There is SO, SO much of the world left for me to see…. However, there is also a whole lot that I’ve already seen! I am SO LUCKY! All the countries I’ve visited have impacted me in some deep way, and the memories will always stay with me. Still, I know what I like and what I don’t like, and I take both seriously. With all the time and money that goes into travel, it’s helpful to have someone to point you in the right direction!
Four continents, over 30 countries, and 34 U.S. states in, my experience is both limited but also informed. People will often ask me, “Did you like ____?” or “Should I go to….?”
My answer is usually, “Yes. Do it.”
My attempt to make a list of “10 Worst Cities” was futile, as I couldn’t name a single place where I didn’t find something I loved! Call me easily amused, but I have had a ball around the world and in my very own little country of America. Sorry, kids, there will be no smack talk here today. However, there are definitely cities that stood out to me and hold a special place in my heart.
Now, without further ado, I shall attempt the near-impossible. I will take on the task that so many have tried and failed at (though, many have succeeded….)
Here is my list of ‘Top 10 Cities I’ve Visited and Loved’:
10. Bridgetown, Barbados. Not really one for beaches and palm trees, my expectations were low coming into Barbados. I was then extremely surprised to discover how special this Caribbean island is! The views, the people, and the laws were all… super chill. I got really excited when my tour guide informed me that people were allowed to pick fruit or catch fish and eat it without a permit or anything. It was a nature buffet! Plus, there were monkeys everywhere! Sign me up!
Sure, it’s full of big shot wealthy people going off for golf in the sunshine, but the everyday folk were just as happy, and probably happier- I know I was!
9. Tallinn, Estonia. Most people don’t think twice about Estonia. When my cruise ship set forth for this tiny country in Europe, no one was particularly thrilled…. Certainly not me, being as naive as I was.
When we arrived, my mind was quickly changed. I am not sure what it was exactly, but something about Tallinn warmed my heart. Maybe it’s this fact that got me thinking twice:
“Over the past two decades, this former Soviet-controlled nation — home to just 1.3 million people, or under one-sixth the size of New York City — has quietly become one of the most tech-savvy countries on earth. Estonia is the 79th smallest country in the world by population but holds the world record in startups per person. It has among the world’s fastest broadband speeds. The country teaches every kid how to code. Nearly all government services are conducted online. Citizens can access their health records in the cloud and pay for parking with their mobile phones.” (mic.com – https://goo.gl/Czn3pm)
Everyone loves cheering on the little guy, right? This was my chance. Go, Estonia, go!!
8. Cleveland, Ohio. When I tell people I loved visiting Cleveland, I get some looks. The response is usually, “You’ve been all over the world, why OHIO!?”
Ohio because the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Ohio because of schoolchildren talking with me on their way home. Ohio because cotton candy in the casino, beautiful architecture, and really cool murals on buildings. That’s why.
I was surprised too, don’t get me wrong. But my curiosity for the unappreciated and unknown was enough reason to set out on the 12 hour bus ride to Ohio by myself. Not a day went by when I couldn’t find something new to do, somewhere new to go, or someone new with whom I could chat. Don’t listen to your enemies, Cleveland, you’re special to me!
7. Crete, Greece. All of the cities I’ve seen in Greece were gorgeous and quaint. Crete stood out for its exceedingly serene and delightful atmosphere. There’s the historical Knossos to admire, sweet alcohol to sample, and houses full of women making noodles by hand…. Plus, it’s incredible standing on a hill and overlooking olive trees as far as the eye can see! It’s a simple and expansive city with lots of work to do, but lots to offer, as well. One mustn’t forget to greet the goats and scraggly mutts wandering about, either.
P.S. If you enjoy traditions and silly walks, you’re in for a treat! You’ll have to catch the Change of the Guards in Athens… or just watch this video:
Oh! And don’t let me forget to mention the fantastic vegan leek pie I had with my refreshing Mythos beer!
6. Amsterdam, Netherlands. I know what you’re thinking, you rascal. When most people think of Amsterdam, they think of the very liberal marijuana laws. Maybe you can’t help but swoon at the thought of it. And, honestly? It was nearly impossible to avoid weed in your face as you walk along. People don’t get “used to it”, it doesn’t become “the norm”. Everyone seems to use it a lot. Cafes and shops line the streets. Don’t even get me started on the Red Light District….
But if this is all you do during your visit to Amsterdam, you’re missing out!
Every night of my stay, I went to the local square to talk with unexpected new friends. I befriended a bunch of local and foreign musicians. We jammed and busked and had a great time, without so much as a single puff of “the weed”. I found it very easy to socialize in Amsterdam! There are hostels where one can stay or hang out, and I even befriended two Iranian men who were down for a late night party! Something about the peaceful walk along the water and the energy of the city put everyone in a bright and cheery mood.
