You’ve probably seen it before but I have a pretty lengthy travel-themed bucket list (but just in case you haven’t, you can access it by clicking here). It’s comprised not just of places but also specific experiences like swimming in the Dead Sea, and playing with pandas at the famous Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China. But years ago, back in 2011 to be exact, (and yes, I’ve been keeping the blog THAT long), I wrote a post listing the five places in the world I most wanted to see.
Well, seeing as how that particular post is just about seven years old, things have changed. I’ve made it to Peru (one of my favorite trips ever), and my ardent desire to visit Cuba has definitely subsided a bit, ever since I’ve started seeing images of the massive cruise ships docked in Havana’s harbor. (I guess the allure for me was that Cuba had always been a more “prized” destination to visit, especially for American travelers. I know that sounds petty but it just doesn’t have the same seduction when the grandmother demographic in her fanny pack is able to make it there…)
South Africa (well, really any Sub-Saharan African nation will suffice) is still on the list and I’m “casually” throwing about ideas for that bucket list dream becoming reality (not this year, it’s all booked, but we’ll see about next year, perhaps). And Vietnam, don’t get me wrong. I would still love to visit all of Southeast Asia but the long flights and ensuing jet lag just seem so daunting. (I had horrific jet lag coming and going from Korea when I was 19 and not working full-time. I shudder to think how it would affect me in my 30s when I do work 40 hours a week.) But no, I don’t plan on waiting until I’m retired to return to the Asian continent.
Seeing as how it’s 2018 now and I’m in my 30s, here is my updated bucket list, the five places I’d hop on a plane today if it meant going to them. And as my list will show you, I’m immensely interested in visiting the Middle East/North Africa, a region of the world I have virtually no experience with but one whose history and food enchants me all the same.
For the longest time, I had wanted to visit Prague. It seemed like the Paris of Central Europe, the city many people dream about visiting, the city that most traveling die hards naturally get to. And in 2016, I did. And minus the heat which I was naively unprepared for (and yet on the flip side, all of my pictures featured stunning blue skies), it lived up to my every expectation. So that leads me to Budapest, the number one city I want to visit in Europe. The older I get, the more enthralled I get with a city’s ambiance, the opportunity to simply wander its streets and take dozens of photos. And Budapest looks like I could do exactly that. From standing on the banks of the Danube and snapping pictures of the hulking and majestic Hungarian Parliament Building to paying my respects at “The Shoes” to stuffing myself with as many pastries as my stomach would allow at the Great Market Hall, I know I would be in a traveler’s heaven.
I think of all the countries in the world, Turkey is the one I want to visit the most. It is also one that I would legitimately allocate two weeks to visiting. I’d want inordinate amounts of time in Istanbul to not only soak in its incredible history that dates back to Roman times but also to savor its culinary side since Turkish food is one of my favorites in the world. I dream about staying at a hotel that has a terrace which would offer prime views of the Istanbul skyline, i.e. the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia. But then I’d also love to visit Cappodocia and stay in a cave hotel, and then journey onto the famed Turquoise Coast, and hopefully even have time to make it to Gallipoli. My only concern is that I wouldn’t have enough space in my bags to bring home all of the Turkish souvenirs I would want to…
Ever since the Arab Spring back in 2011, tourism in Egypt has suffered immensely. News reports make you believe that it’s incredibly unsafe to visit but what place, especially in the Western World, is entirely safe anymore? I’m not one of those travelers stupid enough to think, “I’m invincible,” or “I want to be THE traveler that makes it here so I can get my name in the news,” or naive enough to believe the hogwash currently being disseminated by the Syrian government regarding tourism there. Hence, if I were to visit Egypt I’d go on a tour. But I would so love to see the Pyramids, to sail on a river cruise on the Nile. Believe me when I say that one viewing of the delightful film Cairo Time will have you wanting to book a trip there just like that. Enough sensible travel bloggers have ventured there and more than anything else, they have said that it’s the people, the individuals whose livelihood is solely tied to tourism, that need visitors to come. Nine times out of ten, it’s the negative stories that make the news, rarely the positive ones. So yes, if you were to believe everything that comes out of the news, you’d never leave your house.
Okay, Cuba, you’ve been replaced. For years I’ve been intrigued by Cartagena, located on Colombia’s coast whose old city has been beautifully preserved. And Colombia as a whole, due to the violence that plagued the country for decades, still doesn’t see a ton of American visitors (although more and more are venturing there now). But I love the idea of staying at the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara, a hotel located in a former 17th century convent. Remember, Cartagena is old, its founding dating back to the 16th century. Here I would wander its colorful streets armed with my camera, taking picture after picture and of course feasting on as many arepas as my stomach would allow. The best part, though, is that American Airlines recently started direct service from Miami , so it’s easier to get to now (if you want to skip the capital city of Bogotá altogether).
As I’ve said before, my day in Morocco doesn’t really count. Even if it was probably one of the prettiest border cities one can ever visit. So I’d love to return to Morocco, visiting everywhere from Marrakesh to Fez to Chefchaouen (the famed blue city). Not to mention, I’d love to have a Sahara Desert adventure, riding on a camel (again) and seeing nothing around me except the golden yellow sands. And as I’m so much more into all things culinary related, I’d really love if my time in Morocco was more foodcentric. I’d love to take a cooking class at the well-known La Maison Arabe (and hopefully stay there too).
So as an almost 33 year old, that’s my updated bucket list and who knows, hopefully in another seven years when I write another updated one, all five of these destinations will be crossed off!
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