Peru Wrap Up

The trip is on hold, but the blog catch up goes on…

We left you last in the heartland of Peru. Caleb wrote about the amazing time we had volunteering in the Amazon Rainforest and Kieran wrote about our day in Machu Picchu.

Our final week in Peru was spent between Cusco and the Sacred Valley (similar to the week Wendy and Kieran spent while Caleb and I were in the Amazon). We had experiences on both ends of the spectrum here.

Our days in Cusco were among the most challenging on the trip – I got sick (parasite infection!) for a couple of days which kept me from being able to do much and we ended up in some accommodation that was difficult. Wendy has written a little more about this experience, but suffice it to say that between these two issues we had our first significant period of travelling stress.

After Cusco, however, we headed to a cabin in the Sacred Valley (near Calca) and this turned out to be a really terrific few days. The accomodation was extremely comfortable (really the best we stayed it at any point on the trip) and allowed for a few days of very pleasant relaxation. The valley itself is also very beautiful and steeped in history.

We did a little bit of touring around Cusco during our time there, including some impressive Incan sites in the city, but the highlight was definitely the day spent enjoying Carnaval. Carnaval is a week long celebration enjoyed all over South America, a final blowout before Lent comes around. Participating in this was one of our Top 100 Activities.

Given the more conservative culture and cooler weather of Cusco (due to the high altitude) the celebrations are not nearly as flamboyant as the pictures you will have seen from Rio – but it was nonetheless an impressive sight. The most visible part of the celebrations were the long parade of marchers in traditional Andean costumes and the children of Cusco who engaged in a huge, all day water/foam fight that played out all over the city.

No one, local or visitor, was safe from the foam – we got sprayed at on the streets from cars, from passers-by and at some point the kids bought some spray cans (being sold on the streets everywhere) and joined right in the middle of the fun. Wendy was not impressed at getting foam in her hair, but the boys had a blast. We posted some of the resulting pictures earlier on Instagram.

The centrepiece of our four days in the Sacred Valley was our day in Machu Picchu. The boys and I also got to visit the very impressive Inkariy museum which Wendy had seen the previous week and I got to enjoy the massive Incan ruins at Pisac. Outside of these cultural sites, we mostly enjoyed just a few quiet days before heading off to Bolivia.

 

A Few Thoughts on Food and Cooking

There were three entries on our Top 100 Foods list that we enjoyed during our 3 weeks in Peru. Peru does have a grape-growing region (where we visited Ica and Nazca) but they don’t produce well-known wines. Much of the grape harvest goes instead to producing Pisco, a clear, brandy like liqueur. While we enjoyed a few very tasty glasses of straight up Pisco it’s most famous use is the foundation of the Pisco Sour cocktail (#57 on our list) – together with egg-white, lemon juice and simple syrup – and we tried them in many spots and the best we tasted came from the Sacred Valley.

For the boys, our beverage of choice in Peru was Inka Kola (#18 on our list). Inka Kola is a bright yellow (or gold coloured – for the Incans) pop, that tastes like bubblegum. The boys drank A LOT of Inka Kola over the three weeks we were there, so much so that I think they’ve lost their taste for it now – too much of a good thing.

The last of our targeted foods for Peru was Cuy (#47). Guinea Pig, served in a variety of ways, can be found on the menu in both Ecuador and Peru – and it is a celebrated dish. The small town of Lamay, not far from where we stayed in the Sacred Valley is famous for its Cuy Al Palo (Roasted Guinea Pig on a Stick). I was the only one brave/interested enough to enjoy this delicacy – and I am happy to report it was quite nice, rich like roasted pig and not at all gamey.

There were other dishes we enjoyed in Peru and some of which we tried our hand at preparing at home. Lomo Saltado (stir-fried beef with tomatoes and onions, served with potato fries) and Aji de Galina (similar to a chicken curry) stand out as the best of these – Wendy makes a mean Aji de Galina.

Peru Highlights

Peru was our most challenging destination so far, the altitude, the level of sanitation and the living conditions in the cities mostly kept us from feeling fully comfortable a lot of the time.

Working through these challenges, however, gave us an opportunity to enjoy a significant number of amazing sights and experiences. The rich cultural history of Peru, most prominently from the Incan period, are on gorgeous display in Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Machu Picchu lives up to its billing as a Wonder of the World. Having the chance to contribute to a conservation project in the mighty Amazon Jungle was a great opportunity. And the list goes on (Nazca lines, Sandboarding, Carnaval)…

These kinds of challenging experiences with great rewards are among the things I find most satisfying about long term travel. I hope the kids especially will remember the ups and downs of the time we spent here – there’s no doubt it’s been an adventure.

