Back in high school, I sat down with a pen and paper and drafted up my very own bucket list. I was seventeen at the time.
It’s been nearly a decade since I first wrote down all of the things I wanted to do, see, and experience in my lifetime. And since then, I’ve already checked off 77 of the 223 items. Seventy-seven!
Some of the completed tasks include attempting a vegan diet for 30 days, reading 52 books in a year, going skydiving, and learning to do a proper cartwheel. Some are currently in-progress (like learning a martial art and sending my mom on vacation), and many others have yet to be completed, like competing in Tough Mudder, designing my own video game, and seeing The Killers perform live in concert.
This list has served as my guiding North Star for many years. Whenever I doubted my path or where I wanted to go next, all I had to do was take one look at the experiences listed here to get inspired for where to go or what to work on next.
I highly encourage you to make your own list! Sometimes we get so caught up in the day-to-day that we often don’t realize that we’re living someone else’s life until it’s too late. Sit down for a few hours and give yourself the space and time to think, to imagine, to wonder; to consider all the possibilities that life holds.
The following is a collection of 40 travel-specific experiences from my own list that have yet to be marked. This post isn’t comprehensive by any means, and there are plenty of items I’ve left out. But I hope this inspires you to create your own travel wishlist, or at the very least, take a trip somewhere new!
1. Take a cruise to Antarctica
This is my #1 most urgent and most desired trip at the moment. Not only is Antarctica a vastly under-explored destination (truly the “last frontier” in travel), but it’s also not going to be around forever. Each day, this beautiful and isolated continent changes more and more.
The greatest barrier to entry is cost—there are a limited number of cruise lines and routes each year, and they all cost at least $10,000 minimum.
2. Ride a Motorcycle from North to South Vietnam
Joel and I traveled to Vietnam in the fall of 2017, and to this day, it remains one of my favorite countries.
While we explored a few cities via scooter, I’d love to return one day and tour the entire country on the back of a motorbike. I’ve heard so many amazing things about this journey, and seeing as some of the more remote spots were some of our favorites, I’m sure we’d love getting to visit the smaller villages in-between.
3. Drive a campervan around Iceland’s Ring Road
This was originally planned as part of our round-the-world trip. Unfortunately, we lost our licenses early on in South Korea, and therefore couldn’t rent a car to take us around the island—and sitting on a bus all day with a bunch of tourists was not my idea of a good time.
One day we hope to finally take this trip (with our licenses in hand, of course).
4. Visit Japan in every season
There are three things I love dearly in life: 1.) cookies 2.) Harry Potter 3.) all things Japanese.
Japan is a highly seasonal country. Unlike San Francisco, where the weather ranges from 65 and sunny in early fall to 65 and cloudy in late winter, Japan has something unique to offer for every season of the year. I’ve already spent a month in the summer there, but I’d love to go back for the changing autumn leaves, cherry blossoms in the spring, and snowy landscapes in winter.
5. Go on a safari in the Serengeti
Located in Tanzania, the term Serengeti actually means “endless plains” in Maasai, and it’s just about the most famous land for spotting wildlife in the world.
I’ve never been on a safari, and I’m dying to witness the annual migration. I’d prefer to save this trip for a time when I can afford something a little more luxurious and can do some proper “glamping” out in the wild.
6. Camp out in the Amazon Rainforest
Speaking of camping, the Amazon is another place I eventually want to spend a few nights in. It’s pretty expensive compared to typical South American prices, but a few nights of getting up close and personal with wildlife would be worth it.
(Yes, I know there are very large spiders, and no, I don’t yet know how I’m going to handle myself if I find myself face-to-face with one).
7. Fly first class
I’ve probably flown at least 100 times in my lifetime, and never once have I sat in anything other than an economy seat (not even premium economy!).
This might be the kind of thing I end up saving for a honeymoon trip. But I will at least get to experience business class on my upcoming trip to Russia!
8. Ride the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Moscow
Although I’ll be visiting Russia next month, I’m still going to have to wait for a future trip to get the full railway experience (there’s just not enough time to travel that distance and still enjoy the stops along the way).
I’ve always found train travel to hold a special romanticism, and I can’t imagine a better way to explore the Wild West of Asia and Russia than via train.
9. Take a solo trip abroad
I should probably start with saying that I love traveling with a partner. It’s my favorite form of travel—groups can be fun of course, but it can also get a little overwhelming. I find that having one other person to share your experiences with (someone who you won’t kill after only 24 hours together, ideally) is the best scenario in most cases.
With that said, I’d also love to take a solo trip one day. It doesn’t have to be for long, maybe even just a week or two, but I’ve never had the opportunity to see how I’d manage to get around or how I’d handle myself in an unfamiliar environment if I didn’t have another person to rely on. It’d be a great personal growth experience.
10. Road trip along Route 66
Another one to save for when I have some extended time off! I’ve never been a big fan of U.S. domestic travel (it costs the same to fly to Boston as it does to get to the Philippines—why anyone would choose the former is beyond me), but I think a traditional road trip down America’s most famous highway would be a worthwhile experience.
The full route, spanning from Chicago to Los Angeles, usually lasts around 3-4 weeks.
11. Attend the Ice Festival in Harbin, China
I love China. I could visit every year for the rest of my life and never get sick of it (nor see everything that the country has to offer, it really is that big).
So far I’ve seen Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Lijiang, Guilin, Yangshou, and Hong Kong (let’s not get political, please), but I hope to see Harbin one day for their Ice Festival, an event based entirely on life-size ice sculptures.
12. Visit the Great Pyramids in Egypt
This was another experience that was originally on our 2017-2018 RTW trip itinerary, but we ended up skipping Egypt all together due to budget restraints (while the country is cheap to travel in once you arrive, the plane tickets can be quite expensive if you’re not already in the Middle East).
The pyramids are the last standing of the original Seven World Wonders. Pair that with the fact that Egypt is also one of the most inexpensive countries in the world to visit, and what better reason would you have to come see these giants in person?
13. Stay at the Hotel Ritz in Paris
I studied in Paris for a semester back in college and loved every minute of it. Along with Tokyo and New York, Paris tops as one of my favorite cities on the planet. I’ve been back twice since my university days and feel like I’ll never tire of it (or, more specifically, Pierre Herme’s macarons).
While each visit to the City of Lights has been equally magical, I’ve never experienced the other side of the city, AKA, the bougie experiences I could never afford in the past. I was always browsing the isles of HEMA for good deals rather than shopping on the Champs-Élysées, or chowing down on falafel wraps in the Marais instead of enjoying a slow afternoon in front of a table of wine and charcuterie.
Don’t get me wrong—I’ve loved every minute I’ve ever spent in this city, but one day I hope to return to experience what it’s like to live as the other half do. And if I do, the Hotel Ritz is where I plan on staying.
14. Explore the villages of Greenland
Iceland gets all the hype nowadays, but have you guys ever thought about visiting here instead?
Greenland is much more remote and difficult to access (you literally have to fly between towns), but you’ll be rewarded for your efforts: glaciers, tiny villages, and tons of culture yet to be explored by many travelers.
15. Attend a Holi Festival in India
I was first exposed to Holi back at UC Santa Barbara, where our local Indian cultural club hosted this colorful party each spring on our town’s local beach. It was a blast, and I can’t imagine how much more amazing the experience would be in the country where it originated.
Although India is at the top of my list right now, I’ve been putting it off for later on when I have enough time to explore the country properly—for a month, at the very least. I’m honestly still banking on one of my Indian friends having a wedding out here soon so that I can experience an Indian wedding as well!
16. Stargaze in the Mackenzie Basin
This is New Zealand’s largest basin and is considered one of the best places for stargazing in the world. It’s protected from light pollution as one of only 8 “Dark Sky Reserves” to exist on the planet, and the sole of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.
17. Take a tour through North Korea
North Korea isn’t exactly a luxury trip to the French Riviera, but as the world’s most secretive and closed-off country, it would be fascinating to see the country in-person. There are a lot of precautions you have to take, and you can’t just go off wondering on your own, but there’s still a lot to be gained from traveling here.
18. Ride a Reindeer sledge in Lapland
Santa is real, and he lives in Finland with Rudolph and the rest of the gang.
The small town of Rovaniemi is known as Santa’s home—and it gets especially magical around Christmas time. I’ve always been a huge holiday nerd, and getting a chance to sled across several feet of snow behind a real, living reindeer sounds about as close to a Christmas miracle as I’m ever going to get.
19. Attend Tomorrowland
Confession: I used to love festivals. If there was EDM involved, I was there.
I’ve calmed down a lot as I approach my (I hate to say it) late twenties. In fact, other than a brief stint at Outside Lands, I haven’t been to a festival since 2017.
Yet, Tomorrowland has always been on my raving bucket list since day one, and I just can’t seem to let it go. The idea of going to the biggest rave in the world is just too enticing to pass up. Plus, it’s in Europe, where it’s not totally out of the ordinary (read: embarrassing) to jump around at a Tiesto set as a 30-year-old. So this one’s staying on the list for now, at least until I have kids.
20. Swim with Jellyfish in Palau
I’m currently on the Philippines hype train and trying hard to get a trip there under my belt by the end of the year. TBD. But either way, Palau is one of my top destinations if I do go—it’s famous for its schools of jellyfish (the non-stinging variety), and while it’s technically its own country, it lies just off the coast of the Philippines.
The lake was actually closed for two years while the jellyfish population had a chance to recover from a severe drought back in 2016. It’s now reopened as of this year.
21. Walk through the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Located in Dubai, it serves as the largest mosque in the UAE. The entire complex is enveloped in a sea of white. The Sheikh Zayed Mosque has increased in popularity the past few years, as more and more travelers open up to the idea of traveling to the Middle East. It was only just opened in 2007, so it’s still a relatively new site for visitors to the city.
22. Attend a soccer game at Camp Nou
Camp Nou is the world’s most well-known soccer (football) stadium—in fact, it might just be the world’s most well-known stadium, period. There’s nothing that can mirror the passion that Europeans show for their soccer teams, and I’d love to experience the energy and excitement in-person one day. Also, any excuse to return to Barcelona is a reason in itself.
23. Attend the Full Moon Party in Thailand
Just like Tomorrowland, this is another item that has a bit of a deadline on it if I don’t plan on raving my way around the world as a mom one day.
It regularly takes place around the full moon on the island of Ko Pha-ngan and is mostly attended by tourists (so no, it’s not an authentic Thai cultural celebration), but it’s Sout East Asia’s most famous festival and I’ll be damned if I don’t make it out there one of these days.
24. Visit the Shire
For those who don’t know, because they aren’t insufferable geeks like myself, the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed in New Zealand. And nowadays, you can visit the actual movie set of Hobbiton, complete with a Hobbit-style lunch.
The tour includes visiting various Hobbit Holes and the Green Dragon Inn. If there’s any reason I’d go to New Zealand other than to stargaze, this would be it.
25. Stay Overnight in the Fairmont on Lake Louise
Banff tourism has boomed in the last year. Instagram is flooded with serene images of influencers gliding across crystal clear lakes.
I’m hoping to get here before overtourism does. And if I do, you can bet I’ll be staying at that beautiful building sitting right on the edge of the lake.
26. See the annual pony swim on Chincoteague
When I was a kid, Misty of Chincoteague was my jam. It was one of the series I searched for on my regular trips to Borders (RIP), picking through the rows of junior novelists with excitement.
Since then, I’ve always wanted to see the Chincoteague ponies in real life—particularly in July, when the locals herd the horses from Assateague to Chincoteague in a ritual-like fashion.
27. Take a road trip to Big Sur
I’m a little disappointed that, 30+ countries later, this is still unchecked on my bucket list—considering it’s just a few hours’ drive from where I live. I’ve seen photos on photos of the famous Pfeiffer Cayon bridge stretching out over Highway 1, yet just never found the right time and place to see it with my own eyes.
I’m hoping to make this into a weekend getaway sometime before 2019 is over—and there may be camping involved. Who’s down?
28. Walk through Antelope Canyon
Another one that’s oh-so-close, yet I still haven’t gotten around to.
Antelope Canyon is the name given to a collection of slot canyons dotted around various locations on a chunk of Navejo land in Arizona. The canyons are famous for their smooth, swirling sandstone that was carved from years of flooding and erosion.
