I’ve been playing a thought game a lot recently. Say five years from now, I get overwhelmingly emersed in work, or family, or just life in general, and I never leave the USA again. If I only have five years of international travel left, what do I most want to see? What are my last five for the next five?
Hopefully I’ll still be exploring the world for many more decades, but I thought for posterity’s sake I’d still record my last-five-for-the-next-five answers. Some of these are personal and some obvious, but they are—in no particular order—the five faraway places I most want to visit in the next five years. Drumroll, please!
1. Galápagos Islands
Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, this Ecuadorian archipelago is best known for its wildlife. Here there are giant tortoises, flamingos, sea lions, penguins, whales, and more. Darwin visited the Galápagos in 1835, and he, too, was captivated by the many different species. His experience with the finches in particular helped inform his theory of evolution. I want to see the birds that were instrumental in forming the basis of modern science, as well as the sandy beaches, lush vegetation, and volcanic mountains of their various homes.
2. Slovenia & Croatia
My maternal grandmother hails from this area, and I am naturally interested in seeing the homeland. But beyond that, the northern Balkans region looks to be achingly beautiful. In Slovenia, I most want to see the clear blue waters at Lake Bled; the raging underground rivers at Škocjan Caves; 700-year-old Predjama Castle; and Old Vine, the oldest grape-vine in the world. Croatia has Dubrovnik, with its old city walls and seaside views (it is also the stand-in for Kings Landing on Game of Thrones); the Istrian peninsula, known for its olive groves and hilltop villages; and the roaring waterfalls at Plitvice Lakes. The only problem would be deciding where to start!
3. New Zealand
The biggest drive for me here is the Serengeti. I want to feel the ground tremble as elephants plod passed, see a cheetah peeking through the grassy plains, or stare up at the Milky Way on a warm, clear night. After the Serengeti, I’d move on to see Jane Goodall’s chimpanzees at Gombe Stream National Park. The adventure would be capped by relaxing on Zanzibar’s white beaches with a ginger beer in hand before visiting the historic Stone Town.
5. Guilin, China
I have been obsessed with Guilin’s scenery for about as long as I can remember. The narrow, jagged cliffs along the Li River look as though they belong on an alien world, and every picture I see causes a lump of excitement, of longing, to form in my throat. I want to see that! My God, how I want to see that. And I almost did when I was in China in 2010, until the flight there was delayed due to inclement weather. We waited in the airport for hours, not knowing that a major storm had settled over Guilin and was currently flooding the province. Eventually, we had to continue our Chinese tour sans Guilin. It has been my white whale ever since.
What are your five for the next five? Anything I’ve included here that you wouldn’t recommend? Why? Let me know in the comments!