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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Death, Taxes & The Pyramids

Pyramid Perfection
Pyramid Perfection

It’s been nearly 19 years since I’ve visited the Pyramids at Giza, and at first I was hesitant about writing about them. After all, a lot can change in 19 years. Unless of course, you’re the Pyramids, where 19 years would barely be a drop in the bucket if only they saw any rain.

Yes, in an ever-changing world there are few constants that you can count on these days. Death and taxes hog the top two spots on that list, but the Pyramids are a close third when it comes to things that will not change while this world exists. Of the three, I like the Pyramids the best.

The land of Egypt, where they’ve resided for some five thousand years is sadly a hotbed of political unrest at the time of my writing. It’s a shame, because seeing these icons firsthand–arguably among the most recognizable structures on the planet–still counts as one of my most thrilling travel moments.

It was a stupidly hot afternoon in October 1995, and despite the air conditioned bus, the heat and fatigue were getting to me. I remember being in a mental haze as we made our way through the urban sprawl of Cairo when abruptly, from behind a building I saw them, looking exactly as they appeared in photographs I had seen my entire life. A surge of adrenaline cleared my stupor, forcing me to sit up in my seat and just stare out the window until it was time to get off the bus for lunch.

I remember feeling impatient as our tour group took their time eating and then shopping in one of many prearranged souvenir stops such tours inevitably make. Next we had to sit through our guide’s spiel at a museum housing an ancient funeral barge where the floors were extra slippery. Sure it all was interesting, but what I really wanted to see was just outside.

Sunset over Giza
Sunset over Giza

Finally it was time for a camel ride out to the Pyramids, and I enjoyed it as much as anyone could with a camel jockey hounding me incessantly for an extra tip. I would have paid him twice as much earlier just to shut up had I known what I was in for. Up close, I was struck at how much larger they were than I had imagined, never quite perceiving the sense of scale until I was standing next to one feeling dwarfed by the massive blocks baking in the sun. I recall climbing up a few levels and marveling at the thought that at 20 years old I had already scratched off a huge item from my bucket list even before the term bucket list was in common usage.

Leveling Up Egyptian Style
Leveling Up Egyptian Style

When it was time to go inside, I really didn’t know what to expect. We descended a very short tunnel requiring non-little people to bend at the waist, then ascended a similar distance before emerging into a surprisingly small chamber, rather plain and empty aside from a sarcophagus notch at the far end. Considering the majesty of the edifice around it, it felt a bit anticlimactic that there were none of the intricate hieroglyphs adorning almost every flat surface elsewhere in the country. But still, I was in the Great Pyramid. I could see ancient wall treatments another time.

Back outside we were taken to a lookout point for some great photo ops and a chance to check out the nearby Sphinx, which as opposed to the pyramids, seemed distinctly smaller than I had envisioned. As the sun set behind these most famous landmarks, the way it had for innumerable times before that (and since), I’m glad I had the wherewithal back then to appreciate that this scene was something special. The fact that I’m writing about it 19 years later just serves to prove my point.

I image there must be some changes since I visited. I imagine the gritty neighborhoods that surrounded the area back then have expanded. I suppose the camel jockeys are hawking their clients for tips with an even greater sense of urgency. And I imagine the throngs that came to see them each day have waned in the current political instability. But I am quite certain that what has not changed, are the Pyramids themselves, standing at their posts like sentinels of the desert the same as they have for thousands of years. And I’m sure they will continue to do just that until the world ends. Death and taxes can go suck an egg.

Have you been to the Pyramids? Leave a comment about your first impression.