Audience Participation: The List

I’ve always wanted to know the story behind this picture.

Much as I love the sound of my own voice (or the look of my words on a page), I started writing this as a way to encourage people to travel more and travel more widely. So let’s talk about what’s on your list. Don’t worry, I’ll start you off with some of my words.

When I was a teenager, there was one place on The List: Rome. I was a classics nerd and a Latin student and Rome was the pinnacle of travel goals. When I went at 17, I was not disappointed. Rome sated my ancient stuff desires and provided the romanticism I was seeking. When I returned 5 years later, my priorities had shifted, and my appreciation for Rome was compromised by my inability to find “the REAL Rome.” The city is gorgeous and filled with things to see and do and I couldn’t figure out where the Romans were (my fault, not Rome’s). That summer, in which I traveled widely in Europe and a little in North Africa, changed what my travel goals were to some extent: I wanted to get to know the places I went, not just see them. Of the many memories I cherish from that summer were the evenings we spent in Essaouira, Morocco, talking long into the night with the proprietor of a restaurant, the name of which has been lost to memory, along with my wallet that had the business card.

[Note: I recently went back to look at the photos I took that summer on a camera that had film. They are, to the last photo, blurry. I will not be scanning and uploading them. You would have nearly no idea what you were looking at.]

Leaving the tourist circuit behind is a difficult choice. How many times will you reasonably expect to visit a place and can you really afford to not go see a major attraction? I feel that acutely. It took me 3 visits to Paris before I braved the Louvre. But I have the luxury of knowing I will visit France many, many times in my life: my goddaughter is French. I visit her. I always tack on a couple of days in Paris. When I visit Paris, I pick one or two things I’d like to visit – the last trip it was…oh wait, nothing. I was in Paris last year on the most perfect spring weekend, a weekend during which it would have been almost a sin to be indoors – so I walked, I outdoor cafe-d, I struck up conversations with people at restaurants, I went in search of the perfect baguette with ham and cheese (still haven’t found it – have eaten a lot of B+/A- ones, but the A+++ is still out there). Fine. The time before that, we finally made it to the Pompidou and the Catacombs (definitely do the former, you can skip the latter). Despite having been to Paris more than half a dozen times, I have yet to go to Pere Lachaise, the Musee Branly, Palais Garnier, or made the trip out to Versailles. But the 2 hours I once spent drinking citron presses and people watching in the Tuileries are 2 hours I wouldn’t trade.


In fairness, on a short trip, you’re unlikely to make meaningful connections with locals or really understand what makes a place tick, but the glimpses I get may well be, at this point in my life, more important than crossing another museum off my list.

I do, actually keep a The List. The next 20 places I’d like to go. Last year, Namibia was the place on the list we visited; this year, though, we called an audible with Sudan – it hadn’t been on the list. I am actively pursuing a November trip and all of the options are The List locations.

The List has its challenges: New Zealand, for example, is a place that needs more time than we currently have. Even two weeks doesn’t feel sufficient. Rwanda, which we could competently visit in 10 or so days, will be very expensive as we want to go gorilla tracking. I understand why it’s expensive, and I support it being expensive, it’s just, at the moment, more expensive than I can swing.

Having The List is important to me. I have visited a number of places I would happily return to: it’s been 20 years since I was in Morocco, I’d love to see it again; we just got back from Namibia and I would go back in a heartbeat; that dive trip to Mozambique…I can’t stop thinking about doing that trip again (with fewer broken cameras); and don’t even get me started on how much more Malaysia there is that I want to see. But I am all too cognizant of the fact that time is a limited resource and there’s a lot of world I still want to see. The List reminds me how much I am looking forward to Turkey (I am not counting our 12 hours in Istanbul as a trip to Turkey), Sri Lanka, Colombia, and diving in Indonesia. It challenges me to risk the unexpected at the expense of the comfortable. The List reminds me why I like to travel in the first place.

Dahab, I want to dive you again now that I know wtf I’m doing.

So it’s your turn. Tell me some places on your list. Tell me why you put them on the list. Tell me if you’re planning on going any time soon and, if not, tell me what’s stopping you. I promise, I can learn to shut up and listen for a spell.


9 thoughts on “Audience Participation: The List

  1. So many places!
    – Scandinavia (I know that’s a vast area) to see the northern lights
    – South Africa: I have only ever been to Northern Africa and I would love to see Cape Town based on friends’ feedback
    – India: Again, a vast area, but I’ve heard good things and would love to explore the country (slightly apprehensive about the food because I sometimes find mild food spicy, I’m that person)
    – Australia/ New Zealand: would love to spend a month or more exploring this part of the world for the nature and wildlife especially, but first I have to find the time
    – Russia: it has always seemed like a mysterious place to me and so opposite from the US that I think it would be fascinating to visit

    No trips planned at the moment because of $$ but hopefully soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is a fabulous list, thank you for sharing!

      As I’m about to return to South Africa, I have to admit that I’ve never even been within a day’s drive of Cape Town and I have also heard amazing things. I theorize that one day we will do a trip that starts in Cape Town and takes us through Southern Namibia which we didn’t get to visit.

      And the rest of your list is a big doughnut hole for me too. A friend just returned from Iceland where he got to see the Northern Lights, and I’ve been thinking that’s something I could do in a long (4-day) weekend as the flight from New York is about the same amount of a time as a flight to the west coast.

