There’s freedom, and then there’s free. One is political, and the other is a state of mind, sometimes even spiritual. We’re talking about the latter type of freedom here.

Have you ever traveled out of a busy city, into the countryside where there are few cars, no buildings, and where you can hear a bird singing a mile away? Do you remember the feeling of freedom you had, like the world is completely yours? You could go east or west, or if you want, even north or south! You could sing loud or sit quietly and ponder the meaning of it all. That’s the feeling of freedom, baby!

Many countries have large tracts of land to explore, but they’re completely filled with people. India and China are huge countries with beautiful and varied geography, but trying to find a moment of peace anywhere is nearly impossible! Then there are countries with small, sparse populations that are all crammed together like sardines, such as South Korea or Denmark. These are all claustrophobic countries.

Next, there are those countries that have the best of both worlds: large, mostly uninhabited landscapes where you can explore without let or hindrance, such as Canada and Russia. There are some beautiful countries so far off the tourist path, but which give some of the greatest feelings of freedom around, such as Kazakhstan or Greenland.

With that being said, here is a list of those countries, with the 10 freest and the 10 most claustrophobic!

20 20. Free - Russia

At first, you wouldn’t associate Russia with “free”, but the average traveler can expect the same types of political freedom as anywhere else, with the added bonus of being able to explore the world’s largest and most uninhabited nation!

Russia spans 11 time zones, and as the sun sets in western European Russia, it’s rising over eastern Pacific Russia! The big cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg and crowded with millions of people, but get out to the Ural Mountains, the forests, and lakes of Siberia, or the hot steppes of southern Russia and you’ll find yourself in a land free of people and cities, surrounded by stunning nature. Enjoy!

19 19. Free - Scotland

Scotland, although tiny, offers an amazing feeling of freedom. Get out of the cities and into the highlands, or explored the Lochs and fjords of this rocky, hilly country, and you’ll discover yourself walking a little lighter and thinking a little more positively. There is an incredible sense of being able to go anywhere to explore when you’re in the Scottish countryside. Little villages and hamlets abound, so petrol and refreshments are never too far out of reach. Even if you need to wear a plastic raincoat to truly enjoy your trek through the Highlands, this is one nation that is truly free!

18 10. Claustrophobic - Indonesia

Indonesia is crowded. It’s not only crowded, but this large country is crowded with people jammed into the valleys and flatlands between the mountains and jungles of an unforgiving terrain. 262 million people are crammed into this country, all jostling each other. Traffic is a nightmare anywhere you go, and if you wander off the beaten path you risk getting eaten by a Komodo dragon, kidnapped by extremist militants or simply falling into a volcano. If you’re looking for freedom and stress-free travel, you can do better than Indonesia!

17 9. Claustrophobic - Japan

Japan is so crowded that there isn’t a foot of ground where you won’t rub elbows with another human. There are people everywhere, at all times of the day and night. Even the smallest fishing or farming village is packed with cars and Bongo trucks and neon lights and people. It seems the nation is just constantly on the move, even as its population declines. There is just never a free moment in Japan, which can be exciting for the adventure seekers and urban explorers, but if you’re craving a little freedom for your weary soul, Japan isn’t the place for you.

16 18. Free - Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan fits the bill for freest countries on earth: a large, beautiful landmass with a small population mostly situated in small towns and villages. You can spend weeks trekking around this large central-Asian nation without ever feeling rushed or crowded. Life continues at a slower pace here, and the people are extremely friendly while the food is delicious. If you’re the adventurous type (and if you’re in Kazakhstan than we can assume you are), you can check out some of the places where the Soviet Union tested so many of its nuclear bombs that the sand turned in to glass!

15 17. Free - New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the freest countries on earth, not only because it has vast, unpopulated mountain ranges, winding rivers, towering waterfalls and hundreds of miles of beaches with nary a house a sight, but also because it is one of the safest nations on earth! You can explore the mountains where Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring traveled, wander through valleys of scenic farmland where you’ll be hard-pressed to find another person or stay in a quaint bed-and-breakfast in a beachside village where you’ll never look at your watch!

14 8. Claustrophobic - South Korea

Like Japan, South Korea is a crowded and bustling nation, with the difference being that Koreans are all crammed together on an even smaller spit of land than even the Japanese! There are more than 50 million people in South Korea, jostling each other and honking their horns on a peninsula smaller than the distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco. This is a nation that seemingly never sleeps, and the neon lights can (probably) be seen from space. Claustrophobes will want to stay far, far away from South Korea, and most likely North Korea, too!

13 7. Claustrophobic - Taiwan

Japan and South Korea are bad for overcrowding. Taiwan is terrible. 90 million people are crammed like sardines onto a hilly little island off the coast of China, defiantly refusing to fall under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party. The results are predictable: never-ending traffic complete with blaring horns, Asia-style, massive buildings where people live on top of each other in shoebox-sized apartments, neon lights that never seem to run out of energy, and public transit that is bursting at the seams with riders day and night. Taiwan is the opposite of “free”.

12 16. Free - Argentina

Argentina is a laid-back and free country where time seems to stand still. South America isn’t known for feeling free. From violent revolutions and bloody dictatorships to massive rainforests filled with animals that want to eat you, most people don’t think of South America when they say “I want to get away from it all”. Argentina bucks that trend, and here you travel along peaceful highways that wind through mountains and foothills, camp by pristine lakes or enjoy people-watching from a European-inspired cafe patio in one of Argentina’s many historic towns and cities.

