10. Bali, Indonesia
Many people say that Bali suffers from too much tourism, people undoubtedly seeking their own “Eat, Pray, Love” experience, and that it is no longer the tropical paradise it used to be. Now its streets are filled with Circle K’s, taxi cabs and people trying to sell you stuff. I would argue, however, that you don’t go to Bali to get that tropical island beach getaway like some might think. In fact, once we’re there I’m not sure we’ll be spending much time at the beach at all (we will certainly have had our fill of beaches by then anyway). I’m interested in biking through the rice fields, sleeping in bamboo treehouses, having dinner on the edge of a live volcano, explore Balinese temples and embracing the Balinese culture. I can relax on the beach anywhere, why not embrace some of the activities unique to the island. I think that Bali will be an adventure, and while the rest of Indonesia may be more relaxing and not as overrun with tourists, it will still be an experience I won’t soon forget.
9. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam has long been on my radar as a travel destination, seemingly the ideal destination for the European backpacker. Famous for its coffee shops, canals, smart bars, and red light district, it seems oddly debaucherous and quaint at the same time. I like the concept of seeing how cities operate under different rules and restrictions; does smoking marijuana while drinking beer in a bar really change the experience all that much? I suspect not. But a city that has grown accustomed to having different freedoms is also going to have a different feel about it. I’m not so looking forward to the damage Amsterdam is going to have on my wallet and I don’t think the Dutch food will blow our minds, but this doesn’t change the fact that it belongs on the list.
8. Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul was on our list for this trip when we first started creating it a few years ago and we were both so disappointed to have to pass on it. I’m sure we could still go and things would probably be okay, but it doesn’t make sense to take any risks when we have so many other options. I do hope that someday we can check it off our list because this city seems incredible; the capital of four different empires over the course of 2500 years, there is so much history here. They say Istanbul is where the East meets the West, a true cultural melting pot, I can’t wait to finally take it all in. Even if you aren’t so interested in the culture and history, the food and nightlife in Istanbul are also top notch according to many travelers I have spoken to. Next time.
7. Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
The king of all fisherman villages, Ha Long Bay has long been what I think about when discussing what to see in Vietnam. I’d love to spend time kayaking around the bay, checking out the small villages and peeking into the life of the Vietnamese fisherman. I cannot wait to spend a day on a brightly colored junk, floating around the bay and admiring the natural beauty that pervades this place. I hope we find a very quiet kind of peace here when we visit, it will be much needed after so much of the daily chaos that comes from backpacking.
6. Seoul, South Korea
Seoul is arguably the most hi-tech city in the world, and for that reason alone I think it would be an incredibly interesting place to visit. What puts it on this list, however, is everything else that is within an arm’s reach. Thanks to their incredible public transportation system, we’ll be able to go hiking in a national park, visit Gyeongbokgung Palace, and watch an eSports tournament all in the same day. With so many attractions dotted in and around the city, I think our time here will fly by. With that being said, the food will almost certainly be the highlight of our trip to Seoul. My favorite type of Asian food (Indian as a strong second), I will cram as much kimchi down my throat as humanly possible. Here’s to hoping I don’t put on a “Korean 15.”
5. Siem Reap, Cambodia
The Siem Reap province of Northwestern Cambodia is home to the ruins of Angkor, and a place that I’ve heard so much about from everyone who has been. I’m not sure whether it’s overrated or underrated or somewhere in between, but I can’t help but get excited about the prospect of trekking around thousand year old ruins at dawn. Right now I’m just learning how to properly use my DSLR, but by the time that sunrise shot over Angkor Wat comes around I best be ready (surely along with hundreds of other people). And when we’ve had enough of the temples, I don’t think the rest of Siem Reap will disappoint. Night markets, ATV tours and stellar food (Cambodian food showcases traditional Khmer dishes with French influence), Cambodia should prove itself to be a worthwhile stop.
4. Galapagos Islands
I’ve always had a fascination with evolution and Darwin, so the Galapagos is a natural inclusion on this list. And unlike all of the other places, there is just one sole reason I want to go: the wildlife. There is only one spot on the planet that offers this kind of flora and fauna, and I need to see that with my own eyes. I expect a visit to the Galapagos would be an intense and transformative learning experience, a way for us to get more in tune with nature and life as we know it. It sounds cheesy, but for me this is the ultimate bucket-list vacation spot, if you could even call it a vacation. Unfortunately, taking any kind of extended stay there is incredibly expensive, so this destination will have to wait a while, but rest assured I’ll be crossing it off eventually.
3. Berlin, Germany
Berlin is my undisputed top place of interest in Europe and for a good many reasons. Let’s start with the history: Berlin is the mecca of recent European history, particularly the 20th century. There is nowhere else in the world you can learn as much about World War 2, whether it be from scars actually remaining from Communist Berlin or their world class history museums. Their food: Berlin boasts such a huge variety of cuisines due to the fact that it is so multicultural. Many immigrants have taken their own traditional cuisine and blended it in with modern French or Asian, and then added an at-home German twist. Not sure where else you can experience something like that. I’m even excited just for the late night kebabs! And how can you talk about Berlin without talking about the nightlife: Berlin has the most insane clubs in the world and I can’t pretend like I’m not excited to check some of them out. I’m not even a club person, but the allure to places like Berghain (100% not cool enough to get in) cannot be denied. I hope that I can say that Berlin meets the hype next month, cannot wait.
I will admit that a documentary called 180° South got me hooked on this place and I haven’t been able to shake it from my mind since. When it comes to really experiencing the great outdoors, I’m not sure anything tops Patagonia for me. Whether it be whale watching in Puerto Madryn, hiking around El Chaltén, exploring Cueva de las Manos, or just relaxing in Camarones, this place seems to have it all. We aren’t going to Patagonia or anywhere in South America on this current trip, but that is totally ok. I want to save our trip to Patagonia for when I have much more experience and can take advantage of everything it has to offer. In the documentary, Jeff Johnson retraces the 1968 trip that Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins took to Patagonia, showing how people can get obsessed and enraptured with wanderlust throughout the movie. It may even just be an idea or a goal one comes up with, but sometimes it becomes impossible to let that go. We took the plunge for this 13 month trip across two continents, Patagonia represents the extra leap I’d like to make someday in the future.
1. Tokyo, Japan
While I am certainly no weeaboo or japanophile, I have long had a desire to spend a significant amount of time in Japan. I want to see it all, not just Tokyo, but Tokyo seems easiest to put it down on this list because it is the most inclusive of everything I want to see and do in Japan. I think Japan has the perfect blend of everything that is important to me. The people are polite, respectful,and tidy, yet not afraid to get a little weird. The food is outstanding, whether it be sushi, noodles or kobe beef. The bath houses, arcades, shopping malls, bullet trains, even futuristic TOILETS - Japan speaks to me in a way that other countries do not. I cannot wait to climb Mt. Fuji next July, go to Tokyo Disneyland, buy only from vending machines for a day, and detox in a bath house only to go rage in Shinjuku until 8 am. Japan seems like a place where I will never feel like more of a foreigner, yet also oddly at home. Maybe my kind of weird won’t mesh with the Japanese kind of weird, but I have high hopes for this last stop on our trip.
All photos provided by Pixabay.com