Top Ten Countries I Want to Visit in this Lifetime

You all know, I love to travel. Heck, I even wrote a whole book about it.

At this point I've visited 30 countries on all six of the inhabited continents. I've seen a at this point I'm pretty picky about where I want to go. If I'm going to travel now it's got to be somewhere that I'm going to learn a lot and somewhere that I'm going to be exposed to cultures and experiences that I've never even dreamed about. I like to be challenged intellectually so for me traveling is one of the best ways that I can do this. I mean really...what a great way to stretch your ideas around what is possible!

So for the last year I've been dreaming about where I want to go here is the top ten list (in no particular order). 

1. Japan

Now technically I've been to Japan, but for the purposes of this post I'm not going to include an airport hotel...albeit it was a great airport hotel!


I've wanted to go to Japan for about 15 years...ever since one of my friends brought it up as a vacation possibility. However, when it came down to making my actual vacation plans Japan got pushed to the bottom of the list mainly because of it's expensive. But I'm still determined to make this trip happen one day. 

When I think of Japan I first and foremost think of amazing food. Proper Japanese food has to be one of my top favorite kinds of foods. When I lived in Washington, DC I would always insist that we go to the Asian restaurant around the corner from the office so I could have steaming hot udon noodles with tempura shrimp. Yum! My mouth is watering just thinking about it. From the little I've experienced at the Narita Airport, Japan will not disappoint....and when I visit I plan on pretty much eating my way through the whole country.

I also daydream about exploring manicured gardens and seeing amazing artwork and architecture. But one of the most surprising things that I've learned about Japan is that its citizens have embraced public baths where people almost always bath in the nude. I find this aspect of Japanese culture so unexpected that I have to experience it for myself.

2. Singapore

I've wanted to go to Singapore ever since graduate school. In fact, I had a trip planned and ended up canceling it because I was low on funds....sufficed to say I was rather bummed.  sWhat intrigues me about Singapore? Well, the better question is what doesn't. It's a huge melting pot of Asian cultures. Gosh, my mouth is watering right now just thinking about all of the amazing food that its streets must brim with. On his various television shows, I've watched Anthony Bourdain wander its streets and just been mesmerized by all of the food choices and diverse groups of people. 

I want to go to Singapore to eat essentially....and to explore and to generally just experience its many many cultures. 

3. Iceland

Iceland has intrigued me for many years...partly because it's just so random. And frankly the more I know find out about it the more I want to go. 

Cool things about Iceland:

  • Its powered by thermo-electric power
  • the entire population's genome has been mapped
  • It has the blue lagoon (it looks like heaven - if you don't know what this is google it)
  • It's got active volcanoes (I still have never seen one - and I don't understand why this is..)
  • It's got VIKINGS (and a huge viking museum)
  • It seems like a pretty stress free place to visit ... and I like a laid back holiday.

4. Madagascar

I've wanted to go to Madagascar ever since I visited the Lemur Center at Duke University when I was 12 years old. The Center has largest lemur population outside of Madagascar and they're pretty darn cute.

I've tried to finagle my way onto countless research trips there, but they always got cancelled or my role wasn't vital to the trip...then as fate would have it I got offered a chance to go as a consultant right after I left DC and with a sad heart I turned it down....mostly because I knew that I'd never get to see anything other than the capital and that would just break my heart. 

My dream is to go to Madagascar through a Silverseas Cruise. It's this boutique luxury cruise line that goes to the most remote parts of the world. The best thing about it is that you get to visit rarely seen islands and national parks but you get to fall asleep each night in a snuggly bed after a hot shower....this my friend, sounds like heaven to me.

5. Morocco

One of my friends in graduate school had Moroccan heritage and I used to love to hear about her trips to visit her family there. Then later she and another friend of mine went there for a visit/holiday and I heard firsthand how amazing the bazars and architecture were. I've wanted to go every since. I even found a guided trip through Intrepid Travel that one day I will go on.

I want to stay in some fabulously decked out luxury hotel, see the stars from a desert, and just walk around the streets. I imagine that the food must be amazing...a mixture of Middle Eastern, Spanish, and a special something provided by the Moroccan people.

Also, I think that I cold find some really cool stuff....and you know, I love to shop!

