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Swoon: to enter a state of hysterical rapture or ecstasy. What makes these experiences swoon-worthy? Take huge heaps of beautiful nature and combine that with amazing adventures and add a dash of culture. If that’s not enough to boost you to a state of hysterical rapture, maybe your ecstasy bank is empty. We’ll start with some backyard trips around America that you can do today (if you live in America that is 😉 ), then we will expand to some world-wide trips that you must add to your bucket list.

Jenn at Great Pyramid complex

Soak in San Diego’s So-Cal Sunshine

San Diego is America’s answer to the Mediterranean. Warm sunshine and cool oceans make the weather perfect year-round. When you get off the beach, you’ll find trendy restaurants and urban culture. You can even combine the two into a beach and brew tour.

San Diego is more than 70-miles of beaches; it’s also the eclectic communities up and down the coast. La Jolla overflows with the good life. In La Jolla Shores, you can kayak to sea caves, catch a wave at Scripps Pier, snorkel with nurse sharks, or go shore diving in La Jolla Canyon. Across La Jolla Cove, you’ll find beaches filled with harbor seals and sea lions barking on the rocks. Just off the coast on Prospect Street are million-dollar art galleries and gourmet restaurants. If you don’t think gelato can bring you to ecstasy, you haven’t tried Bobboi Natural Gelato.

Farther south, you’ll find the hippy vibe of Ocean Beach and the Pacific Beach Boardwalk. Closer to downtown is the glitz and glamour of Coronado Island, nightlife and entertainment of the Gaslamp District, and the history of Old Town. Head up the hill to Balboa Park, home of the world-famous San Diego Zoo and the seventeen world-class Balboa Park Museums.

Do yourself a favor and cross over to Tijuana. There are some pretty spectacular things to do in Tijuana from visiting authentic markets to exploring the TJ hipster scene. Be sure to hit up Plaza Fiesta, a shopping center that’s been converted into the hub of the Tijuana craft beer scene. To soak up those suds head to Telefonico Gastro Park, a semi-permanent food truck roundup featuring many young up-and-coming chefs.

San Diego needs to make your bucket list because of the weather, beaches, and multicultural influence.

blacks beach san diego
many-skeletons in day of the dead Tijuana

Fall in Love with San Francisco (and Beyond)

Culture, nature, architecture blend together to make San Francisco one of America’s great cities. From the Nob Hill to North Beach beats the heart of the City by the Bay. Here you’ll find cable cars running up and down the hill like blood vessels flowing between the unique and distinctive neighborhoods. From America’s largest Chinatown to the beat scene of Little Italy, you’ll discover the cultural smorgasbord that’s ubiquitous and distinctly San Francisco at the same time.

On the waterfront is the tourist mecca of Fisherman’s Wharf and the sea lions of Pier 39. You can book a bike tour around the Bay or a boat to Alcatraz to explore the rest of the city. You can even plan a self-guided walking tour of San Francisco. There’s a lot of hills, but very walkable routes. No matter how you travel, make sure you reach the Presidio for views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the super-hip Haight-Ashbury District.

No matter how incredible San Francisco is, the surrounding Bay Area might be even better. Day trips from San Francisco take you from the wineries of Napa Valley to hiking in the Redwood Forest. South of town is fun and funky Santa Cruz, magnificent Monterey, and the start of Big Sur. Heading east, you can reach the granite cathedrals of the Yosemite Valley.

San Francisco needs to make your bucket list for the beautiful city and what lies beyond.

Hiking Berry Creek Falls Loop @ Big Basin Redwoods State Park
San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge
elephant-seals-at-sunset

Take a Walk on Florida’s Wild Side

With the hundreds of millions of visitors who come to Florida every year, chances are if you’re an American, you’ve been to Florida. Technically, 48% of American’s have come to Florida, but that includes the 10% of people who have never left their state and other oddities. If you’re reading this, we’ll just assume you’re not one of them.

So you’ve been to Florida, and unless you’re one of those adult Disney people, maybe Florida isn’t on your bucket list, but it should be. You should know about the “must-see” attractions like the snow white sugar sand of the Gulf Coast beaches, theme parks of Orlando, and the tropical decadence that is South Florida. These are fabulous, but it’s Florida’s hidden gems that push it onto the bucket list.

