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.

Keep Your Memories Alive Through the “Art” of Travel

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A personalized Departures Board brings your travel memories into your decor

During this difficult time, when traveling freely about the globe seems as far-fetched as traveling freely about the moon, it’s both frustrating and therapeutic to think back on trips gone by. Sure, it’s wonderful to reflect on the memories made, the experiences had, and if you’re like me, the meals eaten. Yet at the same time, it’s hard to avoid stoking the flames of wanderlust that are unfortunately just too far out of reach for the time being. But in my opinion, if I may take some creative license with a famous phrase, “it’s better to have traveled, than to have never traveled at all.”

Yes, even the best of trips must eventually come to an end, so a wise traveler recognizes that taking the trip is just one phase (arguably the most enjoyable one) of integrating the experience into the fabric of their life. The trickier one, is making those memories last.

In the past I’ve written about some effective ways of doing so, such as keeping a journal and making a photo book. Now, I’m pleased to announce my newest venture that provides fellow travel enthusiasts another way to preserve those travel memories – a customized piece of art.

In my ongoing love affair with all things travel, I have recently launched a new website – www.customtravelart.com – where I take elements of travel experiences and transform them into a variety of personalized products with an artistic flair. If you’ll forgive the shameless self-promotion, I’d like to share a few of the ways I can help you commemorate and preserve your precious travel memories.

Custom Departure Boards

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List your top 13 destinations and the year visited for a custom departure board wall canvas to adorn your home or office

What’s more iconic to travel than an old-fashioned departures board? With this product you can choose your thirteen favorite destinations – along with the year traveled –  and have them preserved on a personalized departures board canvas. It’s sure to draw the admiration (or envy) of visitors to your home or office. See more here.

Custom T-Shirts for the Savvy Traveler

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Celebrate your favorite trip of all time with a custom airport code tee.

We all have that one trip that sticks with us – the one that given the chance to go back in time, we’d do it all over again. With that feeling in mind, I’ve devised the custom airport code tee (including city names for the airportilogically uninformed  – and no, airportilogically is not a real word). All you have to do is choose your starting and ending destination airports and voila! You’ve got a commemorative t-shirt to celebrate that favorite trip. See more here.

Original T-Shirt Designs

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Show off your “stamp collection” with an original design tee

In another life, I worked in the art department of a silkscreen company, which on occasion forced me to bring great ugliness into the world, courtesy of a few design-challenged clients. Therefore it is with great pleasure that I’m able to partially repay my debt to society with some of my own original designs, conceived for the avid traveler. See more here.

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Cop a traveler’s attitude with a Departures Board Been There Done That tee.

See more here.

Witty Tees for Seniors

Let’s face it – many who have the time and means to travel are those with a certain level of life experience. I’m not saying that they’re old, just well-traveled. So with those “of a certain age” in mind, I’ve designed a few witty tees for the senior traveler who is ready and willing to own both their age and their mileage.

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Show off your “senior moments” with this collage of iconic, original design scenes of noteworthy sites around the world.

See more here.

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Be proud to wander off with this witty tee featuring original “stamps” from around the world

See more here.

The All-Important Travel Poster

My first inspiration for Custom Travel Art was from looking at vintage travel posters from the early days of air travel and thinking “wouldn’t it be cool to have a custom version of those for my trips?” After that spark of initiative, my creative juices got a-flowing, and I designed a “travel sticker” poster, paying artistic tribute to all of the 75 countries/territories I’ve visited to date. Though definitely more time-consuming, I’m offering that same opportunity to others, either via a custom travel sticker poster or custom world map poster, which artistically portrays all of the countries you’ve visited.

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Showcase your travels with a custom “travel stickers” collage poster

See more here.

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Create a personalized world map that showcases your own travels

See more here

Summing it up

The act of traveling is just one phase of the joy of travel. Keeping the memories alive allows you to preserve the wonder, the contentment and fascination indefinitely. It’s with this noble goal in mind that I share the news of my newest undertaking, and hopefully, can help you envision ways a custom piece of artwork can make your trip of a lifetime, last for a lifetime.


Do you have any ideas or thoughts of what would make a great piece of travel art? Share them here by commenting below.