Lists are a good way to absorb information quickly online but tend to be more useful the more specific the topic is. Often though, they can be too subjective to provide too much useful information. I’ve written a number of lists myself but some make better headlines than they do articles. It is even difficult to generalize about lists so I don’t want to knock what I haven’t read but there are some things you just can’t quantify easily.

1. The Friendliest Places

There is no friendliest place really since friendliness is culturally relative. How we perceive friendliness is based on our own cultural background – take for example smiling. The smiles in Thailand can mean so many things whereas in the Middle East a straight face is the default. Often foreigners visiting the US comment on how nice people are since they typically ask, “how are you?”

smiling kid

2. The Best Places In The World To Visit

These types of lists tend to work well when you know the author or are familiar with their work. It’s also interesting to read the best places in a very specific town or city since they usually cover the highlights many travelers are looking for. Simply reading that a place is the best without something added (like the best surfing, best trekking) doesn’t help you much as a traveler.

What To See And Do In Under 3 Days In Baku, Azerbaijan

thumbs up

3. The Worst Places To Visit In The World

Any given trip is a series of moments in a given time at a given place. While it’s OK to hate some places, chances are if you were to visit somewhere more than once you wouldn’t hate it each time.

stop sign

4. The Most Dangerous Places To Visit

Again, you can say the most dangerous parts of a city based on crime rate, or include war zones – but national borders (or otherwise) don’t magically segregate violence which is one reason travel warnings shouldn’t stop you from visiting most places. It’s also why you’ve got to decipher State Department travel warnings.

snow white witch

Look For Logic and Specifics

Lists appeal to us for many reasons but they don’t do you much good unless they’re based on or contain specifics, logic, or quantifiable information. Ask yourself, what criteria was used to create the list? Also, remember that information changes slowly over time so be sure to update your reality and the mesofacts you come across in all of the lists you read. Even more subjective lists like those described above can be useful, particularly on travel blogs, where they tend to generate good discussions with good information about the topic at hand.

Save Money Before You Go To Japan: Buy A JR Rail Pass In Your Home Country

Lists can be useful of course – there are bests and worsts, top 10s, and “mosts” we all get out of the places we visit – but much like the lists themselves, they’re hard to see without getting sight of the bigger picture.

[photos by: Mr Huevo (smiling child), JPhillipson (thumbs up), Elephant wearing striped pants (stop sign), Express Monorail (witch)]