Must do ... Petra, Jordan.

Must do ... Petra, Jordan. Photo: Reuters

Well, this got out of hand. The idea was to create a “bucket list” – a list of travel experiences I want to have before I kick the proverbial bucket.

It’s a good time to do it, since I’ve just ticked a very large item off the old bucket list: visiting Antarctica. That was one of those things I’d always had in the back of mind that I’d like to do one day, and a few weeks back I jumped on a ship and headed down to the great south, hanging with penguins, marvelling at glaciers, gazing at sea birds, and drinking vodka at a Ukrainian research station.

Antarctica is now officially off the bucket list. It’s done. So what better time to write down the things I have left to do? And that’s when things got out of hand. Trouble is, the more experiences you tick off around the world, the more you want to do. I covered pages and pages.

Fanaticism at its finest ... college football in Texas.

Fanaticism at its finest ... college football in Texas. Photo: Getty Images

After much deliberation, however, I managed to edit it down to 10.  

 Live in a non-English-speaking country

I only speak one language, and the more I travel, the dumber that makes me feel. I’ve tried taking classes in Australia, but have always suffered crises of disinterest within a few weeks. I’m convinced the only way to slay my monolinguistic demon is to live in another country, to immerse myself, to give myself no other option but to learn the local tongue. I’m thinking South America somewhere…

Scuba dive the Red Sea

Better than the Great Barrier Reef? So the story goes. Again, it’s another one of those experiences that travellers rave about constantly, and I want to get me some of that action. The Barrier Reef is amazing – how much better can it be?

Go to a college football game in Texas

I’ve been to some great sporting events – football at La Bombonera, cricket in Mumbai – and a college football game in the Lone Star state would be right up there. From tailgating in the parking lot beforehand to watching the NFL stars of the future with 100,000 of your closest friends, it’s American sports fanaticism at its finest.

Visit Petra, Jordan

My experiences of the Middle East are embarrassingly brief, and Petra seems as good a place as any to begin rectifying that situation. Everyone who’s been to Petra raves about – Jordan in general, really – and it’s about time I saw it for myself.


 Drive a van around Western Europe

There are plenty of ways to see Western Europe – train, plane, tour bus – but nothing could come close to having the freedom of a van and no plan. Just get a few friends together and hit the road, staying in campsites, seeing some of the best the world has to offer. Maybe next year…

Hang out in Colombia

Colombia’s great, it’s amazing, you have to see it, totally not what you’d expect, blah blah blah. I can’t take much more of this. Everyone you talk to has nothing but good things to say about a country that is supposed to be about as enticing to visit as prison. Friendly people, good food, great scenery, and the feeling that you’re blazing a trail. Good enough for me.

Go to the Arctic

Well, it makes sense, doesn’t it? Antarctica was amazing, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so why not visit the opposite end of the world? And the Arctic has its differences to its southern cousin; as one of the guides on my Antarctic expedition said: “In Antarctica it’s our job to protect the wildlife from the people – in the Arctic it’s the opposite.”

Watch dawn break over Uluru

I’m not much of a proper Aussie. I don’t eat Vegemite, I don’t drink VB, and I’ve never been to Uluru. But it’s only the latter that I’m worried about rectifying. Uluru has always been on my bucket list, it’s just one of those that I always figure I’ll get around to later on. I’ll get there. Sometime.

Visit Esfahan, Iran

Esfahan, an ancient, holy city filled with intricate mosques and old men drinking tea, is one of those places that would be crawling with tourists if it was in neighbouring Turkey, or Western Europe. But no, it’s nestled in the supposed Axis of Evil, meaning the city is largely untouched by Western tourism. Iran’s a volatile place, but Esfahan, for me, would be worth the risk.

Ride a scooter around South-East Asia

I got a taste for this last year sitting on the back of a motorbike in Vietnam, and now, having just read Nathan Millward’s great book about riding a postie bike from Sydney to London, I’m properly inspired. What better way to take in this amazing corner of the world than on the traditional local transport? Might keep my passengers down to just one, though.

What’s left on your bucket list?

Hope you’re enjoying the Backpacker blog – there will be a new one published every Tuesday and Wednesday on the Fairfax Media websites. To contact me with any topic suggestions or personal abuse, visit my website, follow me on Twitter, or email me on