My Favourite Place in the World

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What is your favourite place in the world?

Boy, if I had a nickel for every time I was asked what my favourite place in the world is….

Despite being asked this question so often, I rarely have a concise reply. Instead the answer is usually a shoddily constructed response, dependent on my mood, recent experiences, and current whereabouts.

And I’m not the only traveler who has trouble answering this question.

But what gives? Surely we’ve all had mind-blowing experiences that escalate one particular place in the world to “favourite” status.

Well, yes. And no.

What is it then? Have I had that many mind-blowing experiences that I can’t choose? Is there not a stunning panorama that is ingrained in my vision every time I close my eyes?

Well, yes. And no.

Maybe it’s like asking a parent who their favourite child is. Loving every child for the blessing that they are, most parents won’t endeavour to choose a favourite. (That, and there would be hell to pay if the other siblings knew).

So although I’m not concerned that Ireland will get its nose out of joint if I say I like France or Spain better, there’s still a reason why I can’t name any one place as an unmitigated favourite.

Why?

Travel is purely contextual.

Having already identified that I’m as equally interested in the journey as the destination, I’ve yet to visit a destination that – in and of itself – blew my socks off. Some of the most beautiful vistas were ruined by a bad mood or other external factor, and conversely some of the dodgiest places played a part in creating some of my greatest memories.

This was recently highlighted for me in visiting Paris twice in 2010. The first time was with my Mum and her partner, the second time while filming the pilot episode of a travel tv series. Although neither experience was better or worse than the other, I barely recognized Paris as the same place, given how different the circumstances of each visit were.

This leads me to the idea that travel is much more about the people you are with than the places you are visiting.

Be it the awesome girl I met at a hostel and hiked the Tongariro Crossing with, the friends I traveled and volunteered with in Spain, the myriad of people who have so kindly opened their homes to me, or my own family who joined me for a chunk of my travels, it is these people who helped me define my greatest moments on the road.

So although I could never pick just one place that is a favourite, here is a random list of places around the world where I’ve had impacting experiences….experiences that have in turn made them favourite places:

This post was originally published in 2010. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.

Peru

This is a new addition since writing this post in 2010, but a worthy one, as I might even say Peru is my favourite favourite place. This stands to reason, since in 2014 I made it my home for a couple of years.

The Professional Hobo, Nora Dunn, in Peru on the Lares trek


North Island, New Zealand

If I had to rank my favourite places, I would say New Zealand comes in second behind Peru. Between my incredibly poignant experiences at Mana Retreat, the adventures of shooting a tv show, and Kiwi hospitality I experienced in Rotorua, I can’t imagine that New Zealand won’t be a regular part of my world circuits from here on in.

Mana Retreat Centre in New Zealand

 

Rocky Mountains, Canada

I love the mountains in general, and enjoyed a great summer climbing and trekking in Jasper. If it weren’t for the whole “winter” thing, I could easily call it home.

Rocky Mountains


The Big Island, Hawaii

Although I might not have cited this as a favourite place when I was there, there is no denying that I learned a lot about sustainable living in my first few months there, as is evidenced by regular anecdotes and even feelings of wanting to return.

Hawaii


Chiang Mai, Thailand

Staying there for a month and adopting a fundraising project allowed me to make all sorts of interesting local connections and made for some epic stories. TJ, if you’re reading this, you’re still my hero (read this to find out why) – an example of humility and awesome karma wrapped up in one fantastic person.

TJ and company

I returned to Chiang Mai 10 years later in 2017 and stayed for two glorious months. The place had changed (I stayed in the Nimman area which previously didn’t exist) and I couldn’t find TJ, but I still loved it.

Rural Australia

It wasn’t long after landing at Kingbilli that I realized I was in a pretty special part of the country, and the world. I developed many life-long friends that I still have to this day. Braving the Victorian Bushfires together also helped to create some unbreakable bonds.

rural Australia


Spain

Considering I’ve been passively learning Spanish for the last few years, it stands to reason that I had a pre-disposition to liking Spain. Throw in there a volunteer experience that created dozens friends (and even places to stay all over Europe in subsequent weeks and months), and I’ll be returning to Spain sooner than later. I love the people, the culture, the food, the attitude, and the way of life.

(Editor’s note 2014: I later visited the south of Spain in 2014, and didn’t think much of where I was. Further testament to the fact that it’s difficult to categorically pick “favourite” places).

Spain


The South of France

The “devil may care” attitude in Paris was just the amuse bouche; traveling through the south of France and staying with my gourmet-cooking friends on the Mediterranean made France a joy. That, and it reminded me of Spain too. (What can I say? Spain got under my skin).

(Editor’s note 2012: Further testament to my love of the south of France? Corsica. Wow.)

