Are You Well Traveled?

The prestigious Travel List Challenge. Have you seen it? Done it? The tag line barks “Are you well traveled? Prove it!”

Challenge participants simply indicate which places they have been on the list of 100 power spots. Once you’ve completed the test (wipe brow, crack knuckles and sigh with relief here), you can compare and share your results. 426,976 Facebookers “like” this, so, clearly, in Martha-speak “it’s a good thing.”

Margarita Island, Venezuela

Apparently the “average user” hits 23 matches on the list that scatters the latitudes and longitudes from Big Ben to Bora Bora. But Teotihuacan, Mexico? Kiyomizu-Deru, Japan? Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India? I had to Google each one, which is also a good thing.

I discovered the Travel List Challenge when my Nashville pal Heidi posted her results a few weeks ago via Facebook and clocked in with an impressive 37 out of 100 (which earned her a shiny bronze out of my travel-centric friends). I’ve seen her expired passport books, and they unfold like the rest of my life’s dream trip itinerary. She has earned some bonus points for her travel as a videographer with World Vision, but her other destinations have been pure pleasure, not biz.

My own sister punched in a score of 15 (I’m sure she cheated somewhere during the ‘test’). Melinda Merkle of Memphis took silver with a proud 42 (despite her homing instinct for the beaches of Destin, Florida). Rachel Croft, ironically living la vida loca in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who I met at a bar in Toronto one random night with my friend Michelle (on shore leave from Nunavut), took gold at the podium with a sweeping 47.

My score was a pissy 11 out of 100, which was reminiscent of my grade 11 math test scores (on one particularly stellar geometry test I almost had 11, but I was docked a mark for doing the test in red pen).

Cantina Loredo, The Gulch, Nashville

My consolation came in the form of learning that the editor and lead faculty of the travel writing program at Matador U, Julie Schwietert Callazo, scored 23. She and her husband created an iPhone travel app for crying out loud! She’s written for National Geographic Traveler! I can come to terms with my mark of 11 if Julie only scored 23. And when I say “only” we both know that 23 checkmarks on 23 places is no easy feat. There was probably diarrhea involved, a flat tire, an overpriced airline ticket, corrupt police, a delayed flight, bed bugs, stolen sunglasses, a busted flip flop and an ATM with no money in it.

(And, to not be such a sore loser, much praise to Laura Koepnick (37), PJ Moore (35), and Mark Picketts (28). It’s with pure green envy and applause that I type this.)

BUT. This Challenge forced me to consider all the places I’ve been and long to visit. When I re-examined the Travel List Challenge it was very Euro-centric, and our mighty Canada made brief appearances. The only additional places I would pro-actively go to would be Victoria Falls, Easter Island, Ngorongoro Crater, Glow Worm Cave (NZ), Death Valley, Redwood National Park and Bora Bora. So, really, I would only ever score 18 on my own travel accord.

Congo kids hamming it up

Which leads me to this. Here is my redesigned perfect 100. Of course, it’s not for the faint of heart, or faint of stomach. But, if I were to customize a list of places that I thought every responsible human being should see, feel and do, this would be it. And this is what the true challenge is, isolating our desires and meshing them with those of our partner, friends and family.

My parents are surprisingly symbiotic despite very diverse pulls: my mother’s perfect itinerary would include a road trip stuffed with antiquing, used bookstores, cemetery visits and a nice pint after looking for long lost relatives names on headstones. My dad would prefer a ballpark tour, a round of golf and a $2 hotdog with maybe a soft serve cone to follow.

My brother is an aquarium, museum fiend and whiskey hound who would bitch at the thought of my sister’s ideal day, climbing some peak in Nepal with dried fruit and 10 gallons of water. I know my friend Kelly would choose a week in Nashville, her days rammed with Titans games, deep fried pickles and pulled pork nachos, foot massages and karaoke.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

I naturally lean towards extreme landscapes and fauna over architecture, but this makes for a beautifully balanced relationship where I get to experience my partner’s top 100 places too. While I suggest jungles, deserts and birding hotspots, she will counter with ruins, walled cities, hidden pubs and historical landmarks that I might have bypassed. And, better yet, now I’ll have 200 places to visit! We have a solid agreement to not scuba dive, cruise, visit China, India, Cuba (again), Vegas or Disneyland. We’re a perfect match–let’s see how you match up below!

