My TOP Three Travel Places, Plus – Why Travel?
Say little, but say it well is the mantra for me,
although if you know me at all, saying little isn’t really in my vocabulary. I tend to write and talk and elaborate and I find charm and adventure in most places I go. Having said that, editing down my TOP 3 travel places so far (I am 32 countries deep with multiple visits to many including Japan, Italy, Thailand, France and many others) is very difficult for me, but after much thought, here goes…
Japan (all of it, but mainly Kyoto)
Thailand (all of it, but mainly the North, Chang Mai & Chang Rai)
Italy (all of it, all of it and all of it and Florence)
You may be asking, why those three? (don’t forget to read my individual posts on each of these cities, countries and trips.
Why Japan as #1:
Whether it’s your first trip abroad, or your hundredth, Japan will never seize to amaze and engage. It is as romantic as it is puzzling and exciting, and if you have been reading any of my posts you would see that Japan has always had something new to offer me. I took my baby moon there, traveled alone there at the age of 21 and many times since with friends, family and my husband.
Here’s the simple reason it should be on your top list: It is one of the safest countries in the world, with virtually no crime and no petty crime your belongings are safe anywhere you go, no matter how late at night or down what street you wonder. Having said that, for all of the safety it is still exciting and exotic. Everything feels new and different and there is as much spirituality, history, nature and culture as there is hospitality. The food is amazing and safe to eat even from a street stalls, convenient stores or anywhere else you encounter something tasty. The food rages from delicious and super cheap to the top and most exclusive tastings in the world. The options are infinite and always exciting.
Japan has many regions and climates; you can ski as much as you can relax on a beach, choose to explore a modern city like Tokyo or Osaka or wonder down ancient villages and cities like Nikko, Kyoto and Nara.
The best part? All of it can be reached by a high-speed bullet train (or if going to an Island a ferry). You can purchase 7 and 14 day train passes (I explain in in my Japan by rail post) and have a luxury train trip with unique scenery and discovery.
If you love fashion Japan has some of the best vintage shopping in the world, plus some of the most exclusive and ‘all out’ trends, and they range from the super ancient to the incredible modern. If you are a foodie- well, you’re in heaven day and night, with food options that will blow your mind at every corner (must visit Osaka).
Sure, not everyone speaks English, but everyone will try and help you find your way (but with google maps you won’t need much).
The prices do range, but if you want to explore on a budget find 24 hour tube hotels and rent Air B & B’s (some of the best value in the world has been finding great homes in Kyoto, read my Kyoto living post).
I will also say if you go there, research the culture and try your best to abide by the simple rules of respect.
Why Thailand as #2:
Thailand is where my husband and I went on our honeymoon, and we fell in love with this country from day one. This country is called the land of smiles, and it’s for great reason. The enthusiasm, hospitality and simple yet incredibly beautiful Buddhist culture is everywhere. The food is well, YUM, and the trip itself will leave you feeling like you’ve left this world and stepped into a fairytale of something new, ancient and exciting.
You will need to spend some money on hotels, but if you do, you’ll find that the 5 star hospitality is more like 10 star and doesn’t even compare to anything we call five star in the US. I have never stayed in budget accommodations in Thailand, and if you can spare some cash or splurge, I would recommend a hotel.
Thailand is large with tons of options from the beach to the mountains, but my favorite part of it is the North, where even the people look a bit different. I love the Mekong and the old opium trade routes where from the tip of Thailand you can see Laos, peak into Burma (Myanmar) and find the mountain ranges of China in the distance.
For the best experience of your life, look into the Four Seasons in both Chang Mai and Chang Rai (or stay at Anantara for a less expensive option).
Another cool factor? You can cross the boarder and explore Laos or Myanmar for the day (just hire a reputable guide to take you).
Why Italy as #3:
I mean, did you think I wouldn’t put this country as my top? Maybe a bit predictable but for great reason. Italy is delicious, beautiful and well – an ideal spot for those whose first time it is abroad. In fact, when I met my husband and learned that he hadn’t traveled as extensively abroad as I had at the time (he has been to almost every city in the US though and has made up his international travel significantly since then) I decided that our first trip must be Italy.
Basically, if you want someone to fall in love with travel, this place will never disappoint (I am excluding Sicily form this statement, because as much as I loved driving through it for 2 weeks, it is very much a different place, and made more for a more seasoned traveler – read my post on Sicily for more info).
For Americans the food is as close to the ‘best food they have ever had’, yet still familiar and comforting. For most the sights are those they have seen highlighted their entire lives in movies, classrooms and postcards, so the nostalgia in standing in the Colosseum or the Sistine Chapel is worth the trip alone. It is as romantic a place as it is comforting and cool and ‘easy’ to get around, so long as you watch your pockets (as you must in many countries in the world, petty theft is everywhere except japan and Singapore as far as I know ).
Italy can be enjoyed in the most expensive and luxurious way and also in the most simple and budgeted – and both will sill be equally as amazing. I backpacked there when I was in college, lived there for a few months at the age of eight during my families immigration to America and have been back many many times since in different capacities. I have rented hotels, Air B & B’s and stayed in lavish and regular hotels in this country, and every trip was equally as unique and memorable.
Basically Italy is a classic and NOT to be missed, but to be continuously explored, strolled and enjoyed.
I write this sitting in a plane somewhere over Shaogan, a city I’ve never even heard of until I saw it on the map of my plane navigation screen just now.
We are about fourty five minutes away from landing in Hong Kong and then waiting patiently in the lounge, after we get through Hong Kong airport customs of course , to board a five hour flight to Indonesia.
To make things a bit more entangled, we boarded this plane about 15 hours ago, and left the comforts of our home 18 hours ago and with the layover we still have another nine hours to our destination, a villa we rented in Bali.
So, why go through all he trouble, why not stay in the comforts of our own bed with food we know and close to people we love. It’s difficult enough leaving our two dogs and my gym and just the familiarity of things we know and love, like the perfect cup of coffee I craft every morning from ingredients I can only get at home. I mean, who knows what type of coffee we’ll find in Bali, over a decade ago in Egypt the coffee presented to me was as thick as ground coal and bitter and hard and so unfamiliar it took a few days to get used to it.
I guess there isn’t a single answer, and I guess, this is why it’s so special and important and of our very nature and thread — to travel to an uncomfortable unknown.
To explore, to adapt, to discover, to learn, to feel like a kid and a fool at times, and to be without the security of the things we hold onto so dearly every day.
Travel, as anyone who has really traveled will tell you is, by the very nature of it, an uncomfortable thing.
It is at times frustrating and tiresome and confusing.
So why do it?
I guess to explain the why we should backtrack a bit;
When you are younger you just do things, some things you aren’t so proud of and others things you’ll wear on your chest as a badge of honor for the rest of your life.
At nineteen I left my house and went to Israel on a birthright trip (a lot more about that on the Israel post) and then, I stayed in the MiddleEast with a boy (not because of a boy, just with a boy) I met. We ventured into Egypt together, unplanned and unprepared. (More about that adventure here).
That trip defined my passion for wanderlusting, and even I (a good girl from a good family) found the pirate in me.
A decade and a half later, I have had many solitary adventures to places people won’t tell you to go alone like Eastern Africa and Japan, and even more (and even more special) with my husband and loved ones to countless countries in South East Asia, Middle East, Europe.
Each one of those trips was, undoubtedly at times very uncomfortable. There were challenges and moments of frustration and a bit of healthy fear. And yet, after each trip I came back more educated, open, knowledgeable. I was suddenly able to contribute more to conversations and listen more. I connected to more people and was able to problem solve more situations, more patiently. My work – writing, teaching, public speaking – became volumes richer. And my ability to recall things in a time when myself or someone else needed them most was by volumes more enhanced.
They say that travel is the very best education. I believe that, as even the college classes I took in art history, literature, science, became more alive after I was able to to reference them to their city of origin. A temple or monument had a texture and a smell and a laughter associated with it.
My math even got better (sort of anyway)!? Right before college graduation I was informed that I had to take calculus to graduate. Sadly, it had been several years since math for me and the entire class was full of high school grads that had the syllabus fresh in their minds. On the second week of dazed math problems I noticed the professors accent and after class asked if he was from Kenya. He replied yes and asked how I knew, that led us to a long conversation about my visit to his country the year prior. This led to a conversation about my major and how I planned on being a writer, and this class was the last hurdle before my graduation.
I failed the final by two points, and yet the professor, passed me… in the last day of class he asked me if I planned to write about Kenya- and I said yes. And, of course I did.
It’s not that travel will help you cheat in life. On the contrary I believe that travel will be the only thing that won’t allow you to cheat. I believe travel will help you cheat ignorance and
Through travel you will take the long road, get lost, get wet, push through, problem solve, taste, smell, process and create your own story. A story that you’ll use to identify this world and to navigate through it.
A story that will enrich you and the people you love. And simply make you better.
In this section of the blog I have written stories and pointers and advise on cities and places I love around the world. Some more comfortable then others. So please, read on and by all means, explore!