PUTTING TOGETHER a bucket list of 100 things to experience before you die is tough — there are just so many cool things out there to see and do and experience. I had to leave a few things out, but in general I tried to include activities ranging from the obvious to the obscure, and the sublime to the ridiculous. And they all gotta be done!
1. Visit Socotra island off the coast of Yemen, which is an international biosphere reserve, and has been called the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean. Home to dragon blood, frankincense and myrrh, and both Thomas the Apostle and Sinbad the Sailor are said to have visited.
2. Try WWOOF-ing in Australia. This isn’t about communing with dogs, but trading your labor for board and lodging as a Willing Worker On an Organic Farm.
3. Go to Iceland: glaciers, volcanoes, whale watching, and the Northern Lights. ‘Nuff said.
4. Visit Syria and travel into the desert to experience Palmyra, one of the lesser known ruins of the world.
5. See the world’s tiny nations and micro-nations. Once you’ve got the biggies under your belt, it’s time to check the dots on the map. Some are legit countries, some less so… which makes them all the more compelling.
7. Go skinny dipping at least once in your life. Whether it’s alone in the hotel pool at night, with a bunch of mates off a Greek beach, in hot springs or a cold lake, that liberating feeling of letting it all hang free is incredible. But remember, guys, cold water won’t do you any favors!
9. Travel to outer space, the ultimate item on every traveler’s bucket list. And here’s the thing: a handful of space tourists have already been, though you need around $20 million+ to do so. Here’s hoping prices come down a little soon, and someone works out a good carbon offset scheme.
11. Lose yourself in Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, the world’s largest salt flat.
13. Trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It may be a bucket list cliche but is certainly no walk in the park, and must rate as one of the most iconic walks in the world.
14. Crash the night in the Jumbo Jet Hostel in Sweden, or stay a while in another of the world’s most whacked out hotels – such as one totally built from ice, or one which is entirely underwater. I once stayed in Luke Skywalker’s house in Matmata, Tunisia, which was pretty cool.
15. Explore the stunning landscapes and Buddhist monasteries of Ladakh.
16. Learn to surf in Byron Bay. Putting on rubber masks of dead American presidents and robbing banks is optional.
17. Swim with dolphins and humpback whales off the coast of Madagascar whilst helping marine scientists with data collection. I’ve swum with dolphins in Marsa Alam – and believe me, those playful beasties rock.
18. Track down some Coast Redwoods in California, the tallest trees in the world. Over 100 metres tall, with trunks up to eight metres in diameter, some of these bad boys have been around since before the time of Jesus.
19. Bike the US for MS, from Yorktown to San Francisco, and help raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis research.
20. Get a job at a research station in Antarctica. It may be the coldest place on Earth, but at least there aren’t any polar bears.
21. Sip wine and watch the sunset in Hossegor, part of the longest uninterrupted stretch of sand in Europe. In 2009, it was voted one of the ten best beaches in the world by the Guardian newspaper. Definitely one to add to your bucket (and spade) list.
22. Browse the Iceland Phallological Museum, which is devoted to penises of all shapes, sizes, and species. One of the wackiest museums in the world, it should really be a “private members” club.
23. Witness climate change first-hand whilst hiking the Chacaltaya Glacier in Bolivia.
24. Visit Burma, but avoid lining the pockets of the military junta wherever possible.
25. Get off grid in Baja by pimping up a vintage travel trailer on the cheap, and let the road be your home.
26. Soak your cares away in a Japanese onsen. These natural hot springs are found all around the country, and in northern Honshu you could even end up bathing alongside the local snow monkeys!
27. Visit Afghanistan’s first national park.
29. Discover your own Machu Picchu in Peru.
30. Hitchhike around South Africa. I’ve hitched around Scotland and Syria, and from northern England to Amsterdam, but South Africa would be something else. Thumbing a ride is great fun, though of course there’s always an element of risk involved.
33. Travel the Trans Siberian railway, but do it independently so you have the flexibility to take some side trips.
34. Schlep out to the Siwa Oasis in Egypt, near to the Libyan border. Centuries of isolation have resulted in a unique, very traditional culture. The oasis and surrounding desert are stunning, there are hundreds of hot and cold springs, the people are friendly and – thus far – the development has been relatively restrained by Egyptian standards.
35. Enter the World Wife Carrying Championships in Finland, and carry your partner (you don’t have to be a couple) over a 250 meter obstacle course for the chance to win her weight in beer!
36. “Squeegee your third eye” in the Mexican desert. Psychoactive substances such as magic mushrooms, peyote, and ayahuasca can help you get new perspectives on life and act as powerful agents of healing.
Note: these substances are illegal in many countries, and Matador is not advocating you break any laws. Treat them with respect, and take them in an appropriate setting with an appropriate guide.
