First off, apologies for being the world's worst travel blogger. I should know better than to wait a month between posts, but I've been busy celebrating an (ahem) landmark birthday, traveling to the Caribbean (more on that later), and thinking about my next big trip.
Said thinking, I find, can be almost as fun as the trip-taking itself. Right now I'm dreaming up ideas for a long weekend to celebrate my partner's birthday in June. We want urban and fun, but affordable. Preference goes to someplace I've (or at least we've) never been. Seville? Prague? Mexico City? Montreal? Or maybe a completely different idea like ziplining in Costa Rica or diving in Honduras.
Filling out forms and checking off lists are two of my sad, secret vices. (On international flights, I get positively giddy when the flight attendants pass out those customs declarations.) I am a traveler surveyor's best friend. I just finished Travel + Leisure's annual World's Best Awards survey, which asks you to rank recent experiences at hotels, destinations, airlines, and so forth. It's an opportunity to reflect on your recent travels, to heap praise on the places you loved, and—more satisfying—to exact revenge on the ones that left you cold. (Go ahead and enter, even if you're not a subscriber. You have till midnight tomorrow, and you get entered in a sweepstakes to win a trip. You never know!)
There's another travel list I'm even more obsessed with, sort of like those "Where I've Been" Facebook maps that everyone filled out a couple of years ago. It's published by something called the Travelers' Century Club, which seems to exist mainly for the purposes of self-congratulation and dues-collecting. You can only join if you've been to more than 100 countries, but here's the genius thing: Its definition of "country" is ridiculously generous. If a place is geographically separated from its parent country, it counts as its own country. For example, they consider Alaska and Hawaii to be distinct from the United States: Three separate entities, three points. Sicily and Sardinia are detached from Italy—another three points. Been to both the Asian and European sides of Istanbul? Two more! And so on and so forth. Even better: They don't care if you stayed overnight or did any sightseeing. As long as you touched the ground, it counts. So if you've ever changed planes in Hong Kong, you're golden. Download the list here to see how close you are to qualifying.
Despite such magnanimous criteria, I am still at only 44 countries (and counting!). Not bad for an average American, but shameful for a travel journalist. Which means I'd better stop looking at lists and start getting my ass in gear.