Thursday, December 2, 2010

Top 10 Countries I'd Live to Visit!

This is my 99th post on this blog!    That is pretty crazy if you ask me, especially since I write so damn much.I was going to save this post for number 100 and have my Thanksgiving post first, but then I realized that the things I'm thankful for (in Korea and abroad) deserve the glory of the milestone post, so I did a little switcheroo.  I wanted to steal an idea from Chris over at Aussie on the Road and make a top 10 list of places I'd like to go.  I've been ridiculously privileged so far in my life, having already visited 23 countries.  Semester at Sea obviously played a big part in that (9 countries), but travelling with family (5 countries), Girl Scouts (3 countries), and friends (6 countries) has provided me with many wonderful experiences as well.  However, as per usual, its not enough!  There are so many amazing places in the world that I can't wait to explore.  In January I'm going to Taiwan, and in February I plan to visit two more countries (Malaysia and Indonesia), bringing my total to 26 countries in 25 years.  I hope to keep my count up by visiting at least one new country each year for as long as I am able!

So here is my list.  The hardest parts were narrowing it down to only 10 and putting them in order.

10. Greece

Tons of history, stunning blue water, beautiful architecture...I mean you really can't go wrong.  Especially since I've gotten over my fear of unfamiliar foods (and then some, haha) and I'd be willing to eat random things wrapped in grape leaves.  Um...and baklava?  Totally worth the trip.

9. Croatia

From all I've heard, Croatia is an absolute gem that is almost always overlooked.  With great beaches, unique experiences, and a strong cultural history, Croatia is so unknown to most people that you'd probably get a bunch of screwed up faces and questions like "You're going...where?"  But isn't that half the fun of travel?

8. Finland 
(especially in winter)

I love snow.  Especially when I don't have to be in charge of clearing it.  Finland is a great winter destination because in addition to having tons of attractions like dog sledding and ice hotels, you can also see the Northern Lights during their ultra-long nights.  

7. Iceland

Blame it on the Girl Scouts.  When I was in high school we worked the Goodwill Embassy Tours (which I just learned were cancelled after 9/11, which is a damn shame because it was such an awesome idea).  Basically embassies, consulates and residences along Embassy Row in DC would open their doors and provide tours, cultural demonstrations, etc.  One year I worked at the Icelandic Embassy and got to hang out with the ambassador's wife all day.  Iceland captured my fancy then and has yet to release it.  Hot springs and the Northern Lights in a country whose people are consistently ranked one of the happiest in the world?  Awesome.

6. Egypt

I mean, obviously.  For any history lover, Egypt pretty much has to make the list.  Add to that great experiences people I know have had there (Casey studying abroad there during university, and my grandmother's cousin Shirley teaching there after university- just like me teaching in Seoul!- but quite a few years before my time) have really inspired my desire to visit Egypt.  I could do without the camels, but I would love to volunteer there as well as soaking up some history.

5. Chile

Miners and earthquakes aside, I've always heard only positive things about Chile.  Breathtaking scenery, lovely people, cheap steaks, amazing wine...all of these things are high on my list of "Awesome Country Attributes".  I love mountains and the Andes are hard to beat.  Also, the idea of getting to go all the way down to the weeeeee little tip of South America is very cool to me.  Plus then I could just hop on a boat and hit up that pesky Antarctica!

4. Turkey

No one has ever, EVER, said anything negative about Turkey.  No, seriously.  Ask around.  Everyone who has ever been there left with totally fond memories and will laud this country as one of their favorites.  There is something about Turkey that draws people and enthralls them.  Busy street markets, a beautiful blend of eastern and western cultures (it is one of only a handful of countries that literally reside in two continents) and some of arguably the most beautiful buildings in the world are a good enough draw for me!

3. Mongolia

Mongolia is just a fascinating country to me. I don't know when it started for sure...but if I had to cite the first time I remember really wanting to go was while I watched Ewan McGregor and his friend ride their motorcycles through Mongolia on their documentary Long Way Round.  Ewan McGregor's hotness aside, I was struck by how welcoming the people were, the vibrancy of their culture, and the fact that they had survived so long on those crazy, windswept mountains and valleys.  Plus I wouldn't mind catching some of their strange (and fiercely competitive) traditional games involving animals bones, horseback riding, and skillful archery challenges.

2. New Zealand

Why is this whole country so gorgeous?!  Seriously, I bet you have no idea how many movies have been filmed in New Zealand to take advantage of their wide open spaces and beautiful natural backdrops.  Add to this that they speak English (though some might rightly argue that it is definitely a foreign language when compared to American English) and you're in heaven!  I am also absolutely enamored with the Maori people and their strong defense of their native lands and traditions.  If you haven't seen the movie Whale Rider, you should.  It's lovely.  Also, just FYI, I could watch those guys dancing the haka any day of the week.

1. The Maldives

The Maldives are the actual definition of a disappearing paradise.  This chain of approximately 1,190 (!) islands is the lowest nation in the world.  It's highest point is 2.3m above sea level, while the average is 1.5m.  This is a problem if, oh, say the SEA IS RISING thanks to global warming.  These islands are incredible with a extreme biodiversity in the ocean and some of the most stunning hotels I've ever seen.  I want to gooooo!

Honorable Mentions:

So, now it's your turn.  What are the top 10 countries YOU want to visit?


  1. Ok, your Croatia and Iceland photos helped to bump both countries a whole heck of a lot farther up my list. And I can't believe I left the Czech Republic off of mine as well.

    I'm very excited to be adding New Zealand to my list at year's end - and extra excited to have you borrow my idea! Yay!

    My girlfriend really wants to try Semester at Sea. How did you find it?

  2. Crap! Czech Republic! I knew I forgot one.

    I don't even know how to begin answering your question about Semester at Sea. It is the single most influential experience in my life. I am not exaggerating when I say that I think about it at least once a day since I disembarked in Ft. Lauderdale on April 28, 2005. The only things stronger than the memories I took from my voyage are the friendships and bonds I made with others on the ship. I have a network of people all over the world with whom I will forever share an amazing experience. SAS itself would have been life changing, but add to it the fact that I was on the "Wave Day Voyage" (we got caught between multiple low pressure systems in a raging storm in the North Atlantic- complete with six hours in our life jackets, Coast Guard evacuation teams dispatched in helicopters and on cutters, and 65-foot waves that disabled the ship's engines and navigation systems) and you've got bonds of steel.

    So I guess the answer is that I found it life changing in the best possible way and that I would agree to do it all over again (wave day included) in less time than it takes to blink your eye. I would recommend SAS for absolutely anyone; there is something to be gained by every type of person.

  3. I'm in complete agreement. All those places look amazing! Nice picture selection too. Do you have any travel plans for the upcoming Chinese New Year?