Instead of the requisite New Year's Resolutions post, I decided to regale you with an article I read in the January 2008 Smithsonian magazine called “28 Places to See Before You Die.”
The opening paragraph goes like this:
We are all of us resigned to death: it’s life we aren’t resigned to,” novelist Graham Greene once wrote. A growing number of Americans of all ages are embracing that idea by renewing a resolve to live life to its fullest. Exhibit A is the recent popularity of “life lists”—itineraries of things to do and places to go before taking the ultimate trip to the Great Beyond.
Here’s the Smithsonian’s list:
1. Mesa Verde (cliff houses of the Pueblo Indians/Colorado)
2. Pompeii (Italy)
3. Tikal (ancient Mayan city, Guatemala)
4. Petra (Jordan)
5. Pyramids of Giza (Egypt)
6. Taj Mahal (India)
7. Easter Island (2000 miles off the coast of South America)
8. The Great Wall (China)
9. Aurora Borealis (Alaska or anywhere above 60 degrees latitude)
10. Serengeti (Tanzania, East Africa)
11. Iguazu Falls (on the border of Brazil and Argentina)
12. Machu Picchu (lost city of the Incas, Peru)
13. The Louvre (Paris, France)
14. Zen Garden of Kyoto (Japan)
15. Uffizi Gallery (Florence, Italy)
16. Fallingwater (the Frank Lloyd Wright falls in Pennsylvania)
17. Yangtze River (China)
19. Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania, East Africa)
20. Grand Canyon (Arizona, U.S.A.)
21. Pagan (Myanmar, formerly Burma)
22. Parthenon (Athens, Greece)
23. Angkor Wat (Cambodia)
24. Ephesus (west coast of Turkey)
25. Venice (Italy)
26. Amazon Rain Forest (spans 8 South American countries)
27. Great Barrier Reef (Australia)
28. Galápagos Islands (off the coast of Ecuador)
I’ve been to nine of the places on the list; they’re marked in red in case you’re interested.
When I was young, I spent all of my free time and disposable income roaming exotic places. However, traveling is more difficult than it used to be: crowds, long waits, security concerns. Maybe that’s why in recent years I’ve limited my treks to book tours and the occasional sailing trip. I recently received an invitation to visit the Galápagos Islands but declined because I was too busy. My friends are back now. They just sent me a photograph of the two of them sidled next to a giant tortoise, which left me wondering if I should dig out the old passport again.
The ancient theater at Ephesus where my recitation of Percy Bysshe Shelley's sonnet Ozymandias could be clearly heard from center stage to the nose-bleed section.
I'd love to visit all of those places on the Smithsonian's list. Sadly, even if I start booking tickets today, I probably won't have time to see every one before I kick the bucket. So, if you’ve traveled to any of the areas I haven’t seen, please tell me if it was worth the trip. And while you’re at it, tell me which of your most inspiring travel destinations is missing from the list.
Happy New Year!