When people hear that I’ve spent almost all my adult life working in the travel business, the response that I usually get is ‘You must have been everywhere then!’ and whilst I have travelled extensively over the course of the past 40 plus years or so, many of those trips have been back to the same countries so people like me invariably end up with anomalies in our travel cv’s. I’ve probably been to the States at least 30 times yet I’ve never been to Prague! I’m sure that I’ve been to Spain at least 50 times yet I’ve never visited Berlin. And so, it goes.
There are huge gaps in my travel experience: I have yet to visit Russia and Brazil even though I’ve been to out of the way places like Tahiti and Fiji. I have yet to visit Washington D.C., despite my 30 or more visits to the USA. It’s more than likely the same for most people. We tend not to have a grand plan when it comes to our travels around this wonderful world of ours. Travel plans happen for a multiplicity of reasons: opportunity, availability, serendipity, price, company (as in people), and business — in my case. Even seasoned travelers like me with over 70 countries under my belt have bucket lists of destinations that they simply must visit and without boring you with that long list, let me just cite the six (in no particular order) that sit at the top of that list:
I want to visit all these countries for very different reasons too! Japan has always fascinated me, and I’ve read a good bit about feudal Japan and its history. I am in awe of their sword-making skills and their culture is just so alien to ours and in so many ways. Where else in the world would activities like planing wood and precision walking be spectator sports? Antarctica is on the list for obvious reasons and the fact that I want to get up close and personal with some icebergs — ever since I saw my first one just off the coast of Newfoundland a few years ago. They’re unbelievably beautiful.
Madagascar is a huge country/island with an equally huge biodiversity in terms of both its flora and fauna and I’ll never forget the first image that I ever saw of a baobab tree which only grow in Madagascar. And anyway, aren’t lemurs simply the cuddliest creatures you’ve ever seen (along with Koalas of course!).
I’ve flown over Indonesia so many times whilst en route to New Zealand or Australia and have also visited many of its neighbours (Malaysia, Singapore, Borneo, The Philippines) but have never set foot on Indonesian soil. And the attractions there? Komodo island of course for its real-life dragons; for all those beautiful volcanoes and for its people and food. One of the most enjoyable books I ever read was about the spice wars between the Dutch and the British in what was then called the Dutch East Indies. All the world’s nutmeg and mace (the bright webbing that surrounds the nutmeg) came from just handful of islands called the Banda Islands in Indonesia until the late 19th century. In it’s day, nutmeg was more valuable, pound for pound, then gold. The book in question — Nathaniel’s Nutmeg — by Giles Milton, was an international best-seller. Go check it out!
Colombia has always gotten a bad press because of its association with drug lords in general and Pablo Escobar but my god, doesn’t the country look spectacular? Now that things have settled down, it’s one of the places in South America that I just must visit; not only to get my second Amazonian experience, but also to meet the locals. The coffee is supposed to be the best so just a shame that I’m an unrepentant tea drinker.
Finally, there’s Socotra — an island that’s just a pin prick in a map of the Persian Gulf and yet is almost 1,500 square miles in area. That’s nearly twice the size of Co. Waterford! Socotra is part of the Republic of Yemen and the island originally caught my attention some years ago because of its famous Dragon’s Blood Tree. Socotra was primarily Christian until the late 16th century when most of its inhabitants converted to Islam and is the largest of an archipelago of four islands that lie approximately 400 kilometres south of the tip of the Arabian Peninsula. The island’s highest point is at an elevation of almost 5,000 feet. It is now accessible by air through airports in Aden and Sanaa and has been described as the most alien-looking place on earth.
What’s not to like?