Travel Goals Master Checklist: Part III – Africa

Narrowing down the most wondrous places in the world to just 72 was hard enough. Picking which of the numerous incredible sites to be found in Africa to include was even harder. To date, I’ve covered the backstory of the selection and inspiration for the destinations from North America and the Caribbean, and South America and Antarctica in previous articles. Here I will explain the rationale and artistic motivation behind the ten African destinations featured in my new Travel Goals Master Checklist.

Cape Town, South Africa

While my own travels in South Africa were confined to the northeast, and few people come to Africa to experience the cities, Cape Town is by all accounts the exception to the rule. Dominating this pivotal location on the continent is world-famous Table Mountain, which I felt would make the proper backdrop for any artistic representation. The result is a spot on the Travel Goals Master Checklist and a peaceful view of the city’s “skyline”.

Game Parks, South Africa

The aforementioned northeastern corner of South Africa is full of game parks and natural reserves where visitors can get up close with Africa’s signature wildlife. My first safaris in the Klaserie and Timbavati Reserves, where I got to see lions in the wild, were a highlight for me, and therefore a natural subject for the artwork depicting this exciting corner of the world.

Sossusvlei, Namibia

I only visited Namibia by the barest of margins, when our motorized canoe pulled alongside a small island in the Caprivi Strip bordering Chobe National Park, Botswana. But I would love to get back to experience the mighty dunes and desert panoramas such as Sossusvlei and the surrounding area for a unique landscape that draws visitors despite its desolate nature.

Victoria Falls, Zambia

I cannot imagine a more impressive sheet of falling water than what I witnessed at Victoria Falls. And while I recommend seeing it from both the Zimbabwe and Zambia sides, it was from the Zambian side that the pervasive spray caught the sun at just the right angle to provide me the muse for the image I chose to feature. This world wonder was never in doubt to make the top 72 world class travel destinations. In fact, it would make the top 10.

Avenue of the Baobabs, Madagascar

Madagascar is a fascinating place that I’m determined to see one day. The island itself has a wealth of interesting features, but what comes to my mind when I hear the name Madagascar mentioned (Besides a dancing lemur singing “I like to move it, move it”) is the Avenue of the Baobabs – a collection of towering baobab trees that encapsulates the unique nature of this African island.

Masai Mara, Kenya

I’ve yet to get to East Africa, but if I do, the Masai Mara is just the kind of place that safari dreams are made of. In my mind I envision the oft-repeated trope of a lone acacia tree standing above the savannah during sunset, while the silhouette of – insert your favorite wild animal here – grazes beside it. So I went with giraffes, not only because I like them, but because nothing says you’re in Africa more than a giraffe (except maybe a sign saying “Welcome to Africa” but that’s not quite as impressive”).

Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

The idea of a snowcapped mountain that sits on the equator is cool in its own rite. Add to that the surrounding national parks for which it serves as a backdrop, and Mt. Kilimanjaro – straddling the border of Tanzania and Kenya – was certain to land a spot on the top 72 checklist destinations. I may be too old and fat to climb it, but I definitely have it on my radar to visit someday.

Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

As the world’s oldest tourist attraction, how could the pyramids of Giza not make it onto the list? I can still recall the first time I saw them and the sense of wonder and awe they provoked within me. Few world monuments if any are more recognizable than these sentinels of the desert, and I’m proud to have marked this destination off on my own Master Checklist.

Chefchaouen, Morocco

I went back and forth before choosing this quaint town in northern Morocco for the list. It’s only become mainstream in recent years, while more famous destinations like Marrakesh and Tangiers have been well known for centuries. But tiny Chefchaouen, with its blue palette of maze-like alleys just seemed to better encapsulate the North African vibe that I felt deserved to be represented among the world’s best. Plus, I really like blue, so there’s that . . .

La Digue, Seychelles

As the star of calendars and screensavers the world over, tiny La Digue in the upscale Seychelles archipelago hosts Anse Source D’argent – a sandy cove strewn with erosion-worn boulders that typify these tropical islands. This ubiquitous image was a natural choice both for its recognizability, but also because it was one of my favorite spots as well.

