One of the wonderful things about being part of a travel community is never having to explain why we travel; that unmistakable tug of wanderlust is something we all recognize. So it’s hard to believe that there are those who don’t fall so easily under its spell. Perhaps they’re just looking at travel in the wrong way, thinking only of packed airports, scary cab rides, and bad exchange rates. What they need is something else to get them going—something to convince them that travel isn’t all work. And we’ve got the perfect thing: a rundown of the best places in the world to play (sports, that is).
Whether you’re a die-hard Yankees fan or occasionally catch a game on TV, the thrill of competition and the excitement of a great sporting event are undeniable. There are all sorts of factors to take into consideration when choosing a sport, including venue, rivalry, fan base, and history. For a prime venue, how about schlepping over to Monaco to watch the Formula 1 Grand Prix? While you’re there, you could always stop by Monte Carlo for a few hands of blackjack.
If you like racing but can’t stand the engine noise, pay a visit to Melbourne during the running of the Melbourne Cup, the Race That Stops a Nation. With more pomp and pleasantries than regular auto racing, this event allows you to enjoy bottles of champagne served from the concession stands. And as long as you’re Down Under, be sure to take in a footy match. The Australian Football Grand Final is the most televised sports event in Australia, and when you see a game in person, you’ll understand why.
Speaking of intense sports with even more intense fans, one must-attend event takes place just north of the US border a few times a year. Whether or not you understand hockey, the atmosphere of an NHL game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens transcends typical sports rivalries, dating back to the mid-18th century, and reflects a fundamental difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada.
Of course, if you want to see fans who really define themselves by their allegiance to a team, you should head to South America for a CONMEBOL game. Fútbol—The Beautiful Game, as it is called—is celebrated with a vibrant fervor that is unmatched elsewhere in the world. Clubs play internationally around the continent, as well as in intramural matches within their own countries. Just make sure you’re cheering for the right team!
And if you’re not satisfied by these fast-paced displays of athleticism, you can always sit for a game of cricket—or exert yourself to watch others play games by climbing steep mountain steps to Chail, India, where the world’s highest cricket pitch sits. At over 2,000m high in the peaceful upper valleys of the Himalayas, local and international cricket is played for the intrepid sports spectator. Not obscure enough? Try a match of Sepak Takraw, a game from Malaysia that combines football (soccer), volleyball, and a great deal of acrobatics.
Whether you’re batty for baseball or get your kicks from soccer, you’ll understand the universal language of the sporting life wherever you go. And it doesn’t take an expert: just clap your hands and cheer, and you may find yourself crossing international borders without ever leaving your seat.