A few months ago, a friend was making her bucket list over coffee, and as I sipped my latte and listened to her list, I kept thinking – “been there, done that“. Wow, then the bucket list guilt set in and I realized once again how incredibly fortunate I’ve been to have made life choices allowing me to travel the world.
A fellow blogger recently published a story on “15 Spectacular Destinations for Your Bucket List”. She interviewed 13 other bloggers for their bucket list suggestions and mine was, of course, Bhutan. This enchanting country has been on the top of my list for years and the only thing holding me back is money. It’s a common problem for most people, bucket lists bigger than their bank accounts.
But what about people who don’t even bother to dream, or dream of simply getting out of the cycle of poverty or out of a refugee camp?
As I was pondering this, I saw an amazing speech by my humanitarian idol, Angelina Jolie. She put my thoughts into words, much more articulately than I could: (Video here.)
‘I have never understood why some people were lucky enough to be born with the chance that I had, to have this path in life and why across the world, there’s a woman just like me with the same abilities and the same desires, same work ethic and love for her family, who would most likely make better films and better speeches. Only she sits in a refugee camp, and she has no voice. She worries about what her children will eat, how to keep them safe, and if they’ll ever be allowed to return home. I will do as my mother asked and I will do the best that I can with this life to be of use and to stand here today means that I did as she asked and if she were alive she would be very proud.’
So I feel grateful that I was born into a life blessed with the ability to make choices. And in an attempt to “be of use”, my revised Bucket List now includes more than just a list of places to check off. It includes goals of impacting people and actually doing things. I sometimes feel a bit guilty that I have the ability to dream big because, as Angelina reminds, I could have been born into “her” life. I am one of the lucky ones.
Bucket List of ….Places to see – People to meet – Things to do
Bhutan – The government of Bhutan measures the citizens’ “Gross National Happiness” as a gauge of their success. They also try to preserve the tranquility of the country by controlling tourism. How? A minimum spending requirement of $250 per day to prevent backpackers from taking over the country. It’s very expensive and outside of my meager budget, but I’ll get there someday. Once I do, I will hike to Tiger’s Nest and take a deep breath of that very expensive air.
Morocco – Morocco has fascinated me ever since the first time I saw “Casablanca”. It seems so exotic, mysterious, and completely different from life in my small hometown in Minnesota. Hopefully, 2017 will be the year I’ll get lost in the medina, shop in the souks, and ride a camel through the desert.
Update: 2017 was the year to cross this off my bucket list. My trip to Morocco was amazing! Check out the story of our night in the Sahara Desert!
Myanmar – I’ve actually crossed Myanmar border twice – the first time on a “Visa Run” from Chiang Mai. The second time was very recently when I went hiking from Ban Rak Thai, a small Thai village on the Myanmar border. The border gate was open and the guard shack was empty, so I walked through and went for a little hike. Next time I hope to enter the country legally and see some of the sites; pagodas in Bagan, views of Inle Lake, and the road to Mandalay.
South Africa – My world-traveling niece went to South Africa and absolutely loved it and I lived vicariously through her photos. This is a country that has been making most “must see” lists in 2016 and received rave reviews in a recent article in Britain’s “The Telegraph” – “25 Reasons to Visit South Africa Right Now“. They describe Cape Town as the worlds best city. Why? The “the in-your-face beauty of a craggy mountain range that drops precipitously into a glittering sea, its flanks carpeted in green. Then there are the pristine white beaches…”
There’s also the excellent South African wine to consider. I really gotta go…soon!
Bucket List – The People
Teach English to refugees – I’ve visited a refugee camp on the border of Thailand and Myanmar a few times (the Padaung People) and hope to spend more time there teaching English or doing something useful to actually make a difference. There is also a group of refugees in Dharamsala, India I’d like to spend time with. My original plan a few years ago included 3 months in this beautiful Himalayan town teaching English to Tibetan refugees. And then life took some unexpected turns and I never made it there – so it’s still on my list.
Milaap – This is a wonderful crowdfunding platform based in India that provides small loans to people hoping to make major life changes. I started contributing last year. I chose a woman who was trying to buy a cow to start her own business in an effort to escape her life as a Devadasi (Hindu sex slave). On my bucket list – a trip to India to visit this woman and meet her cow.
Planting Peace – Haiti – I was introduced to Planting Peace co-founder, John Dieubon, on my first visit to Haiti in 2009, a connection made by his partner (and “Humanitarian Rock Star”) Aaron Jackson. This organization has become well known recently for their work on behalf of the LGBTQ community. But I still think of John in Haiti and hope his vision is still alive. Someday I hope to go back to Haiti and help John do his thing.
Bucket List – The Things
Climb Mount Kilimanjaro – one of my blogger friends (Cathy from Roar Loud) recently published a story about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and raved about it being “a life-changing experience”. The altitude and my physical abilities worry me a little but I still hope to give it a shot someday!
Ride the Orient Express – from Istanbul to Venice? The destination doesn’t matter because in this case it really is all about the journey. I actually saw the Asian Orient Express parked in Bangkok’s train station last year. It’s a beautiful train but unfortunately was departing for Singapore while I was leaving for Chiang Mai. Maybe next time?
Learn basic Mandarin – Living in Taiwan, I often feel like I’m living in my own little bubble. I’m usually unaware of anything going on around me – not because I’m blonde but because I can’t understand the language. I made one brief attempt at learning this confusing and difficult language and failed miserably. Eventually, I’ll try again!