Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Bucket List: 10 Places I Have to Visit Before I Die

It ain't easy being Greenland.
I can remember exactly where I was when I first caught the travel bug. It was 1993, and I was going to Bermuda for a three-day People magazine off-site. It was the first time I'd ever traveled outside of the United States, and as I applied to have a passport quickly issued to me a few weeks before my departure, I wondered what had taken me so long.

One night after dinner as I stood on the terrace staring at the Atlantic Ocean waves, I could so clearly see my destiny. Though it wasn't New Year's Eve, I made the one resolution of my life that I would actually keep: Every year, for as long as I was able to get on and off of airplanes on my own two feet, I would visit at least one country I've never been to.

It's a promise that over the years has taken me through much of Europe (Netherlands, Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Denmark, Austria, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Turkey), the UK (England, Scotland and Ireland), a chunk of South America (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Colombia, Peru), Australia, and Southeast Asia, to Mexico, Canada (I'm so ready to add Vancouver to Montreal and Toronto), New Zealand and the Caribbean, but strangely enough, never back to Bermuda, despite the fact that I absolutely loved it there. I've seen more of at least three continents than I've seen of the United States!

When I think of things I want to do before I die, they generally don't include jumping out of airplanes or meeting any celebrities. (God, knows I've met enough of them to last this lifetime!) My bucket list strictly comprises places I've never been. Three months into 2012, I'm still trying to decide what new frontier is in store for this year. I've whittled my options down to 10, though I have a feeling that Laos, which I've been hearing excellent things about lately, or Jakarta, where two very cool people I've recently met call home, will be my next previously unseen destination.

But getting back to my bucket list...

1. Lebanon My friend Rob is going soon with his Lebanese boyfriend, and I'm officially green with envy (at least it's my color!). I've heard mixed reports about Beirut (a former colleague of mine told me about bombs going off in the middle of the night during his recent tour of professional duty there!), and growing up in the '80s, I always thought of it as a place of extreme political unrest that must be avoided at all cost. I wouldn't necessarily want to die for lust, but if the guys there are as too die for as I think they are, I might eventually take my chances.


2. Tel Aviv When bombs were going off there regularly I stayed away because I didn't feel like being blown up in the disco. Cat Power even recently deleted it from her tour itinerary because of political unrest there between the Israeli and Palestinian governments. But lately, I've been tempted to flirt with danger because of the, well, flirting options in Tel Aviv. As the hottest men on the planet go, Israelis are right up there with Australians and Argentines. I don't believe I've ever met one with whom I wouldn't consider running away (I even spent the millennial New Year's Eve in Brooklyn, of all places, for the benefit of ringing in 2000 with Amir), or for whom I wouldn't think about going permanently kosher.

3. Cape Town A former roommate who once spent time in South Africa told me that it was a life-altering experience that even changed the way she slept! That I might finally get to sleep through the night isn't the only reason I've been dying to go there for as long as I can remember. I've never heard anyone who's visited say a bad word about the place, and I've never had a bad word to say about anyone I've met who comes from there. In the back of my mind, I suspect that when I've gotten wanderlust and the urban bustle out of my system, I'll end up on a cape somewhere near the southernmost tip of Africa, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

4. Egypt I haven't been much of a sightseer since I took a train from Florence to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower and was thoroughly underwhelmed, but I can't imagine dying without setting eyes on the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx in Giza.

5. The Grand Canyon See America first. That's advice I never followed, but of all the places in the U.S. that I have yet to see, the best reason I can think of to ever visit the state of Arizona (except perhaps to hang out with Stevie Nicks) is at the top of my to-do-in-the-U.S.A. list.


6. Alaska No. 2 on that to-do list. Men in Trees, the Alaskan-set Anne Heche series from a few years back that nobody watched piqued my interest. My mom and I once talked about taking an Alaskan cruise some day. I have to remember to revisit that idea with her soon.

7. Iceland Not just because it's the country that gave us Bjork! A friend of mine whose gorgeous husband also hails from Iceland, recently gave me a glowing review of Reykjavik. As must-see as the glaciers and volcanoes must be, before I close my eyes for good, I'd like to spend the summer months closing them at night when the sun is still shining. (I'd definitely pass on those months of darkness, though!)

8. Venice I've been to Rome (loved it), Florence (hated it), Genoa (loved it) and Milan (love, love, loved it), but I've yet to venture to the city on water, which I fell for the first time I watched the Katharine Hepburn movie Summertime. Why am I holding out? I'm brave enough to travel anywhere on my own (and for the most part, I have), but Venice is one place I want to experience for the first time with someone I love, truly, madly deeply.

9. Rwanda There's a scene early in Hotel Rwanda before the violence and bloodshed kicks in when Don Cheadle is driving on a cliff-side road passing by some of the most breathtaking scenery I've ever seen onscreen. Since I couldn't climb inside (and considering what was to come, that would have been a deadly move anyway), I'll have to spring for a ticket and five-star accommodations like the lovely one in which hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina sheltered his endangered countrymen.

10. Greenland I know, nobody wants to go to Greenland. And does anybody even live there? It's one of those places you never think about because no one ever talks about it. That's precisely why I want to see for myself what everyone very well might be missing out on. And like I said, green is my color.

10 more places I'd like to check out if I live to be 100...

  1. San Diego, California
  2. Seattle, Washington
  3. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  4. Tanzania
  5. Seoul, South Korea
  6. Moscow, Russia
  7. Warsaw, Poland
  8. Croatia
  9. Asuncion, Paraguay
  10. Mumbai, India
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