My Most Frequently Asked Question

Only 12 human beings have set foot on the Moon...and that is all they've talked about since.
Exactly twelve human beings have walked on the moon.

That’s it.

One dozen representatives of our species have escaped the clutches of the Earth’s gravity and walked upon another celestial body. For a brief period of time, these twelve men experienced something no other humans have experienced before or since.

After their short time on the lunar surface they all returned to Earth to something they had to suffer every single day for the rest of their god damn life: people asking them what it was like to walk on the moon.

A guy like Neil Armstrong exchanged 45 minutes of moon walking for a life time of every single person he’d meet for the rest of his life all asking him about those 45 minutes.

I am nothing close to being an astronaut, but like an astronaut I am well traveled and I have also found that I am being asked the same question almost every single day.

It often starts innocently enough. I’ll be talking to someone and someone will ask an innocent question like “where do you live?” or “what do you do for a living?”. For most people, a question like that is no big deal. For me, it is very difficult to answer. I don’t have a permanent home I usually end up saying that I’ve been traveling around the world for the last three years.

Once they find out I’ve been traveling for over 3 year, I inevitably get “the question”:

What is your favorite place?

I’d guess 99% of the people I meet ask me this question. I get it so often that when someone doesn’t ask me I notice.

I don’t have a problem with people asking me questions. It is a part of the traveling and running a popular blog, so that isn’t the issue. The problem I have with it is that it assumes there can be a single, best place.

I can say in all honestly I have no answer to the question. In fact, I’m not even really sure how I would know how to answer it. Comparing Japan to Italy is like comparing apples to bicycles. Yes, they are both countries, but I like them each for different reasons.

The standard reply I usually give is that asking me what my favorite place is, is like asking a mother what her favorite child is. Peter is good looking, Suzy is an athlete and Timmy is smart. How do you compare them?

Other times I will just give the name of a place that most people have never heard of. Micronesia is a good one. I like Micronesia, but I don’t think I’d call it my favorite. I basically do this because I wont want to go into a long spiel about not having a favorite place, and by saying something exotic it makes me look impressive.

There is no best place. There are certain places I like for their food, some cities I like more than others, some national parks are great, but I am not sure how you compare a city to a park. I like them both for totally different reasons.

I’m not even sure what a place is. A city? A country? A park? A block? How can you say your favorite place is Australia, given how big and diverse the country is?

So there you have it. I do not have a favorite place and I’m not even sure how to go about knowing what a favorite place is. I’m happy to answer almost any other question you might have. As for this question, however, I have nothing.

…and for anyone who asks me that question in the future, you will be getting a link to this URL.

41 thoughts on “My Most Frequently Asked Question”

  1. This is so true! I have been to about 10 different countries and people always ask where was my favorite. I like them all for different reasons. Each place had something different and special to offer me. My favorite place to visit though is home. I love going back to where I grew up and seeing familiar faces. Even though I do not reside there currently it will always be a home to me.

  2. you should interview Neil Armstrong and not talk about travel or the moon at all. Now that would be an entertaining post.

  3. True.. especially for travelers, for whom sometimes, it’s the journey or the expedition to reach the place that’s more important than the place itself, it’s a difficult question to answer.

  4. “I basically do this because I wont want to go into a long spiel about not having a favorite place, and by saying something exotic it makes me look impressive.”

    Nice! Maybe I should start saying “Tonga”. Of course, the next question would be “Where’s that?”

    I do like the comparison to the Mom and her favorite child though. That is one I’ll remember to use next time the question arises.

    What are you using (plugins-wise) that makes your replies show in a different color and inside someone else’s comment?

    Thanks for the great post!


  5. I can’t think of an answer either… I can’t even answer when people ask where I’m from. It sounds like this: Where are you from? California. When are you going back? Oh, I don’t know, never I guess. What do you do there? I was a teacher but that was like ten years ago and since then I’ve lived in twenty different places….. Where do you live now? No where. On my bike.

  6. I too get the question quite often. But not as “You want taxi.” It drives me absolutely crazy! Especially when the taxi driver just about runs you over to ask even after you shake your head and finger saying no right when he veers towards you. I really like the Neal Armstrong analogy. Great post!

  7. Ha, I use the line about the mother picking a child too!

    Then because I realize people just want to hear something unique and exciting in a few sentences 99% of the time, I’ll say a thing or two about someplace exotic like South Africa. It helps that South Africa is super-awesome as you’ll soon find out.

  8. Even travelling less, you can the question and it’s still hard to answer… I lived in 4 different countries, 5 different cities and I can’t choose out of them, the same for places I only visited…

  9. Our family traveled around the world from June 2008-June 2009. To this day, my children don’t tell anyone that they traveled around the world for fear of this question. In fact, they hate answering any of the “typical” questions asked. I always reply with the same answer “I have no favorite, each country has something unique to offer.” Happy travels.

  10. I love this blog post Gary. Wonderful Neil Armstrong analogy. I guess an alternative way to phrase such a question for a world traveler like yourself, is where are the five “locations” you’d most want to go back to and spend a week? I feel the way you do about the “favorite place” question when people ask me “how did you get into television?” No easy answers for either question for me either as a TV Travel Show Producer. Love your tweets on Twitter!

