To be honest, I’m not one for bucket lists. The notion that there are a certain number of things I need to do in order to be happy is ridiculous. It’s impossible to do everything that we want to in this life. My theoretical bucket list would be miles long—even if I completed half of it, there would be so much left to do.
If we lived by bucket lists, we’d all die unsatisfied with our lives, and that’s just not how I intend to die 😉
That being said, I’ve done a lot in the past six years. Among so many other amazing things, I’ve been skydiving over the coast of Australia. Naked bungee jumping in New Zealand. I’ve climbed inside the Pyramids of Giza, gone island hopping in Greece and hiked volcanoes in Ecuador! Not a bad start.
But I do have goals, and we all know there’s nothing wrong with having a few goals. Mine have certainly evolved since I started traveling—a few years ago I just wanted to leave. Now I’m inspired by a whole list of destinations that I’m drawn to.
The places I’m most interested in are the ones most people would probably put last on their list. But I think that’s exactly what draws me to them. China? The Balkans? Russia? North Korea? These are not your average tourist spots. I love Europe, for example, but I’ve never been drawn to it the way I have been to some of these more unique places.
With that in mind, here are a few travel goals I’ve been dying to reach. And now that it’s all on paper, I’ve got a little more motivation to actually make them happen.
1. Ride the Trans-Siberian Across Siberia
Combining intrepid adventure with serenity, the Trans-Siberian is a network of rail routes between Moscow and the east. The longest is the direct train to Vladivostok, a seven-day journey that covers close to 6,000 miles!
What would I do for seven days? Exactly what the locals do: drink vodka, watch the wilderness roll by, and get stuck into a book—there’s going to be no better opportunity to tackle Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
There are a few other options for the Trans-Siberian. A five-day train crosses Siberia before dropping into Mongolia and its capital Ulaanbaatar (3,917 miles), while a six-day route bypasses Mongolia to terminate in Beijing, China (5,568 miles), one of my favorite cities in the world.
2. Avoid Detention in North Korea
Kim Jong-un certainly wouldn’t get my vote for president. He seems to be surpassing his father Kim Jong-il in the extremity stakes. Getting to North Korea was highest on my list of travel goals for this year, but I had to rethink it—getting out of North Korea is the real challenge!
It’s possible to visit North Korea on a tour that’s organized and guided by the North Korean government. But Kim Jong-un’s government is notoriously unwelcoming to anyone associated with the media, especially those from the U.S., so it would be hard to know what to expect. Just a few days ago a BBC reporter was detained and then expelled from North Korea.
But as an American, I know full well that the people of a country are usually vastly different to the reputation of their government. Hopefully I can meet some of the locals, take some discreet photos, and avoid detention in the country that exists behind closed doors.
3. Charter a Private Jet to Anywhere
Until recently I thought private jets were reserved for traveling presidents and celebrities having ridiculous parties at 37,000 feet. I dreamt of boxes of champagne and the Rolling Stones blasting out guitar riffs. Well, that probably still happens, but I’ve since discovered that a private jet charter can actually be reasonably affordable.
Many private jets are chartered to fly one way, which means the plane has to return back without any passengers. Some companies offer crazy deals for anyone wanting to travel back with the jet. In the private aviation industry this is called an empty leg. After all, for these charters, a cheap fare is better than no fare!
4. Photograph the Northern Lights
To photograph the Northern Lights is to photograph something that doesn’t really exist. They are essentially just gases, swirling and twisting across the sky in the Arctic Circle. They’re like a phantom, always moving, ever changing, and seemingly unbelievable when you look at the photos.
Patience will be essential. For all the fabulous photos I’ve seen of the Northern Lights, I’ve met many people who came back disappointed. And it’s going to be seriously cold. Northern Sweden and Norway can reach -40º during the best time to see the Northern Lights.
5. Go Trekking in Antarctica
The scale of Antarctica is baffling and it’s sometimes easy to forget that this is an entire continent without any permanent inhabitants (other than the emperor penguins of course!). Photos struggle to capture this ice-covered wilderness. It’s larger than Europe and double the size of Australia.
In New Zealand I trekked across Franz Josef Glacier and it was one of the best things I’ve done. It’s inspired me to take the ice challenge further and trek into the last truly untouched realm on our planet.
Do you have some travel goals of your own? Tell us about them in the comments below!