So far I’ve covered 34 out of the 72 destinations on the master checklist. How many can you check off? Even if that number is zero, the beauty of the checklist is that it inspires a person to new adventures and specific travel goals. If you’ve enjoyed the artwork and want a Travel Goals Master Checklist to display in your home or office, please visit my Etsy store to order a copy for yourself or the traveler in your life.

Stay tuned for Part IV . . .

Have you been to any of these destinations? Or do you have a favorite in Africa that you feel should have made the list? Share it with your fellow travel lovers by leaving a comment!

Travel Goals Master Checklist: Part II – South America and Antarctica

In this second installment of the Travel Goals Master Checklist series of blog posts, I’ll cover the destinations from South America and Antarctica that made the list, along with the reasons why. If you haven’t done so already, I invite you to read Part I – North America & the Caribbean, which will give you more of the backstory. But if your attention span is as tiny as mine, suffice to say that the destinations and imagery to follow are taken from the list of 72 world-class bucket list destinations that make up my signature design: The Travel Goals Master Checklist, available exclusively from my Etsy store.

Angel Falls, Venezuela

As the tallest waterfall on the planet, I couldn’t leave off Venezuela’s Angel Falls from the list, even if the country has been so unstable in recent years that visiting it is a no-go. It’s hard to pity myself for not being able to visit when the residents of Venezuela are suffering so badly despite having more natural wealth and resources than most countries combined. But if the political disaster ever gets reversed, don’t be surprised to see a check mark next to this remote but worthy entrant on my own copy of the travel goals master checklist.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

The Galapagos, located off the western coast of Ecuador, are a unique ecosystem with many natural wonders. Though a trip here involves a hefty price tag and the environment is under threat, there’s no question that it is a world-class destination, and therefore deserves a place on the list.

Amazon Rain Forest, Ecuador/Brazil

Making up the bulk of the South American continent, the Amazon basin and its namesake rainforest spans across many national borders. The flooded jungle and myriad tributaries are still full of mystery, and you never know what you’re going to come across with every bend of the river. This massive natural feature is a world treasure and easy winner of a place on the list.

Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

Occupying a spot on my own bucket list, the remote Atlantic island of Fernando de Norohna is an island enthusiast’s dream. From its pristine reefs, a barely touched landscape, and one of the world’s best beaches, this little-known destination has found its way onto the master checklist ahead of locations with greater star power.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Of the 72 destinations on the full list, only a dozen of them are cities. Of these, only one is found in South America, but there’s no question that Rio de Janeiro, with its stunning harbor, iconic landmarks and festive vibe, is the city to see on the continent. Rio checks all the boxes for an elite world-class destination, so it was a no-brainer to include it on the list while trying to capture the dazzling energy superimposed over the city’s dramatic natural setting in the artwork.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Few images of South America are as recognizable as the ruins of Machu Picchu, perched high up in the Peruvian Andes. Though bad weather thwarted my own attempt to see it firsthand, the entire land of the Incas – from the Sacred Valley to the capital of Cuzco – is a breathtaking panorama and feather in any world traveler’s cap.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

This massive salt pan is the largest on Earth, though the desolate landscape would seem more at home on the moon. This is a major tourist draw for visitors to landlocked Bolivia, and if I ever get the chance, I can’t wait to take in the stark beauty of this immense (over 3,900 square miles) natural attraction.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina

As one of the Top 3 waterfalls in the world, Iguazu Falls, separating Argentina from Chile in a raging collection of frothing cataracts, was an absolute must-have on the travel goal master checklist. I haven’t personally been there yet, and it’s the kind of place you have to go out of your way to see, but by all accounts this is a breathtaking natural wonder that earns its spot in the top 72.

Torres del Paine, Chile

Though I’ve been to Chilean Patagonia, I didn’t have time to visit this iconic mountain destination in the lower reaches of the South American continent. But from photos I’ve seen, it is definitely a landmark worthy of inclusion on the travel goals master checklist, and well-encapsulates the alpine scenery that typifies the region.

