Urban gardens, Mount Rigi, light shows, and cenotes‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

The Power of the Bucket List

 Gina Ciliberto

It feels disingenuous to say that 'bucket lists' dictate my travel. I don't have actual, written lists. In reality, the process goes more like this: I decide or realize that I'm going to a place. Then, I do an exhaustive search of Pinterest, Instagram, and TripAdvisor. I browse the location on Airbnb. And then, dictated entirely by filtered photos, potentially paid-for reviews, and other propaganda, I create a bucket list of things I'd like to do in said place.

I wish I could say that I read history books prior to trips instead. Or that I consult locals or conduct research. But, it turns out, I, like the rest of the world, am image-driven, addicted to the ease of swiping and scrolling, and altogether a cheap sell. And it's not always a bad thing. Sometimes, my bucket-list mentality actually works.

Laos, 2013
Five years ago today, I persuaded my brother to travel with me to Laos. There's nothing wrong that, except that our express purpose for traveling to Laos was to visit Kong Lor Cave. We planned two days in the country --enough to see the cave-- but the cave was in a remote village not accessible via public transportation. So, the two days (already a bizarrely short time to be in a place) were spent frantically trying to hop buses, bribe local drivers, and find a headlamp so that we could make it to the cave and then back to Thailand. We succeeded, and it's one of the most remarkable travel experiences I've had.
Kong Lor Cave, Laos, 2013
Two years after that, I set my heart on visiting Gorge du Verdon after a work trip in France. The only problem was that the gorge was inaccessible by public transportation, way too mountainous to bike, and a 6-7 hour hike from the closest town with no bathrooms or food along the way. Miraculously, that one worked out, too.
Gorge du Verdon, 2013, c/o Arava Biton
I wish I could say I've grown out of my impulsive and ill-informed planning when it comes to travel. But, I'm still at this haphazard way of forming itineraries. This past June, when my partner and I decided to go to Mexico City, I booked an additional flight to Cancun (and then a taxi) and then a ferry to Isla Mujeres (and then another taxi) so that we could stay in an Airbnb that I had once added to my bookmarks list. Granted, the place is impressive: it was sculpted by an artist to look like a seashell and it has its own private pool. It's the kind of lodging that required us to seriously budget. Upon showing up, I learned that it was located on a deserted end of the island with no access to restaurants, the beach, or taxis. And yet, it was, once again, worth it. They may be impulsive, last-minute, and ill-planned, but making these 'bucket-list' items a reality has always been a joyful part of traveling for me.
Casa Caracol, 2018
Now. I'm not writing to encourage you to plan less and browse Instagram more. Instead, I'm sharing five secret, shining, secluded spots that remain on my bucket list. Because, more often than not, chasing that one special view or one out-of-this-world adventure really is worth it. 

1. Zug, Switzerland

Photo: By Copyright V-ZUG AG, via Wikimedia Commons
Dubbed Switzerland's Silicon Valley by  Business Insider, Zug is a small town about an hour outside of Zurich with a population of around 30,000. The city traditionally centered around agriculture and heavy industry, but more recently it has become a hotspot for pharmaceutical and medical companies due to low tax policies. But we say forget about the "crypto-valley" and explore Zugersee, or Lake Zug, and the surrounding area instead. Sail the lake on a boat tour. Take a train tour of a now-abandoned Medieval town. Check out the hohl gasse. Climb Mount Rigi. And, if you're wiling to venture about an hour away from the city of Zug, book one of the following spots for a dreamy stay.
A Cozy Home Near Zurich
Wake up to homemade muesli and yogurt for breakfast, explore Lake Zurich via sailboat, pedal boat and small motor boat. Learn to wake board. And then end the day with a luxurious bath. This spot is twenty minutes from Zurich and also connects via train to Hochevelig ski resorts, Flumserberge, and Atzmänig


Solitude on Mount Rigi
Hike to the top of Mount Rigi, spend the day exploring waterfalls, or ski (in the winter). Nestled in the Swiss hills among dairy farms, you'll have plenty of serenity; just be mindful that there aren't grocery stores nearby and your train trip will have to be planned in advance.


2. Mer & Pontorson, France

Photo by GIRAUD Patrick, CC-BY-SA-3.0 from Wikimedia Commons

Not far from the medieval village Beaugency, Mer is a quaint French town with a population of ~7,000. The reason it's on our list is because it's featuring Spectaculaires this summer, a light show that will illuminate Mer's Notre Dame church. For two nights a week for seventeen weeks, the church will light up at 11 pm. About 3.5 hours away, the French town of Pontorson also features Spectaculaires. It runs in Pontorson through September 1st.


3. Ruta de los Cenotes, Mexico

The Yucatan peninsula was at one time entirely under water. Now, below the limestone shelf, underground rivers flow throughout the region. Cenotes are sinkholes through the limestone, leading to flooded caves and beautifully blue freshwater pools. They're magical, relaxing, and adventurous. They exist in other parts of Mexico, too, but those in Yucatan are the best by far. This route highlights some of the best.


4. Garden-Hopping, Marrakesh, Morocco

Morocco may be associated with the desert, but the thousand-year-old city of Marrakesh is characterised by its deeply rooted tradition for gardens and green spaces. The Bahia Palace, Riad Madani, Riad Enija, and Jardin Majorelle are all lush places to stroll, read, and relax. For gorgeous photos of these gardens and more, check out Angelica Gray's book, Gardens of Marrakesh .

5. Karaburun Peninsula, Albania

As the largest peninsula in Albania, Karaburun is nearly 16-kilometers of rugged, untamed beauty. It boasts a permanent population of zero (there are some military bases located on it) and it's not for the faint of heart: the peninsula is only accessible by hiking or by boat. In 2017, more hiking trails to the peninsula opened up, hopefully making it at least a little easier to reach.
Check Out Our July Show on Albania

ILLYRIA, once a prosperous province of the Roman Empire, is ripe for discovery. It is bordered by the Adriatic and Ionian seas on the west and southwest, and by Yugoslavia and Greece in the northeast and southeast.The land is majestic with rugged terrain, and a fierce, independent people who share a dual culture: Muslim and Christian. More than two-thirds are of Muslim belief; less than one-third are of the Christian faith. After Albania declared its independence in 1912, it became a battleground during the First World War, in despite its status of neutrality. From 1925 to 1939, Albania became the fiefdom of Ahmed Zogu, a local tribal leader who forced his way into a position of power, and who proclaimed Albania as a monarchy until Italy’s invasion in 1939 forced his exile. During the Second World War, Albania once again posted a position of neutrality but was invaded by the Nazi regime making it a puppet state for the Axis until 1944 when Enver Hoxha, another tribal leader, took control of Albania under the Communist flag until his downfall in 1985. In 1986, his successor, Ramiz Alia, a more moderate politician, began to introduce multi-party reforms for the first time. In 1991 a coalition government was set up, at which point all bans on religion, foreign travel, and economic investment were lifted and a new democratic constitution was adopted. Today, Albania is rested on a democratic rule of law and remains a place of cultural, gastronomic, artistic, and natural discovery.

This month's podcast features Angjelina Nika, Dancer and Choreographer; Almira Bubesi,Teacher and Instructor, Architecture and Fashion Design; Kreshnik Zhabjaku, Opera and Classical Music performer; Elvira,Albania Tour & Travel; Ramiz Kukaj, Chef-Owner, Cka Ka Quellu restaurant, NY, and Sharon King Hoge, award winning columnist and travel editor.

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