[Hispano hablantes: podes leer la nota en español.]
Editor’s Introduction – David Miller:
This July 4th we stood on a dock at Green Lake waiting for the fireworks to begin strobing the dark sky above Seattle. Except for the occasional pop of a bottle rocket, it was peaceful there, quiet. Our 9-month old daughter slept in her car-seat. My parents stood nearby holding hands. The water lapped against the dock pilings and nobody said anything.
As we kept looking skyward I had this strange thought that if everyone came out each night just to listen and watch the sky like this then the world would be different somehow. Better.
And then the fireworks started, far away, the muffled booms arriving several seconds after the flaring colors. Layla sensed the excitement and woke up and we lifted her to watch the display, her first. She smiled and reached her hands out as if trying to grab what she saw.
After it was over my mom said “Well, if she’s lucky she’ll have another 100 years of fireworks.”
It got me thinking about just what she might see in her lifetime, and what I’d still like to see in mine. There is so much out there, and on the other hand, so much less wilderness and wildlife. Sometimes it feels like we’re racing against time to experience something or somewhere before whatever it is that makes it special has been exhausted, used up, crowded out.
And yet the experiences we seek as “once in a lifetime,” the ones Josh Lew and other Matador community members have collected here, have a way of transcending time. Whether single events or processes that take weeks, months, or years, these experiences remind us that the world remains a magical place.
50 Things to do Before you Die
1. Set foot on each of the seven continents. Antarctica might seem like a tough one, but here’s how. Once you’ve reached all seven you can truly call yourself a world traveler.
2. Cross a country on a bicycle. A bicycle tour takes some planning, but it beats being separated from a country though a passenger-side window.
3. Ride something bigger than a horse. Trekking through the jungle on the back of a two story tall elephant will surely be something you remember forever.
4. Live like a local for a month. The experience of visiting native peoples will give you way more insight into another way of life than two years hopping from one backpacker ghetto to the next.
5. Visit a “real” blues bar in Chicago. What better way to leave music’s commercialism behind and find the soul of the blues?
6. Learn another language. This is definitely a weighty and time-consuming proposition, but there are plenty of resources out there to ease the process.
7. Go heli-skiing. The access to snow and terrain via heli is different (read: better) that anything else you’ll ever experience.
8. Travel India by train. With its extensive rail network, this mode of transport is the best way to see one of the world’s most colorful and diverse countries.
9. Climb one of the world’s Seven Summits. Climbing mountains is not for the faint-hearted, but everyone has had a dream of standing atop one.
10. Dive with a whale shark. Swimming with these gentle giants is among the most powerful wilderness experiences in the world.
11. Participate in a Carnival parade in Brazil. You haven’t had a good night out until you’ve been to the biggest party in a nation of big parties.
12. Dance Tango in Argentina.
13. Surf. It’s not about being a ripper but just catching waves.
14. SCUBA in the Great Barrier Reef. The largest coral reef in the world is a must for dive enthusiasts. It is the world’s most unique aquatic environment.
15. Publish an article about your travels. Part of traveling is sharing your experiences with others. Plus, getting published might be easier than you think.
16. Volunteer abroad for a month.
17. Follow in the footsteps of your favorite travel book. What better guide than a book that inspired you to travel in the first place?
18. Take a bush plane ride into Africa’s interior. These lightly visited regions are filled with unique cultures and diverse wildlife.
19. Cross a glacier on foot. Traversing these fast-disappearing natural wonders is an adventure that future generations might not be able to experience.
20. Visit the source of one of the world’s great rivers. Great rivers, like the Nile, have humble beginnings.
21. Climb an active volcano.
22. Buy a boat and learn to sail. Before the Brothers Wright, everyone traveled by wind power. It’s still the most sustainable way to travel there is.
23. Follow your food from field to table. Most people in the world still eat what they have picked with their own hands. Why not get back to these basics?
24. Bathe in the Ganges. What better way to experience the spiritual heart of India?
25. Travel around the world. Sure, you could do this without ever setting foot outside of planes and airports, but few people ever truly traverse the entire globe. Round the world tickets are great for budget-minded wanderers.
26. Photograph an endangered species. Aside from an image you can keep for a lifetime, it will remind you, and others, how fragile life can be.
27. Participate in Burning Man . As they say: “Trying to explain Burning Man to someone who has never been is like trying to explain color to a blind person.”
28. Spend 24 hours alone in the jungle.
29. Learn how to make a national dish. What is the one and only thing that everyone has in common? Eating.
30. Teach English in a foreign country. Sure, it’s a way to fund your travels, but also the experience of a lifetime.
31. Attend a music festival in another country.
32. Cross a country using only public transportation. See a country the way most of its people do: from the window of a bus, train, or ferry.
33. Spend the night in a storied/historic hotel. You might not even have to leave town to experience a night of classic atmosphere.
34. Attend the Olympics. Whatever you say about the commercialism of the Olympic Games, they are one of the biggest events on the planet.
35. Meet your favorite (living) travel writer. They’ve inspired you; now thank them for it.
36. Travel to Germany to experience Love Parade or one of the world’s other big festivals.
37. Partake in a Japanese Tea Ceremony. This timeless tradition is at the heart of Japanese culture.
38. Join a caravan in the Sahara. See how people can thrive in one of the world’s harshest environments.
39. Go to Oktoberfest. The meeting of over 6 million beer afficionados and drinking song singers is one of the biggest parties in Europe.
40. Stand at the North or South Pole.
41. Be in the stands when two rival South American club teams play each other in soccer. Soccer (sorry, football) is a passion for most of the world’s population.
42. Visit the birthplace or gravesite of a cultural icon. Could be Che Guevara or Picasso or Levi Strauss or the guy who invented widgets; anyone you think is important.
43. Find your version of “The Beach.” One of the best travel books ever inspired a generation of backpackers. Why not find your own version of untouched paradise?
44. Enjoy a freshly rolled cigar in Cuba. Taste a hand rolled specialty close to its source.
45. Visit every capital city in Europe. The crowded continent is full of beautiful architecture and diverse cultures.
46. Watch an orchestral performance in Vienna.
47. Skydive. It is the ultimate thrill, unless you add a wingsuit, and actually fly.
48. Bike the Pacific Coast Highway.
49. Shake hands with someone who has truly changed a country.
50. Participate in the world’s biggest water fight during Thailand’s New Year’s festivities (Songkran).
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Josh Lew has spent the better part of the last decade abroad. He pays his way by writing about travel and teaching English. When not traveling, he lives in worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s most non-exotic place: Minnesota.