One of the strangest sensations when traveling abroad as an American is the heightened sense of your American-ness. That I’m-from-anywhere accent you picked up from ’90s sitcoms becomes an invitation for people to guess where you’re from. Texas? California? When all else fails, and you don’t want to explain where Oklahoma City is, just claim to be from Miami, then watch your new friends’ eyes get wide. You, my friend, may just be from the Most Interesting Country in the World.
Point of fact, you don’t even need to be all that charming to be intriguing. We’re #blessed with a solid currency, a language that our colonial forebears took global, and a luminous pop culture that put Michael Jordan jerseys on kids in Buenos Aires and etched Michael Jackson jams into karaoke playlists in Seoul. Your American-ness precedes you, often for the better. So look past what you think the world thinks about the United States writ large. When you’re an American abroad, you’ll find warm welcomes many places — these countries perhaps most of all.
Why they dig Americans: Aussies are famously welcoming to the travelers they call Yanks, accent in full flair. They appreciate that we also bailed on the Crown. They will rib you over how much armor NFL players wear compared to the spare pads of Australian rules footballers. If you’re trying to date there, you might find that your exposure to modern American manners goes a long way with Australian women, who are known to complain about their country’s 1960s-vintage gender roles. Why you should go: Hospitality flows through their veins, and Australians are notoriously chill, so you won’t go 10 minutes without meeting a new pal. Drive the 150-mile Great Ocean Road, one of world’s truly epic coastal road trips. Bookend the trip with nights in Adelaide for its great arts scene and in Melbourne (say it: “Melbun”) to play or watch cricket. This drive sends a tail between the legs of California’s Route 1, and the crusty pub characters you’ll meet en route will be unforgettable. Sydney’s trendy; sun-bleached Brisbane resembles their Miami before ours fell so deeply in love with itself. Although the days of hitchhiking have faded — when I hitched across Australia years ago to see AC/DC, nearly every ride turned into an on-the-spot backyard barbecue invite — that trusting, festive spirit lives on. Lagers, fish & chips, and new friends await. — Bruce Northam, American Detour
Why they dig Americans: The United States established strong diplomatic relations with Georgia after its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Since then the two countries have cooperated on trade and security: After a 2005 visit from one of America’s great international players, the capital city of Tbilisi dedicated one of its major avenues, calling it George W. Bush St. So raise a glass to Georgia, which claims to be the birthplace of wine, and which sends us hundreds of thousands of bottles of vino annually. Why you should go: For starters, this West Virginia-sized former Soviet Republic is naturally stunning, from the Caucasus Mountains in the east to the Black Sea in the west. Strong US diplomatic ties make it possible to stay in Georgia without a visa for up to a year. The current exchange rate is in your favor, 2.5 lari to the dollar: 30% stronger than just three years ago. There’s even an economic index for khachapuri, a national eggy-cheesy-bready comfort food that’s been steadily growing in popularity in the United States. The former Soviet state that shares a name with an American state is ripe for a visit. — Tim Ebner, Thrillist contributor
Why they dig Americans: Ireland could very well be the 51st state (lo siento, Puerto Rico). The Emerald Isle shares many of the same political and social values that the United States holds true — and there’s a great chance if you’re reading this that you’ve got some Irish in your background somewhere. One person Ireland truly loves to claim: that stealth Irish descendant in the White House, Barack Obama. Aside from enjoying a pint or two during his presidency, President Obama also has direct ties to the Irish village of Moneygall in County Offaly. Drive by and notice a sign proclaiming it Obama’s ancestral home. There’s even a highway rest stop: Barack Obama Plaza, complete with a 24-hour gas station, Papa John’s, Tim Hortons, and visitor center honoring our 44th president. Why you should go: Because the beer there flows like wine. Cheap flights and strong diplomatic ties make Ireland extremely accessible for Americans — there’s even an express line at customs. Want to extend your trip? US citizens can stay for up to three months without a visa. — Tim Ebner, Thrillist contributor
Why they dig Americans: Indians are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, and they’re mostly keen to offer up directions, travel advice, or a helping hand to anyone — regardless of nationality. Being so well-versed in English, locals aren’t averse to expressing their curiosity, either. It’s a cordiality that can be pleasantly infectious.
Another reason to connect is India’s burgeoning middle class, rapidly being exposed to new ideas from abroad. They’ve got a little bit of spending money and they’re curious about the West. Whether it’s American shopping brands, coffee culture, fast-food chains, or craft beer, India is starting to delve into lots of new concepts — and they’re interested to hear about what’s new and trendy back in Illinois or wherever you’re escaping. Why you should go: You’ll share your culture, and Indians will be more than happy to share theirs. You can’t get that kind of open, honest exchange just anywhere — especially in a place so drastically different from the States. Culture shock can be a welcome jolt.
Besides offering ethereal journeys through Hinduism, ancient customs, and tradition, India serves up gorgeous physical surroundings. Look to the epic sunsets on Keralan backwaters or Goa’s golden coasts. Or, go to the most beautiful place in the world, as determined by a Japanese man who traveled the world straight for 40 years and who offered me this tip at a hostel in Laos: the mountains of Ladakh. Where, it should be noted, far too few Americans venture. — Barbara Woolsey, Thrillist contributor
Why they dig Americans: Until 2016, any American who made it to Cuba was risking federal charges. And Cuban people respect that. I went there LONG before it was legal (statute of limitations FTW) and every single Cuban, after asking me if I knew their cousin Yurisleidi in Miami, asked how I got there. Then, as now, they were excited to share their music, family, and food with us, diplomatic impediments be damned. I think they saw us Americans as a blank slate to fill with beautiful images of Cuba and its culture. Literally four different families invited me to have dinner in their homes. Also, those valuable dollars we bring with us don’t hurt. Why you should go: It is, right now, a surreal otherworld that has barely budged since the 1950s. In Havana people drive (and maintain) cars you’ve only seen in American Graffiti. The buildings are stunning, if dilapidated. Shows are the sort of cabaret you’d have seen opening for Ricky Ricardo. Best of all, it’s been hermetically protected from American franchises, American media, American tech. But get out of town, to the beaches of Varadero, and you’ll also be backstroking through some of the most beautiful waters in the Caribbean, with just a fraction of the price or the crowds of other islands. The diving here is pristine, for now. You’re best served to go soon, before you read that inspiring story about the first Starbucks in Havana. — Matt Meltzer, Thrillist staff writer
Why they dig Americans: OK, so the survey might say otherwise (a 2015 poll revealed that only 37% of Japanese people think Americans are honest — yikes), but in my experience, the Japanese are nothing if not graciously patient with, and kind towards, Americans. This is particularly true when you begin examining the little pieces of American culture that have been adopted in pockets across the country. In the Meguro neighborhood of Tokyo, aspiring Japanese cowpokes in Stetsons and Wranglers line-dance to the sounds of Brad Paisley at the Little Texas honky tonk bar. Hula schools and Hawaiian food are beloved across the country, with some people dropping wads of cash on appropriate hip-shaking attire. And, lest we forget, one of the greatest traditions for Japanese families on Christmas Day is gobbling down a bucket of KFC. (Yes, really.) Why you should go: For starters, Tokyo is the greatest food city in the world (come at me about this: seriously, I dare you), but there’s so much more to explore outside the glittery high-rises of Shinjuku. The Japanese countryside, whether trekking up into the mountains or headed towards the beach, is its own special brand of charming, and here, running into an American is — for many Japanese — an unexpected treat. I once met several octogenarians on an island in the Seto Inland Sea whose faces lit up when I told them that, not only was I American, but I loved jazz. Stevie Wonder might be onto something with this whole music-as-a-language thing. — Sarah Baird, Thrillist contributor
Why they dig Americans: America’s snowshoeing northern neighbors can be polite to the point of stand-offishness. But they know Americans as brash, passionate, and warm, if amusingly clueless about Canadian culture. While the two countries share a lot of common ground — i.e., easy foundation for friendship — idiosyncrasies abound. Thus you’ve got plenty of room for teasing, banter, AND politically engaged conversations. Why you should go: Picture Alaska, only bigger. The vast country is crammed full of natural wonders even beyond the rush and roar of Niagara Falls or the ethereal northern lights as you near the Arctic. Find solace in thick pine forests while gazing at the snowcapped Rockies at Banff National Park, or head to Tofino in British Columbia to watch for the arc of a humpback whale as you surf. Canada’s home to the best skiing and snowboarding on the continent at Whistler Blackcomb, and some spectacular wine country just across the border from Washington. To do the scenery justice, book a cross-country train trip and soak in the expanse of the prairies or the serrated majesty of the Rockies. You’ll be surrounded by friendly Canadians proud to show off their home, and eager to ask what the hell is going on in the United States — because that always, always bears explaining. — Laura Yan, Thrillist contributor
Why they dig Americans: Because Donald Trump and Putin are BFFs, of course. Just kidding! (Sorta.) As relations between the US and Russia have thawed, frozen up, and repeated again, ad nauseam, Americans themselves have become something of a fascination over yonder. While opinions of our nation are infamously low among the Slavs, there’s a certain level of respect reserved for a Yank spotted taking a selfie in Red Square after an onerous and bureaucratic visa process. Oh yeah, plus, they love our money. Why you should go: It’s a gorgeously bleak and mysterious land. Plus, it’s a big ol’ party. Vodka is, duh, the name of the game, sipped at room temp at lunchtime and swirled into cocktails during late, late-night clubbing. When I made the voyage to Moscow and St. Pete, the Russians who had a command of English — a fairly rare feat, Cyrillic being a different alphabet — were fascinated by what I could tell them of Mother USA and, boy, is it fun to barter with them (for cab rides, Russian dolls, ballet tickets, and pretty much everything under the clouds). The trip is also great for adrenaline junkies. I saw two dead bodies while I was there: some guy in a staircase, and Lenin. Note: I’m a straight, white male. People of color may be treated less favorably and members of the LGBTQ community should be careful about their PDA. That does suck. But you really gotta see the vodka aisle in the grocery store. — Colin St. John, Thrillist contributor
Why they dig Americans: To understand Thailand and America’s tight ties, go back to the Vietnam War. Thailand struggled with insurgencies that were emboldened by the Communist advances in neighboring countries, and formed a partnership with the States. Thousands of American soldiers were deployed around Thailand. For a country that had never been colonized, it meant an entirely new and formative contact with the West.
