My Top 10 Destinations O’ Mystery

I spend a lot of time looking at maps, daydreaming and plotting my next move. Each time I find myself hanging out with a map, my eyes are always drawn to a handful of curious countries that seem mysterious to me and these are the places I want to go to the most.

Chad
I know nothing about this huge African nation and I want to. Anytime I look at a map of Africa, the name Chad draws me in. I don’t really know why but the place sparks my curiosity. Throw the Central African Republic and Niger into the mix as well for an Africa triple-threat of mystery. I have nothing else to say. Like I said, I really don’t know a thing about this place.

Greenland
Greenland takes up a huge hunk of space on the world map but is somewhere you never hear about. The only thing I know about Greenland is that it’s big and cold. I love the idea of being whisked across the barren tundra on a dog sled, an activity that probably loses its appeal once you’re actually in the barren tundra, freezing your ass off. But, for now, the idea appeals and doing it in a place like Greenland makes it just a little bit more alluring.

Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana
Ok I guess I’m cheating because I’ve chosen three countries instead of one but they’re so geographically close that I figured I would lump them in together. South America is a popular destination but I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone include any of these three small nations on their big South America trips. Are people missing out on something by skipping these tiny, tucked-away countries?

Iran
From everything I’ve heard from anyone who’s ever been, Iran is home to some of the friendliest, most hospitable people on earth. I also feel like it’s difficult to get an opinion of the place through Western media sources and I want to break through the crap and see for myself what life is like in the country. I want to learn what Iranians think of their government and whether the anti-American sentiment is restricted to their leader or if it’s something that is felt in all levels of Iranian society. Plus there’s ski hills in Iran and I think snowboarding in a burka would make a great photo op.

Israel
The mysterious thing about Israel for me is its people. I am probably going to get lambasted for saying this but during my travels I have met very few Israelis that I’ve liked, and I’ve met a bunch. I don’t like that I think this so I want to go to Israel to see what Israelis are like on their own turf and to see if I can erase the bad impression I have of them brought on by various unsavory encounters around the world.

Kazakhstan
This has nothing to do with Borat, I promise. My fascination with Kazakhstan goes back to 2000 when I was living in a backpacker’s hostel in Ireland. There was a huge world map hanging on the wall across from the couch and I always found myself staring at it and daydreaming. The one country my eye’s couldn’t stop veering towards was Kazakhstan due to it being close to the center of the map, gigantic, and coloured bright green. I knew nothing about the place but decided then that I had to go there.

Libya
With a flag as boring as Libya’s (all green), you would hope their country has a lot to offer to compensate. On first glance, it seems like they do: ancient rock art, crumbling abandoned cities, culture galore and a crazy leader thrown in to boot. For me, though, the appeal is that 90% Libya is covered by the Sahara Desert. Heading way out into the sand dunes would be an awesome experience… or maybe a boring one. But either way I want to try it out.

North Korea
Possibly the most politically isolated country in the world, North Korea fascinates me. The idea of an entire nation of people being all but closed off to the outside world in this day and age is mind-boggling. I would love to get a chance to see what North Koreans think about their own country and the outside world. Given the guarded nature of visits to the country, having candid conversations with locals probably isn’t something that will happen but you never know.

Rwanda
Rwanda’s 1994 genocide left over 800,000 people dead in around 100 days. That regular people could be manipulated into turning on their neighbors, students, patients, and friends to commit murder blows my mind. It’s scary to think what sorts of atrocities people are capable of committing when exposed to propaganda and lies from a genocidal government in a climate of fear. I have no idea what I would hope to learn or accomplish through a visit to Rwanda, I just feel like I need to go there.

Saudi Arabia
I can think of few places on earth that are more culturally interesting to me than Saudi Arabia. I have loved my experiences thus far in Muslim countries and they don’t come much more Muslim than here. The whole place seems all forbidden and secret and creepy and I want in! Visas are hard to get and there are crazy restrictions on women but it all just sounds too bizarre to resist.

Have you been to any of these places? I would love to hear about them! What tops the list as your most mysterious country?