Like it or not, you are going to die someday. Wait, don’t panic! And stop googling “cryogenic freezing.” You’re not Walt Disney, and what are the chances that it’s actually going to work and you’ll suddenly just wake up one hundred years after your demise?
However, with continuing advancements in medical science and technology, there is a great chance that you’ll live longer than those belonging to previous generations of humanity did, and you may also remain healthy and active well into your golden years.
Unfortunately, at one point or another we all must come to terms with our inevitable mortality. We’re only on this planet for a number of years, and in this fleeting time we’ve really got to make it count!
If you haven’t seen the eponymous movie, you are probably still familiar with the idea of a “bucket list.” It is a final directory of the places you simply must see and the things you must experience in order to feel that your life is complete and fulfilled. While you’ve probably already given some thought to your own personal farewell tour, I present to you my (very subjective) list of ten places that every human being should endeavor to visit before they expire.
Here they are, in no particular order. Let the debate begin.
1. New York City
The definition of a modern, cosmopolitan city and setting of countless stories and events that make up our popular cultural imagination, New York City is the pinnacle of all that is urban in the Western world. It is a forest of skyscrapers, endless life, activity, and opportunity from Broadway and Times Square to Central Park and the Empire State Building. You have to be a tourist in the Big Apple at least once in your life. If you can’t make it here, you really shouldn’t make it anywhere.
2. The Canadian Rockies
If you go straight by the numbers, there are more impressive mountain ranges on Earth. The Andes cover more ground, and the Himalayas are higher than their North American cousins. All provide a humbling experience that makes you take notice of your insignificance on this planet, but few ranges can legitimately go face to face in a beauty contest against the Canadian Rockies. Visit Alberta’s beautiful Banff National Park for picture-postcard peaks or Jasper National Park for a less touristy, more laid-back mountain experience.
Arguably the most important city in human history, Jerusalem is hallowed ground for three major world religions and their associated branches and sects. Must-see spots include the Dome of the Rock to the Western (Wailing) Wall. Even if you’re not a devout follower, a touristic pilgrimage to Jerusalem is certainly worth the effort.
Imagine a country with one billion more people than in the United States. There are presently four times as many people in China than there are in the United States, and about forty times more Chinese citizens than Canadians. The future belongs to China, and looking toward the future, I have selected China’s modern economic powerhouse of Shanghai over its capital and administrative seat, Beijing. Shanghai’s location on the über-populous east coast also provides easy access to traditional water towns like Tongli and Zhouzhuang—a serene, peaceful juxtaposition from the noise, glass, and steel of Shanghai.
Romance, beauty, history, culture: Paris really does offer a visitor everything they could ever want in one chic, sophisticated package. You cannot legitimately call yourself well-travelled if you don’t have a favorite arrondissement or café. If you haven’t shelled out big dollars to stay in a little hotel room the size of a closet with a striking view of the Eiffel Tower, you can hardly call yourself a true tourist. Give yourself lots of time to take in all the ooh la la sites in Europe’s most iconic city.
6. Amazon Rain Forest
Vast and teeming with life, the Amazon is an unfathomably large, green expanse that dominates much of South America. The tremendous array of flora and fauna that exists within the wet, dense, jungle humbles visitors and really makes one aware of the microscopic space they occupy in the world outside their cozy comfort zone. Those looking to take a river cruise deep into the heart of the jungle often depart from Manaus, Brazil; but a similar rain forest experience can be had further inland within the Amazon basin via Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado, Peru.
7. The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon may perhaps be the world’s most famous hole in the ground. Like many of the entries on this list, you must see it in person to truly appreciate its scope and grandeur. Being dragged on a family road trip to the Grand Canyon has become somewhat of a cliché for many Americans, but that should not be a deterrent to visiting this awe-inspiring sight. If all that rock and dry air has grown old, cruise on over to the bright lights of nearby Las Vegas—the “Entertainment Capital of the World”!
8. The Maldives
The Maldives is the quintessential deserted-island paradise (well kinda). Tourism, particularly luxury tourism, is now flourishing in this small island republic of atolls and reefs. Remote, exotic, and still relatively unspoiled, treat yourself to an exclusive vacation experience here at one point in your life, and you’ll glad you left the all-inclusive resorts behind.
9. The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Sometimes where you’re going isn’t as important as how you get there. The real experience is the journey and not the destination—even though the destination itself is truly unforgettable as well. This challenging four-day trek takes active travelers past Incan ruins, mountain passes, and high-altitude cloud forest to South America’s most famous archaeological site. Get up before sunrise on the last day and beat the crowds of day-trippers. During a rare moment when you find yourself alone amongst the ruins, you truly feel like a modern-day explorer, such as Henry Bingham, who rediscovered the lost city in 1911.
10. Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti
Hemmingway noted that Kilimanjaro was “as wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun.” You certainly don’t have to climb this mountain, the highest peak in Africa and tallest freestanding mountain in the world, but it’s truly an amazing visual image to witness the snowcapped mountain rising from the flat plains that surround it. Being that you’re already in the neighborhood, top those childhood visits to the zoo with a magnificent safari in the Serengeti, Masai Mara, or Ngorongoro conservation areas.
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons