Our travelling bucket lists

23:47, May 31 2012

Months ago, as LP and I started to contemplate our honeymoon, there was a stubborn obstacle in our way.

See, I'm in the United States on an extension of my student visa, which is tied to having a job. I work freelance, which is okay, but it can become a grey area in the eyes of officials when coming and going from the country.

I also want to fast-track my application for residency, and when it gets submitted I won't be able to leave the country for months without resetting the whole thing.

When people ask after our plans it is not a very romantic answer. But our honeymoon compromise to each other is to set aside a month or two in the American summer of 2013 and take a big holiday.

This holiday will be part honeymoon, part unofficial celebration of me being a resident of the USA and the last chance we might have for a while to take the sort of long, winding holiday commonly planned by students.

It has made for some enjoyable fantasy. We started with a few potential destinations, but options have now exploded to cover much of the globe.

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It's created another issue: we can't take all of these trips simultaneously.

It came to me that our list of mooted holidays was resembling a combination of LP's and my travel bucket lists: the places we'd love to get to before we die.

The top of our list is Europe.

LP studied in England as a fancy-free 20-year-old and made several long trips through the continent and is eager to get back. I have never been. Much of my travelling energy has been devoted to America. Well, I went to Europe when I was three, but as everyone who asks me if I've ever been tells me, this doesn't count. 

Between the New Zealanders we know abroad, and people LP and I know already in Europe, there's a golden run of friends to see spanning England, Wales, Norway, France, Germany and Switzerland. We could fill that in with destinations across Italy, Spain and Portugal, and I think we'd have a good and busy couple of months.

Past this, our list gets scratchy and less defined, informed by loose perceptions of a place garnered from secondhand stories and popular culture.

Japan: I've seen enough panoramic film footage of the Tokyo cityscape to build up an expectation that it's a burst of neon and concrete and life and strange culture on par with a New York and Las Vegas. I've romanticised its national oddities through screenings of Lost in Translation and weird Japanese game shows and had conversations with several people who have lived there to know that there is actually something unusual and interesting about the national way. I have it on good authority that outside the main cities, there's a beautiful country to explore.

India: LP has always had a more burning desire to visit India than I. But a pair of conversations about the country has piqued my interest; both were with people who loved their time there, and each noted a fascination with the psychology of dealing with, and the atmosphere created by, the sheer volume of people you are always surrounded by. It sounded... electric?

Cuba: My desire to get to Cuba is pressing largely because some day soon America will inevitably relax trade and travel restrictions with the country. From that point, I imagine foreign money will flood in and development will recommence in the country, new vehicles will take over the roads, and the island will no longer be a quaint time capsule.

I like to picture myself in Cuba wearing a cool hat and loose-fitting light-coloured flannel shirts, maybe smoking a cigar. 

Africa: The pull to Africa is powered by a notion that I can't escape: at some point in my life I should get as far out of my comfort zone and away from my home culture as I can possibly get.

Much of what I read about Africa each day is tragic: civil war, famine, pirates and the like. But, the snatches I know about the continent, its history and culture, and what friends have told me about the people and the places, put Africa always on the list of places that I'd like to go to, even as a product of the media environment we exist in I'm equally wary and nervous of the continent.

LP and I have also expounded at length about sitting on a series of beaches in Thailand, or renting an apartment in Rio De Janeiro or Buenos Aires. I enjoy being a lazy tourist, and I've often opted in my life to just go somewhere new and hang out for a couple of weeks rather than going to several countries in a shorter space of time.

***

It's self-evident, but strange to contemplate, just what proportion of the world you'll never get to. It's disquieting to think of just what proportion of your life you'll spend wrapped up in working weeks. The whole scale of our lives is tipped so far against exploration.

So LP and I know that taking a month or more off work is an indulgent promise to make, but we're into it.

So today, let's go crazy. You've got six weeks off and you've been setting aside the funds. You've promised yourself that you're going to head out and explore part of the world you've always wanted to.

Where are you going? Why are you going? What are you seeing? What are you avoiding? Why?

Or if you've been everywhere, where should we go?

Sometimes it is nice to have your eye on the horizon and a crazy idea in your heart. And who knows, if your ideas are really good, some may be coopted into our own travel plans next year. 

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