Those days were by no means happy-go-lucky (think prostitution and narcotics use, plus we all know what happened in ‘Nam). But they laid the foundation for Thais to get used to Americans who kept traveling over through the years. One of Bangkok’s most legendary figures was a Delaware-born businessman named Jim Thompson, who helped revitalize the country’s silk industry in the ’50s and ’60s. His former home, now a museum, is one of the capital’s most beloved attractions. Why you should go: If you haven’t been to Thailand yet, your FOMO is totally warranted. Sure, even your fifth-grade teacher has probably been to Phuket by now, but off the tourist-beaten paths, Thailand has plenty more to explore. The eastern islands such as Koh Mak and Trang have handsome, sprawling beaches with far less traffic than the south. Or, heading north, you’ll find the likes of Lampang and Loei, misty mountain towns that are sleepier than popular Chiang Mai. — Barbara Woolsey, Thrillist contributor
Why they dig Americans: A) We speak English and carry American dollars in our wallets. B) We aren’t the British, their former overlords. C) If you’re an American in Belize (and not sequestered in some fancy resort), chances are you’re a pretty cool cat. Commonalities spring outward from there. Belize can often feel like an even chiller extension of Southern California: diverse, laid-back, and always ready to eat some killer fish. Why you should go: It’s a nice picture of what your life could’ve been if you had shirked all responsibility and went firmly for the “no worries” lifestyle (aka what you probably should’ve done). The small nation can feel like thousands of Wailers cover bands decided to populate it and, damn, that’s groovy. When I went in high school for an immersion trip, the people couldn’t have been more welcoming, especially when they were passing us Belikin beers that we couldn’t have consumed at that age stateside. Get sunburnt snorkeling around the Belize Barrier Reef and head to a bar in Dangriga for a Panty Ripper (coconut rum and pineapple juice). The inevitable reply when you ask what the moniker of the beverage means: “When the ladies drink ’em, they rip their panties right off!” You better Belize it. — Colin St. John, Thrillist contributor
Why they dig Americans: Insofar as the English sneer at Wales (eyeing it as an unfortunate industrial backyard) and condescend to Americans, the Welsh side with us Yanks. The Welsh appreciate our low-key antagonism toward the English, cuz let’s face it, the English are pros at busting American balls. Why you should go: Stress cannot keep pace with a hike through Wales. Try the 200-mile trek across Wales coast-to-coast along Offa’s Dyke, the great dirt wall conceived in the 8th century by King Offa of Mercia. The immense earthen barrier, intended to keep the Welsh out of England, eventually became the border between England and Wales. (Old grudges die hard. Quite a few English and Welsh folks still eye each other warily.) Atop the long, curving ridge of Brecon Beacons National Park, you’ll see the wildflowering valleys below were pardoned by the Industrial Revolution, yet the gorgeous stone walls and homes along the way exemplify one of the rare occasions where humans have managed to improve natural scenery. As you arrive in villages at night, locals will point you to a B&B (or you can book ahead; various services will transport your luggage from town to town). You can also try out Welsh, their ancient, still-thriving language: Rydw i yna yn barod. (“I’m already there.”) Remember, the roaming gene should not become out-selected over time. When you’re done playing nature boy, go mix ales with flirting in Wales’ merry capital, Cardiff. — Bruce Northam, American Detour