I’m on the same page. As someone who has lived in Quito, Ecuador and spent a lot of time traveling in Brazil, I was so close to identifying 100 percent with everything you talked about in this article and why countries like that are “fun” but I felt like it only went halfway there.
The missing piece was this understanding of knowing that this danger, that is such an interesting and exciting difference from what we, from “clockwork” countries experience, is both part of that country and culture but also something they’re trying to change or improve.
And another thing that makes these countries “fun” is that no matter how hard you try to understand them and their cultures, you’re learning something different everyday, because you’ll never truly get them. It’s hard to explain but one of the memories that makes me the most nostalgic for my time in Quito is the memory of me walking home from the bus station that took me to school because I knew that stretch of road and all the shops and people and traffic patterns on it so well and it felt like it was a part of home in a way, even though everyone who saw me walking on it could tell that I wasn’t from Quito. It was just something I knew about Quito that nobody who hasn’t made the same walk along Rio Coca could understand.
Admittedly this may not be a feeling that applies to people who are just traveling because all of my time in “fun” countries has been professional or academic, which may add a different dynamic.