 

 

Until next time….

Journey Interrupted…

Friends, family and followers:

The coronavirus story has been playing out in the background of our trip for several weeks now. For the vast majority of that time it existed as a consideration for our plans to travel in China and Asia next year, then it became a challenge to our Europe plans for the spring and summer.

Suddenly, over the last 4 or 5 days it’s become a very real issue for our immediate plans. By the end of last week, we knew we wouldn’t be able to go to Europe on Sunday April 1st as planned. At the beginning of the weekend it became clear that we would not be able to keep moving to any new destinations and we began to consider how we might hunker down here in Argentina for a few weeks (where there is better weather and fewer cases of COVID-19 than at home).

By the time Monday rolled around, things had escalated to the point where staying in Argentina was no longer an option either. For perfectly understandable reasons we are no longer confident that we can secure adequate accommodation here, or be welcomed at grocery stores and restaurants to keep supplied while we wait for restrictions to ease.

Faced with the prospect of these difficulties and the risks of our travel insurance or commercial flight options being compromised it’s clear that we need to come back to Canada notwithstanding the risks associated with spending time at international airports right now. We arranged flights for mid next-week and then re-arranged them to late this week and should be back in the Great White North very soon. We’ve secured some temporary accomodation where we plan first to self-quarantine and then put our plans on pause until we see whether things will improve soon enough to allow us to continue this adventure later.

Thanks to all for your messages of concern and support and all of the offers of assistance once we return home. We’re still processing how rapidly things are changing and impacting everyone so profoundly, regardless of situation, but are feeling grateful for having the opportunity of the last three months and getting to enjoy many of the highlights of Latin America. For now, our family journey continues in an unexpected direction – like everyone else, we’ll be watching and waiting to see what the future brings.

Until next time.

Image credit to Jared Downing at Frontier Myanmar

Ecuador wrap up…

One more post to recap our final days in Ecuador.

Wendy has already done a great recap of our time on San Cristobal and Isabella Islands. As she mentioned, there were a few activities that I enjoyed on my own or with Caleb. The first was a kayaking and snorkelling tour in Las Tintoreras (with Caleb), the second was visit to the very moving Wall of Tears and the third was a hike up to the crater of the largest volcano in the Galapagos, Volcan Sierra Negra.

Las Tintoreras offered Caleb and I the chance to see many of the same wonders that Wendy wrote about during her Las Tuneles tour (minus the tunnels!) by kayak. We saw penguins and blue footed boobies up close and snorkelled with sharks, rays and sea turtles – all very cool. Kayaking is definitely one of my favourite ways to immerse yourself in nature.

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Penguins and Boobies from our snorkelling trip

While Wendy and Kieran did their snorkelling tour, Caleb and I rented bikes for a ride to visit the famous Wall of Tears. Built over a 14 year period period in the mid-20th century, the Wall of Tears is a monument to a less flattering aspect of Galapagos history.

The rugged environment and relative isolation of the Galapagos has led to a number of attempts at populating them. Many of these attempts were unfortunately led by unscrupulous leaders and on more than one occasion drew heavily on taking convicts from mainland Ecuador either to facilitate their punishment or provide cheap labour to support whatever enterprise said leaders had in mind. The prisoners brought to Isabela in the 1940s and 50s were tasked, as punishment, with chiseling volcanic rock from a quarry on the shore and carrying the rock several kilometres into the jungle to build a completely pointless wall.

The hot and fatiguing bike ride Caleb and I completed to get there gave us little doubt as to why many of these prisoners died in the creation of this cruel enterprise (reportedly resulting in thousands of deaths during it’s construction). Caleb and I were both very moved both by rugged beauty we passed through to get there and the horror the site represented. Another aspect of what made our time on Isabela Island so memorable.

The volcano hike I did on my own (no one else was up for the 16km and rainy hike for some reason 🙂 ). I was really glad to have spent our last day on Isabela appreciating this wonder, however. Volcan Sierra Negra was one of the largest and most active volcanic craters on earth, having erupted 8 times in the last 100 years (including a modest eruption in 2018). The 11km wide caldera at the top of the mountain was very impressive, even more so were the lava fields from the most recent eruption where you can walk around and see clear demonstration of the layered lava from different eruption events and the sulphur deposits that come out of the mountain.

