The Top 10 Places We Haven’t Been to That Make Me Feel Like A Travel Fraud

In this post from about a year ago I detail the 40 countries I want to visit the most.  Since then, we’ve visited Indonesia and Guatemala and Scotland and Ireland and Poland. Yay! Does that mean that there are now 35 countries left of my top 40 desired destinations? No—of course not. South Korea, Hong Kong, Jordan, Mongolia, and Kyrgyzstan have risen to take their place…

But of these countries there are a few that have had such a large global impact, that have such interesting sites, such good food, and beloved-ness to world travellers that the fact we have been traveling for almost six years nonstop and still haven’t been is just embarrassing.

Writing this post has only fueled my drive to get to these countries…

Here they are:

Japan

kyoto

Why it’s a must:

Unique art and architecture I’ve seen in many museums through the world.

A world contender for top cuisine: Umami is considered another part of taste—the presentation is just as important. The amount of variety is impossible to list here, but I think as a fish-eating non-meat-eating tofu lover, the street food sounds unbelievable.

The popular culture: anime, martial arts and sumo wrestling, traditional clothing like kimonos…

Historical influence both in the past and in the last century

Health: highest life expectancy. What are they doing right?

Arts: Musical instruments like the shamisen and koto, and the haiku originated here

Religion: Shinto and Japanese Buddhism and Ryukyuan—only found in Japan.

People: Supposed to be polite, kind, and friendly.

A world leader in technology, economy, and military both historically and presently.

I grew up hearing about Japan since my dad lived there for two years as a Mormon missionary. Cities like Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Tokyo are calling my name…

When we go, I think we need to stay minimum six months.

Russia

russia dolls

Why it’s a must:

The literary greats: Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky.

The culture: ballet, dolls, and national clothing such as the kaftan and the sarafan.

The cities: Moscow and St Petersburg are both must-sees for museums and architecture.

Athletics: Jacob’s favorite athlete and fighter, Fedor Emilianenko, is Russian.

The musicians: Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky.

The food: I sadly don’t know much about this cuisine. But I know it’s vast and leaves much to be explored.

The size: Russia is the largest country in the world. One reason we haven’t been yet—besides the horrendous visa policy—is we feel it deserves more than a cursory quick visit. Several months at least are necessary to even dip our toes into this culture.

The language: Learning Russian is one of my goals because it’s so important in Central Asia.

The influence: Russia is economically and politically powerful. The largest reserves of mineral and energy in the world.

The modern history: Stalin, Putin, the Cold War get referenced in current events frequently.

The people are actually supposed to be rather cold—not surprising given the history—I can only hope that if we stayed a while we could break through the barriers and make friends.

Peru

machu_picchu_peru_machu_235770

Why it’s a must:

The history: Home to ancient civilizations from the Norte Chicos to the Incas.

The landmarks: Macchu Picchu is a must for every traveller. I just hope it can be as spiritual as it looks in pictures with the hordes of tourists. Lake Titicaca is also supposed to be similar to Lake Atitlan.

The food: Ceviche is a favorite dish of ours, and I guess you can try guinea pigs there as well… I think Peruvian sounds like one of the top cuisines in Latin America for diversity.

The religion: Ancestral rites are still practiced here, such as promoting the fertility of the llama and alpaca, animal sacrifice, spilling alcohol on sacred ground, etc.

The people I have heard have been spoiled by the tourism here. That’s a shame. Maybe we could find a way to get off the beaten track a bit.

Brazil

brazil city

Why it’s a must:

The size: It’s the largest country in Latin America. It borders all other South American countries except for two: Ecuador and Chile.

The food: Lots of foods I’ve never tried here: vatapa, moqueca, acaraje, farofa, pao de queijo….lots and lots of food to try. Brazilian steak houses give an idea of what we have to look forward to.

Big city and beaches: Often my favorite big cities are next to the ocean. Rio de Janeiro is a glaring missing scenario to the big cities we’ve visited so far.

World power: It’s the largest economy in Latin America and set to grow exponentially.

The culture: Home to countless (unknown) native tribes, the Amazon—with the greatest biological diversity in the world–waits to be explored here. The music: samba, Maracatu, Afoxe, capoeira, bossa nova all started here.

Also, it’s relatively easy to get citizenship here and it’s a motivation to learn Portuguese.

