Now that I work in the travel industry, it’s fair to say that my head’s being turned by other people’s anecdotes of their adventures on a bigger scale than ever. Regardless of my job, I was hardly immune to the cult of the traveller, being surrounded by twentysomething peers who have just returned from their ‘gap yah’ (cue grimace as they patronise you about the beneficial effects of paying £4000 to teach orphans for a week in the middle of nowhere) and friends who have been jetting off on their year abroad during language degrees, but the notion of exploring had never actually sounded so appealing as it does right now. Here’s why I’ve been inspired to write my travel bucket list, or plan of places to visit before I die.
Thanks to work, I’ve been involved with the brilliant weekly Twitter-based event called #TTOT (yup, that’s a Twitter hashtag right there), which stands for the Travel Talk on Twitter, and was created by travel blogger genius Melvin, who goes under the name of @traveldudes. Every Tuesday at 9:30am and 9:30pm GMT, a related topic of the week is discussed with five questions which any Twitter user can join in and answer, remembering to place the hashtag in their comment so that it can be traced back to the discussion. Confusingly the topic is voted for on Facebook, as Twitter can’t retain that kind of information on a large scale, but basically it’s a social media project that is democratic, interesting and fun. We write the questions, we give the answers; as Melvin constantly says, “It’s about YOU”. Not only do adventurous bloggers have a wealth of great stories that will amaze/disgust/tickle you, but they’re also incredibly warm and friendly people who want to get involved with your contributions as well – it’s quite gratifying to receive feedback on my stories of rainy British landmarks, from people who have seen the Taj Mahal and the Sydney Opera House in the same year. Anyway, these tweeps and bloggers have really made me think about where I want to go and where I don’t really feel the need to ever visit, so here’s my list of things to do – some in the near future, others just on a larger timescale of ‘hopefully before I get too frail’…
PLACES TO SEE BEFORE I DIE (THE REALISTIC ONES)
1. Berlin – it’s supposed to be a fascinating city with a vibrant nightlife scene. One of my friends from postgrad uni is due to be moving there soon, and I can’t wait to visit her.
2. Liverpool – my plan is to do a long weekend here, taking in the Cavern Club, a.k.a. home of the Beatles, Tate Liverpool and the chavvy designer store called Cricket (so I can pretend to be a WAG for about 5 seconds).
3. Scenes of the Jack the Ripper murders – I’ve read a few books on Jack the Ripper and I’d like to go on one of those really naff Ripper tours. I know it’s ghoulish and also fairly disrespectful, but it’s something I find fascinating as the cases crossed class divides and put prostitutes in the public eye for once, rather than letting them be forgotten and pretending they didn’t exist. It’s also highly likely that the murderer was well educated and very intelligent, meaning that he came from supposedly more dignified society, yet the prostitues were more human than he/she was.
4. World War One battlefield sites – Having had relatives who fought in the war, and also having read a lot of WWI poetry and prose, I’d love to visit the crucial places such as Ypres and the Somme, but not to glorify what happened. As a pacifist I find it hard to believe that so many men had to die in this war, and I’d like to get my head around it by seeing things first-hand, at least in the sense of being where they were.
5. The Vatican City – as it’s technically a country, I’d like to say I’ve been in the smallest country in the world, for novelty value.
PLACES TO SEE BEFORE I DIE (THE LONG-TERM ONES)
1. Arequipa, Peru – if you’ve ever read Michelle Lovric’s novel, The Book of Human Skin, you’ll know why this part of Peru seems dangerous, harsh and also irresistable. It’s a little pocket of antiquated expat life, high in the mountains, with stunning colours and architecture. In the book we see Marcella Fasan cast out to live a lonely nun’s existence here, but it’s also a place where she finds friends, thwarts enemies and creates art.
2. Machu Picchu – although I’m not a very active person (for that, read chocoholic and exerciseophobic), if I ever manage to persuade myself to become a little more athletic then I’d love to visit this ancient site, which is also in Peru. I love looking at old ruins, and this is basically the cream of the crop.
3. India – another thing I’m not so good at is heat. I basically melt like the Wicked Witch of the West when I get near a bit of warm weather. Despite this, I’d love to go to India, if only I can conquer my stupid internal temperature gauge. One of my best friend’s parents come from India and she spent an amazing summer there – I’m very jealous.
4. Route 66, USA – I would love to do one of those big American road trips, with a battered suitcase and a massive car and a few hundred CDs for the journey. Oh, and obviously an amazing panoramic lens on my camera.
5. Guatemala – when I was little and watched Sesame Street, I remember hearing that Guatemala was the home of chewing gum. I love bizarre nuggets of information like that, and I reckon Guatemala could be quite a fun place. Or at least I could build up my chewing gum stash.