11 15. Free - Iceland

Iceland is one of the freest countries on earth despite its small size. It has a tiny population spread out across this lively, beautiful island in the north Atlantic, where volcanos and geysers are part of everyday life, and where fishing is not only a career but also a philosophy. Trek through the dramatic landscape and you’ll feel a type of freedom you can’t find in a crowded American city. Even sitting in an Icelandic pub in the evening, surrounded by friendly Nordic people, you’ll feel a sense of relaxation and freedom you rarely feel anywhere else!

10 6. Claustrophobic - Brazil

Brazil is a huge nation with the awe-inspiring Amazon Rainforest, so you could be forgiven for thinking that Brazil would be the perfect place to find some free space. Unfortunately, you would be wrong. Brazil’s huge population is concentrated mostly in a few gigantic cities, while the rest of the country is uninhabitable. There are so many ways to die in Brazil that most people prefer the safety of the cities, even as they become centers of violent crime with murder rates that exceed almost all others in the world (South Africa aside). There is nowhere to safely travel in Brazil that doesn’t involve being crammed into small, busy spaces with thousands of others.

9 5. Claustrophobic - Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a beautiful yet poor country. Sri Lanka has a culture that, although heavily influenced by India, is unique to itself. It's also a tiny island nation with a massive population forced to live along the coastline due to the hilly and mountainous interior. There isn’t much elbow room in Sri Lanka, let alone space for you to wander off to find yourself in peace and quiet. Between the extreme poverty of the people, the corruption of officials and a simmering ethnic war with the Tamils, you can find better places to relax than Sri Lanka.

8 14. Free - Mongolia

Mongolia is a land of cold, unpopulated desert. The Gobi desert streaks up from China into eastern Mongolia, and where there isn’t desert there’s hilly grassland filled with grazing sheep and ponies. People here still live a nomadic lifestyle, much as they’ve been living for thousands of years. If it weren’t for Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan, Mongolia would barely be on anyone’s radar, yet this vast, rugged land is perfect for someone who wants to explore freely without crowds or politics or borders getting in their way. That make Mongolia one of the freest nations on earth for travelers!

7 13. Free - Australia

Australia is huge. It’s the only country that’s also a continent, and most of its 24 million inhabitants live in a few large cities on the coasts. Even traveling between the cities takes you into the sparsely-populated countryside, where a few farms and villages are all you’ll see. For the truly hardy seeking the ultimate sense of freedom, head into the Australian Outback, an uninhabitable arid desert of extreme heat where you won’t find another soul for days. Just remember to pack water and avoid the kangaroos. Those guys are tough!

6 4. Claustrophobic - USA

The United States of America is high on the list of claustrophobic countries due to the massive population (350 million and growing). America has some wide-open spaces, but more and more these are being overrun with tourists and strip malls and big box stores. Places like Florida, New York, California and Louisiana feel constrained and crowded, and heading out to the deserts of Arizona will only bring you to massive urban sprawl, where millions of similar-looking houses all running central air conditioning stretch out over the horizon. If you want to feel free in North America, head to Canada and skip the US.

5 3. Claustrophobic - India

India is the second-most populated country in the world, you can tell when you visit. From the Punjab valley to the streets of New Delhi, India is jammed-packed with people. Where there are fewer people there are hills and mountains and dirty roaring rivers and jungles filled with tigers. Stray too far north and you end up in hostile territory where civil war and revolutionary groups have been fighting the government for decades. It’s difficult to unwind and relax in India, which is why it’s one of the most claustrophobic countries on earth!

4 12. Free - Canada

Canada is Australia’s colder cousin. 36 million people are crowded along the border with the US and the rest of the land of the second largest country on earth is sparsely populated. Just like Australia, getting an hour or two outside of the massive urban centers brings you into friendly, free countryside where forests, lakes, rivers, mountains, and farms are yours to explore. The west coast of Canada is a massive playground of beaches, rainforest, and mountains where people have literally got lost, while the east is filled with gorgeous lakes and rivers for peaceful camping and exploring.

3 11. Free - Greenland

Go to Greenland for the ultimate feeling of freedom. This massive, frozen and jaw-dropping land has a population of only 56,000 people, spread out in villages and small towns tucked into ice-free fjords along the coast. Although the land is almost completely covered in ice, there’s a sense of isolation and freedom here that you can’t get anywhere else on earth. Even while tucked into bed in a small village, you’ll feel a sense of unhurried freedom unlike anywhere else. This is what makes Greenland the freest nation on the planet!

2 2. Claustrophobic - Haiti

Haiti is a human disaster of international proportions. This country was never well-developed and the massive 2010 earthquake that hit and killed a quarter-million people destroyed infrastructure, brought down the government and ruined the economy. It has never recovered and today in Haiti you’ll feel yourself not only hemmed in by a small land mass and a humungous population, but also by the poverty and suffering of the people and a society that has been forgotten about. Haiti is dangerous, sad, and extremely claustrophobic. Send some money to an aid agency on the ground there instead of visiting.

1 1. Claustrophobic - Monaco

Monaco is one of the world’s richest countries. It’s the playground of royalty and celebrities, where yachts fight for parking spaces and it’s easier to book a private jet than an economy-class flight. Yet for all the glitz and glamour, Monaco is the most densely populated place on earth, with 73,000 people per square mile! Then there are all the tall, shiny buildings crowding the central skyline. This, plus the fact that you can’t afford anything here and you definitely don’t fit in, makes Monaco the most claustrophobic place on earth to travel!