France


The Highlands of Scotland

Scotland surprised me by making me like it as much as I did. But how could I not like it? I met all sorts of great people in and around Edinburgh, then hiked in the mountains of the Scottish highlands for a week. People and mountains: a winning combination for me.

Scotland


Ireland

Again in the context of traveling and staying with friends, Ireland won my heart in 2010 with its welcoming people and beautiful scenery.

I returned in 2016 with my Mum and had no less of a wonderful time.

It’s also worth noting that the Irish accent is among my all-time favs; I delight in listening to people talk about even mundane things with their musical voices.

Ireland


Nepal

I’m not in the least surprised that I fell head-over-heels in love with Nepal. It has mountains (very big ones), people (very kind ones), and I was there with a group of awesome cats shooting a tv show (also one of my favourite things to do). Although I’d love to share with you some of the specific reasons why I love Nepal (and believe me, there are more than a few), I can’t for confidentiality reasons….you’ll just have to take my word on it and wait for the show to come out!

Nepal

Your Turn! Do you have a favourite place in the world? Where, and why?

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25 thoughts on “My Favourite Place in the World”

  1. Japan. It’s why I’m going back for the second time, this time really exploring Tokyo and newly discovering Kyoto.

    It’s another world there. REALLY incredible. Full of tradition yet very modern.

    Other than Japan.. I guess home. I love being with my family.

    Reply
  2. You are right, It is so difficult to choose a favorite place. It is usually the place where I am or just traveled to.

    But, deep, deep down I know that it has to be Paris. Paris was the first place I ever traveled to in Europe. My first real travel adventure…my first real love of Europe was awakened in Paris.

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  3. @Everyday – I’d love to go to Japan (which of course I will, someday). I’ve yet to hear anything derogatory about it!

    @Terri – Ah…Paris. It does seem to have a hold on many people (myself included)….and I understand why! But when you put it in the context of your first travel adventure, I’ll bet it’s extra special for you. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Hey Nora,
    I think that in addition to who you’re with, the when plays an important part,
    Llasa is a place that touched my heart, but part of me is afraid to go back there for fear of not finding the place I fell in love with. There is now a high speed train from Chendu that goes there on a regular basis – I’m sure it has changed the face of Llasa, but would I like those changes?
    There are people out there who were able to walk amonst the stones at Stonehenge (no longer allowed). And Machu Picchu now has fancy hotels within a stone’s throw – what must it have been like 20 years ago?
    Only those who have experienced those places when – will know.

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  5. Just one place?
    Hmm…
    no, sorry.

    Quite liked Vancouver, for a big city. Fontainbleau in France was wonderful, for the feeling of running around in a fairytale. The mountains in the South Island of New Zealand are pretty amazing, especially if you can wangle your way into some of the private huts. actually, I wouldn’t mind setting up base in Christchurch for awhile.

    For accessible wilderness the Tarkine in Tasmania, or Bungonia Gorge or Namagi National Park.
    Which brings me home to canberra.
    Speaking of which, next time you make it this way, let me know if you’d like to go rock climbing. I have friends with 4WDs, and all the gear we’d need.

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  6. @Nora – Good point on the “when-factor”! It’s all about context…

    @Andi – Agreed: I usually like wherever I’m at, or have just been. I guess you know you’ve embraced travel for all it’s beautiful – and ugly – bits when you can say this! 🙂

    @Kazari – I’m spewing that I’ve been to Canberra twice, but haven’t had time to touch base with you! (They’ve been very quick visits). Next time….there WILL be a next time….(I just don’t know when)…

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  7. For me it must be the Omani desert. I spent a week there one time, right in the middle. Can you imagine the sunsets and sunrises and in between the sea of ‘touchable’ stars and the almost three dimensional Milky Way ?. Every night. Just me, my camel and one helper.

    You don’t say much after that.

    (By the way,favourite question from the helper “how much does one of those blond girls cost ? “

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  8. @Dick – I haven’t seen any more of Oman than the airport, so your story sounds magical! (Good thing I’m not blond…then again I’m sure redheads fetch an interesting price too….)

    @Poi – Awesome! Where are you staying?

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  9. It is an odd question, because if one were able to answer it, then the next question would be, “Then why aren’t you there now?”

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  10. Great post as allwayse!! It’s certainly a difficult question to answer, but after careful consideration my most favorite place in the world would have to be the Walls of Jerusalem National Park in Tasmania, Australia…. well maybee im a little bias because im a 17 year old FROM Australia haha and havent done a great deal of travelling but the Walls of Jerusalem is a true marvel of nature, often overshaddowed by its famous neighbour Cradle Mountain National Park. We spent a solid six days walking in the mountains with close friends and it was unforgettable. I must advise, the weather is very harsh, it rained the whole time and the days never reached over 12 degrees C (and this is in the height of summer!) the 3rd night we woke to ankle deep snow with a 8:00am temperature of just 2 degrees C. The best or one of the best camp sites in the world MUST be Dixons Kingdom Hut (the 2nd night), a tiny temple-like alpine hut on the edge of a mystical mossy conifer forest with some of the oldest single trees in the world (over 1200 years old!!!) and not to mention the patches of eerie temperate rainforest straddeling the edges of open alpine meadows. One day i have to go back.

