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There’s this weird attitude a lot of people have when it comes to travelling, about whether or not you should go back and visit the same place all over again, or if you should save your precious annual leave for a new location, a new adventure.
We’re not just talking about bloggers and social media influencers here, either, but just your normal, everyday “I go on holiday but don’t have to tell the Internet about it” people.
My ex-boyfriend is a great example of this. I can’t remember the exact context, but many moons ago we were talking about somewhere (for argument’s sake let’s go with Spain), and he came out with the absolute blinder of a line, “Oh, I don’t want to go there. I’ve already done Spain now, I don’t need to go back“.
Where do I even begin?!
First off, you can’t ‘do’ a country. It is not a Sudoku puzzle.
Secondly, I didn’t realise a week’s holiday in Barcelona means you’ve discovered the entirety of Spain. Who knew gazing up at La Sagrada Familia means you can also cross Al Hambra off your bucket list?! And of course, a day in an amusement park on a Catalonian hill is basically akin to wandering through the Riojan vineyards, you don’t need to do both!
Because obviously when you’ve seen one city in Spain, you’ve seen them all! Silly me for not realising all of this.
Sarcasm levels: off the chart
Don’t get me wrong, I really would love to one day be able to say that I’ve set foot in every country, but not for the sake of being able to say it. It would be because I’ve always wanted to take in the beauty of Myanmar’s Inle Lake, because seeing the Great Pyramids of Giza is something that my mother always wanted to do, and I now want to do for her, because authentic momos really are worth flying all the way to Nepal for, and because Bob Marley is a hero.
Each and every country I have visited so far (with the exception of England, which is through necessity more than anything) has been because there’s been something or someone in that country, that has drawn me to it. There has been a very specific reason I’ve wanted to visit. And I’ll continue to travel that way – with purpose and intent as opposed to for the sake of it.
So if one day I do manage to visit every country in the world, each and every one of them will have called me for a specific reason.
But I won’t let the pursuit of the big 197 stop me from revisiting old haunts, places I’ve fallen in love with and have a yearning to go back to. Countries like India and Peru, which I’ve visited 3 and 4 times respectively, or cities like Dubrovnik which are so beautiful I can’t imagine not returning to, and once in a lifetime sites like Petra, which don’t always have to be once in a lifetime.
There are so many more places I’ve already visited that I’d return to in a heartbeat, but here are the top seven… and for good measure, an added three I’d be totally okay with not returning to!
Our relationship began way back in 2011 when young and naive 18-year old Rhiannon decided to take a week post-volunteer placement to travel around Peru alone, with less than £100 to her name.
The only place I could realistically visit and enjoy with such a pitiful bank account was Arequipa, somewhere I hadn’t really heard of before rocking up to that bus stop with nothing but a fistful of Nuevo Soles, GCSE-level Spanish (although at this point I’d unknowingly passed my A-Levels) and a desire to explore the unknown.
I ended up eating bread and cheese that tasted like vinegar day in day out because I couldn’t afford much else, did one single paid-for activity (seeing Juanita the mummy at Museo Santuarios Andinos) and spent the rest of my four days there wandering around the insanely pretty Plaza de Armas watching the pigeons.
It was my first dip into actually travelling solo, and I think for that reason it’ll always hold a special place in my heart. I’ve since gone back twice and did all the outdoorsy-type things I missed out on the first time, but I’d go back again in a heartbeat.
Jaipur and Udaipur, India
Of course somewhere in India made the list, because we all know I can’t type out 1000 words without professing my undying love for the country at least twice.
My time in Rajasthan was cut way too short thanks to the whole almost dying from a monkey bite scenario, but the parts of the state I did see were so captivatingly beautiful that I’m almost certain there’s an invisible magnetic force pulling me back.
In fact, the owner of the hotel I stayed at in Ajmer (more on that later…) sent me an unsolicited WhatsApp message on my second day there, offering me a job managing his new property in Pushkar. It was a bit out-of-the-blue seeing as up until that point the only communication we had was me trying to explain my monkey bite fiasco in a combination of English, very limited Hindi and rather fantastic Charades. Anyway, if his offer is still open, I’d 100% take him up on it at this point.
This pretty little city was tacked onto the end of my Balkans road trip last year, simply as a stop on the way to see Lake Bled and a place from which to catch a cheap flight back to the UK. I spent little over a day in Ljubljana, and almost instantly regretted my decision not to allocate more time there!
