The Travel World Cup 2018

Alongside the Fifa World Cup 2018 I have conducted a little competition of my own that I called the Travel World Cup. Here I paired the same countries competing for the Fifa Trophy with the each other, but instead of playing football I was asking a number of people where they would like to go the most.

The rules were simple:

I show a number of people 3 pictures of each country, and they vote for which one they would like to visit the most.

For the group stage matches, I gave points like the following:

  • If a country won the vote with more than 55%: 3 points
  • If the votes came out between 45% – 55 % for each: 1 points for each
  • If the country lost the vote with less than 45%: 0 points

The number of participants varied from match to match but was in average 122 participants.

The same 32 countries competed within the same 8 groups as in the Fifa World Cup. The knock-out phase was also accordingly – however, with the winners of the Travel World Cup group stage instead.

Expectations

Of course there is no World Cup without trying to guess the outcome beforehand. Just like you have an idea that Brazil is a good football team, you also have an idea about which countries people would rather visit.

But to have more clarity I did a survey to see in which continents I should expect the best travel countries to be. Here I paired up the regions and asked where people would rather go backpacking.

Latin America 48 % | 52 % Europe

Australian continent 65 % | 35 % Central Asia

North Africa & Middle East 68 % | 32 % Sub-Saharan Africa

Basically this told me about which countries I should not expect to win. Here Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa clearly did not do well.

Any of the remaining regions I expected to do well. Specially Europe, that has some of the most “traditional” favorites for people who has not travelled much. For example, who haven’t heard someone say he would love to visit Paris or Rome or Greece?

My experience is that people are often very concerned with safety while traveling and believe most of what the media is telling about a country. And thus I thought the middle eastern and south american countries would finally lose. My top 4 expectations were: France, Switzerland, Australia and Japan.

The voters:

In average 122 people votes for every match. The maximum amount of votes was 179 for the Argentina-Iceland match. The lowest was 28 votes in the Croatia-Nigeria match.

Depends on where the voters come from it might have a big influence on the outcome. The distribution was as follows:

Where people are from

Another influential factor is how well traveled the voters are. Well basically the voters are you guys, and being on a travel blog already means you have some experience and knowledge about countries.

The voters were also very well traveled. In average, you guys have traveled 13 countries.

And the winner is:

Here it comes.. but if you are interested in more statiscs and analysis you can read the paragraphs after:

Winner is: ICELAND

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2nd place: Australia
3rd place: Japan

Power ranking:

  1. Iceland
  2. Australia
  3. Japan
  4. Brazil
  5. Morocco
  6. Spain
  7. Mexico
  8. Colombia
  9. Argentina
  10. England
  11. Switzerland
  12. Tunisia
  13. Russia
  14. Denmark
  15. Sweden
  16. Egypt
  17. Costa Rica
  18. Panama
  19. Peru
  20. France
  21. South Korea
  22. Germany
  23. Uruguay
  24. Portugal
  25. Poland
  26. Croatia
  27. Iran
  28. Belgium
  29. Nigeria
  30. Saudi Arabia
  31. Senegal
  32. Serbia

All the results:

Group stage:

 

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Brackets:

Brackets

 

Analysis:

The surprises

Let us have a look at the many surprises of this game:

  1. The biggest surprise for me was seeing Iceland win it all! Beating out great travel destinations like Morocco, Denmark, Croatia, Argentina, Japan and Australia. This was a surprise for me, because I do not find Iceland more interesting than so many other places but I guess the northern light has its appeal.
  2. The second big surprise was that France lost big time. It lost all of it’s matches but getting 1 point against Denmark by scoring 48 %.
  3. Colombia is one of the countries you always hear is so dangerous. However, it made it to the quarter finals only beaten by Brazil. This is a huge surprise and made me happy to know that people are not getting afraid of visiting anymore.
  4. Only 2 European countries made it to the quarter finals: Spain and Iceland. I thought Europe was much more popular.
  5. The 4 semi finalists came from each their continent!