1. a night at The Ice Hotel, Quebec City

2. Camping overnight at the very active Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

3. Gorilla trekking at Bwindi Impenetrable Park, Uganda

4. Cobh, Ireland: where the Titanic last set sail from the White Star Line pier

5. Bolivian Salt Flats

6. Jig-fishing on the Atlantic, Charlottetown, PEI. After a tough day fishing, reclining on the red brick sands of Cabot Beach.

7. Newfoundland—a tour of the most absurdly named places: Come-By-Chance, Dildo, Pothead, Blow Me Down, Heart’s Desire, Heart’s Content, Nick’s Nose, Conception Bay, Cupids, Witless Bay and Cow Head for puffin-sighting and screech

8. Roslyn, Washington: where Northern Exposure was filmed. Roslyn was the guise for “Cicely, Alaska.”

9. Microbrew tour of Portland, Oregon: Green Dragon, Full Sail, Lucky Labrador, Mia & Pia’s, Rock Bottom, Big Horse and Vertigo Brewing among others

10. Sheikh Zayed International Camel Endurance Race, Queensland, Australia

11. Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship somewhere authentically cold like Finland or Sweden

12. The Treehotel, Sweden. Instant resurrection of childhood awe & magic:

13. Free Spirit Spheres—sleep in an orb suspended in a tree! Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, BC.

14. Camp in Masai Mara National Park with local residents: lions and elephants

Sunrise in the White Desert, Egypt

15. High tea at the Fairmont Empress Resort, Victoria, BC

16. Sleep under the stars and catch a killer sunrise in the White Desert, Egypt

17. Sleep in a 13th century Shali fortress, Siwa Oasis, Egypt

18. See the epic 9,000km Dakar Rally finish line

19. Iditarod Great Sled Race, finish line—Nome, Alaska

20. Just done cinnamon buns & caffeine at the Gumboot Restaurant & Cafe, Roberts Creek, Sunshine Coast, BC

21. Hayward Lake Reservoir Trail (preferably with wet dogs in tow), BC

22. Harrison Hot Springs Sand Sculpture Competition, BC

23. Marathon Du Medoc, France. 42 km, 23 wine-drinking stations en route and foie gras, oyster and entrecote steak food stops.

Blue Footed Booby, Galapagos

24. Training your binoculars on blue-footed boobies in the Galapagos Islands

25. Bartolome Island, Galapagos. Described by Neil Armstrong as the closest landscape to the moon, on earth.

26. Snowy snowshoe to Boom Lake, just outside Banff, Alberta. Addition: hot toddies and a night at the Storm Mountain Lodge.

27.Wreck Beach, Vancouver, BC. Nudists, tequila shots, empanadas, moose burgers and banana muffins. True travel challenge: making it back up the stairs of the 200 foot cliff.

28. Grouse Grind, aka “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster,” Vancouver, BC—2.9 km trail up the face of Grouse Mountain, 853m elevation gain, 2,830 stairs.

29. A night at the Gladstone Hotel in the so-hip-it-hurts bleeding arts section of Queen West, Toronto. Mac n’cheese at the Drake down the street.

30. Arrington Vineyards, Nashville, Tennessee. Buy a bottle of syrah and out-do the picnic spread of your neighbours on the idyllic vineyard property. Best: sunset, tree swing, fire lit.

31. Media Luna Resort, Half Moon Bay, Roatan, Honduras. All-inclusive, posh cabanas, sunsets that paint the sky burnt orange and cotton candy pink.

32. Haida Gwaii, BC

33. Gately Inn on the Nile, Jinja, Uganda (plus pancakes with crushed peanuts and honey in the morn)

Gately Inn on the Nile, Jinja, Uganda

34. Angel Falls, Canaima National Park, Venezuela

35. Piranha fishing, Orinoco River, Venezuela

36.Bicycle built for two, across the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California

37. Finger Lakes, NY by day, fireside with s’mores at Watkins Glen or Leitchworth State Park by night

38. Sundance Film Festival, Park City,  Utah

39. Picnic in Vondelpark, Amsterdam with warm Heineken, blank postcards, girlfriend

40. Polar Bear Dip, Lake Ontario

41. Pride weekend, Reykjavik, Iceland

42. Wildebeest migration by hot air balloon, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

43. Visit home of Isaak Denison, author of Out of Africa, Nairobi, Kenya

Sunrise balloon ride, Luxor, Egypt

44. Hot air balloon over Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt (preferably without diarrhea)

45. Kiss the Blarney Stone! Blarney Castle, Ireland

46. Rent a beach hut on car-free and carefree Caye Caulker, Belize

47. See the painted dogs of Zimbabwe

48. The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia to see folk artist Maud Lewis’ tiny & quirky 13 x 12 foot cottage on permanent display

49. Emily Carr House, Victoria, BC. A provincial historic site dedicated to an iconic writer and artist.

50. Easter Island

51. Medium-fat, house-smoked brisket at Schwartz’s deli, Montreal, Quebec

52. L’Oncle Antoine stone cave cellar bar in Quebec City. One of the city’s oldest surviving houses (1754). Order the Dieu de Ciel Route de Epices (peppercorn beer) and steamer dog.

