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I've Visited More Than 50 Countries As A Professional Travel Writer — Here Are The 8 I'll Always Remember Most

Some destinations just keep you coming back for more.

I love traveling, and — as a professional travel writer — I've been lucky enough to do quite a bit of it. When deciding where to go next, I like visiting new countries. Why visit one country twice when there's an entire big world to see? There are 195 countries on planet Earth, which means that even after dedicating a good chunk of my life to international travel, I've still only seen around a quarter of them.

The author walking down a street with her carry-on bag
Evie Carrick

Knowing that fact keeps pushing me into new territories. Unlike many travelers who like to "figure out" a destination and make regular visits, I prefer the mayhem and newness that comes with stepping off a plane in a place I know almost nothing about. Navigating a new public transportation system, language, currency, and culture is my favorite aspect of traveling. 

Despite all that, there are certain countries I've really fallen in love with that I keep coming back to.

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It may sound sappy, but sometimes a place feels so enchanting that I label it a "heart home" — a place that just feels right. The following eight countries fall into that category for me. Traveling is an incredibly personal experience, but these destinations are my favorite places I've ever visited and the ones I still dream about once I'm back home. 

1. Japan

Night life in Shinbashi district, Tokyo,
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Ah, where can I even start with this one? Japan is the sort of place where at every moment, you find yourself oohing and ahhing over something. The very real-looking plastic food in ramen shop windows, the multi-level stores filled with bizarre products you never knew you needed (looking at you, Tokyu Hands), the gourmet, tasty wonders of 7-Eleven and Lawson convenience stores, and the juxtaposition of ancient Shinto shrines beside maid cafés and arcades glowing in neon lights.  

I've never visited a place that feels so foreign yet still completely modern, developed, and comfortable (arguably more so than the US). Japan closed its borders for two centuries, and as a result, the nation developed without any outside influence. That means the Western way of thinking and doing didn't enter the picture, creating a country that is truly a reflection of its own people and culture. As a traveler, it's an amazing place to visit.

2. France

People walking along the Seine River in Paris.
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To be honest, I didn't want to like France. It feels like an American cliché to love Paris and all things French. But as much as I resisted, I fell madly in love during my first visit and have returned several times since. I even lived there for about a year.

The French lifestyle is not dramatically different than the US lifestyle, but at the same time, I find that the vibe is totally different. In France, there is an air of unhurried calm, a joie de vivre (which translates to enjoyment of life), and a leisure in the way everything is done. The French believe life is meant to be enjoyed, so why not light another cigarette or order a tarte aux pommes (apple tart) for breakfast? Or better yet, why not spend the day lounging in the park with a bottle of wine?

This pleasure-driven lifestyle is only complemented by the food — a course of cheese after a meal, bread everywhere, and tiny, glazed tarts that are almost too perfect to eat in patisserie windows. Tomatoes taste extra good in France (and so does store-bought pasta for some reason), and everywhere you look, people are sitting down to truly taste and enjoy their food.

And, of course, there's the café culture, quaint seaside villages, theater and museums, the Alps, the French Riviera...I could go on and on and on. 

3. Jordan

Camels in the desert at Petra, Jordan.
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Jordan is not a place I expected to love, but after visiting for a month, I fell head over heels. I visited Amman (the capital) during Ramadan when the Muslim population was fasting all day and feasting at sundown. In the evening, the streets and restaurants came alive as families gathered to break fast with an extravagant, shared meal. It was a special time to witness and experience.

Even though people were certainly very hungry during the days, I really felt the Middle Eastern hospitality. People went out of their way to make me feel welcome, and shopkeepers invited me in to chat and have a coffee.

The natural beauty all around Jordan is astounding. To the west is the Dead Sea and down south is the Gulf of Aqaba, Petra, and the open, desert-y expanse of Wadi Rum. In this corner of Jordan, giant red rock formations jut out of terrain that looks like Mars, camels are the main form of transportation, and lush slot canyons snake up the waterways.

Oh, and their dates (the fruit) are out of this world.

4. India

Rajasthan, the blue city, India.
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Travelers tend to either love or hate India. It can be a hard place to be a visitor — scammers are present, people stare, and the streets are far from clean — but India is also a country that opens up your senses and your mind. I found locals to be wildly kind and warm. The food is to die for. And the country is so big, it's impossible to see it all in one trip (or even in 10 trips, for that matter). 

The first time I went to India, I spent a week traveling the golden triangle (Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur). I returned to India a year later and spent a month near Rishikesh. 

I'll never forget arriving into Delhi's Paharganj neighborhood that first time. We stayed at Hotel Hari Piorko because they had in-room fish tanks (at least they did back in 2015) and were located right in the thick of all the action — mainly tuk tuks swerving around the cows hanging in the middle of the road.

5. Sweden

A square in Stockholm surrounded by colorful buildings
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I only spent a short amount of time in Sweden, but I've been wanting to return ever since. It felt almost utopian: Dads pushed strollers while sipping on cappuccinos (in Sweden, each parent is entitled to eight months of paid leave), the streets were clean and quiet, and everyone seemed happy and put-together.

The highlight of my trip to Stockholm was the food — pizza at 800 Grader, cocktails at Erlands, vegan buffet at Hermans, wine at Vina. In addition to plenty of eating, I did visit the Vasa Museum and take a ferry out to one of the nearby islands (turns out there are almost 270,000 in total).

Goals for my next trip: visit in the winter and go to the Swedish Lapland, home to reindeer, the Sami indigenous people, and the Northern Lights.

6. Dominica

A view of the Atlantic ocean and coast above a beach in Dominica.
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As you might infer from this list, I'm not a big tropical island person. But then again, Dominica is not your typical island destination. (Note: Dominica often gets confused for the Dominican Republic, but the two couldn't be more different.)

Dominica is a tiny, independent nation with the most impressive natural wonders of any place I've ever visited. Natural hot springs bubble up from the base of jaw-dropping waterfalls, the jungle is wild and untamed, the rocky coast is dotted with black sand beaches, the mountains are huge and impressive, and the snorkeling is phenomenal.

One highlight from my time in Dominica was the few nights I spent at Tia's Hot Spa — we stayed in a bamboo cottage and soaked the days away in the hot sulphur pools. The breakfast was also top notch.

7. Laos

Fishing boats in Laos.
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Sandwiched between Thailand and Vietnam sits Laos, a palm-tree-shaped country that is often overlooked by travelers craving bánh mì or Pad Thai. I've only visited Laos once, but I dream of going back. The cost of living is low, which means everything from lodging to spa treatments and food is affordable. It also isn't as overrun with tourists as its neighboring nations.

I remember visiting the Elephant Village Sanctuary & Resort before renting a scooter and heading south to swim in the milky blue waters of Kuang Si waterfall. The food is pretty spectacular too. Don't miss the purple sticky rice and green mango salad (similar to Thai green papaya salad, but better, imo).

8. Guatemala

Colorful buildings and a mountain in the backdrop of Antigua Guatemala.
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When I think of Guatemala, I think color: bright blue skies, textiles in all the shades of the rainbow, pastel buildings, and warm people. To get a full feel of the country, just head to the markets, where you'll find vendors selling handwoven rugs and carved masks alongside freshly made chuchitos (tamales).

Guatemala is home to a ton of Mayan ruins, and the terrain is varied enough to please every type of traveler. There are sandy Caribbean beaches, volcanoes, giant lakes, and Pacific coast surfing spots. I'm still dreaming about a weekend I spent at La Casa del Mundo on Lake Atitlán.

What's the most memorable place you've ever visited? Tell me in the comments below.