Other things I personally found disappointing:

  1. All African countries was eliminated quickly. Morocco made it to the quarter finals, however Egypt lost early to Spain – in my world totally not understandable even though I love Spain!
  2. Iran only received 1 point. Totally underrated Iran!
  3. Serbia being the least attractive travel country of all 32.

Emotions

Well.. it is no secret that I have favorite countries of my own. You can check out my lists of favorite places I have been to and not been to here and here. Therefore, I have been really disappointed with some of the results.

How can Egypt not make it futher than the Round of 16? It should be the number one travel destinations based on quantifying attractions. I mean, the biggest amount of history and archeology – not only related to the Old Egyptians but everything from Whale fossils in the Sahara desert to the amazing Mamluk’s mosques. Also it has borders to 2 different seas and thereby many beautiful beaches. Not to mention the only remaining Wonder of the World – the Pyramids!

Also it is really hard to understand how Iceland can be more popular than culturally unique countries like Japan or enormous countries like Brazil and Australia. Don’t get me wrong, Iceland is beautiful and also has some unique natural sights like the geysers, however most of what you find there can also be found in Norway, Sweden and most interestingly Greenland. The last I would have seen win it all but not Iceland. In anyway – Congratulations to this small but extremely competitive country!

Why did Iceland win?

This got me thinking a little about why Iceland won. There is a statistical logic to it:

Europe was one of the continents voted very popular to backpack in. However, because most of the voters were Europeans they probably have visited most of the “common” European countries already. Iceland, however, is in the outskirts of Europe and is often forgotten and hard to reach. It is still Europe though, so very popular and the only country not visited so it got all the European votes as well.

Of course this is just a statistical explanation, but of course Iceland is a legit interesting place to visit. It’s uniqueness is undeniable and so it deserves to win!

Here are some of the comments for why Iceland was chosen in the final game:

“Iceland intrigues me so much. I’d love to go in the winter and visit the Blue Lagoon and natural hot springs”

“I chose Iceland because it is so much lesser known than Australia”

“Hard decision! But I have already been to Australia so I want to give Iceland a try”

“It just looks like an unbelievable country, those places you only see in TV”

“I want to see the Northern Light!”

How people perceived the question had a big influence

There is a big difference in how the voters perceived the question: “Which country would you rather visit?”

I have seen people from the country asked for to vote for it just to support their own country. Others have always voted on the opposite country than their own because why would you visit a country you live in?

Others have probably perceived the question as “which country is best to travel in?” so they voted for that even if they have already visited and seen it all.

It is hard to avoid these differences in how people vote. Let me know how you perceived it in the comments and if there is anything to do to ensure alignment in the perception for next time!

Next tournament?

Is it gonna be in 4 years? Or should I do it more often with other countries? Maybe some that doesn’t necessarily make it to the FIFA Football World Cup? Should I do this every year?

Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed it, enjoyed reading it and how often you want me to do this? Maybe never again? 😛

The prejudice about Albanians and my experience traveling there

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InsThe Albanian Flag – picture taken by me 

When I told my colleagues back home that I will be traveling to Albania their reaction was a surprised face with the words: “Albania? I have heard they are a bunch of thieves over there!” and then the jokes started about stolen Mercedes’s and terrorism.

To be honest, the reaction disappointed me a lot but did not surprise me. Albania is one of these many countries with a bad reputation for absolutely no good reason. Actually no reason at all.

Where does the prejudice come from?

I will not attempt to explain this because there is never an excuse to have prejudice. So the answer is that it comes from narrow minded people. Any person who thinks bad about another entire population or ethnicity is either stupid or consciously evil which is worse.

That said, Albania has large disputes with other countries about territories – thus many neighboring countries have a large Albanian minority and as you guys know, minorities are always picked on. Again – because of stupidity.

Another answer is the media! I have heard specially bad things about the Italian media portraying Albanians as criminals and drug dealers. Again – not an excuse to actually believing in it.

What is the deal with Kosovo?

You might have heard that 3 Swiss football players made the Albanian eagle sign after scoring against Serbia in the FIFA World Cup 2018. The players have roots in Kosovo, so why the Albanian eagle?