    this is a great example of what the park has to offer… http://tasmania.bushwalk.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=1565

    Reply
  11. @Arthur – Thanks! Tassie is the only Australian state I haven’t been to (boo!), and as the avid hiker and mountain-lover that I am, it seems wrong! (Ah well…one day…)
    A friend of mine has an excellent hiking blog, and he’s spent a heap of time exploring Tasmania’s great walks. Check it out: http://www.ourhikingblog.com.au/

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  12. Hey Nora,

    so you haven’t mentioned any part of Italy!!

    I can guarantee that some parts of Italy are better than central Spain or southern France!!

    Apart from that, Italian food is the best in the world:

    Italy is made up of twenty regions with distinct characteristics. Every town, every village, makes the same dish in vastly different ways, and every town and village has its proudest specialty. These cooking traditions define people’s identities just as much as their dialects and their traditional costumes. Local cooking preferences and customs are shaped by geographic, historical, and climactic differences: some regions are landlocked and mountainous, others hug the sea and are hilly; some regions have absorbed Arab or Greek influences, others have been marked by the French or Austrians; some regions live under the dazzling Mediterranean sun most of the year, others have cold winters, snow, fog, and harsh winds. …..

    http://www.rusticocooking.com/regions.htm

    Anyway, what a huge pity!!!!

    All the best!

    Fab, greetings from Italy.

    PS maybe you didn’t like Italy very much because you often came across some Italian men who were trying hard with nice girls like you!!

    Or maybe you knew some Canadians whose roots are Italian and you never like them!!

    But I don’t think this second guess can be true in your case, the first guess is much more probable!!

    Reply
  13. @Fab – Gee…you’re not biased! 🙂
    I haven’t visited Italy since I started traveling full-time, and I’ve only briefly been there on vacation. So although I’m sure it’s a wonderful place, it hasn’t made my list…yet.

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  14. Hi Nora,

    you’ve cracked an ironic joke!!

    But you’re wrong because I’m not biased at all !!

    I’ve just made an objective endorsement for Italian food and some parts of Italy in comparison with central Spain and southern France!!

    In fact:

    1) As far as:

    “So although I’m sure it’s a wonderful place”

    I said:

    “some parts of Italy”!!

    Other parts of Italy are overvalued, other parts are nothing special, and there are even some parts of Italy which are a total shit!!

    2)As far as my endorsement for Italian food, it depends on the fact that Italian food is known abroad for only pasta, pizza and gelato but Italian food made in Italy and eaten in Italy offer an objective outstanding variety!!

    And because of the fact that you ( it looks like!! ), as a traveller, are keen on good food and good drink, then, from this point of view, Italy would be an ideal place to have slap-up meals all day long!!!

    All the best!

    Fab

    Reply
  15. Nora,
    I keep finding new “old” posts from you and I keep on reading them…not sure where they are all coming from but let me tell you…I truly enjoy the spoken from the heart style you project in your writing.
    If I had to name my most favorite place in the World (Because I also have other favorite places) it would have to be: La Cote D’Azur in southern France…That strech between Nice and Monte Carlo…The Scenery on the French Riveria (La promenade des Anglais), to me, is out of the world.

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    • Hey Berge – I do love France, many parts of it, north and south. In fact, that whole area of Europe in general is great (France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, etc…), and I’m continually surprised at how much I love it!

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  16. There has never been a destination through all my travels that did not offer at least some level of visual, cultural or ethnic delights. That said, it is difficult not to include the holy trinity of travel destinations – France, Italy and Spain. There’s something special for whatever anyone would want to experience in these countries. Also, Japan has be included. It has the refinement and attention to detail you would find in France, along with fabulous food, topography, history, culture and it is extremely safe. And the Japanese could possibly rival Newfoundlanders as some of the friendliest people you could come upon.

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    • Hi Walter,
      I haven’t been to Japan yet, but I’m patiently waiting for it to call. How did you find the cost of traveling through Japan?

      Reply
  17. You have been to sooooo many places, more than I can even imagine getting to visit in my lifetime, you sure are doing SOMETHING right! I hear Japan just called you and you’re on your way, can’t wait to read about it! I feel like I can live my travel dreams vicariously through you. Carry on sister!

    Reply
    • Hey Christine,
      That’s the idea – sit back and read my site to travel from the comfort of your armchair! 😉 Let’s see if I end up adding Japan to this list…

      Reply
  18. Reading your article made me encouraged and exciting to travel to some of your favorite places in the world to have a different experience. Thanks for all those lists of beautiful places.

    Reply

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