Almost everyone has a bucket list.
A list of things they want to do or goals they want to reach before they die. For some, they actually construct a tangible list. For others, the goals and dreams are simply kept tucked away in their minds.
Travelers have these lists, too — collections of places they want to visit, experiences they want to have, and things they want to see all around the world.
I have a bucket list, too. My list contains everything from seeing the touristy sites in London to exploring the ruins of Petra, with tons of other things in between. And while I have typical “must-visit” destinations on my list, like Italy, Greece and France, I also have some less popular destinations in mind that my friends and family may not know about.
Though, perhaps “less popular” is an inaccurate phrase. “Less desireable to the average American” is probably more apt, because these are not your typical vacation destinations.
So here are my top 5 “less desireable to the average American” places that I want to visit:
My secret love affair with Turkey (and much of Eastern Europe, for that matter) began back when I was in college and reading a book called “The Historian” by Elizabeth Kostova. The plot of the story blends the history and folklore of Vlad Tepes and his fictional equivalent Count Dracula in a story that is all at once thriller, historical fiction, travelogue and love story. While the story takes place all over the world, very important parts of it happen in Istanbul.
Kostova can evoke a sense of place in her writing better than any other author I know of, and, after reading “The Historian,” I found myself longing for the markets and mosques of Istanbul.
In the years since first falling in lust with Istanbul through writing, I have discovered other things I'd like to see and do in Turkey, as well. Yes, I want to visit the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque and wander through Istanbul's famous spice market, but I also want to float in a hot air balloon over Cappadocia, sail down the Bosporus, and maybe even visit the ruins of Troy.
My weird interest in Romania also stemmed from “The Historian,” I think. While I'm not wild about contemporary vampire stories, historical ones (along with the folk tales that go along with them) can still hold my attention. And there's evidence to suggest that the vampire myth as we know it has roots in Romanian folklore.
I love the idea of exploring the Carpathian mountains, traveling to Transylvannia, and visiting castles in Wallachia. The most popular is Bran Castle, near the small town of Brasov. I would also love to experience some authentic Romanian culture, as it seems to be really unique.
I realize that Romania isn't exactly on most people's lists. Romania did not rebounded from communism very well, still ranks as one of the worst countries in Europe when it comes to healthcare, and harbors a poor rural population. But I don't care; I still want to go there.
I had never really considered Croatia very much until I saw some photos a friend took there a few years ago. I had no idea Croatia had such beautiful beaches. Or mountains. Or castles. Or all-around amazing scenery. But it does.
I want to visit the capital city of Zagreb, see the Roman-influenced architecture in coastal Split, perhaps while away a few days in on the becahes of Hvar, and explore the fortified city of Dubrovnik.
It seems like Croatia, with its varied climates and landscapes, has a heck of a lot more to offer than I ever realized. I have a feeling I could easily fall in love with this country.
While Thailand likely shows up on just about every backpacker's list during a RTW trip, I feel like the greater tourist population often overlooks it. At the very least, it's not somewhere my family ever considered for a holiday getaway.
But the more I read about Thailand on various blogs, and the more photos I see of it, the closer I get to throwing sanity to the wind and buying myself a one-way ticket to Bangkok. That ticket itself may cost an armful, but I know that living in Southeast Asia is incredibly cheap. Like, meal-for-$1, guest-room-for-$4 cheap. Sounds perfect.
I want to experience the frenzy that is Bangkok. I want to see gorgeous temples and lots of golden Buddhas. I want to zip around on a motorbike. I want to relax with the travel community in Chiang Mai. I want to see some elephants. And then I want to laze around on one of the many breathtaking Thai beaches, watching amazing sunsets.
The last place on my list is the one that has probably held its position here the longest. I have no idea what draws me to South Africa, but I know I've wanted to go there for years.
Part of it could be the fact that South Africa boasts a couple of huge activities that are on my bucket list — safaris and cage diving with Great White sharks. … And no, I promise I don't have a death wish.
I also really want to visit Cape Town and climb up Table Mountain, perhaps partake in some adventure sports, and, of course, catch a game of rugby. (Though, sorry South Africa — if you're playing new Zealand, you should know up front where my loyalties lie. Hint: Not with you.)
Have you been to any of the countries on my list? If so, tell me something about them! If not, do any of these places appear on YOUR bucket list?