      I’m trying to be more mindful of how I spend money. The more I think about it, the more I realize travel is the priority for me, despite it not, at all, being an instant gratification kind of purchase. To take the trip to South Africa, I’ve sworn off a lot of the smaller things I tend to buy without thinking – I’m looking at you Sephora everything – because those little purchases add up. Or thinking about how a thousand dollar plane ticket (which gives me lots of destination options) is $20/week – aka 4 Starbucks somethingccinos, 1.5 lunches I don’t bring from home, 1.5 cocktails after work (New York prices, people – I realize that the $14 sweetgreen and the $15 cocktail sound ridiculous – but they are often things the New York working woman plops down money for without really thinking). If one cuts all three things out – that’s $3,000 in a year which could make for a pretty spectacular trip.


      1. That’s so true about the money (also, NY prices are totally insane).

        I recently started using a budget app to help keep track of my spending and see where I can save. I’ve always preferred spending money on experiences i.e. travel rather than on material things.

        Can’t wait to hear about your trip to Joburg!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember reading your list the first time around, and the second reading was even better. I love how your list is experiential – there are specific things you want to do in specific places. My current list isn’t the “bucket” type, it’s more geared towards where should we go next (even if some of them will get done towards the end of the list because of time and money constraints), but I do have a bucket list, and I guess I’ll now have to plan a future post where I talk about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Soooo many places, so little time (why don’t I have endless PTO?!) and budget! Plus, there’s the whole balancing act of new vs return trips. I like what you said on Insta about your 2:1 rule; may have to implement that. I’m also trying to do at least one overseas trip per year, but that may not always be realistic (I’m looking at you, expensive-ass new boiler). Anyway, on to The List!

    * Germany at Christmas. My maternal grandparents are German, and I have a ton of nostalgia wrapped around German Christmas traditions. Plus, wurst. And German pastries. This is very likely next on the list. Hopefully this Christmas!
    * Tierra del Fuego. Glaciers and wildlife and the edge of the world! Also, as close to Antarctica as possible without the actual hassle, danger, and expense of Antarctica.
    * Svalbard. Glaciers! Arctic wildlife! Northern Lights! Probably not super likely, what with the exorbitant prices and “don’t leave the main city without a guide packing heat” and climate change really effing the place up. . . .
    * Lapland. I really like cold places, okay?! Also, again, Northern Lights. Been to Iceland twice and still didn’t see them, so maybe I’d have better luck elsewhere near the Arctic circle?
    * Denmark/Norway. I’m a huge fairy tale buff (okay, nerd). Also, pretty cool Viking history. And glaciers, whales, seals, etc. And again, Northern Lights and cold places. All hygge all the time!
    * Romania. Medieval storybook towns and castles, excellent history/architecture, beautiful forests and insane hiking.
    * Ethiopia. 3-million-year old archaeology, stunning lakes and waterfalls and really cool wildlife.
    * New Zealand. Beauty in every direction and pretty much all of earth’s geological features in one place (especially stoked on the bioluminescent caves). Fairly confident I’d never come back home.
    * Japan. Stunning landscapes, excellent sushi, tea, zen gardens, shrines. . . .

    There’s more, many more, but these are highest on my personal list. Of course, my partner’s top 10 looks a little different (at least in terms of trips we’re likely/able to take in the next few years), so that’s another type of balancing act as well. He should probably get to pick the next 3, since I picked the last overseas adventure and the next “big” domestic one!


    1. This list is outstanding. I obviously disagree with your prioritization of cold places because COLD, but I would sneak into your luggage for any of these trips (provided the luggage was full of fleece and fur hats).

      Ethiopia is not currently on my list, but when I discovered that if I get to Ethiopia, I will be able to say I can trace a north-south route through Africa of contiguous countries I’ve visited…well, let’s just say its listiness got a boost.

      As for co-prioritization, one of the things I’m looking to do over the next several years, is take some solo trips where I can for places that are on my list, but not his. Lebanon, for example, is a place I very much want to go. There’s a possibility I had distant relatives who live there, tons of history, all reports say Beirut is an amazing city, etc. Obviously, this will be made a lot easier by, let’s say, a raise, but wouldn’t that make everything easier? I’m the travel planner in the household (as if you couldn’t guess), but I’m also extremely mindful of us being a partnership with equal say. I will generally suggest several places, accompanied by rudimentary itinerary and costing, and see what strikes his fancy. Namibia, for example, happened because we were all set to go to Thailand when he finally admitted that, while he knows he wants to go, he just wasn’t “feeling it,” to which I replied, “well, what do you want to do instead? Rent a truck and drive through Namibia?” His eyes lit up, he said, “yes,” and I was off to the races planning that trip.


      1. Fleece and fur AND all the handknits!

        I get so much side-eye when I talk about Ethiopia and Romania, but just Google image search them and try to not be wowed! I must admit, Africa had fallen completely off my list because of my general inability to tolerate warm temperatures, but reading about your wonderful adventures and seeing your amazing photos really rekindled my excitement!

        Solo travel is an excellent idea! We already do that domestically, so we should keep it in mind for international trips as well. It’s hard when you really enjoy each other’s company, though, and are super stoked on new adventures in general!


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