I was bitten by the travel bug pretty early on in life. My mom’s a flight attendant, and although she didn’t work international trips often when I was a kid, I loved the gifts of German chocolate and British toffee (in a replica tin of Big Ben!) she would bring back for us.
The first time I left the country, I was twelve. My drama troupe was going on a mission trip to Lima, Peru, and I begged my parents to let me go. (I was very much the baby of the group, which is why my dad ended up going with me, a job he likely wouldn’t have minded had he not been required to wear stage makeup and be a part of our odd, evangelical tableau.) And even though there was zero sight-seeing and we ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the daily, I fell in love with being surrounded by a completely new place and culture.
I quickly became the trip planner of our family and then my friend group and eventually even my pledge class. I bought travel guides and Pinned articles from travel bloggers. Even my choice of college had a bit to do with the prospect of studying abroad during Spring Term, which is a weirdly wonderful miniature semester singular to Washington and Lee University.
My appetite for travel is insatiable, and it felt like the right time to post a new travel bucket list. Way back forever and a day ago, I put together a list of the top places I wanted to visit around the world. And many of them are still among the ones I find myself wanderlusting over the most! (Because budgets and full-time jobs just aren’t conducive to the kind of traveling I’d love to be doing right now.)
I’m constantly reading blogs and watching Instagram Stories from people in places around the world, so I also decided to link to my favorite itinerary or secret place or must-see site about each location. Without further ado (and in no specific order), here are the places I’d love to visit before I die. You can just call it my travel bucket list roundup, if you will!
That’s right. España is still at the tippy-top of my list, and I’m hopeful we’ll finally be able to check it off this fall! I studied Spanish for four years in high school and then took a class in Spanish Literature in college. I’ve always wanted to use my knowledge in action. (Unfortunately, I only knew Dora the Explorer-level Spanish when I visited Peru.)
I’m working through Duolingo right now to see if I can get back to a conversational aptitude before our trip, which I’m currently planning for September.
Let me be completely honest with you for a moment. About 93% of why I want to visit New Zealand has to do with my very first fandom obsession: The Lord of the Rings. I will see Hobbiton before I die.
I know it’s a beautiful island nation, and there are so many other things I would want to see while we’re there, but I just wanted to be absolutely transparent about how I discovered my love for New Zealand.
The Isle of Skye, Scotland
At this point, Edinburgh is the only little piece of Scotland that I’ve seen, and if Outlander is anything to go off, it is an insanely beautiful country. Now that I’ve seen the city, I feel like I need to experience the Highlands, and I would really, really love to spend time on the Isle of Skye.
My friend Sarah has only wonderful things to say about it, and that’s usually enough of an endorsement for me!
You might not know that my maiden name is Van Riper, an incredibly Dutch name, making The Netherlands a bit of a motherland for me. When you have a “unique” last name, you’re basically expected to know weird stuff about it when people inevitably ask you odd questions. So here’s a little Van Riper wisdom that no one asked for…
- The first Van Riper was named Jurian Tomassen, and he came over to New Amsterdam from (old) Amsterdam.
- His ship called “The Spotted Cow” landed in New Amsterdam in the year 1663.
- Van Riper was actually first Van Rypen, meaning “from Rypen,” which likely evolved over time because records were terrible and “is that an R or an N?”
All of that is to say that The Netherlands has been on my bucket list literally as long as I can remember, and windmills are among my favorite things (especially the totally cool wind turbines helping us collect wind power)!
This travel bucket list is bringing up a lot of associations I have with destinations and movies I watched as a kid… So it will come as no surprise that Greece has been on my list since I first saw Hercules. My sister was obsessed with Pegasus, and I would walk around our house singing Meg’s song at all hours of the day. I guess those kinds of things leave their mark.
But really, there are so many places in Greece that I want to visit, and I’m pretty sure I’ve convinced my mother-in-law that she needs to find us a nice cruise that makes stops in each and every one!
Check out: 7 Archaeological Sites & Museums in Athens That You Can’t Leave Greece Without Seeing | YogaWineTravel
You know those movies that you watch as a kid that just leave their mark on you? Balto was one of those for me. I loved the story, the whole idea of dogsled teams, and the fact that he got his own statue in Central Park. (Yes, I know Balto was from Alaska. I have a point, I swear.)
The image that I always come back to from that movie, though, is of the Northern Lights. It’s been on my bucket list to see them at least once ever since. Plus I feel like there was a time a few months back that I saw Iceland on Instagram once a day, and eventually I said, “Alright, fine. It is beautiful. I guess it’s going on the list.”
The Peak District, England
In case you weren’t aware, I’m a bit of an Anglophile. Jane Austen is among my very favorite authors, and I’ve wanted to visit the Peak District since I experienced the breathtaking, stunning production that is Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice.
I would say more about my reasons for wanting to get out into England, but that’s legitimately feels sufficient.
Remember in the intro when I said we didn’t get to do any sight-seeing when we were in Peru? My twelve-year-old heart was absolutely crushed when I learned that seeing Machu Picchu wasn’t in the cards for us. (I think I imagined Lima was right around the corner or something. Who knows?)
Ever since, I’ve wanted to see the ancient Incan site. I want to do it properly and enter through the Sun Gate after hiking part of the Inca Trail. The thought of eventually taking this trip is what gets me off my butt and to the gym when I’d rather be reading.
This destination is relatively new to my travel bucket list, but when one of my Cincy Next classmates raved about the experience she and her husband had, I knew it would find its way on here.
To be honest, I haven’t done a ton of research because Vietnam is so new to the list, but this itinerary looks amazing! I’m sure I’ll get my fill of blog posts before we actually get a trip in the works.
I’ve been to Ireland twice and Northern Ireland never, and honestly that’s enough of a reason for it to be on my list. Plus beautiful scenery like the Giant’s Causeway and heart-wrenching history surrounding the Troubles and the fact that I adored Derry Girls when it popped up on Netflix.
Check out: More Than Conflict: Things to Do in Northern Ireland to See it Differently | Borders of Adventure
What’s at the very top of your travel bucket list? Did any of my picks make the cut for you?
P.S. Japan was the latest destination we checked off our list! Check out my full itinerary for a week on this beautiful island.