  11. Oops, I’m guilty of asking you that, too. I guess the better question would have been “Which cities or countries did you enjoy the most?” Or is that still too vague? You’ve been to so many places in the world that some people will never go, so there’s a natural curiosity in wondering which of the many places you’ve been to struck your fancy the most, but I certainly understand why this has you so frustrated. I agree that comparing some places just isn’t possible. Sorry for being one of those people who caused you frustration :)

  12. I’m not sure I think the question necessarily means there is a “best” place. I don’t see “favorite” and “best” being interchangeable. I know my thus-far “favorite” places are all mountainous with lots of outdoor activities. My sister’s are all going to be related to beaches. While I can understand why this question could get old very quickly, I also think that asking someone’s favorites is asking them to reveal aspects of their preferences, rather than an objective evaluation.

  13. I think my first question to a world traveler would be “How do you prevent bed bugs and fleas from hitching a ride in your luggage?” It seems like they’re becoming a problem all over the place.

    • Good question Anne.
      I stay with friends when I travel so I don’t have that issue. When I stay at hotels I make sure it is a reputable one. If I walk into the hotel and I’m not feeling it; I’m out of there. Although I did stay in a pretty sketchy place in South Korea. We were cold, jetlagged and tired so we settled. While we slept, we stayed in one position and kept our clothes on and waited to get back to the airport to shower.

      You know you are in a bad hotel when you turn on the computer in the room and it is full of viruses…

  14. I absolutely loved this post and completely understand you on this one. I also get this question very often. Like you, I too have no answer, and surely never will.
    I generally ask them something like this ” in what context? or most liveable or beautiful or expensive” and then they get confused. :)

  15. Hiya,,, Gary,,, I remember you were in Bangkok at the time of the riots and I was frightened as we are going back there soon,,,, do you think it is safe to travel around now? And a question,,,, what place have you visited that you didn’t really like? I didn’t like Paris,,,,or much of France,,, must of gone to the wrong places…

  16. I get the question a lot too, and I often set it up like this for kicks: If an alien for another planet said to me “look man, I need to drop in on earth for 4 weeks but there is a catch– I can’t cross any international borders, where would you suggest I go?” I don’t think I’d even have to think twice: USA.

  17. Gary,

    Funny post. I travel quite a bit as well; just under 200,000 miles so far this year and I’ve slowed down :-).

    Yes, that is my most frequently asked question. I love to answer it though…Its Cannes, France. And yes, there is a single answer ;-). I do love other places (I’ve been to 89 countries) , but this is the place where I’m most at peace for some reason; i think it is the peacefulness of the Mediterranean.

    People ask the favorite place question just out of curiosity and it is a good conversation starter. I love to answer it :-).

    Looking forward to seeing you at BlogWorld.

  18. Lol! After 4 years on the road and 4 in Mexico I still get asked that! I just tell them it is impossible to pick one because they all are so different…and leave it at that.

  19. I completely understand where you’re coming from on this one. I’ve not traveled nearly as much as you, but I also get this question frequently. I have no answer, and surely never will. I don’t have favorites in much of anything actually — too much of my preferences depend on specifics — the situation, my mood, etc.

  20. Interesting point for the terrestrial traveler that you are: More people have been on the surface of moon that the bottom of the Mariana’s trench, but those guys labor in obscurity…or perhaps revel in it. :)

  21. I LOVE THIS POST!!! I am planning a RTW trip (for a year or more) & I get the same questions over and over by everyone (different then your FAQ cus I haven’t left)! My friends and family dont understand the concept of someone leaving everything behind to go travel for a long period of time. I dont think they understand that I am serious… Oh well they will figure it out when they are dropping me off a the airport in 11 months!

  22. Being a travel writer, I also get this question often–essentially everywhere I go. I usually have some sort of scripted and rambling response that says “for adventure I like New Zealand. For culture, Morocco. For pure paradisal beauty, Cook Islands or the Maldives. For diving, Borneo. For culture, Brazil…” And it goes on so long, they soon regret having asked in the first place ;-) I agree: It IS a stupid question. I can much more easily answer the places I didn’t like, as there are really only three countries I’ve traveled out of 80 or 90 that I have no desire to revisit…

  23. Yes, people ask you that because you still tell them things about you in a way they have to pop the question. If you just prepare your answers, people will not even notice you’re travelling.

    I’m sure you will read this particular post with a little smile on your face if you still travel after 10 years ;-) We all think we are special until we realize thousands have been doing the same before us…

  24. Don’t have a favourite place, book, song, band etc… Don’t really understand why I’m expected to either! I’ve generally got a top ten or so.

    • Claire, I totally agree with you! I don’t really have much of any favorites — books, movies, food, travel destinations, etc. I don’t even understand how to narrow it down to 1, when so much depends on my mood, or the context, or more specific information.

  25. could not agree more! It is kind of like having a “favorite” place to eat… it all depends on what your in the mood for.

  26. I say the same thing every time. I don’t have a one favorite for everything but rather I have an imaginary list of favorite beaches, food, landscapes, etc.Each country I liked something that the other country did not have but at the same time the new country wont have what they other did – making it all impossible to have a favorite…

    • Come to think of it actually… I don’t think I have much of a favorite of anything. I just prefer some things over others.

  27. I almost started to feel sorry for the astronauts that you described… but then I remembered.. they got to walk on the moon! I think I’d put up with the question for that :)

  28. Gary, you sound a little bristly:)

    Indeed, it is like asking a mother who her favorite child is, but my answer to that is, “It depends on the day”. :)

Comments are closed.