Matt Canavan has never been to Italy. That's the most shocking takeaway of this whole dual-citizenship debacle. That's the one thing people should be making noise about.
The Coalition senator, who was recently forced to resign from the cabinet after it was revealed his Italian-born mother had registered him for Italian citizenship without his knowledge, used as part of his defence the fact that he'd never even been to Italy. Fair enough, everyone thought, how would he know he was a citizen if he hadn't even been to the country?
But wait on a second: he's never been to Italy? A 36-year-old man with the means to travel and he had never felt the inkling to go and visit one of the most popular, important and enjoyable tourism destinations in the world? One in which he has close familial ties? What's that about?
It made me realise that, though everyone has bucket lists of exotic and unlikely destinations and experiences that they would one day like to tick off, there are also certain obvious places that everyone should take the time to visit. Places, in fact, that if you love travel and you have the means to do it, you should already have been to.
The Amalfi Coast, Campania, Italy. Photo: iStock
Obviously. The ancient home of the Roman empire. The current home of carbonara and spaghetti alle vongole. A country that holds within its booty such touristy gems as Rome, Venice, Florence, Sicily, Cinque Terra, Verona, Bologna, Lecce; such world-famous historical staples as the Coliseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Bridge of Sighs, and, ah, pizza. WTF, Matt Canavan?
London city hall at sunset, UK. Photo: istock
Again, an obvious one, given so many of us have familial heritage in the United Kingdom, and share so many its cultural touchstones and quirks of personality. Cities such as London, Edinburgh and Manchester; scenic destinations such as the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales and the Scottish Highlands; the whisky, the beer, the pubs that serve them – everyone should experience this stuff.
Twelve Apostles mountain in Camps Bay near Cape Town in South Africa. Photo: iStock
This is the natural jumping off point for Africa, the first experience many people have of this amazing continent, a country with history and culture, with cities and wilderness, with adventure and luxury. It's as easy to fly to Jo'burg as it is to Los Angeles, and as cheap, and yet so few people seem to have made the trip. If you're tossing up whether you really would enjoy South Africa, I can tell you now: yes. You would.
Chinatown Bangkok is a popular spot for tourists because of its diverse food stands that appear at night time. Photo: iStock
There's no excuse for not having been to Thailand already. It's cheap to get there, and it's cheap to be there. It's close, by Australian standards. It has a split of destination styles: flashy beach resorts to budget-friendly bungalows, party hotspots to quiet retreats, city buzz to rural bliss, culture to cuisine. Thailand is the best way to get to know South-East Asia, and to realise you want to see more.
Himeji Castle with beautiful cherry blossom during the spring season. Photo: iStock
Travellers either love Japan with a passion, or they've never been there. If you fall into the latter category, open up a new tab in your browser and book a flight right now. Japan is the best. There's no other way to describe it. The people, the cities, the countryside, the restaurants, the shops, the bars, the … everything. It's so foreign and yet so approachable, so bizarre and yet so easy to immerse yourself. Go. Now.
Abbey of Senanque and blooming rows of lavender flowers at sunset in Provence, France. Photo: iStock
Though it's had a bad run in the recent past due to security issues and terrorist attacks, France is still one of the world's great destinations, and a place anyone passionate about travel should already have visited. If you don't like the wine and the food, the beaches and the mountains, the big cities and the tiny villages, the chateaux and the villas, then we can't be friends.
State of awe: Monument Valley in Utah. Photo: iStock
This is one of those destinations that's so obvious that it almost seems too obvious. What's going to be surprising about the USA? You already know all about it. Plus there's the Trump factor. But this is the birthplace of so many of our cultural staples: jazz, blues and rock music; Hollywood movies; sports fanaticism; the hamburger. This stuff needs to be seen in its home.
Thermal lake Champagne Pool at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland near Rotorua. Photo: iStock
To people who haven't been there, New Zealand may just seem like a smaller version of Australia with more All Blacks fans, but that's selling the Shaky Isles a long way short. This is an amazing travel destination with a culture and a landscape all of its own. Just watch Lord of the Rings. No amount of CGI can top what's already on offer in New Zealand.
Huangguoshu Waterfalls in the Guizhou province, China. Photo: iStock
To have any sort of understanding of the modern world, you have to go to China. You have to see that this isn't the big homogenous baddie you read about in the news. There's a lot more going on here. This is a huge, multifaceted continent-within-a-country, a place you may never properly understand – but then, that's the point.
Skyline Trail at sunset in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Canada. Photo: iStock
What's not to love about Canada? It's pretty much like Australia, only with more progressive politics, actual mountains (sorry Snowys), actual bears (sorry koalas), and a whole bunch of people who speak French. There's a part of Canada to fit the style of pretty much any traveller, from adventurers to gourmands, nature nuts to party animals. You should really check it out.
What do you think are the essential countries that every traveller should have visited by now?
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