I don’t make a big deal out of this, but I would like to make a small case for not creating a bucket list for travel destinations. Without ever writing down a “wish list” of any kind, I have visited, sometimes almost by accident, over thirty countries. Who has Mauritania on their Bucket List? But my weeklong visit to Mauritania was one of the highlights of my life, one of my best excursions ever. I have visited some fascinating places I never heard of before I arrived.
The two keys to this type of travel have been
a) Being available and be
b) Not being picky.
As for the first, my wife will tell you that my middle name is “Go.” Give me an excuse, and my suitcase is packed and ready. As for the second, I don’t predetermine restrictions, limits and negatives. I don’t limit myself to English-speaking countries, or to the most desirable tourist destinations. I am wide open to all options.
My income is middle class, so I have always needed to be creative in finding ways to move about inexpensively. Every business has some kind of convention or conference so I used those occasions when I needed to get on a plane for a business meeting anyway to add a few days for vacation. I would volunteer to serve on committees that required travel—that someone else would pay for! I would get out a map, find what was close to the business destination, and head in that direction. Once, I had a very dull meeting scheduled for a Newark, New Jersey airport hotel. With a week of vacation available, I rented a small car at the airport, drove into New England to visit a cousin, then to Ottawa to visit old friends I had not seen since graduate school, then to Cooperstown, New York, to tour the Baseball Hall of Fame, then returned the car in Newark.
My work with a non-profit organization affiliated with NGOs around the globe allowed me the occasional opportunity to travel internationally. Sometimes I paid for part of the trip, sometimes for all of it, sometimes for none of it. If I had insisted on only visiting only my Bucket List destinations, I would have missed (to name a few):
- Cape Cod
- Chechen Itza, Mexico
- Kotor, Montenegro
- Mauritania (and the Sahara Desert)
- Mt. Rushmore
- Split, Croatia
- St. Louis Arch
- The Everglades
- Wounded Knee
So, have your bag packed and be flexible. These sites and experiences have made me into a different person than I was.