Excluding the small percentage of people who for some unfathomable reason dislike traveling (shocking I know), it’s safe to assume that most people have a travel bucket list of sorts. As in a list of places they would like to visit before they die. Although I keep a general bucket list in my head of which I add to from time to time (translate my undergraduate thesis into Spanish, find out more about my one great-grandmother, learn Haitian Creole), it is my travel bucket list that I am extremely dedicated about, the list I earnestly want to check off and complete. And so I present you with my travel bucket list of the top five places I want to visit before I die:
As I mentioned above, I know very little about my paternal grandfather’s mother as she died quite young and had three boys and no girls to preserve family histories and other important facts (women seem much more attuned to this kind of stuff than men). Although I’m not sure if the village she came from even exists anymore due to borders changing, the rise and subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union, two world wars, I still would like to travel to the Ukraine to see the country she came from, to hear her native language being spoken, and to simply experience the culture.
4. Peru, specifically Machu Picchu
I majored in Spanish in college and absoultely love all things pertaining to the Hispanic world. Although I’ve lived and traveled to six countries in the Spanish speaking world, Peru is not one of them (I attribute my not having made it there YET to the ridiculously high altitude. I had enough problems in central Mexico and that’s nothing in comparison to the Incan city of Cusco whose altitude comes in at 11, 200 feet. I’m a below sea level kind of girl). But all joking aside, I am highly interested in visiting the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. It’s one of those places that you see pictures of and can’t believe that such a setting exists and yet it does. An entire city built high in some of the tallest mountains in the world, hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Of course knowing my luck, the day I’ll be there is when the fog will be so thick you won’t be able to see anything.
I don’t know why but I have been obsessed with this Spanish speaking Caribbean nation for as long as I can remember. Perhaps it is the whole forbidden fruit mentality but I was absolutely devastated when our “wonderful” former president shut down all study abroad programs in Cuba for US students literally a semester before I was set to apply. I love plantains, ropa vieja, and rum. I saw the cheesy but fun Dirty Dancing Havana Nights filmin the movie theatre three times when it came out, and so I thought it was the most natural of fits to spend a semester there. Needless to say I didn’t get the chance and settled for a semester in Costa Rica instead (still an awesome experience but no Cuba). I’m just hoping that in my lifetime, the US Government will realize that their pathetic attempts to bring down ol’ man Castro and his family tree are not working and will re-open the travel gates once more for both native Cubans and Americans.
2. South Africa
Although I don’t watch Animal Planet in my spare time, if I ever had the chance to travel to a country and see the “Big Five” I would do it in a heart beat. I selected South Africa rather than Kenya or Namibia becauuse I feel it has much to offer beyond the safari experience-intermingling of cultures (Dutch, English, native South African), incredible wine country and penguins. The last thing is somewhat in jest although I do have much interest in visiting the Cape of Good Hope and many penguins reside there.
and for my number one place….
Now some of you may be shaking your heads and asking yourselves “why” but I’ll tell you. It’s the exoticness of Asia combined with charming and old world France. It’s where the baguette is just as common a sight as phở (the country’s national dish), where you still might hear a bonjour being said instead of chào, the word for hello in Vietnamese. It has immense history, both in recent and past times, world renowned cuisine, and stunning natural scenery unmatched by few places.
And so for the time being the closest I get to Vietnam is through cooking.
My eggplant in spicy sauce
My version of Phở (beef and rice noodle soup)
Along with the ubiquitous toppings (onions, cilantro, bean sprouts and lime)
I’ve shared my travel bucket list, now what are some places on yours?
Julie is a librarian by day, die-hard travel fanatic and writer by night. When she’s not traveling, she’s either testing out a new recipe or being a foodie in Pittsburgh. If you're interested in seeing where she travels to or what she makes next, follow along via the links below!