On Florida’s west coast, you’ll secret spots like Crystal River where you can swim with wild manatees. There’s also the Sponge Docks of Tarpon Springs that used to house a million-dollar natural sponge harvest and laid out like a Greek village. On the east coast, you can watch a space launch or try America’s best shore diving at the Blue Heron Bridge. In between flows the natural springs that enticed explorers since the days of Ponce de Leon. Kayaking the run of the world’s largest spring, Silver Springs, will take you by manatees, alligators, and wild monkeys all on the same trip!

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Manatees in Crystal River
Frogfish and Starfish at Blue Heron Bridge dive

Take off to the Great White North

With a lead-in like that, you might think there’s a joke coming about our friends north of the 45th parallel. That’s just not the case. In fact, we’re calling Quebec City a swoon-worthy destination because it’s so Canadian and European at the same time and so very romantic.

91% of the most Canadian of all food, maple syrup, comes from Quebec (the province, not just the city). However, it’s the French farm to table dining that will highlight your Quebec City foodie tour. The city itself looks link a provincial fairy tale, with cobblestone streets and the Chateau Frontenac sitting proudly on the hillside. (fun fact, Chateau Frontenac is the most photographed hotel in the world!). If you think Quebec looks like a storybook in the summer, imagine all this beauty wrapped in a blanket of snow during the winter carnival.

Outside the city, you’ll find adventures aplenty. Seven thousand four hundred fifty-six miles of bike paths traverse the province from Route Verde, North America’s cycle longest trail at a massive 3,293 miles, all the way to the urban ride to Montmorency Falls. You can even take the Saint Laurence River to spot beluga whales or experience wolf sanctuaries.

From poutine to fine French dining, you’ll find it all in Quebec. Whether you’re finding yourself at Le Monastère des Augustines or discovering the countryside from the bike saddle, Quebec has to be on your bucket list.

Horse drawn carriage the the evening in Quebec City
Montmorency Falls just outside of Quebec CIty

Uncover the Secrets of the Mayans Beyond Cancun

Cancun is nice. Staying in an all-inclusive Cancun resort has all the gluttony of a cruise ship without the annoyance of making port calls. If that’s your thing, hopefully, you can still make a few day trips off the property. If you’ve avoided Cancun because of that scene, you’re doing yourself a disservice. There are just so many adventures to be had in the Yucatan.

You have to visit Chichen Itza, but you don’t need to ride with the ravaging hordes on the tour buses. Staying on property at the Mayaland Hotel gives you a private entrance to the ruins. You can go for the sound and light show at the temples after the tour buses leave for the night, and even book a private sunrise tour of Chichen Itza.

Rolling with the dodge-a-tour-bus philosophy will let you explore the interior on your own schedule. You can visit Il-Kil cenote before the crowds (be there when they open the gate in the morning) or discover one of the hidden cenotes of the Yucatan. You can also enjoy a traditional dinner in the town square of Valladolid after the bus stampede leaves.

There’s so much more to the Yucatan than the Cancun hotel zone. You can climb the pyramids of Coba, dive the cenotes of Tulum, and swim in the canals of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

Just heading down the road to Playa Del Carmen (which is more accessible and cheaper to reach than the hotel zone) gives you a whole new perspective. You’ll have access to diving with bull sharks or crossing over to Cozumel for world-class drift diving. If you’d rather snorkel, there’s snorkeling with turtles at Akumal Beach. There are also caving experiences like splashing through the caves of Rio Secreto or fine dining in a cave with an underground cenote at Alux.

Cancun has to be on your list, but only if you’re willing to go beyond the all-inclusive resorts and bus tours.

Bull shark
Diver in Dos Ojos Cenote

Taste Adventure in Costa Rica

If you think the taste of Costa Rica is rice and beans with a side of beans and rice, you’re ordering off the wrong menu. You have to savor the flavor of pure adventure.

Costa Rica is an adventurer’s paradise where you can test your limits with first-rate gear and guides who speak fluent English. The thrills of Costa Rica shouldn’t come from shoddy equipment.

Whether you’re ziplining off a volcano or jumping off a waterfall, you will discover your inner daredevil. There’s so much more than getting your thrill on to Costa Rica; never forget the chill vibe and Pura Vida.