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The Lava Fields at Volcan Sierra Negra, the black lava here is from the most recent (2018) eruption, the red shown behind from a previous event. You can see the 11km wide caldera in the video below (You can see a little steam coming out on the far side)
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This is the center of the most recent eruption a side tube of the volcano referred to as Volcan Chico

Wendy has also written about our less than enjoyable departure from Isabela. I’ll pick up the story after we reached our third Galapagos Island – Santa Cruz. While Isabela was the winner for most amazing wildlife experiences the few nights we spent on Santa Cruz were probably the most relaxing and enjoyable.

We stayed in a beautiful cottage nestled in fantastic gardens, just a couple of hundred metres off the “main drag” of Puerto Ayora, the population centre on Santa Cruz (and largest town in Galapagos). The more private and comfortable accommodations gave us some great opportunities for relaxation after a pretty busy schedule on Isabela and San Cristobal.

Isla Santa Cruz is home to a truly stunning and mostly empty white sand beach (Tortuga Bay), as well as some other unique environment for swimming and snorkeling. We got a chance here when we weren’t relaxing to swim with (small) sharks, hang out with a lot more Marine Iguanas and enjoy a number of nice hikes. Santa Cruz also gave Wendy and Caleb another opportunity for Scuba Diving (at nearby Seymour Island) and Caleb and I a chance to see more amazing Galapagos Giant Tortoises in the wild and explore some long lava tunnels in the Island’s highland interior.

 

A Few Thoughts on Food and Cooking:

None of our Top 100 Food and Drink items were from Ecuador, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t get up to some good eating. There were a lot of rice dishes on the menu and a lot of seafood, especially in the Galapagos. We posted on Facebook a couple of weeks ago about some of the fantastic seafood we enjoyed on the street in Santa Cruz. The boys are also slowly starting to become more adventurous with local food, which is great.

Two other highlights: the delicious Canelazo cocktails (Sugar Cane alcohol with Lemon and Cinnamon) we enjoyed to warm up a cool night wandering the streets of Quito and Ecuadorian Locro de Papa (potato) soup, another cool weather treat. Wendy has become quite adept at whipping this up for us as we travel and it is a recipe I expect will will bring home to Canada for regular use.

Ecuador Highlights:

The primary reason we put Ecuador on the itinerary was for the Galápagos Islands, a bucket list destination for both Wendy and I. Encounters with the Galapagos Giant Tortoise and Galapagos Penguins both made our Top 100 Activities list. Our experiences there, as I hope our previous posts have communicated, did not disappoint. The unique and unspoiled ecosystems found on the Islands are amazing to behold, the proximity we had to the wildlife was really neat, the diving was unique and they were really nice places to hang out as a family. We’d recommend them to anyone looking for a unique travel opportunity, especially with kids.

Most visitors to the islands visit by private boat cruise which can make for a very expensive trip. We found visiting them independently and staying land based (apart from day trips) to be very effective for our plans and made the experience significantly more affordable. Occasional rough seas and the brutal at times equatorial sun were the only things that got in the way of our enjoyment (the kids would probably add lack of useful wifi to that list).

In addition to the Islands, the cooler climate cities here were also very pleasant. We enjoyed the days we spent poking around both Quito and Guayaquil, which I think many travellers pass over (unwisely) in favour of the going straight to the Islands. Ecuador as a whole seems a relatively clean, relatively safe place to visit, I hope we will have a chance to return some day.

On to Peru!!!

The Middle of the World

The two weeks we spent in Ecuador gave us an opportunity to pass over the area which gave the country it’s name – the Equator.

There are a handful of countries around the world that pass through 0 degrees latitude and all of them mark the site in some way. Ecuador is the only one on our itinerary and visiting here was included as #99 on our list of Top 100 Experiences.

A monument was erected in the 1930s to recognize the spot and commemorate the 1736 French Mission that calculated the exact location of the equator for the first time. Unfortunately, the 1736 calculations were not exactly correct (off by about 240m) so the monument is not quite in the right spot. We visited the monument (actually an upgraded version built in the 1980s), the associated museum and also a second nearby museum (the Intinan Solar Museum) that also claims to be on the actual equator (they are also not). The Intinan museum features some cultural history exhibits and many of the hands on “equator experiments” that are also featured at other equator sights around the world.

The most famous of these is the demonstration of the Coriolis Force, which is responsible for making large storms spin clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere and counter-clockwise north of the equator. This same force is often cited as being responsible for making toilets flush one way in the north and the other in the lands down under. Modern-day scientists, however, disagree.

Nonetheless, these experiments (along with some other debunked demonstrations) continue to be shown to thousands of people around the world every year. The equator activities were an enjoyable day trip for us, just 26km north of Quito, and also an opportunity for some impromptu science learning.

