I’m often asked about my favourite country in the world.
It is, of course, a question without an answer. At least not a real one.
Countries and cultures are complicated things and that’s without getting into what I was doing, who I was with and how I was feeling when I went there.
But to avoid sounding too precious and annoying, I usually ignore all that and come out with something vaguely acceptable. People are, usually, just trying to make pleasant conversation.
So I say, for cities, you can’t beat Paris, London, Cape Town. For landscapes, my mind returns to Patagonia, Tanzania, Botswana.
But already the list is growing too long, too complicated, too segmented.
And, to be completely honest, I haven’t even really got started yet.
What about the cultural overload of Japan? The “turn-everything-you-thought-you-knew-upside-down” ness of travel in the US, in Spain, or through the Middle East?
The great food of France, of Quito, of Rome? And the wild night safaris along the river in Borneo? The cool mountain air in Colombia and the lime-scented sunshine of the Caribbean and its unmistakable steel bands?
Before too long, I realise that my answer begins to rewrite the whole of this blog.
And I always end up missing something important out.
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And in a way, I suppose that’s what Inside the Travel Lab is all about, at its heart. A catalogue of all my favourite places as I travel around in search of more.
So instead, perhaps the question should be: in which country have I felt the happiest?
And that, without doubt, is Oman.
The country itself promises those unspoilt beaches, those mountain ranges filled with orchards and date palms.
Desert sands and camels. Turtles hatching on the shore…
A friendly welcome. Incense. Tradition, culture, progress.
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But I have to be honest.
It was the favourite part of my honeymoon. And then “babymoon” (some years) after that.
And so, these two fish, leaping on the harbour of the capital, make me smile.
They’re not an iconic landmark. They wouldn’t get hearts fluttering on instagram.
But, simply put, they remind me of happier times.
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