All I want for Christmas is to see the world – every last lake, puddle, hotel, hostel, and hovel. I’ve been a really good boy, but that’s entirely too long of a bucket list to write. My hand would cramp, and your eyeballs would fall out. No Bueno. How about
19 13 entries for our 2019 bucket list trips? We can both do that. I saved some of my favorite articles from my favorite bloggers about my favorite places I want to go to. If a triple favorite doesn’t constitute a bucket list, then I don’t know what does.
Mitten State Meandering
My 2019 bucket list begins with seeing friends and family. I am legitimately proud of my son and the life he is building in Michigan. I keep looking for ways to visit him without stepping on any of the emotional landmines of our past. That’s where a little something I call fun therapy comes in.
I have been reading Sarah’s (@endlessdistances) blog about birthday weekends in Detroit and searching for the best gluten-free treats. I feel close to my boy reading about her exploits, but it’s her quirky Michigan activities that makes me believe fun therapy might be possible.
I can picture us kayaking to Turnip Rock and taking a selfie together or camping with the moose on Isle Royal. Heck, he even invited me to go to Belle Isle and Heidelberg Project the last time I visited. What really gets me excited is going in the dead of winter where I can see the Northern Lights, go dog sledding, and maybe take a plane over to Mackinac Island to see the blue ice. It sounds like I should be packing my mittens for the Mitten State.
Glamping the California Coast
My other kid is off to college on the coast of Cali. We cleared the minefields of our past a little bit ago and are feeling closer than ever. So close, in fact, that she didn’t even visit last summer. Instead, she spent the summer backpacking in Sri Lanka and Thailand. I can feel little tears of blogger joy welling up when I think about my kiddo’s first solo female backpacking trip.
My bucket list travel with her is more spiritual. In my dreams, we’ll repeat the Big Sur road trip that we did to drop her off at school, but do it in style. On the first night, we’ll be heading south and going glamping at Treebones. Heck, we might even stay in the Human Nest which is an actual nest made of twisted steel where you can sleep out under the stars and wake up to the views of waves crashing on the Big Sur Coast.
For the second night, we’ll stay at Caravan Outpost, a wonderful place in Ojai that Andi Fisher (@andi_fisher) just reminded me of. Every campsite is an Airstream trailer. What’s cuter still is the artsy town of Ojai, which for some reason I never visited but have always wanted to.
We’ll end the trip at Spencer and Christina’s (our staff writers) house in San Diego. I miss eating street tacos and surfing from our time living in America’s Finest City. They say you can never come home, but you can always try.
Turning 50 in Puerto Vallarta
Speaking of Spencer, he turns 50 this year and is throwing one hell of a party in Puerto Vallarta. I’m not saying ya’ll are invited, but it’s easy to plan your own party in Puerto. Fit Two Travel published an excellent guide of 33 things to do in Puerto Vallarta that includes scuba diving, food tours, and playing in the warm water of Mexico’s Pacific Coast. That’s thirty three fun things to do besides going to Spencer’s 50th birthday!
Puerto Vallarta has everything you would want from a Mexican beach town. Beautiful diving and snorkeling in Los Arcos Marine Park. Ziplining through the jungle. Food tours, street tacos, and that authentic Mexican food I am missing with my new life in Florida. You know what else Puerto Vallarta has that I miss? Sunsets where the blazing orange sun drops into the blue Pacific Ocean.
Driving Through Albania (or the story of that crazy ex-girlfriend)
On our way to Spencer’s house in North County, we’d probably drive through West Covina. Now don’t panic, West Covina didn’t make my bucket list, but it does make my must-see bad TV list with the CW’s addictively funny musical comedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Quirky New York power lawyer Rachel Bloom moves to West Covina (only two hours from the beach!) to pursue her summer camp crush, Josh Chan. We’ve all had a few of those crazy ex’s in our past, haven’t we?
My crazy ex-girlfriend happened to be Albanian. When I read Sarah Jane’s article about renting a car in Albania, it reminded me of Qamile, who was also a crazy ex-Albanian that always pined about her country. She loved Albania so much that I really need to see the country for myself now that I’ve heard her stories.