Gerlache Strait, Antarctica

This narrow channel of water between the Antarctic Peninsula and a series of icy coastal islands is a common feature on Antarctic cruises, and therefore more “accessible” than other spots on this exceedingly difficult to visit continent. My fondest memories were of icebergs hued in shades of electric blue, and the antics of penguins who used them as their personal jungle gym, so coming up with the artwork was a labor of love.

How Many Have You Visited?

Order your own Travel Goals Master Checklist today!

So far I’ve covered 24 out of the 72 destinations on the master checklist. How many can you check off? Even if that number is zero, the beauty of the checklist is that it inspires a person to new adventures and specific travel goals. If you’ve enjoyed the artwork and want a Travel Goals Master Checklist to display in your home or office, please visit my Etsy store to order a copy for yourself or the traveler in your life.

Stay tuned for Part III . . .

Have you been to any of these destinations? Or do you have a favorite in South America and Antarctica that you feel should have made the list? Share it with your fellow travel lovers by leaving a comment!

The Travel Goals Master Checklist: Part I – North America & the Caribbean

The full Travel Goals Master Checklist in all its glory

Whether you’re a marker, checker, crosser or scratcher, there’s no satisfaction quite like the feeling you get when eliminating an item from your ‘to do’ list. That same sense of accomplishment transfers nicely to the field of travel, where having a well-defined list of destinations to see and the joy of checking them off after visiting them is all part of the fun.

With the recent release of my new poster: The Travel Goals Master Checklist, I thought it fitting to review how I came up with the 72 world-class destinations featured in the design, and why they deserve a spot on this list. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or have yet to venture beyond the borders of your own country, I invite you to compare your list with mine, and if you should feel so inclined, encourage you to cross off as many as you can.

North America & The Caribbean

So as not to overwhelm you with all 72 destinations at once, I’ve decided to discuss the destinations by region. For the record, the destinations on the list are not necessarily places I’ve visited myself, but rather locations that have strong natural, cultural or historical appeal. To date I’ve visited just 44 out of 72, so I’ve got some pending travel goals myself.

New York City, USA

New York, New York, USA

Even if I wasn’t born and raised in the suburbs of New York City, the Big Apple is for all intents and purposes the ‘Capital of the World’. Thanks to innumerable appearances in popular films and TV programs, it is also one of the most recognizable. The iconic Empire State Building was a natural choice when it came to creating an image that encapsulates one of the most impressive city skylines. Chances are a good number of you reading this can check off this must-see metropolis.

Niagara Falls, USA/Canada

Niagara Falls! Slowly I turned…

Straddling the US/Canadian border, Niagara Falls is rightly considered to be one of the world’s most famous cascades. It has massive size and unique accessibility from aboard a Maid of the Mist watercraft, and is usually only ranked behind Victoria and Iguazu Falls in terms of sheer impressiveness. Add to that its renown as a world-class tourist site and I felt I had no choice but to include it in my top 72 travel destinations.

Quebec City, Canada

Le bonne vie in Quebec City, Canada

Quebec City is the closest thing to visiting a European destination on the North American continent. With charming Old World architecture and a skyline dominated by the imposing Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City earns its place on the checklist for both its cultural and historic pedigree.

Banff National Park, Canada

Banff National Park, Canada

While I’ve yet to have the privilege of visiting the Canadian Rockies myself, the milky-blue hues of Lake Louise in Canada’s Banff National Park are universally considered to be a world-class draw. As one of the best examples of gorgeous alpine scenery on the continent, Banff earned its spot on my checklist with little internal debate.

Denali National Park, USA

Bear sighting, Denali National Park, USA

Though part of the United States, Alaska is its own region with its own appeal. Of all the potential scenes I could have used to represent this remote and unspoiled wilderness in the extreme northwest of the continent, a grizzly bear against the backdrop of Denali (the Great One) seemed a most fitting tribute to the dominance of nature that people the world over come to see.

