“So where do you want to go next?”
I get that question a lot, and it’s always so difficult to answer! Quite honestly, I can find merit in visiting just about any place on this planet, though obviously there are some that I will be holding off on for the moment (Syria and North Korea, for starters). My reply is generally something along the lines of “I will go anywhere you put me on a plane to!” – dangling preposition and all. The world just seems too big, too grand, too wide, too varied, and too exciting to be able to narrow it down to a couple favorite future vacation destinations.
Over time, though, I’ve realized that I do have a bit of a bucket list. While places may join or fall away from it depending on my season of life, I can’t deny that I always have a list of dream destinations rolling around in this travel-crazed brain of mine. Some have been on there for years, while others may be fairly recent additions based on emerging trends, new information, improved political or safety situations, or just changes and growth in my personal life.
Today, I’d like to share that list with you!
Of all the destinations, Morocco may just be at the very top of my current personal Bucket List Power Rankings poll. It’s a place that has long held a fascination for me, and over the past few years it’s been a bit of a tease. M and I have been close to visiting on a couple of occasions, but each time our plans have fallen through. (Once, we had our route and schedule planned out and were ready to book when one of M’s friends, who worked in military intelligence, warned us explicitly not to go. The next few months proved to be a difficult and uncertain time security-wise in northern Africa, and a few weeks after we bagged the trip, the attacks on the Port El Kantanoui occurred in Tunisia. We were very disappointed, but thankfully had a great time on our consolation trip to the Czech Republic and Hungary!)
I know that I will get to Morocco eventually. It helps that it’s high on M’s list too; we both have felt drawn to this gorgeous place and can’t wait to go. We want to stay in a historic riad, explore marketplaces filled with exotic spices, witness the beauty of the high Atlas Mountains, ride camels to our overnight tent accommodations in the Sahara, and see the amazing colors in the city of Chefchaouen. And don’t even get me started on the food! Morocco has it all, and I can’t wait to experience it for myself.
2.) Check off all 50 US States
As a tour guide in Alaska, I met a lot of guests who were celebrating the milestone of visiting their 50th state on their trip to the Great Land. It didn’t take long for me to resolve to one day join their club. There is so much to see and do within the United States of America that I don’t want to neglect the wonders of my own country in favor of exclusively seeking more passport stamps.
Largely thanks to the road trip I took with my friend Molly in 2011 (and our follow-up long weekend adventure to Iowa and Nebraska in 2017), I now need to visit only five states before I have all fifty under my belt. What’s left on the list? Rhode Island, South Carolina, Michigan, New Mexico, and Hawaii.
Luckily, each of the five has its own appeal and would make a great destination for at least a long weekend getaway. I’d like to save Hawaii for last and go out with a real bang, but I won’t say no if the opportunity arises to visit earlier!
PS: Check out what it’s like to cross all 50 states off your list by age 35 in this interview with Molly!
This little charmer is a recent addition. I always figured that I would make it to Portugal eventually, probably by tacking it onto the beginning or end of a trip focused on Spain. Obviously, I didn’t know enough about everything this little powerhouse has to offer! Now that I’ve learned more, Portugal has leapt to the head of the European pack!
I’m most drawn to Portugal’s scenic coastline, her wine regions, and her fun, historic cities like Lisbon and Porto. Everyone I know who has traveled there has loved it, and it just seems like such a gorgeous, sunny, engrossing corner of Europe. I can’t wait to discover it for myself!
I am also curious about the Azores, a collection of autonomous islands off the coast of Europe that belong to Portugal. I frequently see vacation packages to the archipelago on TravelZoo, my travel deal site of choice, and am curious if they are worth prioritizing as well. More on this as it develops!
4.) The Balkans
The Balkans is another area upon which M and I seem to have placed equal fascination and priority over the past few years. We would love to start in Slovenia and take a few weeks to weave our way down through Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and the rest until we reach Macedonia. Not only do I hear wonderful things about cities such as Ljubljana and Dubrovnik, but I am most excited about some of the natural wonders along the way. Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia stands out, as does Lake Bled in Slovenia, Kravice Falls in Bosnia, and the mountains of Montenegro. I know there are so many beautiful corners of this region that are begging to be explored, and they’ve certainly been calling our names!
This area has skyrocketed in popularity recently, so we should probably plan to visit soon!
5.) The South Pacific
When I think of the term “bucket list vacation,” the most iconic picture that comes to my mind is that of a bungalow hovering over impossibly blue water against a backdrop of lush, green mountains in the South Pacific. This is the destination that dreams are made of, defining the words “exotic,” “romantic,” and “paradise” in equal measure. It is also the one that seems the least immediately attainable, with the possible exception of Antarctica, below.
I see the South Pacific as being far in the future first because of the time, distance, and expense that will be required to reach it, but also because I know that this is a vacation that I want to do right. I don’t want to backpack it, I don’t want to skimp on the experience just to be able to afford the trip, and I don’t want to visit for an afternoon while my cruise ship is in port. I want my South Pacific experience to be as gorgeous, luxurious, and wonderful as I’ve always dreamed it would be. And I know that such a vision will not be cheap to fulfill.
Right now, M and I aren’t in a position where it would be a wise move to drop the kind of money required for a weeklong luxury trip to the South Pacific, but I hope that someday it will work out for us. Our kids don’t need food, housing, clothing, or a college education, do they?
