My family knows how much I love to travel, so last Christmas someone gave me a copy of the book “1000 Places To See Before You Die” by Patricia Schultz. It’s not a bad read if you’re planning to keep it on top of the toilet and skim through it five minutes at a time, but I did notice that it’s weighted pretty heavily towards the “cultural” highlights of Europe. Personally, I was a little disappointed that the author didn’t include some of the historical places in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Pakistan, countries which didn’t even earn a mention this book, but what really turned me off was the number of “luxury” experiences that the author tossed in here to help make the magic One Thousand number. I mean really, how many winery tours can one person go on? And paying $1000 a night just to experience some hotel doesn’t really impress me. That’s borderline stupidity no matter how much money you make, and stupidity shouldn’t count as an accomplishment.
That’s why I had to sit down this weekend and make my own list of exotic destinations. If you can honestly tell me that you’ve been to any of these places then you’re probably a serious adventure traveler:
ROMANIA-- If I was looking to award some country the title of “Baddest Place in Europe”, Romania would win hands-down. Sure, they’ve got all the typical European cultural stuff, castles and museums and all, but you’d better be on your guard when the sun goes down. Romania is the home of vampires, man! And I’m not talking about the cheesy teenaged ones from “Twilight”, I mean the real Transylvanian kind. Yeah sure, we’ve all heard about those beheadings that Al-Qaeda does, and I guess those are pretty scary and all, but get this: in the Middle Ages, the Romanian ruler Vlad Tepes (the original Dracula) put at least 40,000 people to death by impalement.
CUBA -- Sure it’s a communist dictatorship that’s openly hostile towards the United States, but it’s the convenient location that counts the most. Havana is only 100 miles south of Miami, so you can conceivably start an insurrection over the weekend and still make it into work on time Monday morning. Okay, so you might be putting your security clearance on the line if you actually tried to book a flight here, but you shouldn’t let a little tourism embargo scare you away from all the cheap mojitos and hand-rolled cigars. And besides, how bad can a country be when its national sport is baseball?
LIBERIA -- This West African nation was originally founded as a way to return freed slaves to their homeland, which is why the capital city is named for President James Monroe. In 2003, the country went through a civil war where its own president and chief warlord, Charles Taylor, was overthrown, and during his trial last year it came out that he had tried to hand off conflict diamonds to supermodel Naomi Campbell. Freed slaves forming their own tribes? Diamond smuggling? Supermodels and a sinister villain looking down on it all? The entire country of Liberia sounds like a storyline from an early nineties B-movie, probably starring Ice-T.
MONGOLIA – Let me tell you, I know absolutely nothing about this country except for that their BBQ rules, but I’ve always used the term “Outer Mongolia” as another way of saying “The Middle of Nowhere.” By my way of thinking though, the Mongols have to be some pretty harcore people. Not only did the Chinese build a 5,500 mile-long wall to keep them out, but some dudes in California named their motorcycle gang after them. That, and Genghis Khan of course, would be enough to earn Mongolia a spot on this list.
BRAZIL- There’s a lot of competition right now for the title of “roughest South America country,” but in my humble opinion Brazil wins hands down. Yeah, there’s an iron-fisted communist dictator in Venezeula and ruthless drug cartels running Colombia, but Brazil has its own quiet viciousness. Every other country on the continent does their business in Spanish, so Brazil has to do their own thing and make Portugeuse the national language. And it’s not just the humongous rainforest with native tribes and piranhas and stuff that makes Brazil so hardcore. When Rio de Janeiro was awarded the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, want to guess how the city celebrated? By shooting down a police helicopter.
I’ve been to ten different countries including Mexico and Iraq, but some of the places on this list absolutely scare the heck out of me. But you tell me: what do you think is the roughest place in the world, and why?