travel destinations

While you’re at your day job, you’re dreaming about the beach, right? At some point, however, you’ll need a better story than just laying on the beach for a week, and this is where you start making your travel bucket list.

Making a list like this can be overwhelming. So many people have opinions on what should be on the list, and it can be hard to narrow things down. Here’s something to keep in mind.

A good travel bucket list includes three parts: learning to do something new, experiencing something new, and doing something challenging. These three elements give you a well-rounded list that changes your worldview and possibly your life. Let’s take a look at a few choices in each category.

Learn Something New:

  1. Learn to cook in Thailand

Take a cooking course that incorporates Thai food into a way of life. There are organic farms that offer classes to people who are interested in traditional food and who want to experience Thai culture. Some of them include yoga lessons, working on the farm, and many times there are opportunities to hear music and experience local handicrafts.

This is not your five-star cooking tour, but it is a chance to eat amazing food within the context it was created. You’ll have intimate conversations and learn to understand the Thai way of life.

  1. Learn the Icelandic Language

Iceland is the land of literature, volcanos, and Bjork. Its language has roots to one of the oldest languages spoken in the world, and students who want a good story (and to say a few cool things) can study the Icelandic language while traveling.

A few Icelandic universities offer crash courses in Icelandic in which students can stay with a host family, and spend a week traveling and practicing the language they’re learning. It’s not about practical language skills. It’s about taking the time to connect to a rich, misunderstood culture.

Experience Something New:

  1. Japanese Heritage Sites

Japan is so much more than Tokyo and Anime. It’s an ancient culture full of heritage sites, a deep reverence for nature, and the quiet way of the ancient Emperors. Taking a tour off the beaten path in Japan reveals beautiful landscapes and thousands of years of culture.

Take the traditional pilgrimage route Kumano Kodo in the sacred mountains of the Kii Peninsula with one of the Japanese tour packages and experience what the ancient emperors saw as the traveled to the holy shrines. Find a tea ceremony and stay in traditional mountain inns.

  1. See the Northern Lights

You didn’t think you’d get away without this on the list, did you? This spectacular sight has been drawing visitors for ages, and you can’t finish life without experiencing it.

The Northern lights are tricks of the sun and atmosphere, and getting there isn’t easy. You have to take flights far North, and the best time to go is during the coldest, darkest part of the year. If you come prepared, you’ll be rewarded with a sight that everyone knows, but few have seen.

You can see the lights in many Northern locations including Alaska, Norway, and other parts of Scandinavia. All of these places offer vast wilderness tours and some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

Do Something Challenging:

  1. Son Doong Cave

The largest cave in the world is located in Vietnam, and rappelling through its wonders is challenging but pays off in amazing stories. It’s located in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, and tours offer excursions to explore the park and ultimately the cave itself.

It’s a challenge to trek through the heat of Vietnam, but reaching the cave, you’re greeted by the cold rush of air. The cave is so large a 747 jet could fit inside. It was discovered in the 90s by a local man, but it is still an untapped nature reserve meaning you could have much of the cave all to yourself.

  1. Motorcycle through Bhutan

Bhutan is the ultimate lost paradise. It only admits a small number of foreigners at a time to travel within its borders, so much of the country’s original culture remains intact. The country is small, and going on a motorcycle tour from one border to another is a wonderful way to experience its beauty.

You have to go with a guide, but there are plenty of tour operations to choose from. You’ll visit heritage sites, stay in local hotels, and have traditional food. Since very few people ever visit Bhutan, you’ll be the only one with stories from this far away paradise.

Bhutan is one of the few places working to combat globalization. This work means you never have the sense of being a tourist within its borders, and what you experience is authentic culture.

Bonus Trip: Space Tour

Virgin Galactic is the first of its kind to offer commercial flights to space. It’s not cheap at $250,000, but the chance to experience weightlessness and see the world from the vast blackness of space might be worth tapping into a retirement account. As space travel gets easier, the ticket prices will probably come down, meaning that you might get a chance sooner than you think, and for a better price.

Passengers travel with trained astronauts who first fly into the upper atmosphere, and then leave just outside the earth’s atmosphere. They do their best to capture the sorts of views you expect from space, the sight of the moon, the blue curve of the earth, as well as the view of dark space beyond.

Whatever trip you choose, your bucket list should capture who you are as a person and what impact you want to leave on the world before you die. Don’t just lie on the beach every vacation for the rest of your life. Make an effort to get out and learn, experience, and challenge yourself so that you live a life without regret.

Do you have a bucket list trip not on the list? How do you plan to make your dream come true? Let us know in the comments.

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