San Ignacio, Belize
When I visited Belize, the entire reason for my stop in that country was to experience the Actun Tunichil Muknal caves. I’d heard Belize can be quite expensive (spoiler: it is) and so wouldn’t have otherwise made the detour.
Imagine my absolute dismay when Hurricane Earl ripped through Central America and the Caribbean, leaving devastation and a lot of dead trees and birds in its wake, and completely turned my plans upside down! I saw out the hurricane in Petén, Guatemala, where the only place with electricity (and therefore edible food!) was a strange Central American interpretation of KFC and whiled away the many electricity-less hours decorating my laptop with Finding Dory stickers.
When the road from Guatemala to Belize was finally unblocked and I reached San Ignacio, Earl had caused so much devastation that the ATM caves (and basically everything else in and around San Ignacio!) would be out of action for the foreseeable future. So I went to Belize City and Caye Ambergris instead. The Actun Tunichil Muknal caves have firmly remained high on my wishlist, and so I’d love to go back to San Ignacio if only for that reason.
Six Flags, Mexico City
To keep it short and sweet: Six Flags Mexico City was the greatest theme park I have ever been to in my whole entire life.
Any Americans familiar with Six Flags out there may read this and think I’ve been smoking something funny, but seriously, you guys won’t ever know how good you’ve got it in the theme park game until you get stuck on rickety old Megafobia in Oakwood Park for the umpteenth time because the structure was built in the 17th century or something.
I’d fly all the way back to Mexico purely for Six Flags, and I’m not ashamed to admit that!
Back in 2014, I lived in Granada for six months as part of my Erasmus year abroad. Being the antisocial human being that I am (seriously, I made a grand total of 0 friends in Uni. Most of my classmates and lecturers thought my name was Rachel), I spent most of those six months holed away in my room watching the entire box set of Modern Family and crocheting little Game of Thrones figures.
Hardly how you’d imagine someone to spend what should have been the best year of their university experience!
I absolutely hated it. I mean, I loved the city, and I love Spain in general, but I hated the experience. The first half of my year in Italy was so incredible and enjoyable that when I had to move to Spain, away from the friends I’d made and the place I’d come to call home, it left a sour taste in my mouth.
It took me 5 months to bother to get out and see Al-Hambra, and that was about the only site I did see in Granada. Which is sad really, as it’s such a vibrant city! I’d love to go back and experience it all through slightly less lonely and resentful eyes.
Oh boy, if there’s one ancient Mayan citadel you visit in your lifetime, make it Tikal! And if you do, make sure you arrive early with a good few bottles of water and sensible shoes. Don’t do what I did and arrive in the heat of the midday sun, with about 20ml of water and Havainas on your feet.
I thought Tikal would be one of those “must-see” sites that are so over-hyped on social media and in traditional media, that when I actually got there it’d be hugely underwhelming and, in a way, a disappointment. Thank Heavens I was wrong!
Tikal is incredible. Incredible and huge. In fact, it’s probably bigger than Wales. Okay, so it’s definitely not bigger than Wales but it is pretty sizeable! Try as you might, it’s highly unlikely you’ll cover the whole complex in one day. All the more reason to go again, right?
Now, for the small handful of places I have visited, wouldn’t categorically turn down revisiting, but could also definitely live without.
My memories of Ajmer may be slightly tainted by my panicked hunt for an English-speaking doctor and a Rabipur vaccination, but I honestly don’t remember much good about the city! I just remember everybody staring at me, and not in a curious way as is standard in India, but in a ‘what are you doing here’ angry way, which made me feel uncomfortable and not at all welcome. I also couldn’t find any samosas, which was heartbreaking, and I’m pretty sure I saw a man dying in a gutter. All in all not the most fantastic of experiences.
London, United Kingdom
Oh, my word I feel awful saying this. How can I not love the capital city of my very own (kind of) country?! I hate to admit it, but I cannot get on with London. I’ve tried really hard over the years. I’ve forced myself to venture beyond Victoria Coach Station and Buckingham Palace, and explore the city beyond the traditional tourist sites, but I just don’t see the appeal that so many others seem to. It’s too crowded and everything costs at least 2p more than I’d like it to. People also pretend they can’t understand me a lot, which kind of makes me angry.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
As a lover of all things Spanish and Latin American, I wanted to like Buenos Aires, I really, really did, but I just couldn’t! Perhaps I visited at the wrong time of year, and perhaps my avoidance of wine and steak caused some unresolvable issues between BA and me, but I just didn’t see the appeal. At all.
Somebody take me back and teach me to love the city? Please!