Lonely Planet Writer

Which destination has changed your life the most?

Change is at the heart of travel. While it might not be the reason we head out the door and cross oceans, it is an almost inevitable by-product. How can you interact with other people and cultures, be pushed out of your comfort zone, have your perceptions challenged and not alter a little inside? Obviously, travel is not always about rewriting your personality — but even the most humble of trips can change us in ways big and small.

So, curious, we asked our followers on Facebook and Twitter which destinations had changed them the most. Over 1000 people responded, with Asia-Pacific dominating the top destinations.

It seems that if you want to increase your chances of a life-changing experience then you should head to India, which was far and way the most common country destination. With its heady combination of beauty, cultural diversity and an air filled with spices, it's hardly surprising that wonderful India is a change maker for many.

Image of Pushkar Fair in Rajasthan (India) by Koshyk

Below is a Wordle of all the responses (as you can see, India is way out in front).

More unexpected (at least for someone who hasn't been there) was Cambodia coming in at number two. Almost tied for third place were Australia and Thailand. France, New Zealand, Nepal, Vietnam, Peru and Egypt followed, but these were all beaten by the only city to score big: New York. Indonesia was also a major life changer - when Bali was added to the mix.

Image of Buddhist monks in Cambodia by mark sebastian

After New York, London (Lonely Planet's top city of 2012) was the next most-mentioned city, then Istanbul, Tokyo, Paris and Berlin. A notable mention also goes to Machu Picchu and the Pyramids in Egypt.

Image of Machu Picchu, Peru by szeke

How were people changed?

A lot of respondents also told us how the destination had changed them. A common theme was getting infected with the 'travel bug' from their first international trip. The diversity of humanity was also mentioned often, which explains the prevalence of heterogeneous and distinct destinations like India and Cambodia. But inhumanity also affected people, with Nazi death camps (Auschwitz) and memorials to the victims of the Khmer Rouge named. People also found change in the humbling experience of how big the world is, and how small their place in it. This was often the result of sublime encounters with nature.

Here is a selection of responses:

@ColeenMo: 'Six months, southern Patagonia. How much can I actually get by on? How much can I give? A lot less. A lot more.'

@maretr86: 'Experiencing (real) Yee Peng in Chiang Mai. How friendly, welcoming and peaceful the Thai were, changed my life.'

@Jp_yu: 'Stopping for a few days in Varanasi and staying near the Ganges, changed my view about death.'

@The_Foxtrotter: 'Greece as a child with my grandma. So much beauty & history. I decided to become an historian of art. And I did.'

@srishubha: 'India definitely! Trip 2 mountains & all kind of adventures here showed me an adventurer inside me.'

@solangefrancois: 'Cambodia made me more appreciative of the opportunities I have. New York gave me creative ambition.'

@insertindian: 'Australia - taught me to smile at random strangers and say hello.'

Bridget McMahon: 'Love Berlin! My home city is terribly boring in comparison. Made me realize what I'm missing, for sure going back :D'.

@StacieChevrier: 'Colombia. It opened my eyes, made me appreciate what I have & taught me not to judge a country by it's reputation.'

Which destination has changed your life the most, and how? Respond in the comments below.

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