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Travel Tuesday question of the week – Which destination has had the biggest impact on you?

August 10, 2010
by budgettravelsac

For me, this is an easy one.  It was my first trip I ever took outside of the country – Estonia.  Growing up in the South, I had traveled all over the US.  However, I had only been on a plane once.  And now my second flight ever took me far away from home to Estonia.

Walking through the Frankfurt airport was an eye opener in itself.  However, arriving in Estonia I discovered a people, culture, and country that I loved.  Visiting a country with a history and culture so different than my own was a jaw-dropping experience.  From the food to the nearly-impossible language to the people and culture to the wide-eyed world of travel, I was hooked.

When we were there, something inside of me woke up.  From out of nowhere, a passion for traveling and a love of other cultures was born.

People all around me noticed it when I was there.  I spent hours talking to translators trying to learn phrases and words I would never use again.  I was fascinated by my conversations with Estonians about their lives, how they grew up, and how they viewed life.  I loved seeing old architecture and the beautiful old towns of Tallinn and Tartu.  I loved interacting with other college kids who were not only separated by thousands of miles but seemed to live in a different world as well.

So thank you Estonia.  You changed my life and I will never be the same.

Check out my appearance on Travels with Rick Steves – Estonia (or here) as I share about my trip to Estonia with Rick. (38:58 mark – Windows Media Player required)

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. August 10, 2010 10:44 am

    I would have to say South Africa. The first time I visited SA, it felt like a homecoming. I was totally bowled over by the spectacular nature, scenery, food & wines and the hospitable people. Too much to mention but SA has truly made a huge impression on me.


    • August 14, 2010 9:34 pm

      Thanks Keith. I know a couple of people from there but have never been there. I also know someone who has been to Lesotho so I have a curiosity about that area. I admit I don’t know a whole lot about South Africa but I think the World Cup was great exposure for South Africa and hopefully more people will take the time to enjoy this country.

  2. August 10, 2010 12:24 pm

    Without a doubt, Portugal would have to top my list. Like you, it was my first overseas trip. I was young, grieving, needing a place/way to ‘find’ myself. And Portugal came through in spades.

    Indeed, a few years back when I began to think of offering secular retreats for women, Portugal seemed like the most logical place in the world for its combination of culture, safety, scenery, great food, friendly people and reasonable prices. My clients have been amazed about their experiences there.

    If I can sneak in a second place that has impacted me it would be Scotland. Partly because Scotland turned out to be so not what I expected! I expected bland, industrial, cranky. Instead I discovered such incredible beauty I lost my breath many times, so many open, craggy, wild spaces that it is easy to understand the Scots determination and creativity and opinionated yet friendly people. As a Canadian I had never really understood why so many Scots chose my country as a place to emigrate to. But after an all-too-short visit I can easily see a gut-level attraction to the space, the geography …and their influence on our collective personality.

    Great question, by the way.


    • August 14, 2010 9:31 pm

      Thanks Gwen. I have spent time in the Algarve and Lisbon. Of all the places in Europe, Lisbon reminded me the most of my home in South Carolina with its mix of black and white. There is something unique about Portugal that is different than anywhere else.

      I think one similarity I see in Portugal and Scotland is their isolation from the rest of Europe and their ability to find an identity all their own. I’ve never been to Scotland before but it is at the top of my list as one of the next big trips that I want to take.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. August 10, 2010 12:31 pm

    Easily Lebanon! First day I was having lunch in Beirut & befriended by a brother & sister. They showed me around after lunch & dropped me at my hotel. Next morning I had a call to come down to lobby & I was wondering who could this be? It was Tony and all his friends & family with a huge rented bus. He said get dressed & bring your camera! They took me all around Lebanon! I was adopted by the family & stayed with them after that day. I’ve never met such beautiful souls in all my travels. The hospitality was beyond amazing! Until this day we are in contact and I feel as if they are family. Lebanon is a beautiful country with a beautiful culture and history. Without a doubt Lebanon get my vote as the place that made the greatest impact on me.

    • August 14, 2010 9:25 pm

      Thanks Stefano. I have a friend from Lebanon and was interesting to hear about the country from her perspective. Without meeting her, I never would have cared about the country. However, it’s fascinating to me now.

      What you shared speaks to one of the greatest lessons I have learned from travel – your best memories and experiences are due to the people you meet, not the places you see. It was your time with that family that made your trip and Lebanon all that more memorable.

  4. August 11, 2010 1:44 am

    For me, it’s a toss up between Athens, Rome, and Poland. Athens and Rome because I had studied art history in high school and then again in college and for a time, had planned to major in it. These were two places I had always dreamed of visiting and after studying the art and architecture, I was completely in awe standing there seeing the ruins and legendary sites in person. I actually cried when I was in Athens standing at the Acropolis and looking down over other parts of Athens. In Rome, I stood in line for hours just to see the Sistine Chapel in person and I found myself wanting to stay there forever taking it all in. Those memories are forever etched in my mind and remain two of the most significant destinations I have visited.

    Poland evoked different emotions and definitely had a profound impact on me. My husband is Jewish and we toured many Jewish historical sites in Krakow and then went to Auschwitz. There are no words that accurately convey the flood of emotions that most people have when seeing the camps in person. It was eerie because we were there in the miserably cold winter — snow on the ground –making the experience all that more emotional as you imagine the people who were exposed to those elements on a daily basis. There were some parts of the camps that were too hard to even view, especially the wall where mass killings took place. Seeing photos are nothing compared to being there in person and walking the train tracks that brought passengers into the camp and to the gas chambers where they were killed. I had nightmares for a few days after that trip.

    • August 14, 2010 9:23 pm

      Erin, I have been to 2 of the 3. I haven’t been to Athens but seeing the Sistine Chapel in Rome was great. It was a tough day for me as I was tired so I took off from my tour and just headed there. It was beautiful to see.

      As for Poland, I love Krakow. And Auschwitz is incredibly somber. It’s one of the quietest tourist sites you will visit. No one laughs or is having a good time in there. It’s a time for somber reflection in one of the worst places in our modern history.

  5. August 12, 2010 8:14 am

    New Zealand.

    The profound impact of such extreme Mother Nature was incredible. As well, I did one of the ‘epic’ trails, which meant a solo hike of about 5 days without seeing any humans. Pretty surreal

    • August 14, 2010 9:20 pm

      Wow, that’s an amazing hike! There is something about being in mother nature that gives us a peace, clarity, and greater sense of awareness for our lives. I have found that it is when I slow down and the noise of life is gone, it’s when I see and hear the best.


  1. The Crush Part I – a story of Estonia and love « Budget Travel Intentions

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