Antarctica

antarctica

Why it’s a must:

Every time I say I’ve been to every continent I wince. (Well, except the one, you know, that’s a bit out of the way.)

The last unexplored frontier in some respects.

Sometimes I wonder about the ethics of visiting it though. Is tourism going to damage its beauty in some way? I think I will try to look at going with a green-friendly company.

Jacob and I are animal people and love seeing animals in their native habitats. Antarctica would be a great place for that.

Vietnam

halong bay

Why it’s a must:

The food: I think pho might be Jacob’s very favorite food.

The American history: I grew up hearing about the Vietnam war.

The religion: A lot of religions I don’t know much about are found here: Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Cao Dai, Hoa Hao,.ancestor worship. Yet most Vietnamese do not believe in God.

The outdoors: It looks so beautiful.

The people: This is another country which has had tourism take take its toll. I doubt we would have time to get too much off the beaten track, either, with its one month visa policy.

Vietnam is supposedly one of those you-love-it-or-you-hate it places. I’m interested to see where we fall.

Cambodia

Why it’s a must:

cambodia_2524525

The modern history: I’ve seen the effects of genocide in Guatemala, Eastern Europe, and Rwanda. Cambodia seems the logical next step.

The cuisine: I’ve heard they eat interesting things…like scorpions and insects. Not sure that sounds up my alley, but on the other hand I like seeing new ways of doing things. Actually, a lot of it sounds quite delicious: a mix of curries and French influence.

Destinations: Angkor Wat: Even with the tourists, it’s supposed to be out of this world. And Phnom Penh sounds like one phenomenal (excuse me for the pun) city, the kind that veers out of control and makes your head spin. I like those kind of places.

Religion: Theravada Buddhism

There’s something about Cambodia that seems a little pathetic and heartbreaking to me, which naturally means I’m drawn toward it. I know it will be a difficult place to visit but insightful. It’s the third most landmined country in the world. Our friend made a CD where all profits go to helping to get rid of mines in the country.

Iran

persian rug

Why it’s a must:

The religions: Manichaeism, Zoroastrianism, Islam, Bahai and others I know nothing about—Yezidis, Yarsanis, Mandeans…

The people: Supposedly among the most hospitable in the world.

The history: One of the oldest civilizations known.

The architecture and art: Mathematics, geometry, and astronomy are used in the buildings. Carpet weaving is the most famous of the art forms from Persia.

The politics: The relations with the US are so strained, it would be fascinating to see it on the inside.

The cuisine: It’s known for dishes being flavored with saffron, limes, cinnamon, and parsley. Other than that, I haven’t had the opportunity to get very familiar with the food.

Plus, the name Persia just sounds so exotic. I loved the stories from the Arabian Nights as a child.

South Africa

south_africa_giraffe_africa_238848

Why it’s a must:

The animals: I would love to see my first lion in the wild here.

The recent history: Apartheid and Nelson Mandela. The wide disparity between whites and blacks continue. A white man here has a life expectancy of 71. A black South African has a life expectancy of 48.

The ancientness:The Cradle of Humankind is a UNESCO world heritage site here. The oldest art ever found is here.

The cities: Cape Town is another big, beautiful city on the water which is a favorite of many travellers. I think this country will be the most livable in Africa—well, aside from the crime.

The religion: There are traditional African religions here, involving ancestral spiritual beliefs and healing with native flora and fauna.

The cuisine is one thing I am less excited about trying..African cuisine tends to be heavily meat-based…however out of many African countries, I’d place my bet on it being more vegetarian-friendly.

The Netherlands

amsterdam_downtown_netherlands_237639

Why it’s a must:

The art: van Gogh and other Dutch Masters

Anne Frank’s house is here.

Amsterdam. Almost went there this year. So close. It’s a unique place, let’s put it that way! From the pot to the prostitution, seems like anything goes.

The architecture, shoes, and way of paying (going Dutch) have all made it into common culture.

The power and influence: For such a small nation, the country’s had a far reach. Aruba, Belgium, Bonaire, Curacao, Netherlands Antilies, Sint Maarten, and Suriname all speak Dutch.

Have I ignited any wanderlust in you? What’s on your must-see-soon country list?

Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 366 awesome articles for us.

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