37. Do voluntary work in Pakistan with an organisation such as VSO or the UN. There are lots of good reasons for doing voluntary work, and loads of different projects you could get involved with.
38. Go winter wolf watching in Yellowstone National Park, and observe young males trying to join a pack in time for mating season.
39. Trek in the pristine mountains of Kyrgyzstan before the rest of the world cottons on to how beautiful the place is. 93% of the country is mountainous.
40. Chow down on some crunchy nasties in Bangkok, such as locusts, scorpions, and 10 cm-long water bugs. Pass the bucket!
41. See if Burning Man really does defy description. People who’ve been say so, but I’m not sure I buy that… and it’s a great excuse to go check it out.
42. Go wild on Tortola, home to the most notorious full moon party in the Virgin Islands.
43. Live the rural dream for a while, even if you’re actually a city slicker. There are loads of resources to help people take up urban homesteading, and you could even set up chicken coops in your backyard.
44. Hit the slopes of Grandvalira in Andorra – there’s almost 5000 acres of skiing, a handful of snow parks, and around 40 different restaurants to choose from.
45. Start your own frozen banana business in Costa Rica. Or any business, anywhere. Any business as long as it involves frozen bananas.
47. Camp out and soak up the stars in Pan de Azucar. This national park in Chile, where beautiful coastline meets Atacama Desert, is considered one of the world’s best stargazing destinations. Seeing the stars properly – really seeing them – can be totally mind blowing.
48. Dirt-bike your way to the remote hilltop temple of Preah Vihear in Cambodia. It’s an epic adventure that takes you way off the beaten path on treacherous roads, so make sure you know what you are doing, or hire a rider who does.
49. Cut loose at the New Orleans Mardi Gras, and make a hefty deposit into your indulgence and debauchery account.
50. Walk the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. Traditionally, the route began outside your front door, but many people choose to walk the 800 km long Camino Frances. I badly injured my knee en route, and had to hobble 700 kilometres using two sticks for support. People could always hear me coming, tap-tap, tap-tap, but the overall experience was magic.
51. Write a book. If you’ve always wanted to be a writer, or you feel that “one novel” inside you is bursting to be released, then go for it. You can publish it yourself if needs be. Just do it!
52. Traverse the world’s longest parallel sand dunes in the Simpson Desert, one of the many natural wonders of Australia.
53. Open your soul to the beauty of Tibet. The roof of the world is home to prayer wheels, yak butter, and the tallest mountain on Earth.
54. Start your own NGO and dedicate yourself to a cause you believe in. Sure, there will be plenty of challenges to overcome, but if you are passionate about making a difference, you can make it happen.
55. Learn a new craft, such as travel photography, kung fu, or juggling. And once you’ve got it, keep it – don’t let it wither away for years, like I did my juggling. (I’m sure you’ll be ecstatic to find out I did recently start again.)
56. Visit the Central and East Asian steppes of Mongolia, one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, and where many of the population still live a nomadic lifestyle.
57. Go hang gliding over Rio de Janeiro for a bird’s eye view of the city and its surrounds that you couldn’t get any other way. Perhaps best not to eat much beforehand, though.
58. Live or study abroad for a while. I’ve been a periodic expat for almost 10 years now. I really believe that immersion in a foreign culture is a great way to learn more about yourself, the world, and your place within it. It’s also far and away the best way to learn another language.
59. Eat a Goblin Cock in Chicago. Behave – that’s a heavy metal burger with a Chicago dog served on top, arguably one of the finest burgers in the world.
60. Watch the World Cup live in a host country. The 2014 World Cup is being held in Brazil, which coincidentally is also home to one of the world’s rowdiest soccer stadiums. See you there?
61. Take part in La Tomatina in Valencia, where 30,000-odd people have the mother of all food fights.
62. Travel wild on the African island of Madagascar, said to be home to 5% of the world’s plant and animal species. One word: lemurs!
63. Treat yourself to some “Viagra for hair” at Hari’s Salon in London. A true once-in-your-lifetime experience: the treatment is made from Aberdeen Angus bull semen. But the bull is organic, so that’s OK. Sometimes, being bald has its advantages.
64. Camp in the White Desert of Egypt. Yep, I’m biased toward Egypt, but not only are you among eerie, strange-shaped rock formations, you may wake in the middle of the night to a loving nibble from a desert fox. Deserts are harsh environments in which to camp, but the silence, the sense of space, and the stark terrain are profoundly beautiful.
65. Visit the rock-cut churches of Ethiopia, some of the world’s most spectacular places of worship.
66. Trek the mountains of Bhutan, a country increasingly opening up to tourism, for a great combination of scenery, spirituality, and exercise.
68. Go on a modern day treasure hunt by trying out geocaching. This is a real 21st Century sport, which everyone from GPS geeks to nature lovers can enjoy. Just remember, it’s 29.978134, 31.132507 that marks the spot.
