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 Custom Travel Art store, or 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!

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 Custom Travel Art store, or 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!

Feeding Your Inner Cartophile – The Story Behind the Bucket List In Progress World Map

Are you a cartophile? No, the word cartophile doesn’t refer to a person who loves adding items to their cart, though in this modern digital age somebody should come up with a word for that. Rather, simply put, a cartophile is a person who loves maps.

I myself am an unabashed cartophile since the days of my youth, when I would literally spend time tracing maps from an old atlas at my parents’ house. Come to think of it, that might explain why I didn’t have many friends at the time. Now, as a seasoned adult traveler, I am comforted by the fact that like me, there are many others who can appreciate a good map and aren’t afraid to admit it.

What Is The Appeal of a World Map?

Bucket List In Progress World Map

Each cartophile likely has a different motive for this special kind of love. For me, I see a world map as a challenge; a global objective to see and experience firsthand each and every location encompassed within that familiar outline that we all know so well. It’s like a coloring book for adventurers that contains the basic shape but leaves it up to the traveler to fill in the spaces. With each and every trip I get to ‘color in’ another section of that map with the rich imagery of firsthand experience.

As an example, I don’t just see ‘Thailand’ on a map. I recall the stifling humidity, the ever-present fragrance of burning incense, and the pleasant, smiling faces of the local people. That’s what a world map does for me – it serves as a template for containing past travel memories and a source of inspiration to go out and make new ones. It’s with that viewpoint in mind that I came up with the Bucket List In Progress World Map design.

Why A Bucket List In Progress World Map?

Even a very experienced traveler will still have destinations that they haven’t yet seen in person. One of the joys (or vices) of being well-traveled is sharing where you’ve been and what you’ve seen with others, sometimes known as showing off. Yet who can find fault with anyone who derives great satisfaction in seeing the world’s most iconic locations and wanting to share that fact with others? The key is doing it in a way that comes across more as inspirational than obnoxious. 

So in an effort to provide my fellow travelers with an option that will allow them to exhibit their own personal travel accomplishments in a way that is both inspirational and visually-pleasing, I designed the Bucket List In Progress World Map. I called it a Bucket List in Progress because there are very few intrepid travelers who have visited every location listed – not even yours truly (I’ve been to 22 out of 28). This means that for most people, there is still that incentive to fill in the remaining blanks.

Selecting the Locations

It was quite difficult whittling down the enormous number of worthy sites worldwide to the 28 that would be included on this map – after all, we all have different items on our own personal travel bucket list. So instead I sought to include hand-drawn imagery that would encompass a wide range of unique regions and a healthy mix of both man-made and natural attractions. Once I had the destinations in mind, it was just a matter of finding its coordinates and arranging each graphic in a logical place on the image. For the map itself, I decided against a map delineating national borders, as the wonders depicted are really treasures that belong to everyone who calls this planet home.

Why A Bucket List In Progress World Map Makes for A Great Gift

The Bucket List In Progress World Map, which is exclusive to Custom Travel Art, is a great gift idea for several reasons. First, it’s a map, which is already catnip for the cartophile in your life. Second, the graphics are both sleek and colorful, making it an awesome way to showcase some of the world’s greatest destinations. And thirdly, the provided spaces to be “checked off” are a great way to keep track of your travels and at the same time provide incentive for the travels to come.

For more details and images of the map as a whole and the individual locations included, see the Bucket List In Progress World Map product page and order one for yourself or for the traveler in your life. Your inner cartophile will thank you.

Snapshot of My Bucket List: Where and Why

Cross another one off the Bucket List
Cross another one off the Bucket List

Just today it dawned on me that every single blog post I’ve written has covered someplace that I’ve already been. For a change I thought I’d put down in writing some of the places I’d still like to get to. Of course, my list (and everyone else’s, I suppose) is always subject to change – you never know when you’ll see that photograph that will rocket that previously unknown destination to a top slot. You also never know when that proverbial bucket might be kicked. So with those caveats in mind, I present to you a snapshot of my bucket list at this particular moment in time and perhaps it might inspire you to form one of your own.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

In my head I like to think of myself as being in the mold of Indiana Jones – I love traveling to exotic places; history fascinates me; I even have a fedora. Perhaps that is why I am drawn to a landmark such as Angkor Wat – a sprawling temple complex of stone ruins rising out of the steamy jungles of southeast Asia. I had a taste of that in Ayutthaya, Thailand, but it would seem that Angkor Wat is the definitive ancient temple ruin and the photo opportunities alone urge me to return to the region after a 12 year hiatus. Probably not going to get there this year, but it still ranks high on my list.

Petra, Jordan

Speaking of Indiana Jones, how could anyone see The Last Crusade and not be inspired to visit Petra? While the chances of finding the holy grail are unlikely, the landscape – carved out of rock by the ancient Nabateans – is 100% real. Ever since I saw that on full moons it is possible for a nighttime tour, I have kept the flame burning for a visit to this ancient wonder. Now if only that whole ISIS thing would just settle down…

Archipelago Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

Even for places off the beaten path, the islands of Fernando de Noronha off the northeastern tip of Brazil would be considered as way, way off the normal tourist circuit. For me the appeal is partly the remote and thereby rather untouched nature of this Atlantic archipelago, and partly the dream of scuba diving in its pristine waters – preferably among the many dolphins that frequent the area. It would require some dedication to get there, but like anything else of any value, I’m certain the extra effort would be worth it.

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

The first time I heard of Ngorongoro Crater was in a magazine (the Awake! I believe) and the overview combined with the pictures depicted a veritable paradise on Earth. Many years later it was a featured destination on my favorite reality show The Amazing Race, and seeing the lush greenery and wildlife encounters was enough to seal its place on my bucket list – even though I’ve been fortunate enough to have been on several safaris. Add in ‘nearby’ attractions such as Mt. Kilimanjaro and the exotic island of Zanzibar and all it would take is the slightest opportunity for me to convert this wish into reality. That and a bunch of time and money.

Iceland, like almost all of it

Years ago I was planning a trip to Europe and intended to fly on Icelandair, the national carrier of Iceland who would have very graciously allowed me a free stopover in their country. While circumstances eventually led me to take another carrier, by that time I had already done the research on Iceland, and in doing so, convinced myself that this land of fire and ice was worth more than just a ‘stopover‘. When several of my friends made the trip there and shared their photos with me, my wanderlust was sufficiently stoked to include Iceland on my bucket list for the foreseeable future.

In the Queue

As I mentioned before, this is a snapshot of my bucket list. This reflects the fact that I already have a trip to Norway/Sweden/Italy/the Netherlands planned and therefore the wonders I hope to experience on that trip have gone from ‘bucket list’ to ‘itinerary’ – much to my delight. After that I don’t know what will come next. I might even wind up somewhere else. But that’s the great thing about bucket lists – so long as the ‘bucket’ hasn’t tipped over, there’s always time to add and subtract.

Do you have a bucket list? Please share your top slot with the rest of us as well as your reasons why by commenting below.

I would also like to mention that my fellow blogger Bianca Mazziotti has posted a review of my book You Can Keep Your Adventure, Just Leave Me the Toilet Paper on her inspirational blog Stumbling for Balance. Her blog is full of positive thoughts on a variety of subjects along with a number of original poems. I encourage you to take a peek – I’m sure she’d like to connect with you.

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