Yosemite National Park, USA

Yosemite National Park, USA

The American West has more than its fair share of world-class level wonders, so picking those to include on the list was not an easy thing to do. Fortunately, Yosemite National Park is so superlative that not including it on the master checklist would be a travesty, so I really didn’t have a choice but to include it. When choosing the imagery I wanted to use, I knew that the iconic peaks of Half-dome and El Capitan would have to make an appearance.

Yellowstone National Park, USA

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone NP, USA

Even if it wasn’t the first ever national park, or an alpine region brimming with natural beauty, Yellowstone is home to some of the most intriguing geological wonders on the planet, and is therefore an shoo-in for a place on this list. When it comes to natural attractions, Yellowstone and its geothermal oddities are hard to beat.

Grand Canyon, USA

Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA

Despite what I just said in my description of Yellowstone National Park, there is at least one place that trumps it in terms of the raw impressiveness showcased in the natural world. The Grand Canyon is just one of those places you have to see for yourself to fully appreciate its grandeur. Even then, wrapping one’s brain around the burnt-tones of this dramatic open space is not easy to pull off.

Hawaii, USA

Tropical Wonder in the Hawaiian Islands, USA

Much like Alaska, Hawaii has its own unique geology and culture that separates it from mainland USA. Long synonymous with tropical paradise, the Hawaiian islands continue to beckon world travelers with their gorgeous tropical scenery and vibrant South Seas culture.

Los Cabos, Mexico

Los Cabos, Mexico

Despite all the attention that goes to its neighbors to the north, Mexico is home to a treasure trove of natural attractions. Though a late entry, and one I haven’t personally visited yet, Los Cabos, at the tip of Baja California, draw steady streams of tourist looking to experience the beautiful juxtaposition of clear waters lapping against an arid desert landscape.

Chichen Itza, Mexico

Chichen Itza, Mexico

Besides having abundant natural wonders to draw visitors from around the world, Mexico is also the cradle of the mighty Aztec and Mayan civilizations that once held sway in this region. The latter are responsible for the marvelous ruins of Chichen Itza, a UNESCO World Heritage Site smack dab in the middle of a jungle on the Yucatan Peninsula. This ‘lost city’ has all the earmarks of a cultural jewel, and therefore was an early entry onto the master checklist.

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

Vulcan Arenal, Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a nature-lover’s paradise. The tricky part was figuring out which of the many attractions to feature as the specific ‘destination’ on my list. Recalling the tantalizingly-disturbing rumbles of the ever-active Arenal Volcano, and the verdant paradise that surrounds it, I knew I had found my muse.

Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Visit the Ocho, featuring Dunn’s River Falls

Sure, Ocho Rios has all the trappings of your run-of-the-mill Caribbean cruise port. But it also boasts something most other ports can’t: access to a world-class natural attraction like Dunn’s River Falls. This iconic series of cascades sees plenty of tourists, but that’s not without good reason as I learned on my own visit there. Sometimes you just have to put aside your inner travel snob and see what all the fuss is about. In the case of Ocho Rios, it was a pleasant surprise to see my assumptions overturned.

St. John, US Virgin Islands

Trunk Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

With so many dazzling and bejeweled Caribbean Islands to choose from, I finally landed on St. John in the US Virgin Islands for the simple reason that the majority of it is dedicated parkland, preserving its natural and historic charms from the pervasive encroachment of commercialism so rampant in the region. With beautiful beaches, dense greenery and colonial-era ruins, in my mind St. John encapsulates all the best qualities of a Caribbean island, landing it a well-earned spot on the master checklist.

How Many Have You Visited?

Order your own Travel Goals Master Checklist today!

So far I’ve covered 14 out of the 72 destinations on the master checklist. How many can you check off? Even if that number is zero, the beauty of the checklist is that it inspires a person to new adventures and specific travel goals. If you’ve enjoyed the artwork and want a Travel Goals Master Checklist to display in your home or office, please visit my Etsy store to order a copy for yourself or the traveler in your life.

In the meantime, I’ll start preparing Part II . . .