53. Skate the Rideau Canal (Ottawa, Ontario) with a flask and a maple syrup-dripping Beaver Tail to Dows Lake (7.8 km or, 90 Olympic hockey rinks long!).

54. Yukon Territory for the aurora borealis gone wild

55. South Georgia, Crozet and Kerguelen Islands to see the comical macaroni penguins

56.Hanlan’s Point, Toronto Island with gossipy mags, beer and sandwiches on ice

57. St. Paddy’s Day in Savannah, Georgia. You ain’t seen nothing like it. And you won’t remember 80% of it. Go back for the plantation homes and old man’s beard moss.

58. The limestone pinnacles and lemur habitat of Tsingy de Bemahara National Park ( Tsingy means “where one cannot walk barefoot” in Malagasy) in western Madagascar.

59. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

60. The surreal hexagonal basalt columns of Giant’s Causeway, northern Ireland (Bushmills Distillery en route)

61. Whale watching, Kennebunkport, Maine

62. Wine tour of Prince Edward County, Ontario. Restoration of soul easily found at the Waring House Inn with a jacuzzi, Karlo Estates merlot and a wedge of something great from the Black River Cheese Company.

Karlo Estates, Prince Edward County

63. Ice fishing somewhere genuinely North & genuinely teeth-chatteringly cold like Jumping Caribou Lake, Limberlost or Magog Lake, Ontario.

64. RCMP graduation in Regina, Saskatchewan in January when it’s -58, just to feel Canadiana at its best

65. Nunavut, to see the place that has shaped Michelle’s heart like it was mere wet clay. And, to see where the caribou and arctic char jerky she has supplied me with has been sourced from.

66. See the pyramids and Sphinx by camel, Cairo, Egypt

67. Grizzly Paw beer in the Lakeview Lounge of the Fairmont Lake Louise Hotel, Alberta, watching the pink-cheeked skaters whirling about outside the Palladian windows.

68. $30 cup of Doi Chaang Coffee at the Bean Brothers Cafe in Kerrisdale, Vancouver (the famous wild civet shit/shat coffee beans) after a butterscotch root beer and $100 cognac-infused hot dog at Dougie Dogs on Granville.

69. Haggis in Scotland! After combing the powder white sand beaches and secret coves of the Hebrides.

70. Fried grasshoppers & termites at the Tuesday night market in Entebbe, Uganda with a 500ml Bell beer, all for less than $3.

Breakfast of grasshoppers

71. Murchison Falls, Uganda boat safari to the falls. Hippos, crocodiles, chocolate-backed kingfishers and elephants, oh my! Boat trip in Queen Elizabeth National Park close second.

72. Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick

73. Inuvik, Yellowknife: Summer Solstice Madness Marathon. Run in the midnight sun!

74. Bora Bora, French Polynesia for totally obvious reasons

75. Grand Canyon, Arizona

76. International Pow Wow, Albuquerque, New Mexico

77. Soupy tromp through Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica and addition: a week volunteering at the Aviarios del Caribe Sloth Sanctuary

78. All 280 km of the winding Grand River, from Elora to Lake Erie by canoe, Ontario

79. Conch fritters at the Soggy Dollar Bar and guava rum punch at Ivan’s Stress Free Bar on Jost Van Dyke Island, British Virgin Islands

80. Bracken Bat Cave, near San Antonio Texas. Home of the world’s largest bat colony.

81. Thunderstorm on Lake Victoria, Uganda with three dogs and two cats stuffed into your mosquito net.

82. Northern Ethiopia

83. Papua, New Guinea: the birds, oh, the birds.

84. Cabo Sao Vicente (Cape St. Vincent), Western Algarve, Portugal

85. Cinque Terre, Italy, because of this picture alone, although it may never appear like this again. In October 2011, Vernazza was wiped out and evacuated due to torrential rains that triggered over a hundred mudslides and massive flooding.