29. Go tornado chasing
Okay, Anna. You’re kidding, right?
I was born in Atlanta and spent my childhood on the outskirts of Philadelphia—all before moving to modern-day Silicon Valley. So I’m no stranger to the terrifying variety of natural disasters that our planet is capable of. Earthquakes, blizzards, fires—I’ve seen all of it with my own eyes.
Yet, I’ve never seen a super storm or a tornado. Our planet is a powerful, mysterious thing and growing up in a time where we’re slowly losing its beauty day-by-day, I want a chance to appreciate the truly awe-inspiring aspects of it.
30. Explore Georgia by car
(Yes, the country, not the state. ;))
Georgia has been top-of-mind for me these last few years. As more and more people are willing and able to travel, and the world grows ever smaller, I find myself drawn to places that still feel special and new. The countries surrounding the Caspian Sea are just that.
Georgia is famous for its landscapes (among other things, i.e., wine), and I can’t imagine a cooler way to experience the local culture than to travel overland.
31. Go to Burning Man
At the risk of sounding like a depraved college kid, there’s yet another party-themed festival on this list: Burning Man.
Located in the middle of the desert, this event has fascinated me for a long time. The event is built on the idea of exchange, or creating your own city out of scratch. As who grew up obsessing over word building, getting a taste for the real-life equivalent would be a dream come true.
32. Learn to scuba dive
I hate water. Especially ocean water. Oh, and did I mention that I’m a terrible swimmer?
There’s something about breathing underwater that feels terribly uncomfortable and unnatural to me. Which is all the more reason why I want to learn to conquer this fear one day—so much of the world’s beauty and mystery is located just beneath the surface, and I fear missing out on it.
33. Become fluent in another language
Yes, I’m half Chinese, and yes, my mother is an immigrant from Bejing. And no, I can’t speak Mandarin.
I spent most of my life learning bits and pieces of languages; a bit of Spanish here, some French there, and enough Mandarin to order my favorite dishes at dim sum. I actually adore learning languages, and more so, what they can do for your connection to local culture. But I’ve never managed to graduate beyond conversational level. One day I hope to.
34. Party in Ibiza
Ibiza, an island off the coast of Spain, is considered one of the party capitals of the world. While its celebrity status has waned somewhat in the last two decades, it still offers a luxury super-club experience, now with even more amenities and better sound systems than in its 90s heyday.
35. Hike Zhangjiajie National Park
Again, I love China. And while I’ve already visited four times, there’s still so much of the country I have yet to explore: Zhangjiajie included.
If the name doesn’t ring any bells, you might be surprised to know that this is actually where the filming for the alien planet in Avatar took place. There’s also a famous glass bridge here that my fear of heights will not be happy with, but we’ll cross that bridge (har har har) when we get there.
36. Watch the sunset in Santorini
I know, it’s cliché, and yes, I’ve seen the “behind the scenes” images of herds of tourists with their selfie sticks, all climbing over each other to get the perfect photo as the sun goes down. And while that may dampen the “secluded Greek island” experience that was once a main draw of this tiny town, I still want to witness it with my own eyes.
37. Swim with pigs in Exuma
Exuma is one of The Bahamas most famous islands, and one of its most unique, with schools of pigs swimming around in its crystal-clear waters. Where else can you get that kind of experience?
38. Visit Cinque Terre
I’m not an Italy fanatic like most travelers (I prefer France), but after visiting the capital and some of the northern cities like Bologna and Venice, I’m itching to go back and see what all the hype is about when it comes to the coast.
39. Eat at The French Laundry
Another item that’s relatively local and I still haven’t gotten to, mostly because I’ve yet to reach the wealth level of drop-half-a-grand-on-drinner. One day.
40. Live in NYC
I’ve written before about how much I love New York. I’ve only visited a handful of times, but with each visit, I only feel more sure that this is where I was meant to be. There’s the place we’re born, and then there’s the place we belong—and I know it in my heart, mind, and soul that NYC is where I belong.
I don’t even need to spend the rest of my life here, but I want to experience what it’s like to be a local for at least a year or two. And I’m determined to make it happen—soon.
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