Call it what you will – bucket list, dreams to follow, wish-list, things I want to do before I die…We all have such a collection in one form or another. Some of us just mentally list them in our head, some of us cherish them in our hearts while some of us actually write them down and look at them every so often to remind us of the ultimate things we want to see and do in our lives one day. The following is a collection of 10 bucket-list items, the like of which seem to crop up over an again on individual lists. We give you a quick run-down on what it is (in case it has escaped your bucket-list consideration so far) and then let you know where in the world you can go to realise your dreams.
1) Do a Bungee Jump or Skydive
Both these bucket list entries will see you leaping into thin air from a great height and both are super-common inclusions for both the adrenalin-addicted and those who are determined to do something in the crazy category at least once in their life. What’s more, one or other is an almost compulsory rite of passage for those on the world backpacker circuit.
You can take your bungee leap of faith from bridges, suspension pods, cliffs, extended platforms over river gorges and more with heights ranging from oo-that’s-a-long-way-down to those so high you will struggle to even see the bottom.
When it comes to tandem skydives quite how extreme your free-fall thrill will be depends on how high your plane climbs before you are shoved out the door. The range is typically 9,000 to 18,000 ft with the period of plummeting towards earth at terminal velocity (120 mph/200 kph) before the parachute is opened ranging from 30 – 75 seconds. Pick your skydive location well and the views you are going to be treated to will be of the ridiculously spectacular kind.
With both bungee and skydiving experiences, photos and videos are often offered as part of the package prices; essential social media posts…….. and anyway, who doesn’t want those moments of gut-wrenching terror captured forever.
Places in the world where you can bungee jump: Australia and New Zealand are still the kings of this experience because that is where it all started. You have heaps of choice here. Otherwise, venues include Switzerland, South Africa, Victoria Falls Bridge (border of Zimbabwe and Zambia), China, Nepal, Costa Rica and Austria.
Places in the world where you can tandem skydive: Australia, Hawaii, Namibia, New Zealand, Switzerland
2) See the Northern Lights
It doesn’t matter how many scientific explanations you hear regarding the Northern Lights. If and when you see these magical and mesmerising glowing colours dancing, blossoming and spreading across the sky it is impossible to eliminate completely all thoughts of other worlds or to prevent the word ’mysterious’ from leaping into the mind.
Apparently science does still have many unanswered questions on the subject of quite what causes these lights to trip across the sky but whatever the reasons one thing is beyond question; the Northern Lights are stunningly beautiful beyond words and something which deserves the description of unique above just about anything else you might see in a lifetime.
Although it is possible to see this celestial display on rare occasions from more southerly locations – such as the north of Scotland or Denmark and even northern England – during periods of higher solar flare activity, typically speaking aurora borealis seekers have to travel north until they are within or almost within the Arctic Circle. And these places are often, remote and hard to get to. Which of course all adds to the adventure and occasion; inaccessibility is perhaps the one reason why so many have ‘see the Northern Lights’ on their wish list but why so few ever get to tick it off.
The Northern Lights are present year round but best viewings are had in dark, clear skies which means summer is out at these latitudes because the sun never sets. January, February and March are often the best months and try and opt for new moon/dark moon times too.
The best places in the world to see the Northern Lights – Northern Canada, Greenland, northern Sweden, northern Norway, Finland, Iceland, Alaska, the extreme north of Russia.
3) Trekking to Gorilla-watch in the Wild
Those who have been-there-and-done that with regard to wild gorilla trekking often describe the moment when – sweating buckets and exhausted – they emerge into a clearing and come face to face with a troop of mountain gorillas. Suddenly all that struggling up steep climbs, swatting away insects and getting stung by nettles seems a tiny price to pay for this minute in time.
Trekking through African jungle can of course be challenging in the extreme but wild gorilla encounters don’t always necessitate hours of work over difficult terrain. It truly depends on many factors which include where you head to have your experience, which parts of the forest the gorillas choose to hang out in on the day you head out and who you should choose as your guides.
Rwanda and Uganda are the most popular choices for wild gorilla trekking as their gorilla populations are relatively high and the infrastructure is the most developed in this regard meaning sightings are almost 100% guaranteed.