6.) South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia
Africa is a continent that I have yet to visit, and I cannot wait to start exploring this huge, diverse, and wondrous place. I have already put a couple of rough itineraries together in my head, and one of the ones I am most excited about involves South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia.
In this particular dream, our trip begins with a flight into Cape Town and some time spent enjoying the historical and natural sights along the coast. I then want to turn my attention to some of the wine regions and probably Kruger National Park before moving on to Botswana and the Okavango Delta. (Maybe I’ll even swing through Lesotho and Swaziland to check them off the list, too!)
After the Okavango, I want to see the Kalahari and hop over to Namibia to take in the sand dunes and unreal scenery in Sossusvlei. Along the way, I hope to find some other hidden gems, learn a ton about local history and cultures, and have lots of animal sightings and encounters on numerous game drives. Going on safari is a common bucket list item, and I am no exception. The thought of seeing an elephant in the wild fills me with more joy than I can describe.
7.) Southern Chile
I’m calling out southern Chile specifically because it was another place I was extremely close to visiting before getting turned away at the last minute. When I planned my three-month South American backpacking adventure in 2010, one of the places I was most excited to see was Chilean Patagonia. I had researched boat trips, plotted hiking routes, ogled photos of majestic mountains, and dreamed about taking a chilly dip in a pristine lake. We were slated to hit Patagonia about two-thirds of the way through the trip, and I couldn’t wait.
Then, on February 27, 2010, we were fast asleep in Valparaiso, Chile, when our room – and the whole country – started to shake. The quake lasted a minute and a half, and, at its epicenter a few hundred kilometers to the south, measured an incredible 8.8 magnitude. It was one of the strongest officially measured earthquakes in history and caused a great deal of damage to buildings, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. Thankfully, my traveling companions and I weathered the event with little more than a few bumps and some rattled nerves, but others throughout the country were not so fortunate.
Our full experience with this natural disaster is a story for another time, but suffice it to say that any plan of heading further south was suddenly out of the question. When we could, we caught a bus to a shuttered Santiago and continued over the Andes to Mendoza, Argentina. Although we were able to explore Argentinian Patagonia and loved it, part of me has always regretted missing out on our original Chilean plan. Thus, onto the bucket list it goes!
8.) Nepal and Bhutan
Each of the places on my current bucket list has appeal for its natural beauty, but I long to see Nepal and Bhutan to really be wowed by the grandeur of their landscapes. I’ve long been fascinated by the Himalaya and the people who live in the tiny, isolated villages that dot the harshly beautiful foothills and valleys of the highest mountains on Earth.
As you’ve probably guessed from many of my posts, M and I love to hike and get out into nature, especially when we travel. What better place to do some trekking than in the shadow of some of the most stunning and magnificent mountains in the world? While we certainly want to be awed by gorgeous monasteries clinging to mountainsides and visit ancient cities like Kathmandu, Nepal and Bhutan make this list because they are unparalleled hiking destinations and provide ample opportunities to leave civilization behind.
9.) New Zealand and Australia
Like my imagined adventure through southern Africa, I’ve grouped Australia and New Zealand together because I hope and anticipate that they will both be part of one huge trip. It takes so long to travel to that particular corner of the world that I want to make sure that I get as much out of the time as I can!
I can’t wait to experience the mountains, glaciers, hiking, rafting, and other adventure sports in New Zealand. The country looks absolutely stunning, and I’ve been told that my love of Alaska makes New Zealand the perfect destination for me. If I had to choose between the two right now, I think New Zealand would take first dibs on my travel dollar.
Australia isn’t far behind, though, and I would love to package the two destinations together. It’s a huge country and travel between regions can get pretty expensive, making it a bit challenging to accomplish all your goals even in a multi-week trip. Nevertheless, I have grand ambitions of seeing everything from the tropical forests and Great Barrier Reef in the north to visiting the charming and less touristed western coast, including climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge and exploring the famous Outback.
There is so much that is appealing about Antarctica from a bucket list perspective: it’s the seventh and least frequently-visited continent; it’s terribly far away and difficult to access; it’s under tremendous pressure from environmental changes; it’s home to some fascinating wildlife; it’s massive and gorgeous and completely unlike anywhere else on Earth. I love the remote and lonely places of the world, particularly those with incredible natural landscapes, and in those categories Antarctica blows the competition away. It’s the ultimate bucket list destination.
I’ve always had a desire to go to Antarctica, but that longing amplified tremendously after my friend Molly visited a couple of years ago and especially after I read this article by Adventurous Kate. It still seems like the place on this list that I am the least likely to have an opportunity to visit, but tourism to the last continent seems to be on the rise. Who knows, maybe someday soon I’ll find myself crossing it off the list! I’ll continue to hold out hope and dream up plans.
And isn’t that what bucket lists are all about?
So there you have it – my current top ten roster of bucket list trips! Narrowing down my dream destinations was tough, so let me also share the places that just missed the cut:
Honorable Mentions: Maldives, Georgia and the Caucasus, Kyrgyzstan, Tanzania, Colombia, Norway, Italy, Jordan
How about you? Do you have a bucket list, or at least a running tally of places that you’d love to visit? I’d love to see your list if you do, and I’d also love to hear your experiences, tips, and suggestions if you’ve been to any of the places I’ve mentioned. Share your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for joining me in travel dreamland!
Need some help crossing the next place off your bucket list? Full Life, Full Passport offers customized itinerary planning for all kinds of trips and budgets.
This post was originally published on July 17, 2018 and last updated on July 19, 2021.
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