As I travel I build up this myth of the perfect country that I’ll someday discover, move to, and give up traveling for. Some countries do things SO RIGHT that it’s hard to fathom how other countries can do it so wrong.
To get the world moving in the direction, I’m posting — free of charge — the blueprint for a new country that does everything perfectly. Let’s call it Gadlingland.
Police of Panama
The police in Panama are great. They’re friendly and helpful, they seem to a good job of deterring crime, and when you do get caught slightly on the wrong side of the law, they treat you with respect and accept small bribes. An example: I decided to “surf” on the roof of the car crossing the Bridge of the Americas. They laughed about it when they stopped me, took a $15 bribe, and then cleared a lane of oncoming traffic for us to drive across the bridge in!
Tokyo police are a close second. They’re just as friendly and are too polite to stop you for minor infractions like riding your bike like a maniac.
Dried Fruit and Orange Juice of Morocco
Amazing fresh squeezed orange juice is served at just about every restaurant in this country, as far as I can tell. Street vendors sell cups of it for fifty cents. I don’t like grapefruit juice, but it’s almost as common. The nuts and dried fruits also sold by small vendors are amazing. I’m hooked on the almonds, figs, and especially the apricots. The apricots are really in a league of their own compared to the stuff we get in the states.
Honorable mentions go to most countries in Southeast Asia for having fresh cut fruit available cheaply everywhere along with coconut water.
Prices of Thailand
Things in Thailand are often inexpensive, but of surprisingly good quality. Hotels stand out as an example – $20 a night will get you a clean, comfortable, and well appointed hotel by the beach. A great Pad Thai is a dollar or so. Even movies are shown in better theaters than most American cities have, for half the prices.
Trains of Japan
Japan’s train system is legendary. Between the comprehensive but navigable subway systems in every major city to the bullet and sleeper trains that link most cities and towns, it’s safe to say that you can get just about anywhere of interest in the country by train and a short walk. Prices for long distance trains can be expensive, but buying a JR Rail Pass as a tourist makes them one of the best train deals in the world.
Europe’s train system is worth mentioning as well, but it’s a bit more expensive.
Diverse food of Europe
There are a lot of countries that have amazing food, but Europe really stands out to me. Besides the local foods it’s famous for, ethnic foods from other regions are pretty faithfully reproduced. As an obsessively healthy eater, I’ve been floored by the high quality healthy foods in the UK, Spain, and France. My current favorite: Inspiral in London.
History of Paris
Walking through Paris is like walking through the pages of a history book. Except that it doesn’t make you fall asleep and drool all over it. And once you think you’ve finally seen everything, you can always sneak into the catacombs and see Paris’ entire history from a totally new perspective.
Nocturnal Sensibility of Taiwan
Taiwan stays up late. Stroll through Sun Yat Sen Park at midnight and you’ll be sharing the area with teenagers hanging out, seniors doing aerobics, and even families spending time together. It’s a bit eerie, but I’m a night owl myself, and I like being in a country that matches up with my schedule.
Infrastructure of the US
I’ve traveled far and wide, but the US still takes the cake when it comes to overall infrastructure. We have addresses that make sense (Japan, I’m looking at you), maps for every GPS and online service, good water, good power, decent internet, and good phone service. Other countries beat us individually in most of these areas, but overall we have it pretty good.
Urban Landscape of Hong Kong
Hong Kong, grossly simplified, is three stripes. The first stripe is the ocean, which is home to ferry-accessible islands, beyond that is some of the densest urban development in the world, and close behind is a stripe of lush green mountains. The contrast is striking, and the ability to jump from downtown to pristine beach or dense forest within minutes is pretty darn appealing.
Unfortunately it’s not really possible for any country to have all of these things I love so much, so until then the only option is to go visit them one by one and appreciate the best in each.