Once-in-a-lifetime is an overused expression in travel. Like everything else, the phrase has succumbed to a culture of instant hype. When every mountain hike, underwater dive or local meal is described with the glowing praise that should be meant for only the rarest of occurrences, it is difficult to tell a wonderful experience from a bucket list one. A bucket list just doesn’t translate with the same impact it was originally intended for.
Why not reclaim the bucket list from this ordinariness? Travel goals, or at least the ones we file away under impossible, are defined by their incredulity. I would even go so far to suggest that if you don’t get laughed out of the room for your travel bucket list, you are doing something wrong. If it’s birthed in your imagination, why the restraint?
A bucket list must elicit deep, almost-defeatist sighs or faraway looks. The appropriate response to photos of Arctic glaciers or Patagonian hikes is a sharp catch in your breath. It’s a recognition that as out of reach as a place seems, nothing can stop you from dreaming about getting there. It is poor little Charlie Bucket yearning that one day a strange man would welcome him into his outlandish chocolate factory.
I empathise with Charlie because my earliest bucket list ideas were fictional too. As a kid, Tintin’s life of adventurous sleuthing across the globe seemed precious enough to envy. Adolescence was often spent in the thrall of Ray Bradbury’s stories from Mars. Adulthood, however, came with approachable aspirations and a Martian colony escapade was relegated to the fantastic realm. As time passes, bucket lists acquire a sort of silliness, like love letters from our past do, and many of us are content to keep them locked away, deep in our heart’s vaults.
This month’s edition will hopefully dust the cobwebs off your bucket lists. If you have been lucky enough to tick off your dream destinations, then it may throw up new suggestions to start working towards. Either way, our compilation of 21 Journeys of a Lifetime does not take the word “lifetime” lightly. Sports fans can look forward to our guide to exploring England and Wales at the height of this year’s Cricket World Cup. Our treasure-island narrative from Fiji brims with enchantment, while more sophisticated types can dine off our drool-worthy dispatch from Dubai’s most extravagant hotel.
As for my bucket list, I hope to enjoy the earthly delights of a winter in Saint Petersburg someday. Until Elon Musk fixes the Mars problem, of course.
fantasizes about a bucket-list journey to witness the aurora borealis someday. Deputy Editor at National Geographic Traveller India, she will also gladly follow a captivating tune to the end of this world.
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