69. Stay on a houseboat in Kashmir, a region with so much more to it than the violence the media portrays.
70. Visit the gorillas in Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans without breaking the bank.
71. Learn to dance Tango in Buenos Aires. So what if it’s a bit of a cliché? It’s a sexy cliché with rhythm, passion, and soul. Sign me up, two left feet and all.
72. Get physically as well as spiritually closer to the Gods by climbing Mount Fuji in Japan. It’s best to climb outside of peak season: it’s one of the most sacred mountains in the world, and everyone likes a good God/mountain combo.
73. Fling the fire at the Hifuri Shinji festival in Japan, where spinning torches (and setting Mount Aso Volcano alight) help ensure a good harvest.
74. Watch the flamingos gather in the shallows of Lake Nakuru. As well as up to two million of these crazy pink birds, you’ve got a good chance of seeing white and black rhinos in this Kenyan national park.
75. Jump off something really high in Interlaken, Switzerland – just make sure you have a long (but not too long) piece of elastic tied to your feet, or are strapped in to a parachute.
76. Learn to sandboard on Colarado’s Great Dunes, which is great if you like snowboarding but can’t be doing with the crowds and the cold.
77. Cosy up with your partner in Santorini, Greece – not only is it picturesque and very romantic, the sunset over the Aegean Sea is one of the most dramatic in the world.
78. Try mountain trekking in the Philippines to experience a totally different side of the country.
79. Go heli-skiing in Alaska in the Chugach Mountain Range. Spectacular mountains and tip-top conditions to enchant the hard-core snow blowers!
80. Hike the Appalachian Trail. Yep, all 2174 miles of it! It’ll take about six months, and might be just the time you need away from the office. And at least by the end you’ll be able to answer the question, “Do bears shit in the woods?”
81. Attend the Kumbh Mela in India, a massive Hindu festival where pilgrims bathe in the waters of the Ganges. Thousands of leery holy men and women engage in religious discussions and various off-the-wall devotional activities.
82. Witness the Serengeti to Masai Mara wildebeest migration from a hot air balloon. If you love balloons but are scared of heights (or wild animals), visit a hot air balloon festival instead.
83. Cycle through Cuba for a closer look at a contradictory nation. You might even pick up some Spanish along the way.
84. Explore the rainforests and mangrove swamps of Borneo, home to Bornean Orangutans, Asian Elephants, and Bornean Clouded Leopards.
85. Get naked in Cap d’Agde in France, the “world capital of nudism”, where nudity is legal in town as well as on the beach. If this is too much exposure, then work your way up to it by visiting another of the best nudist beaches in the world.
86. Learn to free dive and push your boundaries by seeing how far you can go on a single breath!
87. Explore the incredible untouched wilderness of Glacier National Park in Montana, and enjoy fantastic hiking, camping, fly fishing, and cross-country skiing.
88. Feel the burn in Death Valley – the lowest, driest, hottest place in North America.
89. Learn to cook traditional Chinese dumplings in Beijing, which is a lot harder than it sounds. Your first few will probably come out deformed, but hopefully they’ll taste OK!
90. Float around the Dead Sea in Jordan, where you really can sit up and read a newspaper. Covering yourself in “therapeutic” black mud is compulsory. Sticking your head underwater most definitely isn’t. And, best not to shave beforehand, ya know?
91. Visit Bali, a Hindu island in a predominantly Muslim country, and escape the tourists by heading inland.
92. Get off the beaten path in Columbia and discover deserted surf breaks, rainforest, desert, and savannah that you never knew existed.
93. Drink litre steins of beer and eat pork knuckles at Oktoberfest, the largest party in the world. Booze and music and roller coasters and leather shorts… what’s not to like about that?
94. Trek into the Annapurna Sanctuary in Nepal, an 8-10 day trek between Pokhara and the base camp of Annapurna I.
95. Cross country ski the trails of Yellowstone, keeping your eyes open for bison, elk, coyotes… and hot springs.
96. Zipline your way down to a tree house at Finca Bellavista, a sustainable development in the Costa Rican rainforest where people live in tree houses and stilt houses connected by footpaths and ziplines!
97. Live in La Paz, the highest administrative capital city in the world, and study Aymara, an indigenous language that may have been the secret language of the Incas.
98. Wrap your teeth around some rooster testicles in Taiwan.
99. Travel overland from South Africa to the Middle East, and take your time exploring this fascinating part of the world.
100. Buy a boat, learn to sail, and sail off into the sunset! It’s not so difficult or expensive as you might think. But if you really can’t afford it, learn a skill such as rigging a sailboat and you’ll be able to find work – and perhaps a ride – wherever you go.
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Nick lived in Egypt for six years, working as a tour leader, EFL teacher, city guide editor, and online guidebook writer. He's currently in San Francisco searching for his centre. He (kinda sporadically) blogs at Delicious Chaos, and you can follow him on twitter.