Countries are like people – none is perfect and none is absolutely beyond redemption (one hopes).
Only in the oldest and simplest of western films (and I like westerns), the most tribal of politics and the most intolerant of minds are people good or bad with no shades of grey in between. You’re not perfect and neither am I – but nor are we wholly bad (at least I’m not, and I’m sure you aren’t either).
Driven grouse shooting isn’t all bad – it’s just, in my opinion, overall pretty damned awful.
So when it comes to countries, which may have wildlife in them that we’d love to experience, which countries are at the top and bottom of the list of ‘it’s acceptable to visit’ considerations? And how do you decide?
Here are some thoughts of my own before I give you some options to assess.
If we start with ‘the world is my oyster’ and I have the time and money to go anywhere I like, which isn’t true, then how do I choose where to go?
For me, it’s not all about wildlife and landscapes but those are very strong drivers of choice. But even then there are some parts of the world which I’m not that keen on visiting. These include South America (stuffed full of birds I know but please don’t try talking me out of this as it makes life simpler), Antarctica, Asia east of India (most of which is China), tropical Africa, most ocean archipelagos, Iceland and a few other places. Looking at that list, it cuts out almost everywhere south of the equator except Australia (which I’ve visited once but only Queensland), NZ (never been) and southern Africa (quite fancy it). On the more positive side, I would love, all other things being equal, to visit the USA (and maybe Canada) many more times, see more of Europe (including eastern Europe in which I am not much-travelled), North Africa and the Middle East, Russia and a bunch of ‘stans’ and a return visit to India (one visit). So, I’ve hardly cramped my style by excluding much of the southern hemisphere.
So I’ve got a vague and not at all well thought through wish list, of sorts. Now I’m not going to visit all of them for reasons of time, expense and guilt about carbon emissions – but I’ll probably go to some of them in the next decade (in fact, let’s be honest, I hope I will).
If you offered me the chance to visit only one ‘new’ country (new to me) in the rest of my life it would probably be Costa Rica – on the grounds that it is full of birds, everyone I know who has been there raves about it and it appears to have a good environmental record and welcomes ecotourists. If Costa Rica were geographically situated where Ireland is then I’d definitely go there.
And if told I could keep going back to one country which I have visited before, but only one, then it would be a toss-up between the USA and Spain – so I guess Spain must win on carbon grounds.
In the last 15 years or so I’ve turned down many trips, many expenses-paid trips, to places such as Argentina, South Korea, Greece, South Africa (more than once) and Israel. I know for sure in some cases, and suspect in others, that the fact that I didn’t travel didn’t mean that there was less travel as someone else took up the opportunity instead. And you’ll notice (perhaps – but if you didn’t then I’m telling you) that I eventually cracked and went to Israel (partly because I persuaded myself it was for a good cause and partly, let’s be honest, because I was very keen to visit – see here).
So, that’s a bit of information about what I have done in the past – but that is the past. How should I, and you, approach the future?
These are some mental sieves I use for discarding countries to visit which might be on my wish list: how they treat people, what their environmental record is, how much carbon would be emitted by my visit, how much I think I would enjoy it, would my visit encourage things to change in the right direction, how many mosquitoes are there, would I be safe, can I get by in the language and how much it would cost? And, yes, that’s a mixture of apparently altruistic and clearly selfishly personal considerations.
So here are two questions for you to answer, please (if the survey box below looks empty to you then you can try this link instead https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/HWL86PP.