After the Brazil vs. Holland World Cup match

86. Amsterdam during World Cup Soccer Finals, pit stop at the Bulldog Cafe

87. Cougar’s Crag dog-friendly B&B in Sooke, Vancouver Island, BC after a sloppy walk along misty French Beach.

88. Jigokundani Valley in Nagano Prefecture, Japan, to see the Japanese snow monkeys in the hot springs

89. Botswana, Africa

90. Back to Lubumbashi, Congo to see how the young chimps have grown into handsome adults at J.A.C.K. sanctuary where I volunteered in 2009

91. Burning Man Festival, Black Rock Desert, Nevada

92. Volunteer for a week scrubbing elephants in the river at the Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

93. Two nights at the Samboja Lodge in Samboja Lestari, Borneo, Indonesia to see the orangutans

94. Ko Phi Phi Leh, Maya Bay on Thailand’s east coast where The Beach was filmed

J.A.C.K. Sanctuary, Lubumbashi, Congo

95. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

96. Petra, Jordan—a night at the Feynan Eco Lodge where “jift” (Arabic term for waste from olive pressing) or olive pit charcoal is used as a heat source during the 60-90 cooler “winter” nights

97. Pancake Rocks and Blowholes, Punakaiki, New Zealand

98. Anna Creek Sheep Station, Southern Australia. This place is so remote that children attend “School of the Air” broadcast from the Royal Flying Doctor Service via shortwave radio since 1951. Now students “attend” class via one-way live video feeds. The sheep stations are so massive that the nearest neighbour is sometimes being hundreds of kilometers away.

99. Sinop Harbour, Black Sea coast, Turkey

100. Barbados. Average temperature 26 degrees Celsius. 8.3 hours of sunshine per day, 3,028 hours per year.

How did you score on my customized Challenge? (I score much, much higher on my own rigged tests).

More importantly–where have you been? Where do you want to go? What’s your Top 100 places of gravitational pull?

Here’s the original Travel List Challenge:

Categories: Passport Please | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Post navigation

6 thoughts on “Are You Well Traveled?

  1. Ha. I have to say I’m embarrassed that I even did that thing (and the similar food-themed meme that appeared on Facebook about a week earlier) because I am notoriously meme-avoidant. I did it not because I wanted bragging rights even, but because I was curious as to what the list creators considered “well-traveled.” And clearly, because their list is about checking off quantity rather than assessing some other qualitative measure of how well-traveled one is (in terms of how well, for example, you actually know a place), then you and I are low- we return to the places we love, the places we’ve developed a care and love for. And at the end of the day, that’s fine with me… though I *do* want to go some more places. 🙂

  2. jules09

    Julie, I’m a sucker for quizzes, whether they be of the fluffy Cosmo magazine sort, enriching my “Word Power” via Reader’s Digest or Facebook memes. (And after reading about the existence of a food-themed challenge, I had to do that one too. Even though it was a poor representation of food in general).

    I didn’t do the travel challenge for braggery either (save for Amsterdam and one night spent mostly sleeping in Vienna, Europe and Asia have been a big miss for me so far). Often on such lists (best movies of all time, 100 books you should have already read), I fall flat. My 100 concepts are usually way off the mark, and I’m okay with that. And when I read such lists, I invariably come up with my own instead. Case in point: I just crawled through six Chinese horoscope sites to find the 2012 prediction I liked best for my Tiger self.

  3. Jules,

    Great post as always. I too avoid anything like that on Facebook….but it kept showing up….haunting me…..taunting me…I wanted to see what was on it, and what wasn’t. I too have done very little of Europe, and nada of sub-saharan africa…but i was so damned curious as to what the heck was on that list i had to do it. Now “it” knows too much :S
    I have lived in Mexico for 3 years and seen nothing on that list – that was a good eye-opener – we are going to rectify the issue this year.

    Cudos on your list, i used it only to fuel my future travels, I didn’t score it but i wouldn’t have done that well – need to log me some BC time!! I’m entering the phase of returning to some favorites with the kids now which is super exciting.


  4. Have you heard of the Local Challenge? It creates a 50 list challenge of places in your local area. There is also a New York Challenge, a London Challenge and others. It’s pretty awesome:

  5. Pingback: Melinda merkle | Imagedisc

  6. I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your blogs really nice,
    keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back in the future. All the best

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: