October 28, 2013

Where is the best place to travel?

I am from America. Today, a doctor from India told me that America is the best country in the world. Other days I am told that Americans should be wiped from the face of the Earth. Being from America, I have a less extreme view but have an intense belief in freedom that makes life in America unsuitable for me at the present time. I am a product of a melting pot where we have numerous ethnicities, religious groups and ways of seeing the world. Through living in NE Asia, I have learned to welcome ideas that diametrically oppose my own. I have lived in or traveled through twelve countries in NE and SE Asia. It is the region of the world that I feel most comfortable and where I hope to stay for a long time.

I have friends who want to travel on their vacation days from work. They ask me the ridiculous question, "Where should I go?" The obvious answer to this stupid question is not to name a random country but to ask, "What do you want to do?" Of course, it is impossible to know what places someone will like. They must visit, and will soon realize that their initial desires have nothing to do with what they really wanted in a travel experience. Upon traveling, you quickly understand what is important to you.

The best way to start is to cut down the possibilities. You have to decide if you want to spend less, the same, or more than you spend in your own country. The next step is to determine how different you want your experience to be. This can help in determining the right region of the world you want to be in. From that point, if you want to travel to multiple countries, I'd recommend choosing a culture cluster. I would separate them as follows:

China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore
Japan, Korea
Malaysia, Indonesia
Thailand, Cambodia, Laos
India, Pakistan, Bangladesh
Nepal, Bhutan
Central Asia (The 'stans)
The Middle East
West Africa
East Africa (visit Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda)
North Africa (Muslim)
Latin America
Western Europe
Mediterranean (the bankrupt countries)
Eastern Europe (former USSR)
Scandinavia (Socialism)

If you want cheap, SE Asia and Eastern Europe are your best option followed by Latin America and NE Asia, then Africa, and finally Europe and the native English-speaking world.

I recommend deciding on whether your want to visit 1st world, 2nd world, or 3rd world. This may be THE most important factor to consider. In the third world, your lungs will most likely be assaulted and you will get "kennel-cough" which will not go away until you leave the country. This isn't fun, but its not necessarily a reason to leave the country. In general, the food you will have access to will not provide your body with what it wants quality-wise which will most likely make women gain weight and men lose weight.

The 2nd world is where I belong. I find this to be the most free. People don't the disposable time and energy to be as judgmental as the first world, but are educated enough to understand that there is more than just one way to be.

Countries may be 1st world in infrastructure, but be completely undeveloped spiritually. Another possibilility is to have a highly educated population, but with a government that causes poverty and third world physical conditions. For this reason, the mental, spiritual and physical (infrastructure) can float between 1st, 2nd and 3rd world even within the same country.

My favorite two countries in SE Asia are Thailand and the Philippines. Initially when you think of these two places, you think, "those are the two smiley countries in SE Asia." I agree, but there's so much more.

I go to Philippines for the people. Their education is top notch and you can have deep political or emotional discussions with people upon first meeting. Filipinos are not afraid to talk to strangers and are disarmingly friendly. They are people people and are non-judgmental. I call Filipinos easy because it is never painful to interact with them. It is always a pleasure because they have a deep spidey sense for if you are uncomfortable. Filipinos are the most brilliant social beings I've ever met. They are a true mix of Western and Asian, with Spanish/Latin American flavor. They have Western independence, Asian community, and Spanish warmth. Seriously, the best people ever!

I go to Thailand, not for the Thai people but for the foreigners. In Thailand, you are doing yourself a major disservice if you don't live in hostels. The advantage is access to new people constantly. The travelers in Thailand are the most brilliant people I've ever met. I learn more from travelers in one day in Thailand than I could in a year anywhere else. Today, I learned philosophy from a Malaysian, government from a Canadian, innocence from a Brit, perspective from an Indian, and kindness from a Thai. Travelers in the Thai capital of Bangkok are intellectual and go deep within their interests. They are specialists as opposed to generalists, which is why you can learn so much.

Bangkok is the most international place I've ever been. In my hostel room, there are usually five people and it is rare to have two from the same country. I am a business owner, one is an architecture professor, another is a doctor, we have a manager of several restaurants, and a finance guy... all from different places throughout the world. We are intensely driven and are ravenous to fill our brains. It is like school, but people actually want to learn. It is the greatest educational environment I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Where should you spend your vacation time? Bangkok.

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