Plus, there’s a great tour of the Heineken brewery which includes a boat ride. It turns out, taking a boat tour with a group of drunk people is one of the most fun (and least educational) activities in which a person can partake.
5- New Orleans, Louisiana. No one will disagree with me if I say that NOLA is an amazing city to visit. With a nickname like “The Big Easy”, you know it’s gotta be good. The music, the food, the accent… it’s a groovin’ time.
This place is a big jam just waiting for someone to start the tune, which happens every minute on the minute. There’s no time for silence and stillness because the locals are just as anxious to start the party as the tourists. The bar is set pretty high, people expect a great time when they visit New Orleans, so the musicians have to deliver! If you’re not good enough, you’re going to be good enough, or you’re gonna have to go! Not that they’d tell you that, since everyone was so friendly. From day one I was part of the gang, I was family. They took care of me… as long as I slipped them a dollar or two.
Feeling blue in the town of jazz and dixieland is simply impossible. If you’re down, you better be picking up your brass and getting right back up to play.
4- Agra, India. With the Taj Mahal being in Agra, what more of a reason do you need to visit? Yeah, it really is that awe-inspiring. One might even say it’s “awesome”. You think you’ve seen a million photos and get it; you get the appeal and the beauty… but you don’t. Not until you can feel the flawless walls and the smooth stone under your feet. Amazingly, however, it’s not the only appeal of the city!
Have you heard of Sheesh Mahal? No, you haven’t. The name means ‘Crystal Palace’. Why? Because the walls are covered in thousands of tiny mirrors! The twinkle is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. There are a bunch of other forts and palaces and museums, as well. All with their own unique designs and features that will temporarily leave you forgetting to breathe. It’s breathtaking. And, hey, the super delicious Indian food doesn’t hurt one bit!
3- Negev Desert, Israel. With so much focus on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, most people who visit Israel never get to see the “outer boroughs” (so to speak.) Fortunately, I had the right mind while in the country to find people who lived outside these major cities and knew them well. This means I went North and South, but I also went to the desert! Actually, I went to a 3-day music festival in the Negev Desert. I did this while staying with a friend/a tour guide I met on my first visit to Israel. He lives on a kibbutz with his family. This is an experience I super highly recommend. You will never experience anything like this again! It’s a commune for Jewish hippy families… how can you go wrong? With baby cows and organic fruits and veggies, it’s Heaven for anyone who loves nature and life.
Although one would assume a desert is a place for cacti, camels, and people who are lost, there was a surprising abundance of LIFE in the Negev! You could just pick bright pink fruit off the cacti and bite into the sweet innards! No one has to starve in this land soy milk and agave nectar (get it? Like “milk and honey”?)
If you like hiking, photogenic horizons, and communities of people full of nothing but compassion and generosity- the desert might be calling your name.
2- Rome, Italy. Is it wrong that my first thought about Rome is in French? I don’t care! Je t’aime! Je t’aime, Rome! The history, the beauty, the smells, the shopping, the people…. I just want to bottle it all up and wear it as a perfume. I would call it ‘Sublime’.
If I could, I’d go back in time and marry Michelangelo. We’d live on the streets of Rome, create beautiful things, and drink wine all day.
With all the incredible architecture everywhere you go, fresh veggies in the market, and endless music in the streets, it’s crazy that they have even more to offer! Most importantly: the most passionate people I have ever met! The Romans bleed hearts and roses! They are so proud of their home and want to share it with any person who comes to visit. I was blown away by the warmth and enthusiasm I felt radiating from each and every Roman I met. They knew so much about their city and were so excited to share stories, history, and fun facts with me. A city so vegan-friendly, tourist-friendly, and love-obsessed is the town for me!
1- New York City, USA. Guilty. I am guilty as charged. I am a New York loving, urbanized, city snob. I make no excuses, I offer no denial… I simply love New York City. No matter where I go, returning to The Big Apple gives me palpitations. The skyline is unbeatable, that’s a simple fact. Buildings come and go, but the beauty remains. Throw in any type of food you can imagine, a million and one fairs, festivals, and feasts, bars, cafes, parties, and protests, and you have yourself an amazing experience. Whatever ye seek, ye shall find.
No, not everyone is loving and kind, but everyone has a purpose, a place, and a role. It’s like the entire city is one apartment and every New Yorker is a roommate. We all play our part- love or hate, give or take. There’s an urgency to move and live. Room for hopes and dreams like no other place in the world. I may not have been everywhere yet, but I’ve been around enough to know that New York is special. It’s the class clown who disrupts the other kids, but everyone knows this kid will make something of himself. This kid is going places. He lives on his own terms, and that’ll get him everything he wants in life. Through the ups and downs… New York City is THE ONE.
As time goes on, I am sure my Top 10 will change or adjust. That is because there is always more to see and do, and I can’t wait to see and do! What does your Top 10 look like? Did I heinously forget your favourite city/state/country? Let me know!
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