Top 10 Travel Bucket List

Here’s the thing: The more you travel, the more you want to travel. This might seem like inverse logic, but you hear so many stories about wonderful places from fellow travelers that your Bucket List just keeps getting longer and longer.

For me, the top 10 spots on my Bucket List are especially enticing since I was (sort of) planning to go during my two years, but for various reasons I didn’t make it. These are the places I missed on my trip and why:

Danger: There were two countries where I had volunteer engagements lined up and I had to cancel due to political violence within a month of my planned visit: Papua New Guinea and Venezuela.

Children of the Kogi tribe, trek to Colombia's Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City)

Children of the Kogi tribe, trek to Colombia’s Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City)

Papua New Guinea: At the beginning of my trip I was to work with a social entrepreneur in PNG. I was to fly to the capital Port Moresby from Australia and then take a small boat to an outlying island.

While in Australia, I heard from friends who had recently lived in PNG about the mounting violence in that country. Foreigners especially were being targeted. This news combined with logistical complications (I couldn’t actually find the island I was supposed to visit on any maps), I canceled my travel plans.

Venezuela: At the tail end of my trip, I was to travel overland from Cartagena, Colombia to Venezuela’s capital Caracas. This was to be a dicey transit leg involving more than 20 hours by bus and a somewhat lawless border crossing on foot. I read about a few successful crossings on a couple of blogs, but hadn’t actually spoken to anyone who had tried it.

In Caracas, I was to speak to a group of Ashoka fellows, giving a one-day workshop on the Fundamentals of Fundraising. I was also to travel to the renowned Margarita Island to work one-on-one with Fellow Salomon Raydan on innovations in financial inclusion (and scuba dive).

After speaking at length with my country liaison, I canceled my trip due to increasing political violence and the costs associated with ensuring my safety. (For more about how I protect myself on the road, read: Volunteering in Dangerous Places.) In the end, this was a good decision as Chavez’s opponent was shot dead less than a week before the Presidential election (and during the time of my planned visit).

Two countries I wanted to visit, but didn’t even get to the planning stage were Mali and Madagascar.

Mali: Currently the violence in Mali is extreme, especially for groups and individuals linked to Western countries. (Here’s more about the situation in Mali.) Because I don’t speak French and have never traveled to West Africa before, I decided to pull the plug on this one early.

Madagascar: Similarly my plans to visit Madagascar never really moved beyond the planning stage. My good friend and fellow global volunteer Jo (whom I met on a gorilla safari in Uganda), was going with a group and was paying a pretty penny. A volunteering couple Helen and Peter whom I met in Mozambique had just been and told tales of some pretty rugged off-the-beaten path travels. With this inside info, I decided Madagascar and the lemurs would have to wait.

Part of the Fitz Roy range, in Chilean Patagonia

Part of the Fitz Roy range, in Chilean Patagonia

Money: While these three countries are high on my Bucket List, they’re also pretty pricey:

Maldives: The Maldives have always been a luxury destination, but after the Royal honeymoon, all bets were off. I went so far as to make inquiries from my friend Cherie’s high-school buddy who was working in management at the Four Seasons. He was kind enough to offer me the “friends & family” rate of $400 a night. Thanks, but no thanks. (Oddly, flights to the Maldives from Sri Lanka and India are relatively cheap, it’s accommodation that is out-of-this world.)

Easter Island: All flights to Easter Island originate from Santiago, Chile. Although I was in Chile for several weeks, it was my last country before coming back to the States. The timing of my Chilean stint meant that I was perilously close to the last of my travel funds (with much of my reserve being blown on my Antarctic expedition). So Easter Island simply wasn’t in the budget. I still weep at the thought of missing the Moai.

Bangladesh: I held onto my desire to visit Bangladesh to the very end, but communications with possible volunteer opportunities were never really solid. A visit to Bangladesh appeared on my radar when my tennis buddy Lisa went with her son to volunteer at a school for girls hidden in a boat far into waterways in the interior of the country. She told tales of being smuggled out at night. It all sounded very daring at first, but then after more than a year and a half on the road, I decided maybe didn’t need any additional “excitement.”

Time: And finally three countries where I simply ran out of time and couldn’t fit them into my travel schedule: Rwanda, Paraguay, and Swaziland.

Rwanda: I had planned to go to Rwanda, taking the bus and crossing the border solo from the Ugandan capital of Kampala. The issue was I only had a few days between when I was scheduled to visit the ground-breaking of the GoErinGo well in northern Uganda, and when I needed to hop on my Trans-Atlantic cruise from Majorca, Spain to Panama. In the end, I decided I wanted to stay longer than just a few days and would be sure and visit Rwanda on my return to East Africa.

Cowgirl Erin riding the range, Lesotho Pony Trek

Cowgirl Erin riding the range, Lesotho Pony Trek

Paraguay: Paraguay was one of the two countries I was sure I would visit in South America (the other was Bolivia, which I made it to.) Timing here was pressured by my last-minute decision to sail to Antarctica. The fact that I needed a visa ahead of time added to the time crunch. I’ve heard fantastic reports about the country and look forward to making it on my next South American exploration.

Swaziland: The choice for me here was to visit Lesotho or Swaziland as I only had a couple of weeks before I headed to my Uganda gorilla trek. In the end, it was the promise (fulfilled!) of riding ponies across the Lesotho plains that sold me. I know Swaziland and the Zulu kings will be there waiting for me.

Here’re three more articles about some of the adventures that I was able to cross off my Bucket List:

Eye ContactInterested in visiting the Mountain Gorillas?

Acacia Africa is celebrating its 18th birthday with a “Free Seat” giveaway  – where 18 spots on Acacia Africa safaris will be given away!

Enter via the WIN! App on Acacia Africa’s Facebook page. I entered, so maybe I’ll see you on safari this summer! :)


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This entry was posted on Sunday, February 10th, 2013 and is filed under Travel Favorites.

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