10 Countries That Will Change Your Life
There are moments in everyone's life that change a person forever. Maybe not over night, maybe not for the better, but life will change you - it'll change the way you perceive, how you think and how you relate to others. These changes may effect only yourself or those in your immediate circle, or they can take on global significance when they change how you look at the world.
If you're up to the adventure of viewing life anew from a varying cultural point other than your own, then these are the places to start.
Cambodia: Few countries have suffered as much during the last half century as this small Southeast Asian country where fully 1.7 million Khmers were executed in route to an idealized agrarian society; some were murdered for simply wearing glasses and looking too intellectual. The aftermath is a country that has embraced hope, with a people longing for peace and tranquility. It has ancient temples that will literally leave you breathless as you scale and wonder through them in awe.
France: What can be said that has not already been written? Paris, the French Riviera, the French Alps, the food, the wine, the culture, the language all led to the infamous English saying "France is absolutely the most perfect place on earth. In order to balance it out for the rest of the world, god put the French there." Seriously, France changes you in unexpected and intellectual ways...and the French, well, let's just put it this way - if they were really all that bad, how could they have created arguably the most inspiring city the modern world has ever seen, let alone allow you to walk its dog poop infested streets?
Japan: Perhaps the most perfect of all societies. A people who are undying polite (at least outwardly), where litter is almost unheard of, where the food is so fresh that the term organic is greeted as an obvious, where trains are so punctual it makes the Swiss uneasy, where shopping is seen as sport and where there is just enough underlying kink and outright bizarreness to keep you happy and always looking forward to your next visit.
Tanzania: Arguably the most "African" of nations when looked at from an outsider's perspective. This is especially true if you're looking for adventure. The thundering herds of the legendary wildebeest migration begins here. The world's tallest free-standing mountain, Mt. Kilimanjaro, towers above the savannah. One of the most complete ecosystems in the world resides in the awe-inspiring Ngorongoro Crater. And it's where the noble Maasai warriors still tend their cattle and live in traditional huts and villages along the plains. Tanzania gives us what we expect from Africa, but as always, it's people give much more.
USA: America taught us all valuable lessons in their downward spiral - don't rest on your laurels, don't think that you're above the laws of man, and believe in people more than you believe in money. You may not love what the States has become, but as a visitor, you're free to see it how Americans see it - the greatest nation on earth. From its many inspiring cities and beaches to its unbelievable natural wonders and beauty. From it's near perfect melding of the world's cultures and culinary delights to it's originality in music, art and film – the US has everything you'd want in a vacation. Just watch what you say, write and think while you're there.
Australia: If Aussies have a single favorite saying it's "No worries, mate" and why should they worry? They live in one of the most remote regions of the world, they are universally loved for their humor and good naturedness, and their national animals are the equally fascinating and lovable koala and kangaroo. If ever there was a country and a people who don't take themselves or others too seriously it's the Land Down Under - heck, even their country's nickname makes you want to take a walkabout along their vibrant cities, world class beaches and their extreme arid and tropical climates.
Peru: As the Western hemisphere's most authentic and friendly culture, Peru has a lot going for it. Not only do many of the people still identify closely with their original villages and tribes, they are also quite modern in their outlook on life. They know where they come from - all of them speak their original Incan language along with Spanish, and they have a clear path to the future. A future that includes the values of their ancestors where fairness, nature and spirituality will still go hand in hand. With such wonders as Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley, Lake Titicaca and the vast Amazon Jungle to share with the world, we all hope their future is realized.
Germany: While their national symbol is the Golden Eagle, it might as well be the mythological Phoenix as it has literally risen from the ashes to take it's place once again near the top of the world's countries. In just three generations Germany transformed itself from a reviled nation to one of the most esteemed. From a society that used to trod upon the weak to one that has built a near socialist utopia that cares for all under her wings. And while not everything is fairyland castles, schnitzel and Oktoberfest, the days of Dachau are firmly behind them thanks to a society which refuses to repeat its well documented and often fretted upon mistakes of its past that are open for the world to see.
South Africa: As another nation that has seen great turmoil in its recent past from an oppressive regime, this land of great beauty and contrasts is at once vibrant and filled with hope, as well as depressed with a sense of dread. While life for the average South African is much improved thanks to Nelson Mandela, shanty towns are still very much a part of daily life for millions. South Africa has it all otherwise: amazing wildlife, rugged scenery, beautiful oceans and mountains, and a thriving epicurean trade. But how well its people hold onto the values and teachings of its patriarch will decide its fate in a society that just
Italy: La Dolce Vita - no other expression says it so well. The good life is exactly what you'll find in Italy whether you go for their world famous food, art, or history. The lyrical Italian language transports you to a time of wonder where modern societies first took their tentative steps towards freedom and equality, while at the same time transporting you to the foundations of the Renaissance. Its monuments and ruins shout the language of beauty and strength while it's people whisper (sometimes very loudly) the language of love. A visit to Italy may not be so life changing as it is life affirming, but it is the sweet life.
Have you visited a country that has changed your life? Tell us where and why...
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