scorecardI've been to 54 countries and have lived in 10. These 5 underrated places are worth the trip.
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I've been to 54 countries and have lived in 10. These 5 underrated places are worth the trip.

Alcynna Lloyd   

I've been to 54 countries and have lived in 10. These 5 underrated places are worth the trip.
LifeThelife6 min read
  • Kate Boardman has visited 54 countries around the world and lived in 10, including the US.
  • She's enjoyed spots like France and Bali but says people should visit underrated places like Oman.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Kate Boardman, a 36-year-old former teacher and current content creator from Massachusetts who has lived and traveled all over the world. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I first lived abroad when I was 15, when I participated in an exchange program in Germany. I lived there for a year, attending school and staying with a host family.

That was my first exposure to living overseas and truly immersing myself in other cultures. From there, the travel bug hit me hard. It inspired me to study international business in France while I was at university, and future trips after that.

I've been to 54 countries and lived in 10, including the US. The sense of freedom and self-growth that comes from traveling is unbeatable. I also love being able to see the world in a different way.

The most popular destinations are popular for a reason.

Everyone talks about Paris, London, Bali — all travel destinations that are super popular, in part thanks to social media.

I lived in Bali in early 2012 and saw it expand firsthand. There was a lot of construction — with many beach clubs being built — and it became overcrowded by foreigners. It's led to locals being priced out of their homes.

I also think spots like Cancun are super overrated; there are way cooler places to visit in Mexico. Many tourists spend a week in an all-inclusive resort and think that's fun — but that couldn't be more unattractive to me.

Obviously, there's still beauty in places that are oversaturated and famous. But I think that there's an excitement that comes from experiencing places that are off the beaten track.

It's often in those places that you can have the most surprising experiences.

I was treated like family in Iran

I would say my favorite country that I have visited is Iran. I went in 2018 and was there for 10 days.

Normally, when I'm traveling, I backpack alone and stay in hostels as a solo traveler. However, in Iran, if you're American, Canadian, or from the UK, in order to get permission to enter the country, you need a set itinerary and a licensed travel guide.

It was a very coordinated trip and a bit more challenging to visit, but it was so rewarding because I was welcomed with the warmest hospitality.

One of the unique aspects of this trip was how close my guide and I became. He went above and beyond, inviting me over to his family's house for dinner, where I got to meet and hang out with his friends and family. It was truly special.

Because I had a guide, everything was kind of set for me in Iran. He arranged different accommodations, including a road trip through the country, where we stayed in various cities at different guesthouses.

It only cost me around $1,000.

The nature and landscape of Iran are absolutely beautiful and amazing. The sights, attractions, and history are mind-blowing. You've got these gorgeous mosaics everywhere. All of the architecture had my jaw dropping in awe while walking around.

The food is also delicious, and the markets are incredible, each filled with gorgeous textiles, jewelry, turquoise, and rugs.

I would totally visit there again. I hope the political situation changes because that would definitely be one of my group trip destinations. I think it's just incredible.

Georgia took me by surprise

Georgia is just one of those countries that's not on a lot of people's radar. And then they go there and they're like, 'Whoa, that's awesome. Why didn't I know about this before?'

I knew very little about Georgia before I visited in 2018. I spent only five days in the country, but I was completely blown away.

I stayed in Tbilisi, which is the capital city. It's a really beautiful, trendy, and artsy kind of city. It has amazing wine and incredible food.

Probably one of my favorite things about the trip is that I stayed in this hostel called Fabrika. It was an old Soviet Union sewing factory that they turned into a super cool, industrial, hipster hostel.

In Tbilisi, I also went on a pub crawl throughout the Old Town, which featured a bunch of underground cellars and bunkers that have been turned into trendy nightclubs and bars.

During my time in the country, I took a trip out to the countryside to an area called Kazbegi, which is absolutely stunning. There were gorgeous and breathtaking mountains, hills, and massive churches.

In the city, I also had a Turkish bath, which is a big thing in Georgia. I got a full scrub down.

Guatemala has something for everyone

When most people from the US think about going to Central America, they're focused on Mexico or Costa Rica. Guatemala seems to be a place that kind of gets overlooked.

But life is great in Guatemala.

You've got beautiful weather all year round, the jungle, rainforests, and the Caribbean's white sand beaches, while the Pacific side has its black sand beaches. It's got a little bit of everything.

I first lived in Guatemala in 2021, where I worked as a teacher at an international school. They provided housing in Guatemala City. However, after I finished working for them, I moved to a beach town on the Pacific coast and lived there for about six months.

I've traveled there on other occasions too, staying for periods of four or five months.

The typical salary for a Guatemalan is about $500 a month, with a good salary being $1,000. I would say that $2,000 a month is more than enough to live there extremely comfortably.

There are a lot of digital nomads moving there, especially to Antigua — an old colonial town with a lot of charm, cobblestone streets, and painted buildings.

There's just so much to do in Guatemala; it's so magical.

The biggest must do is hiking the active volcano called Acatenango. Sometimes, you can see it erupting right from its base camp. There's not many places in the world where you can experience that.

Another good place to visit is El Paredon, a super up-and-coming hippie surf town. The surfing is great, and you've got these black volcanic sand beaches. It's just a really laid-back place.

Lake Atitlan is also an incredible spot. It's surrounded by volcanoes and several Mayan villages, each with its own personality and vibe.

Oman's deserts are magical

Oman is in the Middle East, bordering the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. I've been there three times between 2016 and 2018.

The country is culturally rich, and the capital city, Muscat, is really beautiful. It has old traditional marketplaces and gorgeous architecture — the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is definitely worth checking out.

The deserts there are incredible, so doing a desert trip is a must. I camped out in the desert with the locals, rode camels, and drove Jeeps over the sand dunes.

Having tea and watching the sunset in the desert was magical too.

Oman also has wadis, which are basically big canyons in the middle of the desert with swimming holes. There, you'll find bright turquoise water contrasting with the orange rock.

The country's islands are also beautiful and incredible for snorkeling. They look like you'd be in the Caribbean, but you're in the Middle East.

The Galapagos Islands are truly like nowhere else in the world

I visited Ecuador last year for about six weeks. I was leading a gap year program with a group of high school students. We split our time between the Galapagos Islands and the mainland, which consisted of cities and the Amazon.

Because Ecuador has incredibly unique biodiversity that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world, The Galapagos Islands are an absolute must. I've never seen such incredible wildlife in my life; so many species exist only on those islands.

While visiting The Galapagos, my group went snorkeling with 50 to 100 hammerhead and Blacktip sharks. We also swam with sea lions and saw giant tortoises.

Another amazing aspect of Ecuador is learning about the Aztec or Inca culture. My group did a homestay and lived with a family for about 10 days and learned about their way of life.

We experienced how connected they are with Mother Earth, whom they refer to as Pachamama, and learned about their traditional medicine: They grow their own food and seek out plant medicine when they're sick, rather than relying on processed foods.

Learning about and sharing their way of life was truly special.

I want to show people how to travel the world

There are many beliefs people have about different countries and cultures, sometimes considering them too dangerous, expensive, or unattainable.

I want to inspire more people to explore, step out of their comfort zones, and experience more of the world. In the future, I plan on hosting group trips with the goal of bringing people to these countries and showing them why they are so life-changing.




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