Albania was protected (or cut off) from the rest of Europe by their longtime Premier Evnar Hoxha from 1944 to 1985. Albanian traditions remained sealed in this virtual time capsule for forty years. Combine this culture with the beautiful Ionian Sea the rugged Dinaric Alps and Pindus mountains, and you’d have an incredible vacation without even considering the history. Albania was the birthplace of Sister Teresa, last vestige of the Roman Empire, and responsible for keeping the Ottoman Turks from overrunning Europe (or so Qamile says). Albania isolation also keeps them off of Eurorail lines, so a road trip through Albania is the perfect way to see this unique country.
Wocka Wocka Oaxaca
Here’s a joke from back in the day – Have you taken an Oaxacan caving trip? Why is there one missing? Wocka wocka wocka.
In my early days living in Tucson my life centered around the Tucson caving community and telling bad jokes. As I moving to San Diego, a bunch of my friends were getting ready for expedition caving in Oaxaca. They went to help map Chevé Cave, the deepest freshwater hydrological system in the world. When I saw Claire’s Footstep’s article about the best things to do in Oaxaca, it reminded me of how badly I wanted to go to Oaxaca.
Claire doesn’t’ suggest anything crazy like expedition caving, but everything sounded fun. There are bike tours through town to see street art, and of course, Day the Dead originates from here. Oaxaca is also home to the widest tree in the world. Certainly good reasons for it to make the list even if you aren’t caving.
Machu Picchu – I Choose You!
Maybe it’s just me, but bagging bucket list destinations seems like collecting Pokemon. Picture the scene, you are drinking beers at the local hostel, and somebody is going on and on about that ladyboy show they went to in Thailand in a Tuk-Tuk with a drunk sailor and two nuns. Machu Picchu, I choose you! The battle is on. You break out your stories of Machu Picchu to counter this afront on your traveler bragging rights. Special attacks include llama breath, weaving, and racing to the Sacred Valley to get that one shot with nobody in the scene.
Lia (@Practical Wanderlust) has a better story of hiking to Machu Picchu that forever put it on my bucket list (and her on my favorite writer list). She tells about her struggles and failure on the Inca Trail. She made the brave choice to turn back after the first brutal day on the trail and just take the train.
She’s such a good storyteller that you have to read it for yourself. She takes you from her training hikes in cool (and sea level) San Francisco to arriving in Peru and seeing the group of fit, young hikers waiting to conquer the Inca Trail.
Someday, this will happen to Jenn and me. We’ll be the oddballs who took the bus back waiting for the cool kids to get in from hiking. You know what, that’s ok. It was still an incredible journey and a great story (not to mention the perfect picture of a llama).
Walking With the Big Five in Africa
The Incas have their llamas, but Africa has the “Big Five”: lion, leopard, rhinoceros (both black and white species), elephant, and Cape buffalo. We were lucky enough to see one of the last white rhinos in San Diego before he died. There are only two northern white rhinos alive in the world today – Najin and Fatu. They are under 24-hour guard in a preserve in Kenya. Going into an armed compound to see what we saw at the San Diego Zoo is not our dream of Africa. Ann Cavitt Fisher’s (@acavittfisher) experiences on a walking safari are more of our style.
Her days in Africa were filled with awe, splendor, and vast expanses of nature. Waking at the crack of dawn to find the lions who roaring beyond their tents. Walking single file through the bush in search of Elephants. Her pictures filled me with the hope that somewhere in this world the wild is winning, or at least holding serve. She said it best – “I did NOT want to spend the money to go to Africa and feel like I was on some domestic game drive in the United States.”
Cuddling Kittens in the Cook Islands
My wonderful partner and consummate concierge Jenn’s first husband was a Kiwi who came to America to make snow for the Salt Lake City Olympics. They ski bummed together for a while until he returned home to his native New Zealand but wasn’t able to bring his two cats. They are now our cats, but we stay on good terms with the Kiwi.
We have skyped together several times and still put the cats on the call every now and then to talk to their original cat dad. Going to New Zealand makes a certain amount of sense, but the Kiwi would probably drink me under the table, and I would have to turn in my man card. Instead, we dream of going to the Cook Islands.
Imagine a tropical paradise in the South Pacific filled with crystal blue water and overrun with cats where everybody is a New Zealand citizen. Cat from Fortwoplz (no name irony intended) showed us the way to have an action packed Cook Island adventure. Not only did she go diving and do all of the tropical stuff, but she also took a progressive dinner tour where she enjoyed a different course at a different local home on each stop and toured the local villages by bike. Between the cats and the culture, the Cook Islands have been on the list for some time now.
