The latest in the British publisher Bounty Books/Octopus Publishing Group‘s “501 Must-Visit” series takes you all over the world, divided neatly in sections, continent by continent, region by region. Yes, it could have used a map (it’s a travel book, for heaven’s sake!), the destinations are ridiculously uneven (from a single building to all of Dublin’s pubs to entire cities and even archipelago regions), and the pictures range from absolutely spectacular to strangely grainy reproductions … but who’s quibbling?
In open appreciation to humanity – especially when we’re not stuck in ‘death and destruction’-mode – the editors reveal that “the majority [of the must-visit destinations] are creations of human beings – towns and cities, cathedrals, castles, museum, gardens and markets – all testament to the industry, ingenuity and perseverance of mankind.” They do, however, also add that “[u]ndoubtedly travel and tourism can have a damaging effect as visitors to some of the world’s most famous cities and monuments can testify.” That not-heeded-enough adage, ‘take only memories (and pictures), leave only footprints,’ isn’t exactly working in far too many places throughout the world.
But enough doom and gloom for the moment. Nothing opens the mind more than wandering beyond your comfort zone and meeting your global neighbors …
So just how many of these 501 destinations (the insides of the front and back covers have the full checklist in alphabetical order) can you check off? Don’t let that perfect picture of the Taj Mahal fool you … it’s probably one of the easier must-sees. “The most remote places on earth are today accessible to the intrepid traveller,” the editors insist. How about a jaunt to Japan’s unspoiled Ogasawara Islands (made up of 30 islands that were finally returned to Japan in 1968!), which requires a 25-hour (!) ship journey from Tokyo to Chichijima which embarks only once a week – no mention of how to get back! Or how about a visit to a witch doctor in the colorful markets of Zomba, Malawi, reachable only by trekking – “[t]he state of the roads on the plateau are not good,” a note warns – after planes, trains, and automobiles? Better be prepared for a few challenges!
Of course, you’ll find some of the expected destinations – from the Acropolis (which I waddled up at dawn while seven months pregnant), to the Great Wall (of which I have yet to see even a single stone), to the Leaning Tower of Pisa (where I took a rather international photo of our British-plated Swedish car with the American hubby in the deserted courtyard), to the coral island of Zanzibar (someday, oh please!).
Reality’s overrated! Grab a buddy, pack light, and let’s go!
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2006 (United Kingdom); 2010 (United States)