Countries I Need to Give a Second Chance

by Brenna Holeman

Cahuita Costa Rica

Cahuita, Costa Rica

A few months ago I wrote a post entitled “Just Not My Type: The Places I Didn’t Love“. It was fairly well-recieved, in that I think people like to read not only about all the amazing and beautiful places others love, but also about the places they… didn’t love as much. None of us are going to be completely besotted with each country or city or place we visit, and that’s totally ok. In fact, it’s more than ok – it’s great. If we all loved the same places, they’d get very crowded. Besides, variety is the spice of life. And so on. You get me.

That being said, there are a few countries that, whenever I think of them, I know I haven’t done them justice yet. None of us can get it right all the time, of course. Some of these countries I’ve spent a few days in, some I’ve spent a few weeks in, but for whatever reason, I just feel as though I need to go back and do some more exploring. The same could be said of every country I’ve visited – I’m dying to go back to Peru, Japan, the Philippines, France, Guatemala, Thailand, New Zealand, etc. until forever – but the countries I’m including on this list were the ones that I didn’t quite connect with or spend enough time in the first time around, and would like to try again. I am well aware how fortunate I was to visit all of these places, and I do not believe I took the time spent in these countries for granted, but I’d love to give them a second chance.

Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye, Belize

1. Belize. Belize is an incredibly popular country in Central America, and for good reason: it is drop-dead gorgeous. I visited in the spring of 2012 and started near Lamanai, where I stayed in a lodge and explored the surrounding jungle and Mayan ruins. I then flew to Ambergris Caye, where I spent a few days on the beach relaxing in the sun and drinking cocktails that tasted like summer. It was beautiful and calming, make no mistake about it, but when I think of Belize I don’t think, “Oh my God I loved it so much I need to recommend it to EVERYONE!!” – which is how I feel about a whole lot of other places. I blame this on the fact that it was my first stop of a nine-month adventure through Central and South America, and I was quite nervous. However, I really want to go back and see more of Belize, specifically the coast; I didn’t go scuba diving there, for example, and I didn’t get to the backpacker hangout of Caye Caulker. I have a feeling that, on a second time around to the country, I could easily fall in love with it. Besides, I just really want to go hang out on a beach again, and who can blame me?

Egypt with mum

On a felucca on the Nile River in Cairo, Egypt

2. Egypt. I have often talked about how much I didn’t like my time in Egypt on this blog. I can deal with the heat and the dust, but I was really upset by the harassment I encountered from Egyptian men while I was there. I am hopeful that things have changed since I visited in 2008, because I felt incredibly uncomfortable and angry then. That being said, I would like to go back one day and explore more of the country – I wonder if the harassment is worse in Cairo, because I didn’t encounter as much in Alexandria. I would also consider going there with a guide or as part of a tour. I haven’t given up on Egypt, not yet!

3. Singapore. Singapore is another country that I have talked about needing to visit again, because my first time there left something to be desired. I blame this purely on the circumstances of my visit, however, and not the country itself. I got bedbugs, I didn’t click with anyone at my hostel, and I was counting down the days before meeting up with my then-boyfriend. I thought the city to be really fascinating, though, and I’d like to see it again in the right mind frame.

Galapagos Islands

Hiking in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

4. Ecuador. There is SO much to see in Ecuador, and I barely scratched the surface of it. I actually spent two weeks there, but most of it was on the Galapagos Islands (which were absolutely amazing). My travel partner Kerri and I had spent much longer in Colombia then we had anticipated and were eager to get to Peru because of the looming tourist season/weather, so we unfortunately travelled much faster through Ecuador than I would have liked. While we really enjoyed the town of Otavalo, we barely spent any time in Quito and didn’t get to Montañita, Baños, or so many other renown spots in the country. I’d love to go back and see more.

Table Mountain

Cape Town, South Africa

5. South Africa. I sometimes feel really bad about the time I spent in South Africa, like I wasted the days. To be fair, I only had five days in Cape Town before moving on to Johannesburg to meet up with a tour group that would take me through Botswana and Zambia (I was on a tight schedule due to work and university). I just don’t know what happened to me in Cape Town. I totally shut down – I didn’t want to do any sightseeing or any tours, so I didn’t, other than a wine tour of the region (funny that I found time for that). I spent most of my time just wandering around the city on my own, stopping in cafés to read. I was also right in the middle of a big campaign at work, so had to spend a ton of time on the computer, especially as I’d be completely offline while camping in Botswana. I know that I can’t beat myself up for this – it was a holiday, after all, and sometimes holidays are meant to just be relaxing – but I do wish that I had taken advantage of being in such a gorgeous location with such important history. I can’t wait to go back and see so much more of not only Cape Town, but of the entire country.

