(Ever have a time when you sit down to write something and come up with a piece entirely foreign to your first intent? This was such a time…)
Just recently, in honor of my 27th anniversary, my sister sent us a card with a photograph of my wife and I during our recent trip to New York. In Times Square. (Thanks, Jude!)
And it once again reminded me of my foundational travel philosophy, which is: don't be afraid of the adventure. In fact, I may adopt that as my official Thumbnail Traveler tagline. It seems to fit in nicely with what I'm trying to build as a brand. And it reinforces a philosophy I've advocated for years, and, in fact, my sister is a relatively recent convert to as well.
|Watching Polar Bears in Churchill|
I've made mention more than a few times of Phil Keoghan's book NO OPPORTUNITY WASTED. The book, for those of you too lazy to go back and find my comments, is essentially a "how to" for putting together a Life List -- or what has now been co-opted as The Bucket List. In other words, a list of things that not only would you like to do, but actually are going to take steps to accomplish.
My own NOW Life List is constantly changing and being updated -- you can see it here on my official website (http://mysite.verizon.net/res7n0zi/id48.html), or below, -- but there are a handful of constants when it comes to my travel-related intentions.
|The south Sawyer Glacier, Alaska|
As I've noted, I tend to treat life outside the walls of my "pay the mortgage" cubicle as an adventure. My work pays for what I do outside the office, as I'm probably overly fond of reminding my boss. Photography and travel are my creative passions, and contribute enough to our income for a couple of nights out every few months. That noted, my long-term goals are set around seeing the large portions of the world I have yet to glimpse.
Some are simply counting coup -- a term I use here to describe the arrival at, and appreciation of some object or monument, noting its importance and moving on. Examples of this might include the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. It's a wonderful treat, and certainly fills you with the awe and significance of our 16th president, as well as the historical events surrounding his life. There is little to compare to standing at the foot of that famous statue, or gazing across the Reflecting Pond from the steps of the memorial towards the Washington Monument.
All of which takes a half hour or so to completely take in the experience. Absolutely worth it, no question. (Some people augment the experience by sitting down on the steps and watching the world go by, which is a worthy approach…and rife with photographic opportunities.)
|Doin' the Beatles walk across Abbey Road|
The better goals, at least for my approach to life, are the more complex and immersive. I will build trips around a series of "coup counts" as necessary, so that I really can get that moment in front of Mr. Lincoln while still immersing myself in the overall Washington culture. One monument might be good for a small period of time, but add in the Vietnam Wall, the Jefferson Monument, the Capitol Building, the Smithsonian, Union Station, etc, etc, etc and you get the picture, figuratively (and literally) speaking. The Lincoln Memorial is one aspect of an overall "Washington" adventure. This is why, on my Life List, you see fewer "counting coup" sorts of things -- "See the Lincoln Memorial" -- and more of an overall approach ("Visit Washington, DC for a week").
There are, if you've bothered to take a look, a couple of specific "counting" adventures, largely because they are part of the NOW checklist. Phil's philosophy involves several different approaches to self-fulfilling adventures, some of them don't involve travel at all -- they're more personal challenges and accomplishments rather than sights and sounds. (#8 on my NOW list is "walk the Havasupai glass-bottomed horseshoe over the Grand Canyon". At first this seems like a coup-ish short term event, and it is. But it's also a challenge to my at-times insurmountable acrophobia. The purpose of this particular item is to Face My Fear -- one of the seven elements of the NOW philosophy.)
|Swimming with Dolphins in Mexico|
This year I've managed to knock three adventures off my "To Do" list, and all three occurred on the same one trip. Visually and spiritually I've always wanted to see the sunrise over Mount Haleakala. Ecologically, my wife and I are very much into seeing native species in their environment and have swum with dolphins, chased Orca in the Puget Sound, encountered polar bears on the Canadian tundra, seen wild bald eagles in Alaska, held turtles in the Cayman Islands, and alligators in the Everglades -- and now scuba dived with Manta Rays as part of the same trip as Mount Haleakala.
All of which is simply my way of convincing you that you need to put together your own list of things you intend to do. Star with eight and move upward as necessary (I'm right around 13). Figure out who you want to involve in your plans. You'd be surprised how many of your friends would want to help, and possibly themselves start their own programs. If your list involves eating at a Michelin three-starred restaurant (number 4 on my list), find yourself a foodie buddy with sufficient monetary pockets and figure it out. (No, I'm not suggesting they pay your way. It's your challenge, not theirs, but you can certainly go dutch.)
1. Take a hot-air balloon ride over Sedona or Napa Valley.
2. Go on a true African safari
3. Swim in the Indian Ocean
4. Eat at a three-Michelin rosette restaurant
5. Stay at every major hotel/casino property on the Las Vegas Strip (Still to go: Bellagio; Excalibur; Flamingo; Cosmopolitan; Aria; Imperial Palace)
6. Drink a glass of wine in every major wine region in the world (So far: Napa, Sonoma, Bordeaux, Loire, Tuscany, Veneto)
8. Walk the 4000 foot glass-bottomed horseshoe at the Hualapai reservation in Arizona.
9. Visit Stonehenge at dusk.
10. Cruise the Amazon
11. Spend the night in an Ice Hotel
12. Attend a performance in the Sydney Opera House
13. Drive the Great Ocean Rd.
The fun part of this sort of thing is the involvement of others. Gather up your friends, your family, and any other "enabler" you can find and share your list and your plan with them. Solicit their help, their support. It's not a solitary endeavor -- well, not always.
Walking the glass horseshoe 4000 feet over the Grand Canyon is gonna be all me, regardless of who I have in tow.
|Hiking through the British Columbia Rain Forest|