Where are you most dying to go before you, er....die? Author Dave Freeman, in his best-selling 1999 book, "100 Things to Do Before you Die," composed a list that combined exotic, gorgeous destinations with rich, surprising cultural experiences. We thought now might be a good time to update his list.
We'd have asked Freeman for his own ideas, but he died in 2008, having done about 50 of his own 100 things, according to his aunt, interviewed by the L.A. Times. The lesson seems obvious: Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. The following experts recommend their own favorite destinations and experiences.
Karen Schaler, editor of TravelTherapyTrips.com and author of "Travel Therapy: Where Do You Need to Go?"
Skiing in Zermatt, Switzerland. "Skiing in the shadow of the Matterhorn," Schaler calls incomparably romantic. That, and "sipping Swiss wine in ski chalets," she says, combine to make "one of my top ski experiences in the world." Not only is Zermatt "one of the most beautiful villages in the alps," it's quaint, owing to the fact that it prohibits cars. So, you may break your leg; but it won't be because you were hit by a Ford Taurus.
Sailing in the British Virgin Islands. Here are crystal-clear waters and talcum-powder soft sands white as sugar. "Chartering your own sailboat and stopping by Peter Island, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke islands [is] a glorious experience." And don't forget, she says, to try one of the Islands' famous "pain killer" cocktails. They're made with three kinds of rum, fruit juice and nutmeg.
Grape Harvest, Bordeaux, France. Taking part in the harvest -- "getting your hands dirty" by picking and sorting grapes is a hands-on experience unlike any other, says Schaler. "The harvest is only about two weeks long, and no one knows exactly when it will be." That lends an element of drama to your quest. "It's not the kind of thing you can plan for a year in advance," she says. "It depends on temperature and grape yield." The fact that the harvest's timing is only by "the luck of the draw," she thinks, only adds to picking's appeal.
Heather Mikesell, executive editor at American Spa Magazine, says the following are on her short-list of the world's essential soaks.
Chiva-Som Spa, Thailand. Mikesell calls this "a transformational place" where a pilgrim's full range of needs--cosmetic, nutritional and spiritual--are all addressed. "It treats your whole mind, body and spirit," she says. "You can totally transform your life, if you're seeking to make a lifestyle change. They help you work on everything under the sun." Want your energy read? They can read it. You might want to have your chakras lengthened before you go, just to give the staff more challenge. A small but nice touch: a basket of exotic fruits is delivered fresh daily to your doorstep, brimming, she says, with "dragon fruit, crazy Asian fruits."
Deception Island Hot Springs, Antarctica. Deception Island, in the Antarctic Peninsula, has natural springs that offer bathers an otherworldly experience: Amidst the ice and snow, in a setting where you can watch 'bergs sailing past, you can immerse yourself in waters delightfully warm. One minute you're shivering in your polar fleece, the next you're swimming in what might as well be bath water.
Bruce Northam, co-author of "In Search of Adventure: A Wild Anthology" and host of travel website AmericanDetour.com, would add his own experiences to Freeman's list:
Playing Naked Frisbee With Aboriginals. "There's a tribe called the Dani--an aboriginal tribe in Irian Jana, Indonesia," Northam says. "They are incredibly athletic and really took a shine to Frisbee." So well did the tribe like Northam's flying disc that they have made their own home-made versions from bamboo. Be advised, though: The Dani play unclothed. Theirs is the last stone-age village in existence, he says, and certainly the last stone-age village with a Frisbee.
Drinking Ayawaska in Peru. Ayawaska, explains Northam, "is a Shaman-administered medicinal drug made from three vines and two roots. It's not a recreational drug. It's a hallucinogenic that helps people resolve issues like overeating, drugs and alcohol. You have visions." He compares the experience to having 10 years of therapy in 5 hours. Celebrities who've done it and recommend it, he says, include Sting and Tori Amos.
Dawson City Music Festival, Canada. Once a year in July, country bands from around the world, including ones from Mali and Ethiopia, descend on this old goldmining town made famous by novelist John Steinbeck. Northam calls Dawson far-flung, likable, and rustic.
Writer Catherine Price offers a different sort of advice: Places not to go. If your remaining time on earth is short, be sure to skip these destinations and others that she lists in "101 Places Not to See Before Your Die."
-The Beijing Museum of Tap Water. "It's exactly what it sounds like," says Price, and just about as interesting. "Their English translations are atrocious." What's ironic, she says, is that "you can't drink the tap water in Beijing; so, you've got a museum, here, dedicated to a something that doesn't exist."
-Center for Prostatology, Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, St. Petersburg. The Center defies easy description, combining, as it does, a museum of erotica and a working medical clinic. The museum showcases the life, legend and preserved body parts of the visionary monk Grigory Rasputin. Ours being a family news organization, we will allude only in general terms to what those body parts are. Suffice it to say, Rasputin was endowed by his creator--maybe not with inalienable rights, but endowed nonetheless.