Here’s a challenge. Think of your favorite city and pick your very favorite thing about it. Think of it as a “you are stuck on a desert island and you can only bring 1 thing” type of question. Except this time it’s “think of your four favorite cities and pick just one thing to share about them.” That’s the challenge Matt and I made for each other – pick four cities we both love, and share just one thing about each place. It is harder than you think.
New York City
I used to live in New York City. This make it both easier – and much harder – to pick one thing to love. And I’m going to cheat just a little here. I am not going to pick one thing about New York to love, I’m going to pick one idea about New York to love.
No doubt you can find a million unique things to chose from in New York – street-side pretzels, sidewalk dinners at 3am, the first day of spring, the Brooklyn Bridge, the museums. But all of that is just stuff. And as a former short-term resident of New York, I think there’s a more powerful idea here. The very fact that New York exists, and that you can actually live in it.
I believe, firmly, that every person should live in New York City for at least a year. Whether you’re rich or poor, American or foreign, young or old, single or married, it doesn’t really matter to me. It’s such an amazing, confusing, frustrating and rewarding place to live. It’s unlike any other city I’ve visited. And that madness is something everybody should experience.
I’ve been to London many times. And I’ve read the collected works of Charles Dickens more than once. And that’s what I love about London – its history is right there, just below the surface. Sometimes it’s even right there on the surface, like when you enter a pub that was mentioned in Great Expectations or Bleak House, and virtually nothing has changed since Charles Dickens wrote about it in the 1850s!
I’ve had this experience more than once, reading a passage from Dickens inside an ancient London pub, noting the very same decorations Dickens noted in his pages. You can’t just walk into the streets of San Francisco and into a Gold Rush-era saloon. Paris and Rome have many beautiful and historical buildings, yet history feels less intimate, less ‘right there’. You have to use some imagination to conjure up a gladiator battle at the Colosseum. Yet in London, in many parts of the city, its history is very much alive and present. And that’s what I love about London.
Most people think of Amsterdam and they think of weed. But for me, the thing I love about Amsterdam is how beautiful it looks under a light coat of snow. I’ve been to Amsterdam a few times in the summer, and there’s no denying that Amsterdam is a wonderful place to spend a warm summer day.
But a few years ago, we ended up changing planes in Amsterdam in the middle of December. Our layover was something like 20 hours. So we headed into the city for a night. We were sunburned and dirty after 3 weeks camping in the Serengeti. I’m not sure any of us had warm coats. But no matter, we had 20 hours in Amsterdam and that was good enough.
It snowed nearly the entire time. We wandered the streets until 3am, marveling at the gently falling snow, the achingly beautiful canals, the towering architecture. And I was awed by how beautiful love Amsterdam looked in the snow.
I struggle when people ask me a question like, “what’s the best meal you’ve ever had?” I don’t know, I’ve had lots of great meals. And there’s no easy way to compare them.
But when it comes to massages, I can answer in a heartbeat – Bangkok. At the massage school inside Wat Po in central Bangkok. Wat Po is one of Bangkok’s most impressive temple complexes. You can easily spend a few hours wandering the grounds and enjoying the tranquility. The hectic streets of Bangkok seem a million miles away inside the grounds of Wat Po.
And then you come upon it: a massage school in the center of the complex, where a 30-minute massage from massage students costs $10. And it’s not a second-rate massage. Anything but. To my mind, the massages offered are the best in the world. All over Bangkok you find massage parlors. Thai massages are world famous and whenever I am there, I consistently get one, especially when I am at Wat Po.
Guest blogger Scott McNeely is normally found managing the online activities at the tours and activities website Viator.com.