Here’s my New Year’s resolution for 2016: To once and for all put an end to the popularity of the travel bucket list. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, consider yourself lucky and turn the page to a more satisfying topic (I recommend Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s elegant story about Switzerland). If you’re familiar with the notion of the bucket list, hear me out.
The best kind of travel isn’t about checking a place off a list of 101 “top” destinations you have to “see before you die” and moving on to the next. It’s about the rich, spontaneous, and serendipitous moments that make up any great trip: the connection you make with a local in a Lisbon café or with a fellow traveler in a safari lodge in Tanzania; the village you pass through on a trek in Nepal; the oyster feast you devour with friends in Tasmania.
In our Where to Go in 2016 package, we cover 36 destinations that are on our radar this year. Our criteria: better tourism infrastructure—a new hotel, a new direct flight, or a new cruise or train route—that makes it easier to visit; an event worth traveling for; strong value; and emerging cultural scenes.
How is our list not a bucket list? For one, there are probably places on this list where you’ve been before. If you adhere to the bucket list philosophy, that might be reason enough to dismiss them. But there are always new reasons to go back to a place. At AFAR we believe that the number of stamps in your passport does not determine your status as a traveler. What matters is the depth of experiences you have while traveling the world—and what they do to transform you as a global citizen.
The bucket list perpetuates the absurd idea that you can truly know a place by seeing it once. This misses the point of travel and ignores our own evolution as travelers. People change, the world changes, but one thing stays the same: Strive to have deeper and richer experiences, and you’re bound to find yourself more fulfilled, bucket list be damned.