Make The Most of Your Time On Earth, the latest offering from Rough Guides showcasing 1,000 “ultimate travel experiences” had me itching to hit the road again (as I knew it would) before I even cracked open its glossy enticing pages.
First of all, this isn’t your pocket-sized guide which you can tuck away nicely and carry along with you on your travels.
Weighing in at 3.6 pounds and measuring 9.3 x 7.6 inches in width and height, Make The Most is about the size of a small loaf of bread and looks quite sexy when stacked on a bookshelf or placed on a coffee table.
It’s also not a quick weekend read with 608 pages, but one that must be savored bit by bit whenever the travel bug bites and needs sating.
The travel candy within the book is organized by 21 regions such as Britain & Ireland, Southeast Europe, West Africa, and the Polar regions, which are then color-coded with three supporting indexes and a world map at the back of the book.
Each experience is numbered from 001 to 1000 so you can easily reference them. The indexes themselves are broken down by author, country, and theme (eating, clubbing, festivals, wildlife, and so forth).
What I Loved
Before digging into the book, I’d already started my mental checklist, trying to tally which activities or “experiences” I’d already enjoyed. After failing woefully under the very first chapter alone, I gave up counting and just buried myself in. What I really liked about Make The Most was the fact that the experiences were quite specific and pushed you a little further in terms of adventure.
Beyond just suggesting you visit the Swiss Alps before you die, it challenges you to go husky sledding specifically in the Swiss Alps. Experiences also range from sipping Turkish coffee to schlepping (well, trekking) across the Arctic Circle so there’s bound to be an activity that will appeal to you.
Here are just a few offbeat experiences:
311: Hiking in the Hoggar, Algeria
381: Visiting a western lowland gorilla rehabilitation center in Gabon
207: Snuffling for truffles in Piemonte, Italy
350: Take the plunge in the Bay of Ghoubet, Djibouti
160: Puffin and pantin’ in the Faroe Islands
471: Bedouin camping in Wadi Rum, Jordan
268: Horseback riding through snow in Transylvania, Romania
949: Watching whales in Kaikoura, New Zealand
845: Exploring Galle Fort’s Dutch heritage in Sri Lanka
163: Navigating a Swedish smörgåsbord in Sweden
And the list goes on and on.
The key is taking in each suggestion as a totally new experience even though you’ve done portions of it before.
For example, with regards to 986: Behold the Northern Lights in Northern Sweden, I’ve experienced Aurora Borealis in Iceland, but not in Sweden so technically that doesn’t count according to the book.
The point being that Make The Most gives you hundreds of exciting options which you can pick from “a la carte” style.
At the end of each region/chapter, you also get a dynamic listing of good-to-know tips, historical facts, and offbeat trivia.
This keeps the overall book fresh and interesting.
What I Didn’t Love
Tired of books that lazily lump regions within Africa into a generic “Africa” section, I was excited to see a West Africa category and quickly flipped there, specifically to Nigeria only to find one, yes! just one single travel experience (“soaking in Wikki Warm springs”) attributed to the entire country which also happens to be Africa’s most populous country at 150 million and counting.
How about taking a motorcycle taxi through Lagos traffic? Navigating an open air market like Balogun to shop for Ankara fabric? Visiting one of Lekki peninsula’s beaches? Dancing at legendary Fela Kuti’s Afrika Shrine dedicated to Afrobeat music? Visiting one of the country’s nature and wildlife reserves? Watching an authentic Nollywood movie at a bar?
I could go on and on. As with any volume or anthology which collects work from dozens of authors, you get a varying quality of information. Some popular countries like Italy, Spain, and the UK were exhaustively covered while a few far flung countries were only scratched.
Overall though, this book is a fantastic resource for the curious soul and I challenge Rough Guides to consider making a 2000 or even 5000 ultimate travel experiences version. Such a massive volume will instantly solidify this collection as the best on the market. Bar none.
While my travel for 2010 is currently winding down to two countries, rest assured, I’ve already started plotting out next year’s adventures, licking my thumb, and feverishly flipping through this book for suggestions.
But more importantly, Make The Most is a humble reminder of just how much there always is to experience in this astonishingly beautiful world, and how impossible it would be to accomplish it all within a lifetime.