I think every traveler has their own personal “postcard” cities: Places that you feel like you’ve visited even before you’ve ever actually been to them. You’ve looked at images of these travel destinations for as long as you can remember, and you’ve read thousands of stories from those who have already traveled there. You’ve imagined going to this place for months, years, even decades. How could you not have certain expectations?
I think people tend to have relatively extreme reactions when they finally visit a place that has become legendary in their own mind. The place either turns out to be everything you ever imagined it would be, or it’s a complete letdown when you see it without the glow of your own imagination. I’ve definitely experienced both types of places. Here are a few places that live up to the hype and met my expectations; a few places that really are as incredible as everyone told me they would be.
I feel like some people might disagree with me on this point because there are a lot of beautiful islands in the world, and many of them are far less developed than the Thai islands. Regardless, I always imagined the Thai islands as places where I could lie under towering palm trees on a bed of pearly-white sand, facing towards clear, turquoise waters. I think I’ve been able to fulfill every stereotypical beach fantasy on the Thai islands: From sipping a coconut on the beach, to spending an afternoon swaying in a hammock with one foot dangling in the sand.
In my fantasies, Venice was on par with some kind of unicorn-filled, mystical, kingdom. I imagined that I would virtually drown in beauty and romance if I ever actually visited. And, to me, it really did turn out to be like a living fairy-tale: The sleek gondolas anchored in front of pastel-coloured buildings, the un-really elaborate art and architecture, and the complex way the canals ran through the whole city like a picturesque bloodstream. You might want to consider finding accommodation near the Grand Canal in Venice, so that you can be right at the heart of the magic. Venice was like nowhere else in the world. Like the rest of Italy, the food was indescribably tasty: Thick, cheesy lasagnas and large, flavourful pizzas with perfectly crunchy crusts.
Dublin is probably not as hyped up as some of the other places on this list, but Ireland, and Dublin in particular, is known for its dedicated beer culture and friendly local people. Our Dublin experience definitely checked both of these boxes. We drank a lot of Guinness, and when we went out to drink and dine, the locals bought us beers and seemed genuinely interested in who were and where we came from. Dublin wasn’t crawling with tourists, and I felt none of the general aloofness that I experienced in some other big European cities. Dublin had all the charm of a small town. Plus, at the risk of sounding completely inane, the Irish accents were flat out adorable!
Luang Prabang may not be famous globally, but it’s well-known among most backpackers in SE Asia. This UNESCO heritage city was rumored to be a place where European and Asian cultures blended beautifully. A place where paper lanterns hung outside striking French provincial-style buildings, and where monks in bright sienna robes collected alms outside bakeries. And that was Luang Prabang: It was like a plate of sticky rice served with a glass of French wine. Warmly-lite nightmarkets were set up in the shadows of golden temples, and imposing mountains. It was multi-cultural, eclectic, and, like the rest of Laos, inherently relaxed.
Amsterdam always seemed like the dirty secret of any European trip; a city that should be named only in whispers. Because what could be more salacious than sex and drugs? It was all there: The cafes where you could walk in and order marijuana off the menu, the red light district where street after street was lined with prostitutes standing behind transparent doors. It was also filled with European loveliness: 100s of bikes resting against bridges that arched gracefully over the canals, elegant tall buildings, and a general air of artistic charm. Amsterdam was more avant-garde, than it was sleazy in the way I had imagined. It was everything I expected, but also far more beautiful than I had ever known it would be.
*Please note: This post helps to fund our traveling*
Have you visited these places? Did they meet your expectations? What other places lived up to the hype for you?