I often get asked where my favourite place is? This is almost an impossible question to answer. There can never be just one.
When you travel in a world as diverse as ours you can’t compare one destination to another and simply determine which one is ‘best’. Kenya, Rome and the Scottish Highlands are among some of my favourite places. But trying to compare them would be like trying to compare Stilettos to Flip Flops. It just doesn’t work.
So, what is it that makes these places ‘favourites’ to me? The more I thought about it, the more I realised that it comes down to the experiences with the people that I met in these places or along the way.
It was my dream to visit the Sistine Chapel in Rome. In 2005 I did just that and to this day Rome still rates as one of my favourite places. But not just for the Sistine Chapel (don’t get me wrong it’s truly amazing) but for a very different reason – the people.
I had a dining experience with two strangers I met at a hostel, I don’t even remember what their names were (I’m terrible with names) but they were backpackers like me from across the globe. We headed out one night and found ourselves a little lost in the back streets of Rome and ended up in a restaurant where nothing was in English and no-one spoke a word of it. With only the knowledge between us to say hello, please and thank you in Italian it could have been a disastrous evening.
Instead what followed was a hysterical evening of laughter and entertainment with the restaurant staff as we fumbled our way through the evening, pointing at other patron’s meals, guessing off the menu and playing our own version of charades to communicate. Instead of looking down their noses at us clueless tourists they embraced us into their world and my two new friends and I were temporarily a part of their family.
I’m still not really sure what half the things were we ate, but it was amazing and because of the kindness of these locals I saw Rome from a different perspective.
A newbie to my list of favourites is the Canadian Rockies from which I have just recently returned. When I think of the highlights they once again revolve around people; the locals and the travellers I met along the way. The Aussie couple I bumped into whilst hiking up a mountain in Banff, or the Canadians that I met sitting around a bonfire in Lake Louise or the guys in the bar in Whistler who offered us a seat at their table. Most of these people I will never see again but the memories of the moments we shared will stay with me for years to come.
Conversely, I think of the places I’ve been that don’t spring to mind, Paris, for example. Its not that I don’t like Paris – how could you not like Paris? Heck, I’ve been there four times! But for me none of my visits were influenced by people. I’m not saying that the French or those that travel there are unfriendly or unkind or that there aren’t things that I absolutely love about Paris, there are, it’s simply that I just didn’t meet people here to entrench these experiences in my mind.
Perhaps it’s because I’m a solo traveller and these ‘people experiences’ fill the sometimes lonely void that creeps in when you travel alone. Or perhaps it’s simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time? I don’t know. All I know is that my highlights mostly involve people, so for this I believe it’s the people that make the place.