Have you been to any of these destinations? Or do you have a favorite in North America and the Caribbean that you feel should have made the list? Share it with your fellow travel lovers by leaving a comment!

Earth: The Soundtrack – A Traveler’s Playlist

As someone who has a soundtrack playing through their mind at all times, I can attest that music, much like the pairing of a choice wine with a certain dish, can greatly enhance the ‘flavor’ of a destination. The right tune can deepen the impressions it leaves on one’s memory, and forever serve as a trigger to call those images of a distant locale back to mind in just a few notes. While I do have certain songs that I attach in my mind to specific locations due to having heard the song there, there are several songs that due to the lyrics or style inevitably draw me back to a particular country, a particular city or particular memory. If you have a trip on the horizon and would like to “pair” some music to go with your destination, please enjoy my traveler’s playlist for the world.

Ends of the Earth, by Lord Huron

Ready to fly off to the Ends of the Earth (or New Delhi as seen here)

This indie-rock ballad about a man bent on exploring the world while at the same time hoping for a companion, resonates quite deeply with me. The style I feel could best describe this piece is a mash-up where ‘world music meets the Old West’. There’s a pleasant combination of soulful strains as the lyrics play, which then switches over to faster-paced percussion during the instrumental parts. The lyrics are what truly hit home for me, especially a line toward the end of the song that goes:

“What good is livin’ a life you’ve been given, if all you do is stand in one place”

If that doesn’t sum up my philosophies on travel, I don’t know what else could. Powerful stuff.

Though no specific destination comes to mind when I hear it (though the American Southwest would fit nicely with the tone), my mind can’t help but wander toward the horizon from the shot of wanderlust this song instills.

The World At Large, by Modest Mouse

Float On towards the World At Large (or New Mexico, whichever’s closer)

This short, poignant song that literally flows into the more popular hit Float On sounds to me like the ramblings of a drifter with a taste for adventure whose restlessness takes him on a never-ending journey. It’s a soft, simple tune that in my mind combines a wistfulness to keep on exploring, and the inevitable sadness at the fact that moving on means leaving things behind. Once again, this is not a destination-specific piece, but the conflict between the desire to wander and the transitory nature of experiences when one is only ‘passing through’ both inspires me to keep traveling, while at the same time leaves me feeling the loss of people and places I’ve left behind.

Storms In Africa (1 & 2) by Enya

Storms or Not, Africa Is A Spectacle Worth Seeing – especially the Chobe River on the border of Botswana & Namibia

Africa, as anyone who’s been there can attest, leaves a mark. I think it’s because of the powerful contrasts; as home of some of the most failing and corrupt governments in the world, the African people have been left destitute, brutalized and left to fend for themselves. Yet in all my travels there, the people I’ve met have almost to a person been smiling, good-natured and open to connect with others. Despite the plunder of warlords and multinational corporations, the landscape is still refreshingly rural and dramatic, with wildlife and terrain who leave no doubt as to who’s really in charge. From the breathtaking sunsets to the majesty of seeing animals like lions, elephants and hippos in the wild, this beautiful melody set to a backdrop of quintessential African drumming takes me back to game drives in South Africa, smelling the wet vegetation and wondering what might appear just around the next bush. If you’re headed out to a safari, be sure to download these songs for the perfect soundtrack to your explorations.

The Postman, Soundtrack from Il Postino, by Luis Enriquez Bacalov

Postage Not Required on the Island of Ponza, Italy

If you’ve never seen this classic movie portraying the tale of a lonely postman (hence the title) on a remote Italian island who woos the girl of his dreams with the help of an exiled poet, then consider yourself as having plans this weekend. Spoiler alert, it does follow the tradition of other famous Italian movies such as Cinema Paradiso and Life Is Beautiful by simultaneously ripping your heart out while filling it with love by the time the movie ends. Though the story itself is great, the music is perfectly suited for the Italian island backdrop, and on my own travels to Italian islands – particularly the island of Ponza – the various iterations of the song The Postman are playing in my head anytime I look out at the craggy cliffs and boxy, whitewashed houses that hearken back to times gone by.