Madrid Spain

Madrid, Spain

6. Spain. Well this is a strange one, as I’ve actually been to Spain four times already, which would mean I want to give Spain a fifth chance. Don’t get me wrong, I think Spain is fantastic and I have had some wonderfully fun holidays there. I’ve been to Barcelona, Madrid (twice), Alicante, and Lloret de Mar, but I want to see more of the country, so much more. I want to see Granada and Seville. I want to see more of its beaches, its mountains, and everything else in between. I want to drink more Rioja and eat more ham. Basically, although I’ve been to Spain four times, I feel as though I’ve barely had the time to truly discover it. I hope to spend a lot more time there one day.

7. Jamaica. I went to Jamaica on an all-inclusive holiday (my friend won it and took me), which tells you just about everything you need to know about why I feel I didn’t see very much of Jamaica, and why I’d really like to go back.

San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

8. Chile. Another country I’ve admitted that I didn’t quite connect with, I would definitely like to give Chile a second chance. When I travelled through the north of the country in 2012, I was on my own and, as it happens from time to time as a solo traveller, I felt pretty lonely. Again, I recognise that this is a circumstantial reason I didn’t have the best time in Chile, and not the country’s fault at all. While I loved Santiago and Valparaiso, I struggled to find my place in La Serena or San Pedro de Atacama. I’d love to go back and see these places again (perhaps in a different season), and travelling through the south of Chile into Patagonia is high up on my dream list.

Jumping for joy in Myanmar

Jumping for joy in Yangon, Myanmar

9. Myanmar. I loved my time in Yangon in 2011. That week was one of my favourite weeks ever of travelling, filled with markets and temples and so many incredible experiences with both travellers and the people of Myanmar. However, it was exactly that: a week. My time there was limited as I was travelling with Kerri, who only had a couple of weeks off of work. I cannot claim to know the country at all, especially in all that has changed in the tourist industry in the past few years. I cannot wait to go back and see more of the country, especially Bagan and Mandalay. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this will be sooner than later.

Ziplining in Costa Rica

Zip-lining in Costa Rica (which was pretty damn fun)

10. Costa Rica. In the blog post I wrote about the places I didn’t love, I wrote, “Compared to how much I loved Guatemala and Honduras and Nicaragua… I never really formed a strong bond with Costa Rica. Perhaps it was because it was the most expensive and the most touristy of the countries I had been to so far on that trip, but that normally doesn’t bother me. Sometimes there really is no explaining why certain people – and certain places – have chemistry. I would absolutely love to explore more of Costa Rica in the future, however, because I know that I could easily change my mind.” It’s true – I know that I absolutely cannot write off an entire country just because I didn’t click with it right away, especially since I only spent a couple of weeks there. That would be close-minded and foolish. Interestingly, a lot of people agreed with me about not connecting with Costa Rica in the comments of that post, but I would still really like to go back there one day and travel through it much more extensively.

Yangon Myanmar

All smiles in Yangon, Myanmar

What about you? Are there places you’d like to give a second chance? Why?

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Polly August 19, 2015 - 5:06 pm

Definitely Nicaragua. We went when it was ungodly hot AND I sprained my ankle – not the best impression. I enjoyed it for what it was but think I really could have loved it in better circumstances!

Brenna Holeman August 19, 2015 - 11:03 pm

Oh yeah, those are definitely circumstances which would make you not particularly connect to a place! I love Nicaragua, so I hope you get back soon. 🙂

aeroman August 19, 2015 - 6:02 pm

A nice write up! I have the same sentiments of a few places I have been and that are on the list. You are right about giving places a second chance….if only there was enough time and money! And not to mention trying out some for the first time !

Brenna Holeman August 19, 2015 - 11:04 pm

Thank you! I agree – if only we had all the time and money in the world…

Katie Featherstone August 19, 2015 - 6:10 pm

For me it might have to be Germany. I didn’t quite get it, or spend long enough there, but I know there is incredible scenery to find!

Brenna Holeman August 19, 2015 - 11:04 pm

Interesting! I’ve been to Germany a few times, but I’d love to explore more of the countryside…

Mette August 19, 2015 - 6:10 pm

So glad to see Ecuador on this list. I feel like so many see Ecuador as a pitstop on their way somewhere else (typically Columbia, Peru or Galapagos), but really, the country has so much to offer. I lived in Quito for a year and can honestly say that while I liked Peru, I’m in love with Ecuador and its people.

Brenna Holeman August 19, 2015 - 11:04 pm

Yeah, I’m dying to go back! I really feel like I didn’t do the country justice at all.

Blue September 12, 2015 - 4:28 am

I agree! I went down for about a week and saw Quito, Papallacta, and stayed in a “rustic” Amazon lodge and loved it. Tough trip to pack for though…

Brenna Holeman September 12, 2015 - 4:52 pm

Yeah, I really hope to get back to Ecuador soon!

Katie August 19, 2015 - 7:57 pm

I would like to give Berlin a second chance as I was held up at knifepoint the first time I visited which put a dampener on my time there. Also New York as I only spent 5 days there and it just wasn’t enough time to really get a feel for it. I had been to Spain 3 times before I visited the Andalucia region and finally falling in love with the country. Granada is one of my favourite cities in Europe and I loved the small mountain towns of Las Alpujarras as well as Ronda. It also took me a second visit to Italy to explore more places off the main tourist path to fall in love with the country. I also want to revisit Portugal as I have only been to Lisbon and the Algarve, as well as Panama, Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina.

Brenna Holeman August 19, 2015 - 11:05 pm

Oh God, yeah, I can see why you feel that way about Berlin! Wow. I really hope to go to Spain and see more of the smaller cities and countryside, it sounds fantastic! Thanks for your comment, Katie. 🙂

Emma August 19, 2015 - 9:13 pm

I felt the same about Chile too, I only saw the north of the country and felt a bit bored there compared to what I experienced in the rest of South America, but I felt that if I’d ventured down south to Patagonia I would have seen what Chile really had to offer

Brenna Holeman August 19, 2015 - 11:06 pm

Interesting! Well then, we definitely need to see the south… 🙂

Meggie Kay August 19, 2015 - 10:31 pm

Singapore is one of my favourite places in the world! I lived there for 5 months and didn’t want to leave. I’ve even been seeing if it’s possible for me to move back. I would definitely recommend you giving Singapore another chance.

Brenna Holeman August 19, 2015 - 11:06 pm

That’s what I love about travelling – we all have such different opinions of places! I’d definitely like to go back and see it again. 🙂

Whitney August 20, 2015 - 1:03 am

Okay… so about Egypt. I was there in 2008 and you are spot on about the harassment. It was the WORST of any country I’ve ever been to. A random guy on the street stalked me and asked to have bum sex with him!! Can you even believe that? However, I spent 2 weeks in the country and it was one of my favourite trips of all time. I spent 10 days with a tour and 5 days on my own in Sharm El Sheikh (read: paradise!!). The tour definitely made me feel safe and I received very little unwanted attention when a part of a group. When my friend and I broke away, we did have some issues but fortunately they did not ruin the experience. Egypt is such an incredible place with so much history… I hope it still feels that way post revolution. And make sure to visit Aswan!

Brenna Holeman August 20, 2015 - 5:51 pm

Oh wow, that’s terrible! And it’s too bad that it happens to so many people. It’s very encouraging to hear that it changed when you went with a tour – as I said, I think I will do that next time! I would love to go back, as there is so much amazing history there…

HAnnah August 20, 2015 - 9:33 am

I feel the same about ecuador, i was there for about 10 days (most of which in the galapagos). I guess I didn’t realise how much there was to do and see there until I got there and then had my flight home booked in and unchangeable!

Spain is fantastic if you stay away from the places most people go to. I’ve just got back from a road trip around Northern Spain which was full of beautiful beaches, mountains and rolling hills. It’s stunning!

Brenna Holeman August 20, 2015 - 5:52 pm

Wow, that sounds incredible! I think that road trips are often the best way to see a country.

Hopefully we both get back to Ecuador soon, then! 😉

Katie @ Domestiphobia August 20, 2015 - 1:31 pm

I really loved Costa Rica. But then I spent 2 months there, and 95% of that time was in the tiny town of Bagaces in Guanacaste. We took side trips to the Pacific beaches and I had the best tacos of my life from a Mexican expat in Liberia. Everyone my friend and I met were so friendly — letting us hitch rides to work in the back of their trucks in the mornings and inviting us to their homes for dinner. It was just a warm, lovely place. (Where my only experience in Nica was a few days in San Juan del Sur, which felt super touristy and the beach was pretty gross.) So it’s definitely partially a matter of where you spend your time while in a country!

Brenna Holeman August 20, 2015 - 5:55 pm

Yeah, that sounds amazing!! I went to Liberia but didn’t find those tacos, damn. That sounds like the kind of experience I’d love to have…

And it’s funny you say that about Nicaragua, because I absolutely loved it! I spent nearly a month there, though, and got to see a lot of different sides to the country. So yes, it is totally dependent on where you go, when you go, who you go with, etc. Hopefully you can visit again soon! 🙂 Thanks for the comment, Katie.

Paula August 20, 2015 - 1:53 pm

I don’t like to visit the same place/country twice. I believe the world has a lot to offer, so I can´t waste time going there again. However, I was only 16 when I visited Japan and although everything was amazing, there’s this feeling I should go back and see things with a diferent point of view (not a teenage point of view)! 🙂

Brenna Holeman August 20, 2015 - 5:53 pm

I think I have the opposite opinion… I don’t see it as time wasted at all! To each their own, though. 🙂

And yes, I agree that Japan is definitely worth a revisit, and then some… it’s such a fantastic and interesting country.

Megan August 20, 2015 - 2:11 pm

seeing that photo of you in chile made me connect with it and ive not even been :):)

id def say costa rica is one for me. i love so much about the country, but when i go there, im always ‘meh’.

another city (not country) is gothenburg, sweden. ive been there a few times and i just cant connect with the place, but i keep having the urge to go back. i feel the same with amsterdam (someone is really hating me now as they read this!) otherwise, aside from some mishaps in india that caused me to not care for the particular places i visited, id def go back in a heartbeat! tbilisi wasnt my favorite city, but id go back.

i believe in giving places second chances and i hope you make it back to some of the places you listed! <3

Brenna Holeman August 20, 2015 - 5:56 pm

Interesting about Gothenburg… I’ve never been there, but I want to go! And I definitely need to go back to Amsterdam, too, even though I’ve been twice.

I completely agree with your last line. 🙂 Thanks for the comment, Megan!

Cynthia August 20, 2015 - 6:42 pm

I so firmly believe that where you stay and the people that surround you make SUCH a big impact on whether or not you end up liking that city or country! I LOVE Singapore, having spent 2 weeks there visiting family and taking my time seeing all the best sights and really getting to know and understand the culture. However I had a terrible hostel experience in Dublin which has caused me to become uninterested in going back to Ireland at all… something I haven’t felt badly about until just recently (because Dublin does not equal Ireland, right?).

Brenna Holeman August 20, 2015 - 11:56 pm

Yes, I totally agree! And I love Ireland – I’ve been five times – so I definitely recommend heading back and seeing it again. 🙂

Ashley August 21, 2015 - 10:12 pm

Great read – I’m always curious to know which places people love and which ones they don’t really connect with! I think I’ll always want to revisit Australia, India, Thailand, and Vietnam because they’re a few of my all-time favourite countries. I’m also dying to revisit South Africa because the weather was pretty horrible in Cape Town when I visited (I never made it up Table Mountain 🙁 ), and I want to see so much more of the country!

Brenna Holeman August 21, 2015 - 11:15 pm

I fortunately made it to Table Mountain but I didn’t to many other spots in Cape Town! I definitely need to go back. Thanks for the comment, Ashley! 🙂

Núria August 25, 2015 - 10:18 pm

Lloret de mar, really? I understand why you don’t like Spain hehehe There are a lot of places to visit in the Costa Brava like Cadaqués or Girona, in Catalonia. Basque country is also beautiful. In both places you have to eat the typical food in not touristic restaurants, you’ll love it! If you give another opportunity to Barcelona I could show you the “real” country 😉

Brenna Holeman August 25, 2015 - 11:28 pm

I’m sure I’ll be back in Spain soon! I was in Lloret de Mar for a blogging conference, and I have to say I didn’t find the city very appealing. I’d love to see more of Costa Brava!

Maria August 26, 2015 - 7:43 pm

Hello! glad you feel that way about my country… Guatemala 🙂 There´s a lot to visit here.

About Egypt i have the same feeling. I went there like 8 years ago, first aboard a cruise ship along the Nile. This part of the trip i can´t complain, but the WORST was when i arrived at Cairo. One of the filthiest cities i have visited, noisy and crowded. One man wanted to exchange me for some camels!!! I went with a tour guide that was very pushy with muslim customs. I respect his believes, but not to the point where they try to convert you! Overall i definetly won´t go back to Cairo.

And about Ecuador, i spent 2 nights in Quito prior to my trip to Galapagos. Is a very nice city, with one of the most beautiful historic neighborhood. So well conserved and full of charm.

Hope you come back to Guatemala! 🙂

Zalie August 28, 2015 - 1:44 pm

I personally find that I often think fondly (or not so fondly), about a country thinking back to the people I travelled with at the time. Maybe I wouldn’t have loved the country as much as I did if I were alone or vice versa. For example, I know that you loved Cartagena where I couldn’t wait to get out of there! I was also at the end of my trip and alone for a while so I am sure that had something to do with it. I would love to go back and give it another shot!

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