Perhaps every traveler is looking for that one place to call home. When we find it, it seems to call us by name and whisper, “Psssst. Stay here. Settle. You belong.”
We often define a city that stood out to us in no particular way. “There’s just something about this place,” we might say. “I could see myself living here one day.”
But we all move on. On to the next destination, the next adventure. We’re eager to strike our pen through yet another item on the bucket list, and though we might always remember the feelings we had while we were sipping coffee along the banks of the Mekong in Luang Prabang or befriending locals along the shores of Barcelona, deep down we know we’ll probably never settle there. We might never settle anywhere.
Our toes itch with a burning desire to see the world. The whole of it. And though we often dream of staying put, owning a house, having a steady income, etc., we know those ideas don’t fulfill us in ways that walking aimlessly through the desert in India do, or riding a motorbike through Chiang Mai.
This blog didn’t materialize until I knew my move to Thailand was imminent. Therefore, until now, I’ve only written about my travels around Southeast Asia, China, India and a few things I’ve done since, like rock climbing Smith Rock and attending my friends’ destination wedding in Cabo.
But before all that, I spent nearly four months in Europe – three studying Spanish in Spain, and three weeks traveling with two of my best friends through Switzerland, Croatia and Italy.
In honor of my upcoming move to Fort Collins, Colorado (next week, EEEEK!), where I’m attempting to stay for the next two years (minus weekend excursions around Colorado and summer plans to visit South America), I want to share my list of cities that spoke to me when I arrived. Each of them told me to stay, and each in their own way. I couldn’t stay then, but I made silent promises to each of them to return.
Here they are, in no particular order. It was hard enough just to narrow the list to 10:
1. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Of course, no list of mine would be complete without mentioning my beloved Thailand. It I were to move back, I’d want to live in Chiang Mai, a lively city in the northern hills that is everything Thai, but has all the things a Westerner might need. It’s famous Old Town is surrounded by a large man made mote and crumbling walls with four main entrances. Outside the walls and just out of the city, one can see almost anything the heart desires amid the most beautiful scenery. I’ve visited Chiang Mai twice, and the first time left me wanting more. The second time, I began looking for jobs. It turns out, Chiang Mai University requires teachers to have a masters degree, and that’s exactly what I’ll have in two years…
You never know.
2. Interlaken, Switzerland
Breathtakingly gorgeous, Interlaken is a small mountain town in the Swiss Alps that screams home. With it’s crystal blue lakes and rugged, snowy mountains, Interlaken is a famous tourist destination in Switzerland and it’s easy to see why. It’s sheer beauty, however, invites one to stay a while, to forget about the tourist attractions, and just breath.
3. Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a paradise for anyone. Are you an outdoors lover? Hong Kong has hikes and beaches to satisfy your desire. Do you love a wide variety of international cuisine? Yep, it has some of the best from around the world. Are you more into shopping for high quality goods? Hong Kong has you covered, with almost every designer boutique one might imagine.
For me, Hong Kong was a welcome respite from China, where everybody speaks English and follows the rules. I fell in love the first time I was there, en route from Thailand to the USA, and it seduced me even more the second time. You can read my love letter to Hong Kong here.
4. Luang Prabang, Laos
Oh, idyllic Luang Prabang. This is quite literally the jewel of Laos, with it’s buildings and food reminiscent of days gone by, when England left her footprint. It was here, along the banks of the Mekong in February 2012, that I was forced to decide between more school or more travel. It comes as no surprise to those of you who follow this blog that I chose the latter. How could I not, with Luang Prabang begging me to never leave?
5. San Francisco, California
San Francisco was another stop on my long journey home from Southeast Asia, and I wasn’t expecting to like it. I lived in Los Angeles for three years after high school, and though my memories are fond and my resume rich from my time there, I had no desire to return to live in California. San Francisco changed my mind. The city is compact, and different neighborhoods, with their varying personalities, cultures and colors somehow blend seamlessly into one another. It has good public transportation, decent weather, and beautiful views. Not to mention it’s now home to thousands of travelers who know how to cure a good case of reverse culture shock. San Francisco did that for me, and so much more.
6. Venice, Italy
Venice probably speaks for itself. It’s crumbling homes sit perfectly along the narrow waterways, waiting for passing gondolas to brush quietly by. What’s not to like about cute, Italian cafes filled with aromatic coffee and succulent tiramisu? Who doesn’t love getting on a boat taxi? And shopping? Don’t even get me started.
Venice spoke to me. Loudly.
7. Split, Croatia
Split was built around a crumbling palace. Enough said? The old palace walls create narrow alleyways around the majority of the city, and walking down them at night will lead one to candlelit bars filled with laughing customers, live music and delicious food. It’s romantic and surprising and fabulous.
Split sits on the Mediterranean and boasts a long boardwalk along the sea filled with shopping and restaurants and scenic views. It also boasts of comfortable temperatures year round. Two days were simply not enough.
8. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona sung to me when I first arrived. Barcelona is warm, sunny beaches. It’s tapas and tinto. It’s friendly locals, great nightlife and quirky architecture from the famous Gaudi. Barcelona invites tourists to come for a while and leave, but it makes it easy to stay.
When looking through my photos for this post, I realized I lost all of them from Barcelona and other parts of Spain when my hard drive crashed in Thailand. My heart sunk and I nearly cried, but then I knew I’d definitely return.
9. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
I’m not sure if it’s even fair to call Cabo San Lucas Mexico. It’s probably far from Mexico City in more than just distance, but then again, it’s far from everything. Cabo does everything bigger and better, from the waves rushing up on the Pacific shores to resorts one can get lost in. But I’d love to live there, to immerse myself in the local side of things, practice my Spanish and still be able to fall asleep with the doors open on my balcony doors and the ocean right underneath it.
10. Bend, Oregon
I lived in Bend for two years and yet every time I visit, it leaves me wanting more. With 300 days of sunshine each year, beautiful snowy mountains nearby and lakes and rivers galore, Bend is the ultimate destination for an outdoors lover. Plus the small city is filled with friendly locals, great restaurants and has just enough of everything one might need, but not too much.
If I can’t live in each of these cities, at least I can vow to return. Now, my promise is no longer silent. I will see them again.
Until next time.
Have you ever had anywhere whisper to you to stay? If so, where?
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