There are 192 U.N. member states. Kosovo, Taiwan and Vatican City aren’t U.N. members, so add them. Add South Sudan, to be born as the world’s newest country on 9 July. That’s 196 countries, and there are dozens and dozens of territories (Greenland is Danish, Tahiti is French, Aruba is Dutch and so on) and odd bits and specks of land all over the globe. There are plenty of places to choose from.
So, how to pick your destination?
First, don’t rely on glossy travel magazines – and they know who they are – for travel advice, or you’ll never get out of the London/Paris/Naples/luxury hotels cocoon. All that press a few months back about Tibet as the new hip destination – that was all because the Starwood chain (Sheraton, Westin) opened a new high-end St. Regis hotel in Lhasa. See Travel+Leisure, for example.
Now, next time we’re in Lhasa maybe I'd like to stay at the St. Regis, too. But be aware of what you’re getting as travel advice from the glossy magazines. As a rule of thumb, be wary of anything in a magazine that’s bracketed by ads for Tag Hauer watches and Louis Viutton luggage. Whatever it is, it’s just marketing words.
Don’t be overly swayed by guidebooks and their “dangers and annoyances” sections. It’s no surprise that there’s the danger of pickpockets in poor African countries. The answer to that: Don’t carry valuables in your pockets.
Keep an open mind. Do your online research. Pick a spot and just go. Buy a ticket, get on the plane, and go see what it’s like. Our world is a great big, sprawling pageant of color and chaos and diversity, and you should go out there and see it.
And this summer, don’t let “experts” steer you onto the too-well-trodden path. Imagine: No more sitting in a left bank café disdaining the waiters who disdain you right back for trying to use your high school French. It’s liberating.
Tomorrow I'll link to a few tools I use to start the process of deciding where to go.