If you were to ask someone to list the places they’d like to visit before they die, you would get a different answer from every person you asked. There are some destinations we go to unwind. There are some we go to for fun, for the beaches, for adventure. And then there are some we go to because we have to. They are the blessed places on earth where every human must go to pay their respect to. Like a pilgrimage centre. They are the architectural wonders of the world, or they might be the cultural hubs working as benchmarks for the coming-of-age of many an ignorant youth. They are a marvel of the scope of mankind and a witness to man’s eccentricities and achievements. They are the rite-of-passage destinations from which everybody returns a changed person.
Europe is the place whose grass will always be the greenest even if you are on the same side. The bricked narrow streets of Italy winding down quaint houses and windows laced with flowers, with as much art as beauty. Open French cafes serving the best of pastries mankind has probably known. Europe has beauty, history, and character. Which is why every traveller (who is unfortunate enough to be not staying there) dreams of visiting the breathtakingly beautiful continent at least once in their lifetime.
And those who live there, cannot get enough of it. Which is why they spend a great deal of time taking in the overwhelming splendour of the land. They take breaks from work, opt for a gap year just to go backpacking across the continent.
Regardless of any kind of tensions you might find in Egypt at the moment, the Egyptian Pyramids are a sight to behold. Incredible structures built thousands of years ago, they are at the top of the must-visit list. One of the original seven wonders of the world, there are an estimated 100+ Pyramids in all, the most famous of all being the Giza Pyramids of course.
The fact that these structures were constructed so long ago makes them even more incredible. Hand carved and hand built, viewing the Pyramids in person is a something everyone should experience.
The Taj Mahal
It is one monument every Indian who has been on two holidays in his entire lifetime has been to. It is also one monument every tourist coming to India from abroad has been to. It has become synonymous with India as a tourist destination. I seriously suspect that Shah Jahan probably had immortality on mind rather than undying love for Mumtaz Mahal.
People come, see the Taj Mahal, wonder and gape at the huge marble structure, click a photograph, and go. It’s a ritual that is followed religiously every year, every decade. An Indian might die of shame if somebody said to them, “What? You haven’t seen the Taj? You are Indian, right?”
The land of elephants and snakes is worth a hundred trips. The extent of diversity, both in culture and terrain, imparts an epic element to a journey through the country. The festivals, the local customs, colour, the million varieties of food, the historic monuments, and the eccentric people—nobody can claim to walk untouched through this land. If you are not affected by all that, buddy, you surely will be by the scorching heat, the honking cars, the pushy crowds, the filthy roads. You might get diarrhoea, you might come out with a hardened digestion. You might smear ash on your forehead in the Kumbh Mela, you might breathe in pristine air in Sikkim. The truth is you can spend a lifetime here and never get bored.
Only those who have the money go there. Because you need to be rich enough to lose money and still have enough to return. It has been glorified in movies and pop culture alike. They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Be it the money you lost, or the odd promises you blurted out in holy matrimony, it is better that the Vegas spirit doesn’t haunt you long after you have left the town.
Every country has one such destination, where the young go to a party, to experience that heady abandon of youth that can be justified only in youth. Something they can look back at and say, “Oh! I was young and crazy then!” (Though that in no way means that they have to stop being crazy in their more sober years). In India, it is Goa. If you are from anywhere else, name the rite-of-passage party place in your country.