Do you have a travel bucket list?
Everyone who loves travel (and I'm guessing that's you since you found your way here!) has some kind of bucket list.
It may not be something you've put a lot of thought into. It may not even be written down, instead just a few thoughts that have gathered over time. But whatever shape and form yours take, I'm sure you have some ideas about the places you're dying to see - or, to put it more existentially, want to see before you die. As much as I hate to live life ticking things off a list, a bucket list is a good place to start when it comes to planning your travels. It’s not so much a list of things to work through, but a list of things you can’t NOT do.
My own bucket list, if you can call it that, has always been made up of a few notebook pages here, a couple of Trello boards there and a whole heap of (day)dreams and thoughts that are neither here nor there.
I'm more of an improviser than a planner, and my bucket list feels like it’s never-ending and ever-changing. The only solid constant was my number one travel wish: to fly in a helicopter.
Well, as you'll know if you saw this adrenaline-filled Instagram post - you can tell I was excited because my selfie posts are even rarer than moose sightings - Brendan surprised me with a helicopter ride over the Rockies for my birthday. And it was EPIC. I'll probably share another post on that because there's so, so much to show and tell, but today I have another dilemma: what will replace a helicopter flight in the prime bucket list position?
It's tricky because there are so many things I want to do, but now seems like a good time to get them clear - or at least a little bit clearer - in my mind.
I’ve been playing with ideas ever since a delicious post-flight lobster poutine at The Grizzly Paw in Canmore, when I realised I needed a new #1. And while I’m not short of ideas, choosing which one will take the top spot is kind of hard.
I want to walk on the Great Wall of China. I want to road trip around the States. Go whale watching. Take a sushi class in Japan, and see the snow monkeys while I'm there. Stay on a canal boat. Go on safari. Visit as many castles as I can in Germany. Venture north of the Arctic Circle. Go to Coachella. Sleep in the Sahara. Eat pizza in Italy.
Some of them are grand, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and some are simple things that other people do every day. One thing's for sure though: there's a lot to do, see and explore in this world, so maybe it's not such a bad idea to know what you want the most. And, after much more contemplation than anyone should ever give to something so first-world trivial, I've decided my new #1 travel wish is...
...to see the northern lights. And more specifically, to see the Northern Lights in Iceland.
Why I want to see the Northern Lights in Iceland
It's a bucket list item that doesn't really need much explaining, but if there’s one place I keep hearing about again and again, it’s Iceland.
There were so many things that almost happened in Canada: I didn’t see a bear because the forest fire smoke scared them away. I didn't eat s'mores because of the fire ban. And I didn’t see the northern lights because they were blocked by the clouds.
But while I’m gutted I didn’t see a bear or eat s’mores (hey, it’s a good reason to go back), I’m not too disappointed that I didn’t get to see the northern lights that night. Because I kinda always though if I saw them, it would be in Iceland. I seriously can't think of anything more magical than seeing the northern lights in Reykjavik.
Iceland also happens to be one of the countries that’s top of my list – and one that I’ve come close to visiting far too many times. (Like last year, when my plans to visit the three I’s - Iceland, Italy and Ireland - turned into trips to 3 C’s: Cuba, Copenhagen and Cologne instead. Oops.) Iceland really fascinates me. I've seen enough pictures on Instagram, blogs and TV shows to feel like I've been there before, but somehow Iceland maintains its mystery and never feels ruined by overexposure. It still feels elusive and untouched, and continues to hold its crown as the most mysterious country in Europe for me.
4 more reasons to visit Iceland1 - The people
Iceland has a tiny population, so it's no surprise that I've only ever met one Icelander in my life. That was in Germany, and I still remember him for his amazing sense of humour and how intrigued he was by the world around him. It's a meeting that really inspired me and I still look back on to this day.
What's most interesting, though, is that Iceland tops both the chart for gender equality and the global peace index. Just like their country, I want to understand the people of Iceland who made this so.2 - The Blue Lagoon
It's probably the most iconic place in Iceland and the first thing that most people think of, but who doesn't want to visit the Blue Lagoon? It's not the only geothermal pool in Iceland - far from it, in fact - but what would a trip to Iceland be without a shot of its perfect blue water?3 - The nature
Confession: I haven't travelled much for nature alone in the past - it's been more of a bonus, rather than the focus of any trips - but that's something I want to change. In 2018, I want to choose some of my travel destinations based purely on their natural beauty, and not just for the food and other experiences they have to offer.
Natural beauty is something that Iceland has heaps of and, after visiting both Scotland and Canada recently, Dettifoss is next on the list for my new-found waterfall obsession. From whale-watching and Icelandic sheep to puffins and the largest bird cliff in Europe, Iceland is also home to some truly incredible-sounding wildlife experiences.4 - It's so close!
When I look at photos of Iceland, I always forget just how close it is. Reykjavik is only a 3-hour flight from London and you can get a return for as little as £53 - cheaper than some train returns within the UK. Or if you're coming from the other side of the Atlantic, you can even stop there on your way to Europe with WOWAir. And when you put it like that, there really seems no excuse not to visit Iceland.
A quick scroll through Iceland can only fuel the wanderlust so much. So, Iceland, I’m coming for you. 2018 will be our year.
As for the rest of the bucket list? I'm still working on it. Given how long it took me to decide on this, it's something I probably need to put some thought into, so please send me your favourite trips and your own bucket list items to help me out!
Have you ever been to Iceland or seen the northern lights? What's at the top of your travel bucket list?