Latika’s Theme, by A.R. Rahman

The Softer Side of the Subcontinent, Agra, India

Speaking of bittersweet movies, this gem from the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack was often playing in my head during my trip to India. The haunting female vocals and soft strains of the sitar conjure images of the subcontinent’s softer side, serving as a counterweight to the cacophony of beeping horns and bustling crowds that are the real soundtrack of India. Though fascinating, India is an all out assault on your eyes, nose and taste buds, so why not treat your ears to this soothing melodic sound of this lovely piece of music to block out the chaos, and focus on the stunning examples of artistry and architecture that are visible in nearly all directions.

Three Little Birds, by Bob Marley

Reggae = Caribbean, and especially Jamaica as pictured here

Really just about any Bob Marley song will do, but Three Little Birds is to me the primary example of how a music genre can define an entire region. When I hear the cheery notes of a steel drum pounding out the cadence that is so distinctly reggae, I can’t help but envision not only the tropical beauty of the island of Jamaica, but that of the greater Caribbean as well. Marley’s songs are the musical equivalent of the vibrant colors that distinguish the Caribbean’s markets and architecture, and one can’t help but feel “sunny” listening to it. Add the fact that there’s not a cruise ship in the region that doesn’t have at least one band playing Marley at any given time, and you can see why this popular tune mentally brings me back to swaying palms, turquoise water, and fruity drinks with little umbrellas.

Walzing Matilda, by Various Artists

Go Waltzing Matilda yourself in Australia’s Undara Lava Tubes National Park

While there may not be any one official recording of this classic folk song, only Waltzing Matilda could rightly be considered the unofficial national anthem of Australia. Telling the story of a fiercely independent squatter who would rather drown in a lake (a.k.a. billabong) than give himself over to the authorities, nothing is more quintessential Australian than this quirky ditty straight out of the Outback, complete with local phraseology that will require a few Google searches for non-Australians to comprehend. In my mind Waltzing Matilda is synonymous with anything Australian, and when I think of my travels there I can’t help but hum the tune (or vice versa).

Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert, by Pink Floyd

Set Your Sights on Obscurity in the Falkland Islands

From the wide appeal of Australia’s most famous ballad, we’ll now drastically zoom in to a very obscure tune, from an obscure album, that speaks of events in a very obscure location that most people would be hard pressed to find on a map. The location in question is the Falkland Islands, a rather barren, rocky archipelago deep in the South Atlantic off the coast of Argentina. In fact, if you were to head south, the next stop would be Antarctica.

The song is a nod to the Falkland Conflict that took place in the early ’80’s between the U.K., who has ruled the islands since the 1800’s, and Argentina, whose ambitions to push them out resulted in nothing more than the senseless loss of hundreds of young soldiers and sailors. Following the title’s words being shouted out and subsequently obliterated by the sound of a mortar blast, a string quartet plays a few chords before the single stanza of lyrics are sung:

“Brezhnev took Afghanistan. (a reference to the then-recent Soviet invasion)
Begin took Beirut. (referencing the Israeli Prime Minister’s actions in Lebanon)
Galtieri took the Union Jack. (referring to the Argentinian invasion of the islands)
And Maggie, over lunch one day, (that is, British P.M. Margaret Thatcher)
Took a cruiser with all hands. (referencing the Argentine ship General Belgrano)
Apparently, to make him give it back”

Very few people make their way down to these islands, so once I knew it was on my itinerary I made sure that I had downloaded it to my device, and gave it a listen as we neared port. From that point on, anytime I’ve heard this short yet meaningful song (rarely), my thoughts immediately head out to the South Atlantic in contemplation of an eventual return (unlikely).

Final Thoughts

These are just a few songs that I feel encapsulate either the travel experience or the essence of a specific destination. I am quite aware that there are still lots of places to see and even more music to hear, so if you have a song that takes you back to someplace you’ve traveled, be sure to leave a comment below. Who knows – I may even add it to my future playlist.

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