juliamhammond

After 104 countries, can I still have a bucket list?

When you’ve travelled to over a hundred countries, people stop asking where you’d like to go and start commenting that you’ve been everywhere. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the majority of places that feature on most people’s bucket lists: watching elephants play on safari in Africa, exploring world-class ruins like Machu Picchu and Petra, photographing the Grand Canyon and watched a New York sunset from the top of the Empire State Building. I’ve added quite a few more of my own: walking with lions, getting drenched under Iguaçu, Victoria and Niagara Falls and standing on the crater rim of Mount Yasur as it erupted in front of me. I’ve ridden a camel, flown in a seaplane and baked French macarons, I’ve seen the Northern Lights, lazed on Caribbean beaches and nearly crashed a Segway. So what is left of my bucket list? Here’s my current top five:

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

The world’s largest salt flat, the Salar de Uyuni is a photographers’ playground. The flat surface of this dried up prehistoric lake blends seamlessly with the horizon, opening up countless opportunities for crazy perspective photos. Some of my favourites appear here: http://mashable.com/2013/10/22/salar-de-uyuni-instagram/ in times of flood, if the air is still, it seems to me like it could be the most beautiful place in the world.

Salar de Uyuni by Kuroiniisan reproduced under the Creative Commons Licence CC BY_SA 3.0

Salar de Uyuni by Kuroiniisan reproduced under the Creative Commons Licence CC BY_SA 3.0

Svalbard, Norway

Svalbard, or Spitsbergen, is a remote island in the Arctic, far north of Norway’s mainland and home to polar bears. Since reading Paddington as a kid, I’ve been mad about bears, and seeing a polar bear cub playing with its mother on the ice would be a dream come true. Watching Gordon Buchanan’s excellent Polar Bear Family and Me series on the Beeb, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01pyql5, only confirmed what I already knew; this would be an unforgettable experience.

Polar bear cubs by US Fish and Wildlife Service (in the public domain)

Polar bear cubs by US Fish and Wildlife Service (in the public domain)

Danakil Depression, Ethiopia

The hottest place on earth, and at this time, possibly one of the most dangerous, the Danakil Depression is one of the most tectonically active places on the planet: http://www.bradtguides.com/destinations/africa/ethiopia/danakil-depression.html. It will be a tough trek, but once the security situation has improved, I want to climb one of Africa’s most active volcanoes, Erta Ale, and see the lava lake that has been a permanent fixture there for over a century.

Lava lake at Erta Ale by Rolf Cosar reproduced under the Creative Commons Licence CC BY 3.0

Lava lake at Erta Ale by Rolf Cosar reproduced under the Creative Commons Licence CC BY 3.0

Dogon people, Mali

Visiting the masked dancers of the Dogon people who live in the central plateau of Mali has been on my wish list for several years. At present, the risk of kidnapping amidst political instability in the region has put paid to any definite plans, but I keep checking back on the FCO’s website just in case https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/mali. The lure of heading up the Niger River to the fabled city of Timbuktu and to Djenne with its mud mosques makes a trip to this West African nation a must, one day.

Dogon masked dancers by Devriese reproduced under the terms of the Creative Commons Licence CC BY 3.0

Dogon masked dancers by Devriese reproduced under the terms of the Creative Commons Licence CC BY 3.0

Jericoacoara, Brazil

I first caught sight of this beautiful beach when it was visiited by one of my favourite travel presenters, the affable Ian Wright, on an edition of Globe Trekker (read the programme synopsis at http://www.pilotguides.com/tv-shows/globe-trekker/series-01/north-east-brazil/). It’s a pig to reach, involving a long bus journey from Fortaleza, but this fishing village is a draw for its dunes and laid-back vibe. Distances in Brazil are huge, so I’d have to fly of course, but I’d like to combine it with the cobbled streets of Salvador at carnival time.

Room for one more at Jericoacoara beach by Nolispanmo reproduced under the terms of the Creative Commons Licence CC BY_SA 3.0 DE

Room for one more at Jericoacoara beach by Nolispanmo reproduced under the terms of the Creative Commons Licence CC BY_SA 3.0 DE

So tell me, what’s on your bucket list?

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3 responses

  1. Well, the answer is yes and no. If your aim is just collect countries like stamps, then yes. No, if You want deepen Your experiences within countries You already visited. My blog’s visitors have come from 188 countries around the world. How many countries I have visited, I never calculated, but not so many than You probably. I worked for an airline company nearly 40 years, so I have traveled “a little bit”.

    Now I have roamed during ten years my Finland from the South to the North, from the East to West and everywhere between them and I still have so much to find in my country when seeking hidden gems.

    Happy and safe travels!

    Like

    March 20, 2015 at 10:55 am

    • Happy and safe travels to you too, Matti. I wouldn’t consider myself a country collector; if I was, I wouldn’t have made 25+ trips to the States and numerous revisits to my favourite European destinations – I’d have used that money to go to a new country. The point of the blog was really to emphasise that no matter how well-travelled someone is, there are always more experiences, places and adventures out there waiting for you. I get so many people say that I must have run out of places I want to visit, that I wanted to write this to say no – I have all these new places to go to as well. Not all the bucket list items I feature are in “new” countries for me – I’ve been to Norway, to Brazil and to Bolivia before, but not to Svalbard or Jericoacoara or the Salar de Uyuni. So in response, I’d say don’t get hung up over the fact that you haven’t made it to 104 countries, the number is really unimportant, just enjoy your travels wherever you go, home or away.

      Like

      March 24, 2015 at 9:00 pm

  2. Pingback: Salt flat tours: Argentina vs Bolivia | Julia's Travels

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