15 Countries You Should Visit Before You Die

Haiti

Why to go when you’re young: Because once you do, you’re in the club for life. Anyone you ever meet who’s from Haiti, who has lived in Haiti, or is of Haitian descent won’t believe you that you’ve been. Then, they’ll admire you for going.


Where to head first: Port-au-Prince, the likely default if you’re flying in
The most obvious reasons to visit Haiti are the same as for any Caribbean island: the alluring beaches; the fantastic native rum (Barbancourt — look for it on US shelves); the rich island foods, like cubed goat with Scotch bonnet peppers that you can’t exactly get in any strip mall back home. The less obvious reason to visit Haiti is that you can, and once you do, nothing anywhere else in the world will come as a shock. Not once you’ve seen the abject urban squalor of the vast Port-au-Prince slum Cité Soleil (note: Don’t go unless you’re with people who absolutely know their way around) and then zig-zagged uphill to the posh French-Creole restaurants of the suburbs, where men stand guard outside with pump shotguns while you dine on crepes and steaks alongside American and European diplomats and aid workers.

The last time I visited Haiti was five months before the cataclysmic 2010 earthquake. Some of the places I ate and drank and danced in — the old Hotel Montana, for instance, in Petionville — collapsed in the quake, full of people. That is the story of Haiti, the common story, in fact: that it is a slow-rolling disaster punctuated by sudden calamities. («Beyond mountains there are mountains,» the local adage goes.) Do not let that be the story you tell yourself. Rather, consider Haiti a place where you can build, or help, or simply visit and get to know what life is like in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. It’s bonkers, yes, but it’s still life, and still bright-dark beautiful, and you can absolutely embrace it as part of yours.

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