Picture a simple, white desk with an open laptop, basking in the morning sun. Now, pan to the left and in the corner of this desk stands a massive stack of notebooks looming over all else, all precariously balancing on top of one other. Most are half-filled, several with only a few pages marked up, otherwise left in a pile unused. They contain appointments, to-do lists, inspiring quotes, how I’m feeling at that moment, and various doodles threaded in the margins. Each day, I pull out two notebooks, one mini whiteboard, and oftentimes an old travel journal, for referencing.
Welcome to my disaster-zone of an office. I’ll admit, I have a problem and it’s in the form of too many spiral-bound pads wedged between elegantly bound moleskin notebooks. There used to be a method to the madness, but as I find the urge to write strike me, I can’t help but pick up whichever notebook is closest. It ends up being a mix of business notes with personal thoughts, grocery lists with photo editing details. For a while, whenever I saw a new notebook sitting prettily on a bookstore’s shelf, I convinced myself of the pages I would fill with innovative ideas and I just needed to have it.
It’s become a bit of a mess, as you may be able to tell.
One of the things I always tend to write down are plans. 5-year goals, 1-year goals, even just something to accomplish for the month. Each time I write a new set of goals, I close that notebook, feeling triumphant. And yet, I somehow completely forget to look back at what exactly those goals were. Some of those aspirations fail to realize themselves, and I find myself deeply disappointed when I happen across a random page with all of these lofty goals.
Probably writing more lists..
The point of all this is I finally want to hold myself accountable for a few goals. I don’t want to get to the end, turn around, and realize all the aspirations I failed to achieve because I was so focused on the smaller picture. I’m constantly checking this blog, so at least these goals won’t be able to hide between pages of old to-do’s and random phone numbers. I’ve never done a 30 before 30 travel bucket list, but as I’ve just turned twenty-four in January, I have less than six years to complete all of these. I’d be thrilled if I was able to cross off even a fraction of these, if we’re being honest.
You’ll notice there’s not a ton of extreme activities or trying weird foods on the list, I’ve never had an interest in adding skydiving or chomping on lizard bits. I also didn’t include a ton in Africa as a lot of the places I’d like to visit (hello, Giraffe Manor & safari excursions) are quite expensive and I can’t see myself being quite there yet financially. A girl came dream, but I’m also trying to be a touch more realistic with my goals.
Though one can’t exactly say I’ve held back entirely with this expansive list spanning almost all seven continents..
My Ultimate 30 Before 30 Travel Bucket List:
General Travel Goals: 2 of 7 Completed
1. Travel for longer than a month.
2. See the Northern Lights.
(COMPLETED: September 2016) This wasn’t planned in the slightest, to be honest. I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights in some capacity, but I thought I’d need to go to the far ends of the earth just to catch a glimpse. Turns out, the time I was in Iceland, they appeared in the sky over Reykjavík in a weird, once-in-a-blue-moon type of night. I honestly had no idea that’s what they were at first, believing a weird formation of clouds just appeared in the night sky. They soon became an unmistakable green and yellow, slowly pulsing and shifting ever so slightly as we ran for a better view.
3. Conquer my fear of sailing.
There are only a few fears that really get to me, and one I’ve discovered quite recently is a fear of being swallowed up by the ocean. Growing up in a very mellow tide of Long Island Sound, I had no idea what “real” waves were until way later in life. Now, the thought of being in the surf and having wave after wave crash against me, pulling me underneath makes me absolutely shudder. Same goes for sailing on a boat that so fluidly dips from side to side with the breeze. My fear of capsizing in said deep water was in the back of my mind the summer I was offered lessons as a kid.
4. Visit all 7 countries of my ancestors (4 of 7)
This one’s a little tough, now that my brother got his 23andMe test back. There are very small percentages for both Eastern Russian as well as Middle Eastern/North African, and as much as I’d love to go to both of those places, they were both around 1-2% and I’d like to look into my family roots a bit more. The rest I knew of had shown up and were completely unsurprising.
Ireland(February 2018) Germany(February 2018)
5. Cross a country’s border by foot.
Listen, I haven’t really been exposed to many hikes or camping trips as a kid and the idea of being able to explore a new place on foot with just a backpack is extremely appealing, at least for now. There’s also a certain kind of giddiness in the idea of crossing a border by foot to me, for whatever reason.
6. Travel to a new country solo.
(COMPLETED: February 2018) I managed to finagle a few days in Dublin as well as Switzerland by myself at the tail end of a whirlwind trip to Europe and found myself to be a mixed bag of emotions. I’ve realized long ago I find great pleasure in having the ability to share (hence this blog) and experience incredible places with another person. It was peaceful to walk around a new city by myself, though when I sat alone in the lobby of my hostel, I so wished I could push my anxiety aside to strike up a conversation with the group next to me.
STRETCH GOAL: Do one entirely solo trip, from beginning to end, to a new country. (COMPLETED: December 2018)
7. Spend New Year’s Eve in another country.
New Year’s Eve, for the most part, has always remained largely anti-climatic over the years. I think I have this idea in my head about it being this magical time where all is renewed and I will be entering the new year with a clearer idea of who I am. Too much to ask? Either way, I’d love to see how other countries experience this night.
North America: 1 of 4 Completed
8. Finally go camping, preferably in a national park.
You read that right. Ya girl has never been camping. No camping, no glamping, nothing. Growing up, our family wasn’t very outdoor-centric when it came to camping or hiking, at least the kind that involved sleeping under the stars in a thin tent. Friends never had an interest, and I hadn’t realized just how bizarre it is a 24-year-old from New England hasn’t camped at least once.
9. Drive the Alaskan Highway.
A friend of mine brought it to my attention that the drive from Seattle, through western Canada, to Alaska was damn beautiful. I’ve yet to explore the Canadian wilderness and taking an RV through it and along the coast with the reward being freaking Alaska at the end? I am in.
10. Get up way too early for Albuquerque’s hot air balloon festival.
Sunrise is my favorite time of the day. The air is cooler and everything is quiet in a way it allows you to hear your breath, and lack of it, when brilliant patterns of color swirl in the sky. I’ve unfortunately always been a night owl, but I’d get my butt up for this.
11. Live in New York City.
(COMPLETED: June 2016) Ever since I was little I silently watched the highway signs go by that indicated TO NEW YORK CITY and one day hoped I’d be passing them by on my way to live there. Here I am, almost two years into living in my beloved city and have no plans to look elsewhere just yet. I have a feeling I won’t be done with New York City for awhile.
South America: 0 of 2 Completed
13. Drive on the salt flats of La Paz, Bolivia.
My heart does a little squeeze when I think of finally being able to cross this one-off my bucket list. A Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost (check) had me googling this one ASAP and realizing it was a must. A multi-day trip out here to get both the dry flats, as well as the reflective pools when it rains, is something I am yearning to experience.
14. Ski Patagonia.
There’s certainly a theme among a lot of my travel goals, either relating to nature, mountains, or snow. It’s no surprise I’m more of a cold-weather girl, the sight of snow has always made me the most at ease in the way the ocean does for others.
Europe: 3 of 7 Completed
15. Wander one of the many European Christmas Markets.
(COMPLETED: December 2018) Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday, hands down. I’ve always adored the build-up to the actual day (which somehow always feels anti-climatic) and I find myself smiling whenever I see the holiday markets pop up on my Instagram. My boyfriend and I looked up one Dresden’s vast, empty squares we walked through in April to see it was used to hold a massive Christmas market around the holidays. Cue snow falling with a mug of mulled wine in hand as I pick through wooden handicrafts.
16. Go behind the Iron Curtain.
Just seeing the stark contrast of the uber-modern train stations in Germany quickly change to small, nondescript stations in Poland made me realize just how much the countries that were behind the Iron Curtain were somewhat left in the dust. Western Europe made significant breakthroughs in technology and beyond during this time, leaving Eastern Europe behind with each stride, for better or worse. In a way though, it’s preserved the beauty of how things were created back then, creating something timeless. Though some of these countries have made many advances, as a constant yearner for things of the past, I’d love to immerse myself in the areas that seem to just be frozen in time.
17. Road trip the UK.
I’ve always had a picture in my mind of seeing the small towns in the UK, driving along the countryside in a cable knit sweater with the cool breeze blowing at my hair. Maybe a bit of a fantasy, but one I’d love to partake in before thirty.
18. Stay in a small town at with a view of the Alps.
(COMPLETED: December 2018) Again, mountains over beaches any day. I think it’s the sheer size of mountains and realizing just how small we are in this world that does it for me. I can get my Sound of Music, Julie Andrews on and dance through some fields in Salzburg while I’m at it.
