Central Asia is made up of "the Stans." Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan... Sorry if that seems crass or imprecise, Central Asia doesn't have precise borders, instead these countries are linked historically by the Silk Road, ethnically by their common Ottoman ancestry, hence, "the Stans."

Central Asian countries are also linked by a bleak future. Kazakhstan, with its tremendous oil reserves, may prove the exception to the rule, but throughout the rest of Central Asia, the combination of mismanaged resources, environmental disasters and a century of Soviet influence, has kept the region a little bit behind the development curve.

But the region is still a great place to travel. The mountains of Tajikistan and Afghanistan bring outdoorsmen and adventure travelers, the novelty and culture of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan make it a popular destination. The food and culture of hospitality throughout Central Asia make it an enlightening and surprisingly inviting place to visit.

Central Asia may not be one of the easiest places to go, visa restrictions alone will probably give you a bit of a headache, and there are also volatile areas and Taliban-controlled areas of the mountains near Pakistan, but there is perhaps no place in the world that gives you more instant credibility with other travelers than Central Asia.