Francis Quinn emails me:
I’m an American man, 29, arrived in Amsterdam for the first time yesterday, and I am finding it to be the least crowded European city I’ve been to. Is this COVID-related possibly, do you think, or did the city used to be empty? I even thought I was on a college campus, almost. I’m loving it.
I’m now thinking of a new question for Tyler: *when* was the best year to have visited various places? From 1900-2100 (past and present, future possible travel times for all your readers)?
Good idea, let’s put aside Covid, here are a few observations:
1. The best time to visit the United States is now. The country keeps on getting better and more interesting, most of all the latter.
2. New York City is a big exception here. It probably was more interesting to visit NYC in the 1950-1978 period when it was clearly the world’s leading city, culturally and otherwise. San Francisco (1970s?) and Detroit (1960s?) are exceptions also.
3. Most of Western Europe probably was best to visit in the 1970s or 1980s? Modern enough to be comfortable, less ruined by excess tourists, and the internet doesn’t really raise the value of Europe much at all. Note that I am putting aside “visit in 1920 so you can be shocked by the novelty and then brag about it.” That is an interesting plan, but I think not the question at hand. And the danger of disease and poor medical care still would have been high.
4. Much of Eastern Europe was best to visit right after the Iron Curtain came down. Poland is an exception to this, and it is best to visit Poland now.
5. For most of Asia, the best time to visit is right now. Perhaps Japan was more exciting in the bubble years. Some parts of China were wrecked by the Cultural Revolution, and Hong Kong was more fun before the takeover. China was freer and more fun ten to fifteen years ago. So there are exceptions, but mostly the point stands. Asia as a whole is getting better and more interesting.
6. For most of Africa, the best time to visit is right now, wars aside. Ethiopia for instance was obviously much better to visit a few years ago. I am not sure about Nigeria. Obviously, for some anthropological or wildlife-related interests, much earlier times might have been better, but not for the typical educated tourist.
7. Right now is the best time to visit Israel. I suspect some of the Arab countries in the Middle East were better to visit much earlier — Beirut and Cairo for instance. Yemen was clearly better to visit in the early 1990s. Iran during the time of the Shah. And so on. Overall these points are not a promising sign for the region. Dubai and the like are clearly best to visit now.
8. Most of Latin America is best to visit now, as the region remains largely unspoilt. Brazil might be an exception to this, though I have not been lately. Some parts of Brazil seem to be more dangerous, and an earlier visit may well have been superior. Ever see the movie Black Orpheus, set in Rio?
9. The 1960s were the best time to visit Haiti.