19. See the tulips in the Netherlands.
(COMPLETED: April 2018) Give me a field of flowers and I’ll spend an entire day wandering it. Seeing the tulip fields one last time was always my grandfather’s goal, but unfortunately, he was unable to go before he passed. Call it a shared goal, but one I won’t help but smile when I take in the brilliant array of petals.
20. Photograph Bulgaria’s Kukeri Dancers.
I have a thousand reasons Bulgaria is on my bucket list, but as soon as I saw an article National Geographic had put out, I had to see this for myself. The costumes are beautiful in a way I know a personal photography project may come out of this.
21. Explore Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railroad.
This has always been a dream of mine, back when I first read through the blogs of Katie Aune, Yomadic, and Legal Nomads. It seems otherworldly, women selling bread and goods out of old trams, strangers offering vodka and bizarre conversation. I’d like to take this one slow if possible, stopping off in small towns along the way. Russia has always been of great interest to me, it’s size alone and the fact most don’t seem to travel there.
Africa: 0 of 1 Completed
22. Marvel at the stark scene at Dead Vlei’s dark trees against the orange sand in Namibia.
Give me a natural wonder over any man-made spectacle, any day. Namibia, in general, seems like a beautiful place, one that’s quickly earned a spot on my must-see list recently. I think it’s half wanting to see such a surreal scene, half my interest in brilliant colored sands from around the world.
Asia: 1 of 9 Completed
22. Travel overland in Southeast Asia.
Last time I went, we were jumping from one place to another via plane to cut down on time in transit. Next time around, I would love to travel slower and using more buses/trains/cars to get the job done. Overland travel is a great, cheap(ish) way to see more of the countryside anywhere you go, cutting through areas you may have never thought to go to.
23. Attend a lantern festival in Thailand.
(COMPLETED: November 2017) A brief internet search will yield thousands of images of paper lanterns filling the night sky, and quickly earned one of the top spots on my bucket list long ago. I’m still not sure if I got the experience I was hoping for, but that’s another blog post entirely.
24. Walk along the Great Wall of China.
The classic. The great wall has always been an interest, though I’d prefer to see some of the older, less frequented places along the wall.
25. Get blinded by the golden temples of Myanmar.
National Geographic did an article on this beautiful country opening its borders a few years ago and I’ve been enamored by the country ever since. The still-gold domes sparkling in the sun in a place fewer tourists seem to go quickly made it on my list.
26. Watch the snow fall over Northern India.
Watching the snow fall, no matter where I am, always seems to set a tone of inner stillness. I used to love getting on the M train in Brooklyn even when I didn’t need to in the winter, just to watch the snow fall from the above-ground subway. My favorite time to ski is also when the snow starts to fall lightly and everyone begins going inside. I have a video saved somewhere that a friend from school had posted years ago of snow quietly falling in Northern India and ever since, it’s something I wanted to see for myself.
27. Ski the Himalayas.
Late to the ski scene, I’ve only ever traversed parts of New England. Always eyeing the beautiful mountain ranges around the world, I’d love to experience the snow situations in other lands. Northern India where the air is cooler, and the Himalayas begin to poke out seems like the wildest place I can think of, so why not set the bar high. So high, the exact mountain I’m looking at has one of the world’s longest gondolas to the top, though I think I’ll be okay with sticking to the intermediate slopes.
28. Travel all Five ‘Stans
29. See the Door to Hell in Turkmenistan.
Shout out to Drew and his brother Scott Gurian from Far From Home podcast for showing the world this incredible place. The Door to Hell, or Gates to Hell had formed somewhat accidentally in 1971 when it was originally thought to be an oil field and a rig that was set up collapsed into an underground cavern. Soviet scientists, fearing the deadly release of poisonous gas to nearby towns, set the pit on fire. Instead of burning for a few weeks, it has been continuously burning since.
30. Roadtrip Karakoram Highway in Pakistan.
Also known as the China-Pakistan Friendship Highway, this has to be one of the prettiest drives I’ve seen on the internet as of recent. Seeing the sky scraping mountains everywhere you look in the videos I watched, I immediately melted and took a lesser goal off this list to add this on. Unfortunately, this feels more like a “dream on” goal due to the crazy heavy travel advisories to Pakistan at the moment, but my eye will stay on this one for quite a while.
Did any of these surprise you? Any send you looking up flights to these places? Let me know in the comments what’s on your 30 before 30 travel bucket lists or travel lists in general!