Where to go in the world to see gorillas in the wild – Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park (that of ‘Gorillas in the Mist, Dian Fossey fame) and Uganda’s Mt Sabinio or Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Other options are Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola, Congo and the Central African Republic.
4) Witness a Total Solar Eclipse
You’ll hear those tell you – yep, I’ve see a solar eclipse but just wait a minute….were they in the path of totality? Because if not then seeing a solar eclipse in this way is similar to the difference in seeing the Northern Lights on TV or seeing them with your own eyes while surrounded by ice and snow……… or seeing an elephant in a zoo compared to being physically present as a family of them thunder across the savannah while you are on safari.
Apart from the stunning spectacle of what the sun actually looks like for those seconds when the moon completely blocks the sun, there is the added element of night falling in the middle of the day. When you are in the path of totality it will not just get a little darker it will get completely dark. The birds stop singing and a hush falls over everything as all of nature tries to figure out what on earth is going on.
Total solar eclipses occur almost annually somewhere on the planet but the line of totality might fall somewhere almost inaccessible or certainly inaccessible to many – such as the Poles or vast sweeps of the middle of the oceans.
If you’re already intending to travel the world then you might want to check out where and when the next solar eclipses are occurring to see if your plans in any way coincide and if you can get yourself into the path of totality. And then pray for a clear day. Because if and when you get to witness this incredible phenomena you will remember it as long as you live.
Where to go in the world to see a total solar eclipse – check out the dates, times and places of every solar eclipse occurring until 2019 here.
5) Go Scuba Diving
Some describe scuba diving as the ultimate serenity experience while others describe it as an ultimate adrenalin rush. It would appear these two apparently conflicting ideas can both be true and quite where you choose to dive will of course have some bearing on which camp your own experience might fall into. On the possible menu are exploring wrecks, plunging into the mysterious depths of blue holes (enormous marine sink holes), diving with dolphins or whale sharks, marvelling at coral reefs or underwater caving in the stunning cenotes of Mexico.
Underwater worlds full of the spectacular are found just about everywhere on the planet and luckily there are also heaps of companies which have the skill and means to show it to you through scuba diving.
Depending on where you are the costs of doing a try-dive or a learning to dive course can be a little prohibitive for many of us but there are also tons of places on the backpacker circuit which offer courses and experiences dirt cheap. Places such as the islands in Thailand (particularly Koh Tao) and Utila in Honduras offer incredibly cheap (but still high safety level) courses at all levels and as a result have become destinations in themselves for many determined to get their diving qualifications.
Where to go in the world to do a try dive or PADI course – There are heaps and heaps of options but some of the best or cheapest include Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Egypt, Honduras, Ecuador, Belize, New Zealand, Australia (Great Barrier Reef plus others) and Mexico.
6) Climb Mount Kilimanjaro – Tanzania, Africa
At 5,895 metres above sea level, Kilimanjaro is both Africa’s highest peak overall and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. Climbing a mountain is an understandable bucketlist entry but quite why so many choose this exact mountain is less easily explained. A whopping 35,000 make this climb every year and it would appear these numbers continue to rise steadily. Perhaps so many come here because Kilimanjaro has a reputation as offering particularly stunning views as mountain-summit panoramas go. It also offers luxury level treks which come complete with posh tents, gourmet meals on route and hefty types to carry your gear so you can use all your energy to just keep going. But the most likely reason for its popularity is because – as mountain climbs go – this one isn’t especially complicated or technical which makes it within the reach of all those who have the right mixture of basic fitness and determination.
It is nonetheless a huge achievement but don’t expect to have the summit to yourself when you get there. You might find quite a crowd in various stated of green-gilled altitude sickness suffering, leaping around in celebration or just quietly sitting and contemplating what they have just done. Some say this detracts from everything, others say the sense of being together at such a moment is a special one of shared human endeavour.
7) See All Seven Wonders of the World
Now this is a tricky one because there is more than one list of Seven Wonders. The original and classic list is out as only one of those remains – the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Your best bet here is to perhaps go with the 2001 internationally-recognised initiative which produced a ‘New7Wonders’ list. The list actually contains 8 entries because Egypt got all huffy about Giza’s pyramid entry alongside such (in their opinion) non-worthies like the Redeemer statue in Rio so they were given a separate and extra category all of their own – ‘Honorary Candidate’.
