


    I absolutely love olives – especially in a dry gin martini. I will have to say the only place in this part of the world that could make the drink correctly was a little place in Brasov, Romania. They call it a Montgomry Martini. I feel the same as you about Budapest and almost got in a fight with a waiter there over a big glass of vermouth that was “supposed” to be a dry martini. I won’t order one in Sarajevo because I don’t want to start WWIII. I absolutely loved Zagreb Croatia and found the people to be awesome.

    Cheers and good travels.

  15. Carmen

    I love olives, Budapest and especially Croatia. Did you go to Plitvice Lakes in Croatia? It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been and I can’t imagine you wouldn’t like it. A lot of travellers don’t get away from the coast when they go to Croatia but there’s a lot of beauty to be found away from the sea.
    I didn’t really like Prague but everyone else seems to love it!

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Carmen – I’ve been to Plitvice and like I said, the rest of Croatia away from Dubrovnik, while still not in my absolute favorite list, was definitely nicer in terms of the experiences I had.

  16. Amber

    First, I remember olives and pizza being a big problem in Argentina too, well a problem for the husband, I love olives. Second, when traveling through Croatia we pretty much skipped Dubrovnik. We had about a 2 hour bus layover there, enough time to walk through old town, stop outside the city walls to have a glorious pizza and sip a cappuccino, and then we made our way back to the bus and continued on our way. I definitely don’t regret that decision, particularly after spending 2+ weeks elsewhere in the country. Glad to hear you echo my thoughts.

  17. Alec Barron

    Sad to see Hong Kong on your list as it’s one of my favorite cities in the world but I can understand. There’s not a whole lot to see in Hong Kong.

    As for the city that impressed me the least, I’d vote Saigon/Ho Chi Minh. Perhaps too many people raved about it to me but I was underwhelmed. The food wasn’t as good as people said. The scooter traffic was maddening and stressful which made aimless wandering a less than enjoyable activity. I didn’t feel like there was a whole lot to see or do.

    I’m sure I’ll give Saigon another chance in the future though.

  18. Laura

    My least favorite country I’ve visited is Burma. I have absolutely no desire to go back. Every time I used to visit, I could just feel the tension in the air between the police and the people. It also didn’t help that the authorities mistook for me a local and assumed I was trying to get out of the country illegally. There’s also something eerie about being in a country with no ATM (although I’ve heard the first ever machine was installed recently).

    A country I really don’t care about visiting is Egypt. I know it’s one of those polarizing destinations but it’s not a country where I really want to take my chances being groped/sexually assaulted. I’m sure there are lovely people there, but I’ve heard enough stories from family and friends who’ve visited there. I’d much rather visit Jordan, Lebanon or Oman.

    I love black olives but detest the green ones.

  19. Gigi

    Oooh no! Switzerland? I love Switzerland!

    That said, I hate Barcelona, which everyone else seems to love. So I suppose you’re right. It’s all as arbitrary as olives (which I also hate).

  20. Margo

    Earl! I love this. I think it’s practically an obligation for someone who has traveled as much as you have to occasionally do this kind of post. I love Hungary, though, especially Budapest – but if had to compare to Prague, I’d choose Prague. I think people sometimes do this because they are often on the same itinerary. Curious what you think of Slovakia? Also I don’t like olives either. With my love of salty food and things that come in jars, it’s a mystery! 😉

    1. Wandering Earl

      Hey Margo – I’ve really enjoyed my visits to Slovakia. I think I’ve been twice so far. Although, each time I went I had a local friend that took me around so I’m sure that made a major difference!

    2. Wandering Earl

      Hey Margo – I really like Slovakia and have been several times. From Bratislava to Trencin to the mountains out east, I don’t have a bad thing to say. I’m a fan of the food, the low-key lifestyle and the fact that it’s not a very touristy destination at all.

  21. jasmine

    I loathe olives. The only food I’ve tried that I genuinely can’t stand!

    As for travel, I’ve never hated a place as much as I hate olives but Bangkok was a bit disappointing. Maybe it was just too much of a big city. I loved the other parts of Thailand I saw though.

    The first time I visited Cambodia, I didn’t love it. There were aspects of it I enjoyed but over all I didn’t get a good feeling from my visit there. However, I went back earlier this year to visit a family member who is now living there. Meeting all her local friends and having them to show me around, gave me a whole new perspective. Now I adore Cambodia so much I’m headed back for a third visit in a few weeks.

    In my experience, the people you meet can really make or break a destination. I also believe the higher your expectations are of a place, the more likely you are to be disappointed by it.

    Love your blog. 🙂

    1. Wandering Earl

      Thank you Jasmine 🙂 And what you said is perfectly true. I did not enjoy Bangkok too much the first couple of times either but then, just like with your experience in Cambodia, I visited again, having connected with some local people and the experience was completely different. Now I really enjoy spending time there!

  22. cindy singer

    I like most kinds of olives as well as most of the places I’ve visited. Out of the 25 (and still counting) countries I’ve been to, the one place I won’t return to is Tanzania. Having to hire an armed guide to go on a hike was not my idea of a good time. While Zanzibar was okay, it’s not worth going back to.

  23. Britany

    I actually haven’t been to a single one of your olive locations, but since I love olives, I’m going to ignore your judgement on these and visit them all someday anyways. 🙂

  24. Beth

    I absolutely despise olives, and am glad to see a good amount of travel bloggers who are with me on this!

    I personally love Hong Kong, but I also completely understand why a lot of people wouldn’t– it really didn’t grow on me either until after a year of living here. Most of the tourist attractions or temples aren’t very impressive and since everything was built recently, there just isn’t much history behind anything.

    It’s a beautiful urban landscape and has an amazing skyline as you mentioned, but unless you spend a long time here, I can see how it might not be too memorable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *