A few weeks ago, on a 15 hour flight from Thailand to Montreal, I asked myself a question that family, friends and strangers ask me almost every day: “where to next?” My usual response is somewhere along the lines of “wherever the cheapest airfare takes me.” I’m a budget traveler. And while it’s not a travel style that is suited to everyone, I’ve found a way to make it work for me. But no matter how many countries I touch down in, some countries have a permanent residence in my mind.
I envision myself in these places over and over again. That’s not to say that I don’t have fond memories of the places I’ve already been in the past 18-20 months or so. Puerto Rico is one of the most charming places I’ve ever visited. I’m still baffled by how hospitable, efficient and intricate Japan is. And I absolutely love the energy in Thailand. But there are still loads of countries on my list of places to see. Maybe these destinations can be seen as a bucket list, or maybe life goals or even a personal challenge, regardless, I’m going to visit these countries before I die. I flatly refuse to leave this earth until then.
So without further ado here are 14 Breathtaking Countries (I’m going) To See Before Settling Down!
Confession: I pretty much binge watched the entire first season of Narcos on Netflix. History of a notorious drug kingpin and mass violence aside, I’ve always been curious about Colombia. It seems to be the golden child of South America: Amazon jungle (check), ancient ruins (check), Andean summits (check), towns and cities rich with history, specifically Cartagena, Mompou, Villa de Leyva and Barichara (check check check check). And that’s just the appetizer. Who wouldn’t want to go to Colombia?
What is there to say about England that hasn’t already been said? I mean it’s the home of a large portion of western history (inaccurate as it may at times be), James Bond, DCI Luther (starring Idris Elba), and Top Boy (great TV series). It has London, one of the world’s most beautiful riverside cities. But it also has a peaceful countryside, sprawling natural landscapes and enormous castles. And of course, the best selling point for England (in my opinion) is obviously that super cool accent. Sure, the weather isn’t always ideal, but that simply creates opportunities to switch up your wardrobe. If there’s any other major country in the world that I’d gladly relocate to, it’s England.
We all know what happened in and around Germany during World War 1 and 2. But if you can manage to look past those events, there’s no way Germany doesn’t make it to the top of your list of must-see countries. It has a natural landscape that is straight out of a fantasy book with knights, lords and dragons. On the other hand, it has some of the world’s most modern looking cities. I mean, can you really go wrong with hilltop castles and rolling natural beauty? Okay fine, maybe none of that other amazing stuff interests you. I bet you drink beer though, don’t you? 1 word: Oktoberfest. Need I say more?
Northern Lights. Northern Lights. Northern Lights. That is all. Kidding. Sort of. A few years ago, when one of my best friends told me she was running off to Iceland, I looked at her and essentially thought to myself, “What the hell are you thinking? Who would willingly visit a place that has the word ICE built into its name? As if living in Montreal wasn’t enough.” Well, in the words of a fellow great Canadian, “Is it too late now to say sorry?” I was wrong. After learning more about Iceland and SEEING pictures of Iceland, I need to get there, like now. No, like right now. Legend has it, the locals in Iceland are the creme de la creme. The island is essentially the shining light of the Atlantic. And it’s probably the closest thing to magic this planet can offer. Iceland is nature in its purest and most alluring form, enough said then.
I’ll be honest, after watching movies like Slumdog Millionaire, reading about it, and hearing my friends’ stories about India, I’m not sure if I’m terrified of going or if the thought of India gets my adrenaline pumping so fast that I’d need morphine to restore my heart rate to normal. It’s probably a bit of both. India stands out in my mind as the one country I will not visit without sufficient emotional and mental preparation. The architecture is otherworldly. The colors are electric. It’s spiritual, it’s serene, it’s simply splendid. India isn’t the kind of place I’d visit for a week or 2. Oh no, I need 4-6 weeks there minimum. You’ve been calling me and challenging me from a far India. I’m not ready to answer your call and rise to the occasion yet. But I will be one day, and when that day comes, we’re going to become well-acquainted.
If volcanoes are what you’re into, then Indonesia is the place for you (and me). I’ve always told myself that I’d climb an active (or inactive volcano) and I have every single intention to do just that. From what I’m told, the people of Indonesia are as different and versatile as the land they inhabit. Beautiful weather, delicious food, and a charismatic natural environment—yes, it’s not a matter of if I’ll ever get to Indonesia, it’s a matter of how soon. With over 17 000 islands to choose from, can you blame me?
As a kid, I would watch Aladdin (pronounced A-LA-Deen not A-La-Din) on VHS for hours at a time. I would rewind it over and over and over again. The story was a little boy’s dream, the setting, even an animated version, was beautiful. I don’t know whether or not Disney’s Aladdin was envisioned to be in Morocco, but it’s definitely one of the places in the world that reminds me most of one of my favourite childhood movies. The camels and desert; sand dunes and secret alleyways; the deep African history are like magnets pulling me toward this gorgeous country slowly but surely.
I met a bunch of interesting and open-minded people in Thailand, some of which were from the Netherlands. After spending a few days with them, I was sold. The Netherlands was added to my list of must visit destinations. The Red Light District and coffeehouses definitely have a certain appeal. But wait, there’s more! The elaborate canal system is something that I vow to explore. The seemingly endless fields of blooming flowers look fantastic. Oh, and from what a friend of mine told me, there’s also a vibrant music scene. I’m going to learn a few Dutch words, pack my carry-on and head on over there.
If you’ve read or seen the Lord of the Rings series, you probably know a thing or ten about New Zealand. It IS Middle Earth. That alone is reason enough to get me on an 18 hour flight across the world to visit. Who doesn’t want to meet real Hobbits?!?! Even if you don’t have one ring to rule them all, you can still take advantage of the mind bending rock formations and glacial fjords (fiords). Not sold? Well did you know that New Zealanders are also called Kiwis, and they’re known to be perennially chill people. I’m going to New Zealand, don’t you dare try and stop me!
I’ve been to the top of a few impressive mountains, towers and skyscrapers. I fall in love with the world from above every time I gaze out at the sky from my airplane seat. But all that aside, Machu Picchu in Peru, has to be the most insane view I’ve never had the luxury of seeing. But it won’t always be that way, because I’m going to make it there someday. The heavenly peaks, the calm waters, the love of tradition, the delicious Peruvian dishes are reason enough to visit Peru and maybe never come back home. For those reasons, Peru is in my top 14 countries to visit (that I haven’t yet visited).
When I think of Singapore, I think of a city scape that I don’t have the words to describe. I think of a colourful and vivid culture. I think of its wealth and I think of its picturesque greenery. If I were tasked with designing a dream city for the future that had a strong awareness of its past, cared for its present and was running on all cylinders, I’d copy and paste the blueprint for Singapore and use it again. I don’t know much about this island city sovereignty, but I know it has had my attention for a long time and it probably always will.
As a young man of African heritage, the importance of visiting one of the most impressive countries Africa has to offer cannot be overstated. Africa is unfortunately still stigmatized as primitive and essentially useless except in terms of natural resources. South Africa turns that stigma on its head. It’s sophisticated and developed while at the same time powerful and full of nature. I’d like to go on an African safari in South Africa, I’d also like to learn more about the country’s troubled past and how it is taking steps toward a brighter future. I’ll get there eventually, of that I’m certain.
The romance and charm of Spain can’t be disputed. It has architectural wonders, quaint villages and towns which all in their own right deserve to be explored and because of its geographical location, it has one of the world’s most intense and impressive coastlines. It’s where you go to sip red wine all evening in a Spanish villa while listening to the melodies of the Spanish guitar. The language is sensual but at the same time practical and descriptive. The idea of Spain is such a mainstay in my mind that I often consider moving there, not only because of my own latin roots, but because the lifestyle may be exactly what I need to live a fulfilling life.
United Arab Emirates:
Desert heat, decadence, opportunity and a reverence for the divine that probably can’t be matched, that’s what I think about the UAE. I feel compelled to visit because I want to experience the full spectrum of the lifestyle there. I want to stand at the foot of towers that stretch so far up that I can’t see the top. I want to walk along the halls and lobbies of some of the world’s most thoughtfully designed mosques. I want to taste the food, heard the sounds, witness the insane wealth and everything else the UAE has to offer.
Love bucket lists? Check out these awesome lists from some other gems in the travel Blog community!
- The Business Traveler’s Wife
- The Bonfire Dream
- And The Traveling Story Girl
- A Journey We Love
- The Lavish Nomad
- Every Footstep An Adventure
- Travel Photo Discovery
- and Kenton Dejong
Are any of these countries on your must-visit list? Do you have any thoughtful experiences from these countries? Don’t be shy, comment below. Other readers and I would love nothing more than to hear from you!
Until next time,