I penned my first bucket list when I was 17 and had never boarded a plane, let alone ventured outside the country. At first, the goals on the list were pretty stock-standard—major tourist attractions and cool film locations dominated—but as I slowly started working my way through the list and visiting said locations, I learned that simply "ticking off" a destination defeats the purpose of having a bucket list.
With each city, remote town, and idyllic beach I explored, I realized that the people who stop by to take a photograph aren't travelers—they're tourists. The point of having a bucket list is to experience the world, not just see it through a lens. It's to immerse yourself in a foreign culture, to learn from people who live and think differently than you, and to ultimately challenge your worldview. It's about collecting experiences, not passport stamps.
Now, whenever I travel, I love asking other people I meet about what's on their list. It's an incredibly insightful way to find out about someone's interests and values in addition to discovering places you've never heard of before. My list is forever growing, but here are some of the experiences I've penned along the way, a mixture of suggestions from other travelers, bloggers, forums, and friends. What's on yours?
1. Watch the sun rise from a hot-air balloon in Cappadocia, Turkey.
2. Eat authentic khao soy noodle soup from a street stall in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
3. View the giant shipwreck at Navagio Beach, Greece, from the cliffs above.
4. Go paragliding over the piercing sapphire lagoon in Ölüdeniz, Turkey.
5. Sleep under the stars in the Sahara Desert, Morocco.
6. Go horseback riding through the tobacco fields in Viñales, Cuba.
7. Ski indoors in Dubai.
8. Wander the Marble Caves in Chile.
9. Snorkel in Jellyfish Lake, Palau.
10. Wander the “blue city,” aka Chefchaouen, Morocco.
11. Bathe in the Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s misty, opal-colored geothermal spa.
12. Go ice skating in Central Park, New York.
13. Ride the Peak 2 Peak Blackcomb Gondola in Whistler, Canada.
14. Pause to reflect and learn from history at the Terror Háza Múzeum in Budapest, Hungary.
15. Catch the train to the top of Jungfraujoch, the highest railway in Europe.
16. Hike El Caminito del Rey (The King's Little Pathway) pinned along the narrow gorge in El Chorro, Spain.
17. Go pintxo hopping in Barcelona, Spain.
18. Buy fresh flowers from Columbia Road Flower Markets, London.
19. Explore Buzludzha, the spaceship-like abandoned Soviet convention center in Bulgaria.
20. Ride a helicopter above Franz Joseph Glacier, New Zealand.
21. Row past the Lycian rock tombs in Fethiye, Turkey.
22. Marvel at the mosaics and archways in Alhambra, Spain.
23. Swim with whale sharks in the Philippines.
24. Explore the three and a half miles of passageways in Derinkuyu, the underground city in Turkey.
25. Swim in Lake Bled, Slovenia.
26. Cycle through Copenhagen, Denmark, like a local.
27. Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.
28. Get into Berghain, the infamously difficult-to-enter club in Berlin, Germany.
29. Dive off Stari Most bridge in Mostar, Bosnia.
30. Celebrate Dia de los Muertos in Mexico.
31. Ride a tuk-tuk in Bangkok, Thailand.
32. Zip-line through the jungle on the Gibbon Experience in Laos.
33. Watch the sunrise atop a pagoda in Bagan, Myanmar.
34. Catch a longboat through the floating gardens in Inle Lake, Myanmar.
35. Wander the ancient structures of Angkor Wat, Cambodia.
36. Swim in the hidden lagoon in Coron, Palawan, Philippines.
37. Camp in the Grand Canyon, USA.
38. Hike the canyons in Pai, Thailand.
39. Find Wally’s Cave, a secret spot in Cape Town’s Table Mountain.
40. Climb the Half Dome in Yosemite, California.
41. Fly over Heart Reef in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.
42. Hire a rowboat on the lake in Central Park, New York.
43. Visit the mysterious Moai statues carved by the Rapa Nui people on Easter Island.
44. Hike through Rose Valley and explore the “fairy chimneys” in Cappadocia, Turkey.
45. Drive across Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat in Bolivia.
46. Ride a gondola down a canal in Venice, Italy.
47. Take in the tranquility at Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia.
48. Have a glass of Champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower, France.
49. Marvel at the rainbow shards of light cast inside Gaudi’s La Sagrada Família in Barcelona, Italy.
50. Stay in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora, Tahiti.
51. Get lost in the labyrinth of alleyways in Fez, Morocco.
52. See Waitomo Caves illuminated by glowworms in New Zealand.
53. Walk the Great Wall of China.
54. Drive Route 66, USA.
55. Go on a ride in underground amusement park Salina Turda in a salt mine in Romania.
56. Swim through MUSA (Underwater Museum of Art) in Mexico.
57. Dive in the Great Blue Hole in Belize.
58. Swim in the Dead Sea, which borders Israel, Jordan, and Palestine.
59. See where The Beach was filmed in Maya Bay, Thailand.
60. Bathe in the mineral-rich thermal pools in Pamukkale, Turkey.
61. Take a cruise to Antarctica.
62. Go paragliding in Rio de Janeiro.
63. Swim in the Blue Grotto in Capri, Italy.
64. Explore the cobbled streets and sorbet-colored buildings in Cinque Terre, Italy.
65. Dive in a cenote in Mexico.
66. Kayak in the Grand Canyon, USA.
67. Watch the sun sink behind the whitewashed buildings on the caldera in Oia, Santorini, Greece.
68. Visit an ashram in India.
69. Learn to kiteboard in Mauritius.
70. See the northern lights in Alaska, USA.
71. Go on safari in Botswana.
72. Absorb the energy and frenetic pace in Times Square, New York.
73. Hike to the Boiling Lake in Dominica.
74. Swim with humpback whales in Tonga.
75. Dance to live music in the streets of Havana, Cuba.
76. Lose your inhibitions at Burning Man festival.
77. Camp in the Serengeti.
78. Celebrate Carnivale in South America.
79. Swim in Puerto Rico’s Bioluminescent Bay.
80. Ride the Trans-Siberian Railway.
81. Eat fresh sushi and see the tuna auction at Tsukiji fish market in Japan.
82. Swim with great white sharks in Cape Town, South Africa.
83. Visit all 50 states in the USA.
What’s on your ultimate bucket list?