I’ve written some of those, because this is what travel agencies swoon over and want to see on their websites. Hell, hypertrophied versions of these lists are actually published as books. I can argue about the literary value of a text where each paragraph starts with a number, some of these lists can actually be funny and informative, while others keep repeating themselves in a perpetual loop of copy-pasting.
1. Top 10 places to visit before you die
Seriously? You want to die, thinking: ‘Dammit, I lived a great life. I’ve visited the top 10 places everyone else in the world has visited and photographed.’ You leaned on the tower of Pisa. You snogged the Eiffel Tower. You hugged a tiger in Thailand. You queued to scramble on the temple in Angkor Wat. Good for you. You even featured as a ‘background dude/chick’ on about a million of Chinese photos. I do sound like a travel snob, but maybe, just maybe, travelling is not about ticking out another UNESCO landmark off your list. Travelling is about making memories and stories. It does not mean that you cannot get a memory from Coliseum, Empire State Building or Machu Picchu. But if you go alone, or with wrong people, or with wrong music, it will be just another routine thing that’s too easy to forget. Iconic places like this are made valuable just when something special happens to you there. You fall in love by the Berlin Wall. You get an idea for a genius book while climbing Mt Kilimanjaro. You write a song on a train to Istanbul. Rather than following someone else’s Top 10, find what inspires you personally, what stories you are looking for. The most memorable countries on my account have always been those that I learned about a week before going there. I let them surprise me – and indeed they did.
2. 10 reasons to start travelling right now
If you think that these lists actually sound inspiring, try comparing them to ’10 reason you should stop eating those burgers right now, you fatso!’ You basically list 10 reasons why your travel life is so much cooler than the reader’s average 9-to-5 existence. Kudos to you, you are on the beach in Philippines while I am picking my nose and browsing reddit at the office. It’s great that I came across your article, I’m totally gonna quit right now and check out the Top 10 Destinations Before You Die.
3. 10 signs you’re in –country–
It is lovely that you have been teaching English in China for two years now and can sum up all the weirdness of Chinese culture in a listicle. It doesn’t make you a good writer, it just means you can count to 10. Honestly, if you want to make sure you are in –country–, just ask the people around you: ‘Excuse me, where am I?’
4. 10 most inspiring travel quotes of all time
Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac (whose last name is rarely spelt properly), St Augustine. You have never really read these guys but the quotes are going around on the Internet so you find them inspiring even without a context.
5. 10 ways to travel without money
I used to hunt these listicles like crazy, suck on to them in hopes to learn the magic tricks of freeloading and travelling on my unemployed budget. The truth is, to escape the money system completely you need to invest in your future first. Want to live a sustainable life on the road? Get yourself a camper that runs exclusively on solar energy. Or a sailboat. You can fish for food while sailing or hunt squirrels with a knife made of rock from your camper van. Let’s admit it once and for all: there is no such thing as travelling without money. You either work your ass off to get by on the road, or you live off someone else’s money and good will: random strangers sometimes buy you dinner or invite to stay under their roof. This does not happen every day, so if you truly want to travel without spending a cent be prepared for quite a miserable existence with occasional lucky days. Again, the Pay-it-forward philosophy is brilliant end everything, but after a while everyone gets morally tired of always being on the receiving end.