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!

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.