I’m a big believer in structuring bucket lists — or any form of travel planning, really — around what you want to do, rather than what you want to see.
My bucket list for Asia and the Indian subcontinent, where I plan to start my RTW, reads a little something like this:
- Ride the Trans-Siberian Railway
- Walk the length of the Great Wall of China
- Eat dim sum in Shanghai
- Sleep in a temple in Tokyo
- Attend a tea ceremony in Kyoto
- Light a lantern at Pingxi’s annual festival in Taiwan
- Swing a hammock on a beach in Bali
- Find the house where my dad lived in Bangkok
- Volunteer at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand
- Explore Angkor Wat
- Celebrate Holi in Mumbai
- Visit the Taj Mahal
- Go trekking along the Annapurna Circuit
A six-month itinerary focused solely on those objectives is fairly simple to visualize on Bootsnall’s Indie airfare tool.
The two festivals I’d like to attend dictate quite a bit of the timing, with Taiwan’s annual lantern festival taking place in late February and the Indian festival of colors, Holi, occurring in late March. Although this route necessitates longer and more direct flights, it does allow for about two weeks in each destination, which is a rigorous, but not breakneck pace.
More concerning to me is the need to travel through Siberia, China, and Japan in December and January. Cutting out those first few destinations has several benefits. I wouldn’t have to pack bulky, cold weather clothes. I would save money by spending more time in Southeast Asia, where daily costs can come as low as $20, instead of Tokyo, where daily costs could be triple that. And I would also be able to travel overland at a slower pace.
Traveling overland in a smaller area opens up the possibility to explore places off the bucket list. Kuala Lumpur, Saigon, Chiang Mai, and dozens of small villages in between could never become part of my story if I spent all my time racing from one major attraction to the next. But for all I know, those are the very places I’ll enjoy the most.
Bucket lists are all well and good, but expectations can be disappointed and the richest experiences tend to come from unexpected turns.