So here’s your list for ticking off:
Christ Redeemer – A huge 20th century statue atop Corcovado mountain overlooking Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Great Wall of China – An ancient fortification structure in China which stretches for 21,196 km/13,171miles and dates from 700 BC
Machu Picchu – A mountain-perched and remote former Inca citadel in Peru dating from 1450 AD
Chichen Itza’s Pyramid – Part of a large ruined city in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, built by the Mayan people, dating from 600 AD
The Colosseum – An evocatively ruined amphitheatre dating from 80 AD, in the middle of Rome, Italy
The Taj Mahal – Stunning white marble mausoleum dating from the 17th century in Agra, India.
Petra – An historical city dating from 312 BC in Jordan, famous for its architecture cut straight from the rock face
If you fancy tackling another list after this take your pick from the New 7 Wonders of Nature, New 7 Wonders Cities and even such things as the Seven Wonders of the Underwater World and the Seven Wonders of the Industrial World. Here is just one of those for you in brief –
New 7 Wonders of Nature
Iguaza Falls – Brazil and Argentina
Halong Bay – Vietnam
Jeju Island – South Korea, East Asia
Puerto Princesa Underground River – Philippines
Table Mountain – South Africa
Komodo Island – Indonesia
The Amazon Rainforest – predominantly Brazil but also Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana
8) Cage Dive with Great White Sharks
No matter what you tell people afterwards you will have a moment of total and complete gut-wrenching terror as you catch your first sight of an enormous great white shark making straight for you. You will in fact be very safely ensconced within a cage built to withstand every kind of onslaught (in most cases) but the fact remains you will be looking this majestic beast straight in the eye.
If such a thing features on your bucket list make sure you can claim your responsible traveller badge by only signing up with a tour operator who’s deemed to be conservation conscious. If one dive just isn’t enough, there are places such as Isla Guadalupe in Mexico, for example, where you can opt into a six day package of great white experiences and viewing.
Where to go in the world to cage dive with great white sharks – South Africa, Australia, Mexico and New Zealand. If you have the steel to go cage free you can do this in the Bahamas.
9) Learn to Speak Another Language
According to those who spend their time compiling such data, this is one of the top 10 bucket list entries ever. For those of us lucky enough to be born in the English speaking world we have at our fingertips a universal language. This can make native English speakers lazy or at worst a little arrogant – always expecting (and so often finding) fellow travellers and those within touristy areas speaking our language perfectly.
However, make the effort to learn another language and watch your travel experiences shift and morph into something else entirely; something which enriches and enhances our global wanderings by more than you could possibly imagine.
Often one of the cheapest ways to learn another language is to get travelling and out there among native speakers of our chosen second-language-to-be. And if you are really intent on making fast progress, classes, courses and tuition often cost next to nothing in some places such as Guatemala for Spanish learning for example. Here you can get 1:1 tuition for a week for less than some might spend on a meal back home.
Quite which language you plump for is up to you but Spanish is an especially popular choice because of course with that you can travel all of Central and South America (with the exception of Brazil) and speak the native language. It is actually the official language in 21 countries around the world. And here’s an interesting fact…if you can speak Spanish and English it is said you can communicate with more than 1 in EVERY 4 people on the entire planet (allowing for those who also speak those languages as both first and second languages).
10) Travel the World
If you eliminate the number one entry for bucket lists (which is apparently ‘become a millionaire’) the next most popular and commonly recurring one is ‘travel the world’. Maybe once upon a time this was almost as unachievable as becoming a millionaire but these days there is really no excuse not to tick this one off if it happens to be on your bucket list. Cheap airfares can be bagged in all kinds of ways, cheap accommodations options are everywhere from working for your bed and meals to hostels and home-stays, there are vast networks and resources for helping us plan every tiny detail and there are destinations in the world where we can live as cheaply for a year as we could for a month back home.
Don’t be one of those who ends up saying if only, and as you tick off item number ten you can also get cracking on some of those many other bucket-list items as you go too, which you’ll find dotted all over the planet!