40 totally doable travel 'must dos'

21:15, Jan 22 2014
holiday romance
NUMBER 20: Have a holiday romance. Depending on its quality and length, either boast about it incessantly afterwards, or quietly forget it ever happened.

I love those lists. You know the ones, the fanciful collections of dream experiences that you have to try before you die - although everyone knows you probably won't.

That's largely because a lot of these experiences are the kinds of things that you'll do right before you die. As in, they'll kill you. Things like "kayak over a waterfall", or "BASE jump in Norway", or "wear an expensive watch in Rio".

They allow people to dream a little, but these lists aren't very realistic. So it's time to stow the kayak, people. It's time to pack away the fantasy parachute.

In the interests of realism, and allowing travellers to have goals that are achievable, I present to you: 40 Fairly Standard Travel Experiences You Might Actually Try Before You Die.

1. Complain about an airport

A favourite pastime of every person who's ever travelled, this can encompass the parking prices, the queues, the bad food, the wifi, the seats... Pretty much anything.

2. Get drunk with an Irishman

A highly realistic goal, as - in the same way every city in the world seems to have an Irish bar - every hostel in the world seems to have an Irish bloke who's happy to come out with you and get drunk.

3. Do something dumb in South-East Asia

Rent a scooter despite your complete lack of experience. Get a tattoo. Discover "karaoke boom-boom". Drink booze from a bucket.

4. Eat McDonald's in an exotic location

The pull of the humble cheeseburger is strong, and as soon as you have a small moment of weakness, any tiny hankering for the comfort food of home... boom! You're eating Macca's.

5. Talk too much about home

We've got nicer beaches than this. We do better Asian food. The coffee is way better. Blah, blah, blah.

6. Butcher a language

It's great to attempt to speak the local tongue, but you'll inevitably fail in these attempts, probably laughably. At least you tried.

7. Take lots of photos of zebras

Zebras are amazing! Look at them! Click, click, click ... it's your first time in Africa and you just can't get enough.

8. Delete lots of photos of zebras

Oh wait, there's more zebras. And more. And more. All of a sudden they don't seem that exciting any more. Delete.

9. Do a bus tour

There's no shame - everyone does it. Whether you complete this as a hard-partying teenager or a sedate grey nomad is up to you, but one thing is for sure: it will happen.

10. Have sex in a tent

Much more difficult than it first appears. This is most likely to be completed in a campsite in Venice.

11. Lose a lot of money in Las Vegas

The house always wins. That's worth bearing in mind when you go to Vegas with unrealistic dreams of that big windfall. Doesn't make it any less enjoyable though.

12. Be disappointed by Italian pizza

"Italian pizza is crap!" says just about every first-time visitor to Italy, indicating they had absolutely no idea where to go for pizza in Italy.

13. Rave about Prague

Prague is like the Breaking Bad of the tourism world, a place you're duty-bound to tell everyone how much you loved, even if you secretly didn't think it was all that impressive.

14. Stay in an amazing hostel

It'll happen, at some point. You'll stumble across that gem, maybe in Berlin, or perhaps Lisbon, or Buenos Aires. But it won't last.

15. Stay in an appalling hostel

Likely to happen somewhere in Eastern Europe, or maybe South-East Asia. Thin walls, grotty toilets, uncomfortable beds ... it's a rite of passage.

16. Lie about how you got to Machu Picchu

"Oh yeah, we totally did the Inca Trail. So amazing." No you didn't, you got the train because you didn't book your trek in time. But no one needs to know that.

17. Get robbed or ripped off or fleeced

Another rite of passage. Hopefully you won't get mugged, but you will be swindled into paying far too much for that taxi, or that meal, or that souvenir.

18. Miss a flight. Or a bus. Or a train

Probably because you were hungover and slept through your alarm.

19. Post something incredibly annoying on Facebook

Maybe an overblown status update about what an amazing time you're having in country X, with a smiley photo to go with it.

20. Have a holiday romance

Depending on its quality and length, either boast about it incessantly afterwards, or quietly forget it ever happened.

21. Complain about Santiago

Every traveller's favourite ball to kick, Santiago comes in for plenty of flak. Unless you do your research you'll find it pretty uninspiring.

22. Be frightened by a taxi ride

Whether this is in a clapped out old bomb in Cairo, or a speeding Skoda in Prague, or a maniacal tuk-tuk in Bangkok, it always makes for a great story.

23. Be underwhelmed by the Mona Lisa

"It's so small!" Etcetera.

24. Get lost in Japan

Japan is an amazing place but it's also a fiendishly difficult country to navigate your way through. You will get lost. And someone will help you.

25. Get hooked on pho

Once you've tried pho in Vietnam, no noodle soup, or soup of any kind, or maybe even any foodstuff, will live up to your expectations again.

26. Become a coffee snob

Ha! As if you weren't already. Look forward to a long life of travelling and complaining about the bad coffee they have everywhere else.

27. Hate India

Be shocked by the poverty, be intimidated by the crowds, and be disgusted by the litter. But...

28. Love India

Be touched by the goodwill, be inspired by the monuments, and be awed by the sheer complexity of the whole experience.

29. Exaggerate a brush with danger

"We nearly died, I swear it."

30. Complain about "tourists" without appreciating the irony

Everybody hates tourists. Particularly, as it turns out, other tourists. Don't kid yourself into thinking you're any different.

31. Eat something weird in China

OK, maybe the Chinese don't eat deep-fried scorpions on a daily basis, but that shouldn't stop you from being photographed munching one and pretending it's normal.

32. Plan a reunion that will never happen

Yep, you'll definitely all meet up in Hawaii in 10 years time to recreate this experience. Well, maybe.

33. Speak LOUDLY in English

Even the most experienced of travellers will occasionally catch themselves doing the old "if you don't understand me I'll just speak louder" thing.

34. Do karaoke

If you're not already addicted to doing karaoke when you travel through Asia, then you soon will be. After the first song.

35. Go overboard with security

Wear a money belt every day. Sew cash into your socks. Cover your backpack in wire mesh. Then, eventually, realise that it's not really necessary.

36. Stay at an all-inclusive resort

Sounds tacky, and a little boring (to me at least), but if you're got the right crowd of people this can be a surprisingly enjoyable way to have a holiday.

37. Lose your passport

This potentially costly extreme sport can be executed with the aid of alcohol, or just dopey forgetfulness. Either way, it's a nightmare.

38. Spend far too long in a bus

"Yeah, 30 hours isn't that long at all. And think about all the countryside we'll get to see!" Good luck with that.

39. Get an upgrade

The holy grail of travel isn't an easy one to achieve, but when the stars do align, when the travel gods do smile upon you, ensure you make the most of it.

40. Make friends

Doesn't matter where you go, what you do, or how much money you spend doing it. This is what travel is all about.

How many of these have you done? What would make your list of 'must dos'?


beach thailand
NUMBER 5: "Yeah, it's nice and all, but our beaches rock". Compare everywhere to home.
NUMBER 31: When in China, head straight for the crispy crickets.

Sydney Morning Herald