Running Wild With Orangutans in Borneo
My first adult bucket list was filled with places I wanted to go caving. I would sit around the campfire at the National Speleological Society convention and hear stories of that year’s adventures in caving. The groups returning from Borneo had some stories to tell of huge caves and exciting animal encounters. Nic from the Roaming Renegades shared an article about visiting orangutans in Borneo that rekindled the old dreams.
Nic visiting the Semmengoh Nature Reserve in search of orangutans. In Semmengoh, the orangutans are guests and free to come and go as they please. The human visitors can only enter on two-hour windows twice a day. This isn’t a zoo, and no sighting is guaranteed, but that is where the magic lies.
Nic’s first trip… Nothing but closed doors and a long hitchhike back to the hostel. Second trip…. only a single sighting in a distant tree. But the third trip. He arrived early. Beat the crowds to the feeding platforms and witness the beauty of wild orangutans do what orangutans do. Hanging out, eating their favorite foods, and living the good life. Someday Borneo, we’ll be joining you.
Himalayan Hiking in Blissful Bhutan
Another holdover from our “classic bucket list” is hiking in Bhutan. We live in Orlando around the corner from the other Happiest Place on Earth, but the Fourth King of Bhutan might have something to say about that. He came up with the idea of Gross National Happiness as a measure of his success instead of gross national product. He also sought out high-quality tourists instead of high volume. Every visitor must have a guide and actually spend money in the country. What a cool concept!
We are not ready to commit to Bhutan yet, maybe on an extended trip to Shangri-la teaching English when I retire. Until then, I’ll just have to keep reading travel stories about hiking in Bhutan like the ones told so well by Reshma Narasing (@ the Solo Globe Trotter). One day we’ll hike to the Tiger’s Nest in Paro. One day… Until then, there is always the internet.
Winter Carnival in Montreal
Jenn is going to Norway in less than a month to stay in igloos, live with reindeer herders, and see the Northern Lights during the 24-hour darkness of the Arctic winter. With every fiber of my soul I want to join her, but alas, my soul is still being leased to corporate America. I could do the next best thing and spend 48-hours in Montreal like my new friend Chris Rudder (@rudderless_travel) did.
“New friend” might be a stretch but we did meet in real life during TBEX this year. I have a real honey badger streak in me, and I am not afraid to make a fool of myself which, given my innate lack of social skills, is the only reason I open my mouth in public at all. I have admired Chris’ work for some time and made a point to introduce myself to him. He is sort of a blogging inspiration to me because he is doing really cool things, but not too cool to seem unapproachable. Long story short, I misattributed an article to Chris and lacked social graces to back out without embarrassing both of us. Anyway, Chris – you rock and so does your article on Montreal.
Happy Endings in Iceland
Did I mention my lacking social skills? I also lack maturity, and I am kind of a no-filter guy. I don’t know why my editor gave me this H2 heading to write. They know I am not mature enough to handle it. Moving on-
Our 2019 bucket list ends with a destination a lot of people have been dreaming of – Iceland. This is the destination that inspired my son to renew his passport. He was all set to head up there and hostel around the island but adulting called, and he had to answer. I am adding this one to the bucket list for him. My slight dream modification is to drive the Golden Circle in a campervan like the incomparable Kerri McConnel (@Beer and Croissants). That way, I can fall asleep in nature and beat the tour buses to all the best spots.
Iceland has always evoked images of fantasy lands even before the Lord of the Ring movies. Just like in Tolkien, there is one ring to rule them all. The Ring Road around the island. Along the Ring, you’ll see the Gullfoss Falls being fed by the Langjökull Glacier. The water cascades into a deep fissure as if it’s being devoured by the Earth itself. Hydrothermal waters boil up into geysers and warm pools. Grasslands sweep across the open fields and maybe, just maybe the northern lights might dance across the sky.
Putting the Lid on the Bucket List
Yoko Ono said, “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” Thank you for sharing our dreams with us this year. If you want, you can add your 2019 bucket lists items in the comments below. Maybe I can find the missing six items to make this a proper 19 for 2019 list. If you have been to any of these places, let us know what you think of them.
We would like to give special thanks to Ann Fisher for letting us use her photo – Male leopard in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia – as the title image. Also, our heartfelt thanks to all of the wonderful writers and photographers we cited in this article. You are our inspiration and give a face to our dreams. What else on Earth is more powerful than that?
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