Pura Vida loosely means ‘the good life’. It’s a phrase that describes everything beautiful about Costa Rica. They are one of the greenest, most eco-conscious countries on the planet protecting some of the most amazing landscape around. From the green cloud forest of Monte Verde to the stunning blue waters of Rio Celeste, Pura Vida is calling you.

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Soaking in Pagosa Springs
Jenn on Zip in Costa Rica
Jenn on rope in Lost Canyon Costa Rica

Pluck the Pearl of the Indian Ocean

In so many ways, Sri Lanka is on the other side of the world than Costa Rica. Besides the geography, Sri Lanka will challenge a traveler in the same ways Costa Rica coddles you. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. In fact, if you’re looking to find “the next place” before “all those tourists came” than Sri Lanka might be it.

The country itself is beautiful with dense jungles, wild elephants, and rich history. The cave monasteries of Dambulla have been in continuous operation for almost 2000 years. Sigiriya Rock Fortress is considered the 8th ancient wonder of the world by some. The wisdom of Ayurveda has been healing people long before the Greek conjectured that the liver was the center of your soul.

Sri Lanka will challenge you as a traveler with cultural differences and crazy roads. To paraphrase JFK, we choose to go to Sri Lanka in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone.

Sri Lanka has to be on your bucket list so you can see it now before it changes. Hopefully, it will go the way of Costa Rica, and eco-tourism will inspire the country to new heights. Using your tourism dollars towards ethical travel in Sri Lanka will encourage that goal. Still, there will be a little wildness lost. You want to say you climbed Pidurangala Rock and looked over to Sigiriya before they put in the handrails.

Elephant families Kaudulla National Park
Inside Dambulla Cave Temples

Experience Winter in Norway

Some people flee from the extremes, the cusp of life where you meet your mettle. I say, you should experience them. Experience all of life. If you’re going to see snow, why not go north of the Arctic Circle? Why not stay in a hotel carved from ice or cross the tundra with reindeer herders. Going to Norway in the winter lets you experience all of this and more.

Almost every trip to Norway begins in Oslo. Once or twice a month, if the sun and clouds line up, you might see the northern lights from the city. It’s a beautiful winter scene with snow on the palace and steam rising from the saunas in the fjords, but you can go farther. Hop a flight to Alta for the full arctic experience.

Here, you’re north of the Arctic Circle. The sun doesn’t rise in the winter. The days are nothing more than a twilight haze on cotton candy skies, and every clear night, the auras twinkle overhead. You can explore this natural winter wonderland by dogsled or skiing. Just outside of town sits the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, but you can go farther still.

Visit Natives will arrange a homestay with Sami reindeer herders. You’ll take a bus to snowmobiles and cross the tundra to their winter homes. Here, you’ll experience what life is like on the edge of the world. It’s rugged, beautiful, and entirely swoon-worthy.

The Northern Lights Cathedral
Northern lights over Alta Norway
Jenn at the top of Karl Johan's Gate

The Old is New Again in Egypt

The Great Pyramid at Giza is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the World that’s still standing. You can’t tell how massive it really is until you go there yourself. I felt like an ant climbing into the inner chamber. Only, that’s not all there is to see in Egypt.

In every city along the Nile, you’ll find some tomb or temple that you’ve heard of. Your ancient history class comes to life before your eyes. Egypt truly is the birthplace of civilization.

Visiting Egypt goes beyond the legacy etched in stone and extends to the vibrant culture that thrives today. It’s bold and dashing, like the Sahara sun, but beautiful and subtle as well.

There was a time when visiting Egypt reigned on the top of every bucket list. The country is recovering from its recent turmoil, but you can still see the sites before the crowds return. Explore now while people are still wondering, is Egypt Safe? Visiting Egypt at any time is amazing; having an unobstructed tour of the last wonder of the world is swoon-worthy.

Jenn at Abu Simbel
Felucca Ride and Egyptian captian

Adding to Your Bucketlist

A good bucket list isn’t static. It’s growing and evolving, like yourself and the world around you. We hope that we’ve added a place or two to your travel dreamscape. Better yet, we hope that we inspired you to make your dreams a reality. The real joy of dreaming is discovering that dreams really do come true.

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