Top 10 Countries I Want to Visit: 2011 Edition

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I blatantly stole this idea from Brooke over at Brooke vs. the World, who has been at this travel blogging thing a helluva lot longer than me. I’m going to get a chance to meet her (as well as other members of Sydney’s Massive) this coming Thursday. Pretty excited to meet a few other fellow travelers and travel bloggers.

Anyway, with my travel cut back while Fallon and I save for our upcoming trip to New Zealand and Fiji, I’m left to idle day-dreaming about all of the fantastic places I’d like to go. And since Top 10’s seem to draw a lot of attention, I thought I’d combine the two and do a little writing in the process.

10 – Mongolia

Where four countries meet - Photo by Kit Seeborg

My good friend Byron – who you can read over at the imaginatively titled Byron’s Blog – spent summer vacation in 2009 sleeping under the stars and traveling by camel while Fallon and I were exploring Korea’s somewhat overhyped Jejudo island. The original plan had been for myself, two other mates, and Byron to do Mongolia together – but the lure of beaches and fruity drinks proved too strong for us young whipper-snappers.

But the lure of Mongolia is still there for me. As far as travel destinations go, it’s a little off the beaten track and thus far Byron is the only person I’ve met who has made the leap and spent a considerable amount of time. What fascinates me most about a potential trip to Mongolia is how little I know about the place. It’s this massive country, one that once conquered much of the known world, and we know so little about the history and the culture of the place.

I, for one, would love to experience it without too much prior bias.

9 – Turkey

Cleopatra Beach, Turkey - Photo by ozgurmulazimoglu

My friend Anthony, who hooked me up with my first Korean job, has been living and working as an ESL teacher in Turkey for a few years now and he constantly badgers me to step outside of my Korean comfort zone and take the gamble on Turkey.

I must admit, it’s a tempting prospect. The historical value of Istanbul alone is worth the trip, but this is another country that much of the world doesn’t pay a great deal of attention to unless it’s in the news for the wrong reasons. My friend has told me so many fantastic stories about the friendliness of the people, the beauty of the women, and the quality of their beaches. Fantastic snorkeling, ancient history, and a great night life? I’m there!

And since the rest of the world hasn’t quite caught onto Turkey yet, it’s still an affordable place to visit. Me? I think I’ll spend a year working there once I’m done in Korea and experience it in the way you only can as a resident of a country.

8 – Greece

The Temple of Zeus. Photo by Simon

Like many products of the New South Wales public education system, I had the importance of Greek history drummed into me from an early age. Right up alongside the might of the Egyptian empire, the Greek nation’s role in shaping the world was something we were educated on from the very first day of Year 7 history right until I put down the pen on my twelfth grade Ancient History exam.

My primary reasons for wanting to visit Greece would be to visit these places we learned so much about. I’d imagine I’d get a special buzz from standing near the Parthenon and realizing that this place has known human habitation for millennia. It’s one of the birthplaces of the arts, it’s got amazing beaches (and a weekend spent on Ibiza sounds like a blast), and…. food! Greek food is right up there alongside Italian and Mexican food for me, and eating it the way it was intended sounds like a recipe for me gaining a lot of weight.

7 – Romania

Peles Castle - Photo by daytona_k

Why Romania? It’s the home of Transylvania! As odd a reason as that might be, Romania is one of the few countries left in the world where you can see and experience Europe’s medieval history up close and personal. Not the tourist trap that some of its neighbors are. A lot of travel might be about visiting well known sites and finding the next party, but as somebody who loves photography and history, I think it would be fascinating to take a horse and buggy through farmland and snap photos of these ancient villages and stunning castles.

6 – South Africa

Giraffes at Kruger. Photo by Arno & Louise

For reasons unknown even to me, I’ve always had a fascination with South Africa. That fascination only grew after dating a South African girl in 2008 and spending time with herĀ AfrikanerĀ friends. There’s something enthralling about South Africa’s dark, bloody history. Whether it’s exploring Kruger National Park and seeing some of the world’s most recognizable animals or spending time at beautiful Cape Town; enjoying a traditional Braai or familiarizing yourself with the country’s rich history – there’s just so much about South Africa that captures the far reaching futility of the British Commonwealth.

With friends scattered around the country and a self confessed love of the South African accent, it’s definitely a must visit for me.

5 – Malaysia

The things you find.... - Photo by Adrian Moody

When I ask people where to find the best scuba diving in the world, they almost invariably tell me that it’s going to be found in Malaysia. While I’m still a novice in the world of scuba, I fell in love with it while exploring the Barrier Reef and I have grand plans to see as much of each country I visit’s underwater as I do its surface.

It’s not just Malaysia’s underwater beauty I’d be looking to explore though. Malaysian cuisine is amongst the best I’ve ever had, and this is very much a country with the kind of deep, hot jungle/rainforest that I’ve long dreamed about being able to visit. We Aussies don’t get to see a great deal of the jungle, although I did get a chance to explore a portion of it earlier this year in Kuranda.

4 – Brazil

Carnival. Photo by jACK TWO

A country where football is a religion and whose women are reputed to be the most beautiful in the world? Like this wasn’t going to make my list!

My ultimate goal is to be teaching in or near Brazil in 2014 so that I can be on hand for the festival of football that is the World Cup. And if I can’t manage that? There’s hundreds of miles of beautiful beaches; the depths of the Amazon; the action of the Carnival; amazing churrasco; and the not to be forgotten Brazilian culture.

A year wouldn’t be enough time to see it all. Maybe I need to marry a Brazilian?

3 – India

The Taj Mahal. Photo by Trey Ratcliffe

A few months ago I might not have even included India on my list, but following the travels of my friends Katie and Jessie as they travel across the subcontinent has captured my imagination and made a believer out of me. Hitting virtually every known and unknown stop along the way, the girls look like they’ve had the time of their lives. You can check out their travels at Dancing around the World.

In particular their visits to Goa and Darjeeling caught my eye, but there’s so much to see on the subcontinent. Maybe a year teaching there calls to me too?

2 – Thailand

Riding an elephant near Chiang Mai. Photo by Fallon Fehringer

When I first started dating Fallon in 2009, she’d just got back from a five week journey around Thailand and Cambodia. She came back telling stories of zipline tours and white sandy beaches and all night Full Moon parties. She came back and introduced me to fragrant Pad Thai and delicious Panang Curry. It’s been a love affair ever since. A fortnight doesn’t go by without Thai appearing on my menu.

It’s more than just the food though. This is a real tropical paradise with its own rich history and culture to boot. I’m looking at completing my CELTA in Thailand in 2012 and maybe someday teaching there, but at the very least I am determined to explore as much of it as I can. And eat my weight in delicious food.

1 – Italy

Photo by Simon

Food! A common theme with me. I adore good food almost as much as I adore the excitement of a new place. The rich creamy pastas, the traditional pizzas, the fantastic wines, gelato… I’m having a mouthgasm as I type!

There’s history and culture in spades. The Forum and the Coliseum in Rome, the famed leaning tower in Pisa, and the beautiful canal city of Venice. There’s art and music and shopping to be had in plenty. Checking out a football game here would be a pretty amazing experience too.


Basically, this list was a nightmare to come up with. I left off so many countries that I’d like to visit, and I’m sure there are a lot of secret places that I’ve never even contemplated visiting. Tony over at It’s Good Overseas has a special love of Yemen and just got back from a trip to Timor Leste that sounded incredible; my friend Brodie spent a year teaching in the Ukraine; and my friend Dave spent the better part of this year backpacking all over South America.

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