New Year’s resolutions most often seem to take the form of numbers, lists and steps. But so often this goal-forming process leads us to focus on the trivial rather than the significant. Wbether we set out to lose ten pounds, clear our clutter or get a new job, these goals keep us sequestered squarely in the mundane. This year I decided to do just the opposite — to set my sights on rising above the ordinary. And the best way I know how to do this is to visit places that set my spirits soaring.
Here’s my top 12 list of places I hope to visit this year. They range from famous landmarks and world heritage sights to a peak I’ve never climbed before even though it’s less than an hour from my home.
1. The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
2. The Ancient City of Ayutthaya, Thailand
3. St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague
4. Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada
5. Mount St. Helena, Napa Valley, California
6. Canyon de Chelly, Northeastern Arizona
7. Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada
8. A Native American petroglyph
9. The Tufa Formations of Mono Lake, California
10. The Perseid Meteor Shower Somewhere in the Sierras
11. Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, Nevada
12. Moon Setting into the Pacific, Northern California or Anywhere It’s Not Foggy
What all these trips and experiences have in common is a change in perspective. I want to go places and see things that take me out of my small little everyday world and help me feel that sense of wonder that’s so easy to lose as we get older. I’m also looking to test myself a bit and expand my horizons, to feel myself part of something larger and more important than my own enclosed world of thoughts and concerns. This is the route Buddhist teachers prescribe for getting beyond what they call “the small sense of self” and awakening to a larger, hopefully more enlightened, sense of awareness.
Me, I’m not aiming for anything so exalted. I’ll be content if every month or so I can find a few hours to climb a mountain, wander the aisles of a cathedral, or contemplate a work of art. Will I really make it to Egypt or Prague this year? Probably not. But if you don’t articulate for yourself the things you really want to do, those dreams can stay so deeply buried you don’t even know they’re there. Many of my fellow travel bloggers, like Kate Hamman of Smarter Travel, and Andrew Hickey of The Brooklyn Nomad, have been making such lists; some, like 501 Places, have even designed their entire blog around the concept. (In case you don’t read travel books, the title is a poke at the bestselling book 500 Places to See Before You Die.) And of course the movie The Bucket List cemented the whole concept in the national consciousness.
What are your top picks for places you long to see before too much more time has passed? Add them to the comments list below and they may make their way into the list, or perhaps I’ll get an early start on 2011 as well. I made this list off the top of my head and am sure to revise it many times as the year goes on, and I’d love to hear your suggestions.
After all, when all’s said and done, it’s those moments I’m going to remember; not whether we kept our offices organized or fit into our skinny jeans.