I agree with writer/globetrotter Daisy McClane, who often contributes to National Geographic Traveler. After visiting 5 Compass Iguazu Falls, she went to Paraguay’s 0 Compass Ciudad del Este, which she called one of the world’s most notorious smuggling hubs. Later, when she told others about her trip, she decided, the story would begin with Ciudad del Este. She concluded, “The best travel happens when you open yourself to all human experience and activity, not just the beautiful. Sometimes the lowbrow end of the spectrum is where your best travel memories are waiting.”
I thought about Daisy, and myself, this past week when I finished reading the Atlas of Cursed Paces. Olivier Le Carrer’s book about destinations that no one in their right mind would travel to noted that he had been to 30 of them. Somewhere along the way, of course, he decided to write a book about these places, but initially he must have been lured to them because of their bad reputations. This book sent me googling. I began at thetoptens.com. with the world’s worst places to live There were no surprises. In descending order, of course, were North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, and 4 other desperately troubled spots.
Next, I googled the world’s 10 worst cities to live in. The source was the very respected Economist. Its global livability study included these losers–Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Douala, Cameroon, Tripoli, Libya, Tehran, Iran, and Lagos, Nigeria. 6 of the 10 were in Africa. I recently read about a man who moved to Lagos and reported that every time he left his living quarters he was robbed. Every time! I know a man who was born in Cameroon and managed to get out and do well. Alan decided to help his people by sending boxes of used clothing to be distributed among the poor. All of them disappeared before reaching their destination.
With a shudder and to avoid nightmares about Harare, I googled Escapehere to read its list of the 10 worst U.S. cities to visit, and this is when I entered Daisy territory. I have been to most of them in the past couple of years. In fact, #2 is my hometown, St. Louis, where most of my family still lives. Predictably, #1 is Detroit. Ruth and I went to #3 Reno last year and had a great time. A much-loved cousin just recently moved back to Cleveland, #4. A city that I have been to more than 100 times, Chicago, is #5. And so on. The only city on the list that I’m not familiar with is Stockton, CA.
This year I’m on my way to Tbilisi, Mexico City, and, perhaps, Ciudad del Este.