53 Countries I’ve Visited & My Top 5
Of all the countries I’ve visited, there are certain destinations that stand out to me as being particularly spectacular. Places that will forever be ingrained in my heart and my mind. The following 5 are, to me, the best countries on the planet, with their inerrant mix of food and people – or in some cases, the lack of people – creating a perfect recipe that just leaves me hungry for more.
Japan, quite simply, is a country that blows your mind. The question I always ask people when I think of Japan is, “How many Japanese people do you know that live here?” The answer, more often than not, is none. I don’t know the exact psychology behind it, but if I had to guess I’d say it’s because the Japanese people love their culture and their country. When they see what else is out there, they realise just how special their home nation is.
I spent 3 weeks in Japan, and for 3 weeks I lived for the culture and the respect. When I returned, I felt a void in my life that I hadn’t experienced after returning from any other country. I can vividly recall getting out of the taxi from the airport back in Liverpool, only to hear two people screaming at each other. I thought it was a fight, yet in reality it was just lads having a conversation.
I realised then that for the 3 weeks I had been away, I’d not heard a single loud voice, scream or argument; I’d lived in peace. I had become sensitised to an idea of what life could be like if our society adopted the practices of the Japanese. Can you imagine, in any city in the UK, leaving your wallet and phone on a table in a nightclub to reserve it?!
Japan, with its beautiful food, beautiful culture and beautiful people made me want to travel. Meet Sean O’Neill was born there, with the original concept being that I could travel the world to bring back my thoughts and learnings from other cultures and to encourage us all to be better people through sharing my experiences. Unfortunately, covid put a stop to that idea but the desire to travel will always remain.
Thailand is globally renowned for its tourism. With its food, beaches and people, it isn’t a surprise to know that this incredible country is called The Land of Smiles. Some of the people closest to me in my life are Thai.
My first visit to Thailand was in 2005, with my initial plan being to travel the world. That plan soon changed though, when I was captivated in an instant by this truly beautiful nation. I stayed for a year, even enrolling in a school to learn the language.
I bought land there, setting roots and falling in love with how the chaos and craziness somehow gels together and forms a place where no matter how difficult times may be, the people still have a good time and there is a smile on every face you see, day and night, no matter how hard they work.
We have such limited knowledge of places like Colombia, with our naivety and small-mindedness stopping us from exploring some of the most incredible places on earth.
When I first travelled to Colombia, it was with pre-conceived ideas, fed by what we read in the news, and I truly did not know what to expect. From the moment I arrived, I was welcomed by everyone I met. I felt so safe, even when I travelled to Medellin, known for its links to drug cartels. I learnt that what we see in TV shows and in print just isn’t the case.
Ironically, when I was there, there was a spate of stabbings in London, and the Colombian people expressed concern that I had travelled from the UK and wanted to ensure that I would be safe from danger when I returned home!
I have spent up to 6 months in Colombia. It is such a happy country, filled with people who have little, but work hard and embrace the joy that life brings, no matter the difficulties they face. I’ve made great friends there and enjoyed great food; Colombia is never far from my mind.
I travelled to the Maldives during the height of covid restrictions, on a business trip. When I arrived at Lily Beach, I was astounded by its beauty and simplicity. The island is around 500m long and 100 metres wide, and the resort itself is comprised of around 100 villas.
Shoes are unnecessary on Lily Beach as there is sand everywhere, even the restaurant floors. Of all the places I have visited in the world, Lily Beach has to be the most beautiful; with its sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, it is a real desert island dream.
I felt privileged to be there; of course, I’d worked hard and could afford it, but it really was one of the most beautiful and tranquil experiences of my life. Visiting Lily Beach was a case of the right place and the right time, and it captured my heart.
I visited Copenhagen in Denmark for a long weekend. It was only when I returned that I realised I had eaten in the top two most highly rated restaurants in the entire world, Noma and Geranium.
Anyone who knows me, knows my love for food; food is the ultimate comfort. It’s ingrained in me from the hardships I faced in childhood; I learnt that when times are difficult or things go wrong, when the world is against you, the best comfort you can find is to sit and share a nice meal with your friends and loved ones, regardless of the quality.
Now, as a man who can afford to dine in the most exclusive eateries in the world and to sample the finest of dining, it was a real treat to experience the food of Copenhagen. I ate like a King, and literally went to bed during my trip to dream of where I would eat the next day.
All the Countries I Have Visited:
- South Africa
- Myanmar (Burma)
- Isle of man
- Vatican City
- Papua New Guinea