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The Eagle sign by Shaqiri (Picture belongs to Yahoo Sports).

Here is the quick story:
There once was a country named Yugoslavia that consisted of many different people: amongst others; Slovenians, Croats, Bosnians, Serbians, Montenegrins, Macedonians and Albanians. Albania was not a part of Yugoslavia though. The Albanians living in Yugoslavia were from a region close to Albania but on the Yugoslavian side called Kosovo.

At some point the country split up (after a long bloody war). The Serbians tried to keep the country together under their rule but no one else wanted that. Eventually they agreed upon borders and everyone settled with their own country – except Kosovo. Because Albania existed, they were seen as immigrants by the Serbs and the right to have their own country was not recognized. Of course they could not just merge with Albania, because that would have been seen as an “invasion”.

Long story short – after a long struggle Kosovo is now recognized by most countries as an independent country. Not Albania, not Serbia – just Kosovo.

So how is Albania actually?

Mind blowing! It is certainly the most underrated country in Europe. Surely, you have already heard about the beauty of Belgrade, the famous bridge of Mostar and the amazing waterfalls of Plitvica. All those are well known tourist attractions in Balkan, while Albania is almost empty for tourists despites it’s unique history and beauty.

The people are very friendly and are actually good English speakers. I did not encounter any even slightly suspicious behavior from anyone. The country is very diverse religiously and everyone seem to respect the other’s way of living.

Albania has had a very dark history and was one of the last countries to recognize the end of the cold war, and that is very pronounced when you visit. You see it in the museums and the architecture of Tirana.

The Albanians are also very honest about their history, and they are not shy to talk about it and explain it to you. Because of that, their museums are very interesting. If you have been to Berlin, you would maybe think their museums were interesting but also a bit depressing. Tirana’s museums will not depress you but terrify you. And while Berlins museums are kinda apologizing for the horror, Tirana’s are just pure honest which makes them so much more interesting!

I will soon be doing another blog post about the history of Albania and what you can expect and learn from that country. If you are interested in knowing more let me know 🙂

 

 

The best European capitals

Europe

Here is the list of my favorite capitals of Europe that I have visited. So remember the list does not included non-capital cities which Europe and also it does not include capitals that I have not visited yet.

1. London

London is my number one city in Europe and worldwide coming in at a 3rd place. I love to get lost in it’s busy hipster streets. This multicultural city has such a high density of hipsters and creative people that you will find gems on every second street you step your foot on.  Seriously, it’s magic is real and one of those cities I could see myself living in.

2. Rome

Rome is just a historical fist hitting you right in between your eyes. There are so many must sees in this city. It even contains a whole country within it – The Vatican. Exploring the history of the romans and the Christianity really makes you feel you are in the middle of something huge. This feeling is everything I look for when traveling.

3. Prague

Prague is the grown-ups Disneyland. With all it’s castles, beautiful bridges, colors and spires it really looks something from a fairytale. It is also a very underrated city that does not get much attention. In addition, because I am a fan of horology I just have to love Prague for having the Astronomical Clock. A must see!

4. Tirana

Maybe the most underrated capital of Europe. Tirana is the capital of Albania and is truly unique not only as a European capital but also different from the rest of the world. Here you can smell the after effects of the cold war and the brutal regime. It has some of the same elements of Berlin, but while you just get sad visiting the trains of the World War II and the cold war in Berlin, in Tirana you just get horrified. But Tirana is much more than just that – it is rich in beauty with it’s colored streets, mosques and churches and the mountainous background.

5. Bern

Bern is the most cozy capital of Europe. It really makes you feel you took a time machine 50 years back. It’s streets are old, it’s cars are old and it’s people are old.. very much in contrast to the rest of Switzerland. And it is beautiful! And there is a bear walking around. It really is one worth a visit – and the best thing of all: Huge discounts on swiss timepieces!

6. Madrid

Madrid faints a bit in relation to the beauty of the many other wonderful Spanish cities (and no I definitely do not mean Barcelona). But Madrid should not be underestimated. It has some of the most beautiful spots in Europe. The presidential palace is one unique sight. It’s food markets are also exceptional. In general it is hard not to have fun in Madrid!

7. Stockholm

Stockholm is probably the most beautiful of the 3 Scandinavian capitals although Copenhagen comes quite close. Stockholm is basically not a city but a bunch of interconnected small islands which makes it look gorgeous. Also it has a vast variety of very interesting museums – Vasa and the Noble Price museum to mention few.

8. Paris

Paris used to be my number one city in Europe as a teen. I have been there 4-5 times and still I love it. But my taste changed and the city changed. It is a dirty and rude city – now it is said. But it’s epic architecture is still beautiful and photogenic and you will enjoy sightseeing there a lot.

9. Sofia

One of the most charming cities I have ever visited. It’s mountainous background is breath taking. It is cheap and has a lot of delicious food. For some reason the Bulgarians don’t know how to cook badly. It is also the only city that has 4 churches for different branches of Christianity, a mosque and a synagoge right besides each other.

10. Brussels

How to make a list of European capitals without including the actual capital of Europe? Brussels is quite interesting and having signs all over the city in 2-3 languages really confirm the feeling of being in the heart of Europe.

What else?

What did not make it to the list? I have visited 10 other capitals of Europe. You can find them in the template-section by clicking here.

 

A thought from the Colosseum and today’s violent media

 

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Did it not occur to anyone in the audience that getting entertained by seeing slaves get eaten by beasts is madness? That it is not okay to get entertained by seeing other struggle to death? Or did no one question it because everyone thought this is normal? It was just the custom. And everyone was happily entertained so who would ever question it?

Do we do anything today that is wrong but never  questioned because that’s what everyone is doing? Any behavior or daily thing they in the future might think is crazy? Are we even better than they were back then? Did we only stop this madness and replaced it by wars so we can get entertained in the news instead of in the arena? Is it wrong to get entertained by action, war and horror movies? Maybe the characters aren’t real but we still get entertained by seeing others suffer and struggle.

In the future,  will they think we are bad people for watching the news and movies? Do we fool ourselves thinking its informative and educational while in reality it’s nothing but entertainment?

Probably not..  But who knows what future people might think about us. The point is, I am not sure we are better humans than the romans. Maybe on the individual level we are  but as a generation as an era or an age we are probably not.

It is just beyond my understanding how people can do to each other what we see in the news today. But anyway, sorry for the depressing thoughts. But history is often cruel – luckily it is in the past and we can actually learn if we study it, travel to it and think about it. Always search for history when you visit a new place! 😉

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Keeping your integrity while traveling

The other day I met this traveler who has been volunteering in various countries in Africa. Let’s call him Tim. He have been helping out building sanitary facilities for a tribe in Uganda. They invited him for a traditional meal and he accepted. Now this guy is actually a vegetarian and is very disgusted by the smell of meat. Now he is sitting with the tribe eating and they serve him this bloody raw sheep eye.

If you were a vegetarian, what would you have done?

Tim felt like he could not say no and thus he tried to swallow the eye at once. Of course – it can up again and he had to chew his way through and try not to throw up. It was the worst meal in his life.

This story made me think. Many travelers out there try to keep an open mind and say yes to anything along their way. Either they are afraid of saying no or they think they should try everything even if it contradict their taste or even their values. For me this is a misunderstood way of travelling.

Travelling is not about forcing yourself to do things you don’t like or don’t believe in. Travelling is supposed to enrich your life and teach you both about the world and about yourself. If you already know that you do not like to eat meat, then do not eat it. And don’t ever compromise your integrity no matter where in the world you are.

This is not about being a good “traveler” it is about being a good whole rounded human being. A true gentleman stay true to himself while still treating others politely. So how about the fear of offending your host?

In my experience, people – everywhere in the world – understand that their way of living is not the same as others. They will not get offended even if you do something that would have offended them, but because you are a foreigner they will understand. They will not judge you as they hope you will not judge them.

If you are afraid of saying no and explain your reasons, then it is more likely because of your own judgmental mind. Probably you think they will judge you because you yourself are likely to judge. People expect others to behave in the same way they do. Basically, if you expect good you are good. Not naive.

I knew that when Tim started to tell his solution for how to save the world from poverty: To convince africans not to have children so we in Europe don’t get flooded by immigrants later on. What a disgusting point of view from a volunteer worker!

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People have introduced me to lots of weird food during my travels. But always if there is something I do not wanna eat, I say no thank you. My biggest advice when travelling: Say no when people tell you to do things you know you don’t like to do!

 

5 myths about travelling alone

I get asked a lot about how it is to travel alone. I have gathered 5 myths I hear frequently – I will tell you from my personal experience whether I think they are true or not. For the reference: atm. I have travelled to 13 different countries alone.

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1. You get lonely and bored
False! You will learn to enjoy your own company. By being alone you finally have the chance to reflect about life, get to know yourself and in addition immerse yourself into the place you are visiting. I have spent hours in a local café reading about the history of the country I was visiting.
Tip: Make a large itinerary to keep yourself entertained and take your time sleeping in the morning (I hate getting up early :P).

2. It is dangerous!
True.
 Unfortunately. But I would not use the word dangerous but rather unsafe. Being alone you are an easy target and you can encounter many frauds trying to take your money. Depends on where you are in the world and your gender. However, an experienced male traveler will easily avoid danger even in the most dangerous places in the world. I have backpacked all alone in one of the world’s most dangerous countries.
Tip: Choose a “safe” location for your first few travels and be brave! Recommendable places are Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Spain, Scandinavia, and Canada. Places you shouldn’t go for the first few solo trips: Turkey, USA and various middle eastern and south European countries.

3. It’s much more expensive!
False!
Sure, when travelling in groups you can share expenses like.. hotels, but that’s all. On the other hand, flight tickets are much cheaper for a single person than a group – not many people know this. In addition, you are faster alone so you can go further away and afford more entrances!
Tip: Because you are alone you can go to places that no one else wants to go to. These places are often cheaper! Remember: There are no boring countries!

4. Eating alone is not enjoyable
True! If food means a lot to you, travelling alone might be a bummer. Depends on where in the world going into a restaurant and asking for a table for one is a bit embarrassing. Well – you need to eat, so you have to do it!
Tip: Go out and eat a good large breakfast and skip lunch. Eating breakfast alone is more acceptable.

5. You need to be brave and extroverted to do it
Super-duper false! Everyone can do it and everyone should do it. In my opinion, introverts will actually enjoy it more. They will finally have time to enjoy their own company and immerse into their interests.
Tip: Do it!

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One of my various solo trips went to Vietnam. Scuba diving of course!

New blog start up

So I have decided to start up a new travel blog just like everyone else is doing. I hope you will like mine though. I promise it will be different!

I will not do the usual “Travel Guide to XX country”. Instead I will talk about some of the things I learn on my different travels. I will basically do 2 things:

  1. Try to communicate the philosophical experience that travelling is. Basically sharing my thoughts about the world I see.
  2. I will make a lot of lists about interesting things. My favourite places, favourite airlines, favourite anything.

Visiting historical places or significant cultural moments or even outstanding natural sceneries often throws me in a thinking mood. I am not a romantic nor a philosopher, but I like to actually try to decode the world and understand why everything is as it is. If you know me you will know I respect all cultures, all religions and only try to bring the best to the surface.

So another thing I will not do is the usual “10 things to watch out for in XX countries” or “10 most dangerous countries to go to”.

I have been to many countries on such lists and the rule of thumb is that people are just trying to live a happy life no matter the circumstances. If you meet them with interest, they will repay it with kindness. So do not be afraid and come with me on adventures all over the world 🙂

.. and PS: Tell me your honest opinion and thoughts about what I should do here. I am basically a noob :/

PPS: Until the next blog post, you can read my lists of places I want to go and top places I already have been. Find them in the menu in the top or click here (top destinations visited) or here (top wanna go to places). Thank you! 🙂