6. Cuba

Cuba has such a taboo feeling to Americans (even now that there are legal trips). I remember going to international parties and hearing about all of the ways that Americans could get around the US restrictions on travel there....and being totally intrigued.

Spending time in Miami, I've been exposed to Cuban culture ...and it's got a special vibe to it that is really appealing. I'd like to see how that vibe feels in its heartland.

Unlike most Americans, I'm not really interested in the beaches or tourist traps. I want to walk around the streets, check out the vintage cars, eat authentic food, and stay in a hotel that gives me a glimpse of Cuba before the revolution.

7. Maldives

The Maldives is probably the country on this list that I know the least about, but the pictures that I've seen are just positively breathtaking. It's a series of island in the middle of the Indian Ocean and as the sea level rises it is slowly disappearing. I want to see it before it's gone.

Being a former humanitarian worker I know that the Maldives (like most tropical islands) has a population displaced by the tourist industry. I even once applied for a job there. But the luxury glutton in me really wants to stay in some amazing hotel like this one. I'm too curious of a person to not see as many aspects of the island so I will insist on going to the main centers of trade, places where locals go, but I'm also planning on indulging in the almost other worldness of this magnificent island almost seems like a sin not to have a massage overlooking the ocean or a giant plate of freshly cooked seafood on some beautiful veranda with a gorgeous bottle of white wine. 

8. Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is one of those places that I swore I would never go to...and honestly I never would as a humanitarian worker. I've heard terrible stories from my friends in the State Department that I won't even repeat here....but then again the stories I've heard are almost like urban legends...I'm sure there is some truth to them, but I'm not sure when the events actually could have been 50 years ago for all I know. So I decided to take a fresh look at Papua New Guinea. What I discovered is that there are some pretty amazing tours there and some of them even visit remote areas of the country that rarely see visitors. Now this intrigued me. 

Now, there's two different ways to see Papua New Guinea I've found. There's the on-land adventurer version through Intrepid, which from my research looks really well organized and probably provides as much cultural emersion as you're going to find as a tourist. Then there's the luxury version (which at this point in my life is my personal preference...don't scoff 20 somethings...I've roughed it...I've earned my luxury). Silverseas Cruise offers a cruise around the country's northern coast. They even have a kind of cheesy video about it which I must admit...I've watched more than once. Click here to watch. 

9. Bhutan

When you think of the Himalayas what most comes to mind is Nepal....and I know a fair amount about Nepal. I have many friends who have been there for work and I've worked on design teams to design multiple projects there (I've never been there though). Not many are aware of this, but Nepal has a rather violent history and there's still rebel forces operating in its more remote areas. So to be frank, Nepal makes me a little when I was thinking about ways that I could visit the Himalayas I was thrilled to discover Bhutan.

A relatively peaceful country, Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy with a King and Queen and all of the pomp and ceremony that goes along with it. The best part about Bhutan is that it is still somewhat undiscovered...most people don't even know that it exits...and the government actually limits the number of visitors per year. As a result, I imagine that visiting there feels fresh and exciting....and is something to be cherished.

A buddhist country, monks wearing red robes are evidently a common sight and the landscape is filled with temples. Being someone that identifies strongly with buddhist philosophy I look forward to visiting Bhutan as a pilgrimage of sorts. I am curious how the trip will influence my spirituality. 

Intrepid offers a hand full of preference being the comfort level one, of course:)

10. United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates, like Papua New Guinea, wasn't on the top of my list for a long time, because when I thought of the UAE I only thought of Dubai....and let's face it Dubai is known for bling, decadence, and a bunch of air-conditioned skyscrapers in the desert. These aren't things that I'm particularly interested in. 

However, I've recently discovered that some of its smaller cities like Fujairah have what looks like some really cool historic forts and mosques. I'd like to check them out. I also have to admit that I've always been fascinated by the Middle East. I've have several friends who grew up in Saudi Arabia so I've heard millions of stories about the region's culture.

I've just never wanted to travel there as a solo woman. But I think I'd really like to go with a group tour...even if the tour doesn't get that in-depth culturally I'd really like to experience the 'feel' of the region and see some of its amazing architecture for myself.

So tell me what countries you want to visit?