There are about 200 countries in the world, but it recently occurred to me that visiting about 40 of them might be more than enough—I’m at 41 countries now and honestly, I’m a bit traveled out. I have colleagues who aspire to a much higher number, but my own desire to go everywhere seems to have tapered off.
I was trying to think of five more countries where I’d like to live as a diplomat. To my own surprise, I couldn’t come up with that number. So I lowered it to three. I also thought of the three countries I’d still like to visit as a tourist, which are very different.
Disclaimer: It’s not that I can’t think of five countries I would live in, I just feel like I’ve lived in a ton of places already! I lived in Canada and the US. I lived and traveled in most European countries, besides former Yugoslavia. In Latin America, I’ve been to all the countries in the “Southern Cone” plus Brazil. I’ve been all over South Asia (Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Nepal), as well as Armenia, Georgia, Dubai, and Lebanon. I also saw a lot of East Asia (China, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines). Before that, I lived in West Africa for two years—visiting Nigeria, Benin, and Ghana.
My curiosity is boundless, but still, my motivation and curiosity is limited to a select number of places right now.
Top 3 for work
For consular work—just like on safari—there’s a “Big Five”: the big visa processing posts. They include Mexico, India, China, Brazil, and the Philippines. For me, the missing link is Mexico. It would be a new environment for me and an important position for consular officers because it’s where most of our customers are. It would also make sense, because I already speak Spanish (from living in Uruguay). Plus, I’d absolutely love to travel around Mexico and the rest of Central America, where I’ve never been!
I’ve never been to East Africa. What also attracts me about Kenya is the same as Mexico: really interesting for work and also good travel opportunities (safari, mountains, etc). But instead of consular work, which is less prominent there, I’d like to do there is humanitarian work. There is a huge refugee population and interesting regional/political dynamics/conflicts I’d like to work on, especially because I’ve already worked on these regional issues before—remotely.
Surinam or Belgium
Another post that seems totally interesting and exotic to me is Paramaribo, Surinam. It’s a tiny country with an enormous jungle, where people speak Dutch because of colonial history. For speaking Dutch (which is good practice for my kids) there aren’t many other options. However, a more wholesome option is Belgium, which is both Dutch and French speaking, and perfectly located to travel around in Europe. It’s only two hours by train to the heart of the Netherlands. So rationally, I want to go to Belgium with my family. But my adventurous heart says: Surinam.
Top 3 for travel
Coming up with travel destinations is easier than work destinations, because there’s much less at stake.
Cape Town, South Africa
I know many people who say Cape Town is the ideal place—that it has incredible nature, wine, safari, music, culture, and climate. For a long time I’ve felt like I couldn’t wait to go. But really, I’m waiting for my kids to be old enough to have a proper, amazing vacation there.
Costa Rica (and Belize)
I’m not in a huge rush to go to Central America because I think I might want to spend some serious time there in retirement (especially if Italy is closed for some reason) because of all the stories about the relaxed pace of life, the jungle, the beach and the diving. I can’t wait to spend some real down time in this part of the world.
Australia or New Zealand
Mostly because it’s the one missing continent on my list but also, again: nature. But I don’t want to be in a rush when I fly so far. I declined a work trip there once because of the jetlag I would face. I just really want to go there to hike and drive around for weeks and weeks without a cellphone.