As I get to talking with people I meet while traveling around, I am often asked which is my favorite country. I’ve only visited 25% of the countries on our planet, so I am no expert.  I still have a long way to go.  Even so, I usually pop off a few of my favorites to make  polite conversation. Thailand with its picturesque islands, tasty cuisine and the world’s nicest people is definitely high on my list. Bangkok is a crazy big city like no other, just as Phuket is a party town without compare. I’ve seen some wild things happen in both. Japan is also high on my list or as I like to refer to it… a country without trashcans.  It wins the award for the cleanest country in the world. There are few trashcans because people put their trash in their pockets and take it home with them. Japanese temples and parks are simple, yet awesome.  Tokyo is full of youth and energy, while Kyoto is filled with tradition and beauty. And let’s not forget Sumo wrestling, a true Japanese original. Morocco is a fascinating place with winding alleys, brightly colored ceramic tiles and unique architecture that catch the eye. Oh, and the Riads where I stayed with their cool garden courtyards that are so hard to leave when it’s time to go out into the hot sun. I will always love France, Spain and Italy for their old-world architecture, incredibly delicious cuisines and rich cultures, plus the art. OMG, the art. I’ll never forget the Picasso, Orly and Louvre museums in Paris, the Vatican museum in Rome or the statue of David in Florence. My favorite building in the world is the Plaza de España in Seville, Spain. It’s jaw-dropping. Mexico, where I lived for two years while serving a mission, is a fascinating country with a rich tradition, natural beauty and the sweetest people. The underground bus ride in Guanajuato beats any theme park ride for true thrills. San Blas is the definition of a sleepy fishing village with a hammock and cold beer calling for an afternoon nap on a sandy beach.

I could go on and on, but if I am really being honest, my favorite country is my home country, the USA. I know, I’m just another American bragging about what a privilege it is to the live the world’s greatest country. Of course, I am.  Just like a Russian thinks Russia is the best or Korean thinks Korea is the best.  All our countries have problems and America is no exception, but they are our countries. They are what we know best. So, if I may pontificate on why America is the best country…

It is free and you can say what you want without fear of being thrown in jail. It is diverse. You would be hard pressed to find a country with a more diverse population than America.  We Americans come from everywhere. There is no true American look because we Americans look like everyone around the world.  We assimilate the genes and culture of each immigrant brought to our shores and that is what makes us so strong. And most Americans take pride in announcing that they are part Native American because most of us have a little Cherokee or Blackfoot blood running through our veins and you can bet that we’ll exaggerate the amount.  Indians are wild and cool. Pound for pound America is the most beautiful country on the planet. Sure, I have seen incredible places in travels.  Petra in Jordan.  El Nido in The Philippines. Mont Saint-Michel in France. The Great Wall and the Forbidden City in China.  Many countries have many great sites to see, but America has more incredible sites than any other country on earth and best of all they are diverse.  The forests and rivers of the Pacific Northwest.  The California coastline near Big Sur and Carmel.  San Francisco. Hollywood. Yosemite. Lake Tahoe. Utah’s national parks. The red rocks of Sedona and the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. The Met, Central Park in the fall and the Statue of Liberty in New York.  Boston in Massachusetts.  The fishing ports of Maine.  Savana in Georgia. Mardi Gras and the French Quarter in New Orleans. The Florida Keys.  The beaches and waterfalls of Hawaii. The wildlife and glaciers of Alaska. The Smithsonian museums and The Mall in Washington D.C.  And, of course, the most magical place on Earth… Disneyland.  America is so big and diverse, it’s exhausting. I figure it takes about a year to really see the United States and you still will not see it all.

It’s been over a year since the last time I have visited my favorite country. I am going back in a few weeks for a quick family visit and a wedding, then it’s back to the world to continue my never-ending journey. I always get a little choked up when I land on American soil.  It’s my home and I love it… because it’s the best.