Best, Worst & Firsts | Country Roll Call 2017

The country roll call for 2017 is here! It’s going down in reverse chronological order of the places I’ve been, and how they rank according to moi! So dig in and dish out your two cents. This is country roll call, part II, check out the first edition here.

2017

BEST…

Most Majestic Sand Stones: Saudi Arabia. Visiting some of Saudi’s historic and natural sights will have anyone in awe of its vastness and beauty as well as its meditative quality that yields peace and pause quite instantly.

WORST…

Most Overrated Country: United Arab Emirates. Hold on! Let me explain! LOL I know all of those who escaped to Abu Dhabi’s Grand Mosque or sailed seas in Dubai on a glitch fare are ever so grateful to ball on a budget Arabian nights style, but listen… I had an amazing time in the UAE, I just thought there would be more to it. Both cities are major money makers for the country, and were built just a little more than 15 years ago. They are culture-poor cities aiming to be the best at everything, literally. (And yet, look where they ended up on my list.) Many of the world’s first, biggest, longest, tallest whatever that once belonged to countries across the globe can now be found in this one country between those two cities. The brilliance in their King’s initiative was anticipating that they couldn’t live on oil forever, and therefore must create another large economic power generator – tourism – is also the very thing that makes the country slightly contemptuous… Just because you have the money to, doesn’t mean you should out build every single country in the world. It makes for glittery nights and awe-inspiring architecture, yet soul-less cities.

FIRST…

First Country in South America: Colombia. So much for “try before you buy.” Colombia is the second country – no, wait… damn. Colombia is the THIRD country I’ve made home without ever visiting before hand. It’s the second country, after South Korea, where my relocation doubled as the first time to the country and its continent.

2016

BEST…

Best Black Girl Magic Moment: Jamaica. The best kind of happiness and magic happens when you least expect it. I took a chance on a wellness retreat to experience two growing businesses I adored combined into one Food Heaven Run Away retreat. It was like a sister-friend reunion. The chemistry, bonds and camaraderie flowed effortlessly. The only other time a trip was like magic was Costa Rica, in 2008 on a yoga retreat. I met an amazing group of solo-traveling women that inspired me to travel solo. Hmmm… maybe there’s something magical about women, tropical places and retreats.

Best Beach Resort Trip: THE MALDIVES. I mean, really. Do I need to explain? I’m not a beach babe, but I had fancy free, baking-in-the-sun, alluringly beautiful views daily. I had my own private paradise for five days. Yes, only five; I thought I’d get bored of just laying around on the beach. I was sorely mistaken. I still dream about the Maldives.

Best “Rich Bitch” Moment: Sri Lanka. This country is all kinds of wonderful, greenery and smiling brown faces. It’s a great place to go to see a lot of untouched natural beauty – IF you travel without a tour company. Tourism is big and operates like clockwork there. I did this trip alone, and it was the first time that I ever had a personal driver chauffeur me around any- and everywhere I wanted to go. I stayed in amazing hotels, with breathtaking views. At one point, I shed some thug tears of gratitude, and regurgitated Nene Leakes coined phrase… I thought, is this what it feels like to be a “rich bitch?” Must be nice.

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WORST…

Best Laid Plans Gone Awry: Mexico. It was my first time to Mexico, and I was there for a bachelorette party. BUT being the exploring, curious, culture-seeking, adventure traveler that I am, I couldn’t just go to a resort for a party and have THAT be my Mexico experience. Well, hindsight’s 20/20. I got there two days ahead to go on a couple of awesome tours I had planned. Well, the tour company I booked with never confirmed my pick up location, and on the first day, I was left behind… to eat dust. Actually, I ate Popa Johns Pizza while I spent the day in my room sulking watching movies. That debacle off set the rest of my tours AND had me missing some turn-up moments at the bachelorette party. SMDH Ay dios mio. What a shame.

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Worst Tour Guide: Cambodia. His name was Bun, “like ‘sticky bun,'” he said to introduce himself. From first sight, this guy’s energy rubbed me the wrong way. Arriving in Cambodia after Vietnam wasn’t only a let down of tour guides – going from the perfect guide to a prejudice, brown-nosing guide who made too many unamusing corny jokes – I was also shocked by the pervasive poverty as we crossed borders from Vietnam to Phnom Penh. Despite the sticky bun, Cambodia managed to leave me with a few tender moments.

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FIRST…

First Time in Europe After 19 years: Italy. It was 1998 when I first traveled to Europe to visit Spain. A whopping 19 years later, I embarked on another unique adventure:  a girl’s road trip. It was very different than how I typically travel, so I guess I’ll double it up, and add first women’s road trip too. We started out in Rome, then headed to the beach town, Gallipoli, for a few days, and stopped off at our Italian friend’s home town on the way back to Rome. I loved every minute of Italy. Fun in the sun. Beautiful men in tight pants. Delicious food. And I fell in love with espresso.

First Tour Company Since College: Vietnam. College was my first exposure to international travel, and it was also the last time I packed my bags to board a bus, plane or train to gallivant with a group of strangers. After tons of research on travel groups, I chose Intrepid and was not disappointed. The Vietnam trip was a perfect blend of scheduled tours/activities and free time. The food was amazing, the destinations did not disappoint for culture and excitement, and I couldn’t get enough of Vietnamese coffee!

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2015

BEST…

Best Solo Trip: Australia. You know those kind of rare trips where the stars align and everything goes right, just as planned? This was one of those trips! Sunny days, a beautiful harbor, friendly locals, and full of hidden alley ways to explore. Besides, this was the first English-speaking country I’d visited after traveling for two years in Asia. The words, “Good day, mate” never sounded so sweet.

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WORST…

Regrets – I Did it Wrong… Again: Japan. I had been to Japan in 2013. It was the first country I traveled to after moving to Korea. Trying to right a trip I thought I’d done wrong the first time, I let my obsessive-compulsive mind get the best of me, and went to Japan… again. When I tell you I have never cried so much out of pure frustration on a trip before… whew. Sometimes I wonder if I should have just gone to some place new, like Laos or Myanmar/Burma, but the truth is I had several great moments on that Japan trip that I wouldn’t want to take back. I’m learning to appreciate the pitfalls and less than perfect moments in life. “Fall seven times and stand up eight.” -Japanese proverb

FIRST…

First Time Returning Home: Milwaukee, U.S.A. After living in South Korea for two years, I hadn’t considered visiting home until I signed for a third year. I told no one of my return, and completely surprised each and every family member. My mom had the best reaction. One of my cousins cried. Another cousin was in complete shock, muttering a random phrase repeatedly. It was great to be home for the holidays, spending time with family and catching up with friends.

So what are some of you first, worst and best moments from your travels?

3 thoughts on “Best, Worst & Firsts | Country Roll Call 2017

  1. I loved this. I had a good cry while living in Egypt several times and when I first got to Paris because everything went wrong. I loved Siem Riep and Osaka and Kyoto. I need to redo Bali. I think you’ve inspired me to do my own list on my blog.

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    1. Thank you Joslyn! 😀 Yes, definitely do it! ;P I’m sure you’ll have some hilarious and noteworthy stories to share too… (GIRL… the craziest results popped up when I typed “blackforthefirsttime blogspot” in my search box :O – maybe because I’m using Firefox…. o_O lol

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