On the previous post, Bud mentioned that he’d recently returned from a tour of 14 states plus Canada, which he was visiting for the first time. He said he still had “many bucket list places to visit,” and that this was a start.
I started to reply, but it got long, so I decided to turn it into a separate post.
I’m not sure I have a “bucket list.” Frankly, I’ve never really liked the term, as it has seemed a tad morbid to me. But I do love travel, and I would like to go to Canada sometime, just to say I did.
And now I’ve been to Boston, which I had always wanted to do. And I got to see my three fave things there — Fenway Park, the Constitution, and Quincy, John Adams’ hometown — Adams being my favorite Founder. And the Fenway Park visit was perfect, since we got to watch the Red Sox beat the Yankees, and sat out in right field while Jackie Bradley Jr. was still with the Sox and playing that position. Of course, that means in the other halves of the innings we were right behind Aaron Judd during his big home-run year, which was cool, but that was less of a thrill.
I’m not sure of anything else I’m burning to see for the first time here in our own country. I’ve seen most of the best bits at least once. That’s the thing about me and travel — I enjoy it, but I did so much of it when I was a kid. And most of that was here in the states, although the longest I ever lived in any one place was in South America. But with all that moving around I never got to either Europe or Asia growing up. I’ve addressed that since with trips to England, Ireland and Thailand, but I’ve still never set foot on the European mainland.
So I’ve got some places I’d like to hit internationally, some of which I’ve never been to.
But you know what? I think another reason I don’t think in terms of “bucket lists” is that I’m a guy who’d like to spend what time is available on things I’ve already experienced and would like to see again. Part of it is just that I like what I know I like, so I read favorite books and watch favorite movies over and over. But it’s also because I still haven’t experienced enough of those places, and want new experiences there. I mean, you can say “I’ve been to England” all you want — and we spent a couple of weeks there awhile back. But that wasn’t enough time to fully explore even the places where we went, not to mention the vast majority of the country, which we’ve never seen.
So I guess I have two Top Five Lists. The first is sort of the re-run list:
- London — We were there for a week, but just scratched the surface. Just last night, we rewatched “Notting Hill,” and my wife said she’d like to go to there, and I realized that when we were in town, we missed it even though we strolled through Hyde Park, right next door. And we rode by Hampstead Heath, but never got out and walked through it! And I’m just getting started…
- Ireland — A gazillion places we didn’t go in 2019. We barely touched the surface of Dublin, Waterford and Limerick. And then there are all the places we haven’t seen. I’d like to spend months just hanging out in County Kerry.
- Tokyo — All we saw was the airport — for several-hour layovers each way. And while it’s nice to be able to say I watched sumo on the telly in the first-class lounge (a one-time treat our travel agent had arranged), I’d kind of like to see the city.
- Various places in Ecuador — I’d like to show my wife where we lived in Guayaquil from 1962-65, and my old school, then hit a couple of beach towns — Salinas being my favorite, but I’d like to stay at the Humboldt Hotel in Playas again. And it would be awesome to visit the Galapagos, a place where I’ve never been. Although it’s not like we could just “swing by” there — it’s not exactly on the way
- New Orleans — I loved living there, but most of the main personal landmarks — my school, our home, in fact the whole dilapidated Navy base we lived on there in Algiers — are gone, completely. But cross the river, and so much of the coolest city I’ve ever lived in is still there, and I’d love to take my wife there.
The closest thing that almost made that list, but not quite, is Hawaii. But my wife and I were there for a couple of days in 2015, and saw my old house and school and other cool things like Waikiki, the Windward Side and Pali Lookout. But there’s so much more I’d still like to go back and see after all these years — I left there in 1971.
Then there’s the Places-I’ve-Never-Been List:
- Rome — You know, the center of the Western World. I was hugely into the Roman Empire when I was a kid, particularly during those two years of Latin. And now I’m Catholic, so I’m actually a “Roman.” My wife’s been there, and she could show me around. I can’t have pasta and I can’t have cheese, in fact my allergies are one reason I generally prefer to stay in English-speaking countries, but I’d risk it to go to Rome. And I can have vino, right?
- Spain — I wanted to go to England because it’s the mother country, and so much of my country’s culture comes from there. But living in South America as a kid, I got a sense of Spain kind of being a mother country as well. And wow, talk about a fascinating history. I’d want to hit all kinds of places — Barcelona and other parts of Catalonia, Pamplona, the other regions as well, particularly along the coast.
- Havana — Speaking of Spanish influence. I want to go to Havana before things have opened up so much that it gets too modern and touristy. Of all the Hispanic sites I can think of in the world, it probably attracts me the most.
- Greece — Athens certainly, but even more I’d like to make like Odysseus and get lost in those islands. Just chill, do beach stuff. You ever see that Lina Wertmüller film, “Swept Away… by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August?” Like that.
- Normandy — This is a military-history geek thing. I’d like to see where the landings happened, where the Allies landed 175,000 men in a day in the face of fierce Nazi resistance. I’d like to visit Carentan and Sainte-Mère-Église, and pay my respects at the cemeteries. I’d like to see those legendary, surprising hedgerows.
Note I’m limiting it to a Top Five, in respect for the Nick Hornby convention. There are other places I’d like to go, as well — Scotland, for instance. They’re generally in Europe, and I’m not going to apologize for being not only Eurocentric, but even Anglocentric. Other places are charming and fascinating, but the cultural influences that have acted upon me my whole life — the books I’ve read and such — have particularly inflamed my curiosity about this and that place in the Western World. We don’t live long enough to experience all the cultures of the world to an extent that is deeply meaningful. We don’t even live long enough to fully explore and grok our own, but I like to take stabs at it, in the attempt of better understanding my environment. The two places that related to that culture most vividly would probably be New York and London, and that’s why I’ve been to those places whenever I’ve had the chance. And it’s a big reason why I want to go to Rome.
I’m sure I’d hit quite a few other, more “exotic,” areas if I were drawing up a Top 100 list, or even a Top Twenty.
But this is what comes to me in response to what Bud said. How about you? Where do you want to go?