Given the chance to view the Coriolis Effect demonstration and read the rebuttal linked above, however, both of my kids felt seeing was believing. In their own words:

Caleb: “I think the Coriolis effect is real as it actually affects major things like hurricanes and tornados. So the Coriolis effect should effect water too as it was shown at the equator in the north it spins clockwise and the south counter-clockwise and they made it very convincing so I can’t come up with anyway the could be faking it. The thing about the article is they say it is fake but don’t have any explanation of how they are faking it so they could just be lying to decrease the tourist population. To sum it up I think it is a cool experiment that is totally work showing off even if it is fake.”

Kieran: “I think the experiment was not a lie because it was explained so well and made so much sense to me. I mean yes the article makes sense, but not one goes to a museum to get lied to. Plus the Coriolis effect must be real because how could anyone fake water spinning in different directions?”

The actual demonstration we got is in the video below. My best explanation is that the illusion is all in the pouring (or lack there of). Bonus points to anyone who can convince my kids by debunking what we saw below in a more convincing way to change their minds 🙂

Until next time…

One down… lots more to come

We’ve reached the end of our first major stop. After 28 mostly sunny and hot days we boarded our flight for Quito, Ecuador (by way of Bogota) on Tuesday afternoon.

We chose Costa Rica for our first month for a few reasons. The first was a chance for me to share with the rest of the family some of my special memories. Costa Rica was the first place I travelled to independently (I spent a month there in 2001). The trip was truly an eye-opening and confidence building experience – one that holds a very special place in my heart. I was pretty excited about the chance to return to some of those experiences, share and relive some of the magic and see how the country has changed twenty years on.

For the most part, I found the country much as I did the first time I visited. The people were warm and friendly, navigating the variable infrastructure was a real adventure and the natural sites were unbelievable. There were definitely signs of change as well. It is no longer quite the travel bargain it used to be (I spent about $1,500 in total living and exploring there for a month in 2001), San Jose (the capital city) has developed into a considerably more modern destination, and the number of tour operations and ways to spend your tourist dollars everywhere have grown exponentially. All in all still a magical place.

There were two other reasons in my mind when scheduling Costa Rica first. We wanted a slow-paced month to ease into the travel lifestyle and a sunny destination to help us forget the Canadian winter. I’m less sure these rationale turned out well. We spent seventeen days at our first destination (Playa Ocotal) and I think we all thought it was too long – by the middle of the second week we were ready to dive into more activity and adventure than was easy to find close to Ocotal.

As for the sun, it turns out we may have got a little too much of a good thing – Wendy and Kieran in particular found the heat (highs averaging 32-35 plus some humidity everywhere save Monteverde) pretty uncomfortable. On the plus side.. we’ve learned something about our comfort with heat as a family and will make some adjustments to the plan going forward to compensate.

In terms of highlights there is little doubt that, in Costa Rica, nature takes first prize. We got to spot a number of nifty creatures in the wild (howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys, sloths, iguanas, scarlet macaws, kinkajous, pit vipers and tarantulas to name a few). We ticked off three of our top 100 experiences (scuba, surfing and zip-lining), two of our top 100 foods and one of our top 100 sights (stay tuned for posts about food and sights).

We visited at least six beautiful beaches during our time in Costa Rica (Coco, Ocotal, Conchal, Tamarindo, Dominical and Manual Antonio). Kieran and Caleb both felt Dominical was their favourite: it had the best (biggest) waves and was the site of their surfing lesson (probably their favourite activity). Wendy and I chose Ocotal as our favourite – for it’s nice dark sand, calm waters and quiet, laid back vibe.

We also went on at least five amazing hikes, in National Parks at Rincon de la Vieja, Tenorio, Monteverde and Manuel Antonio and at the Private Reserve at Nauyaca Waterfalls. Here our favourites are more diverse. Kieran enjoyed Rincon de la Vieja the most – for it’s beautiful “Carteratas Congejas” hike and chance to swim under a waterfall. Caleb chose the Nauyaca Waterfalls for similar reasons (nice hike, great swimming). For Wendy, Monteverde, and in particular the suspension bridges over the Cloud Forest, was the most memorable. For me, the amazing blue waters and misty, high-elevation rainforest at Tenorio National Park took the cake.

It’s been a great beginning and we can’t wait for what comes next.

Until next time…

Surf’s Up

We’re spending our last week in Costa Rica a little further south, at a farm in Platanillo about 12km north of Playa Dominical.

Dominical is known mostly for being one of the great surfing beaches of Costa Rica and so it was a natural place for us to knock #87 of our list of Top 100 Experiences.

Caleb and Kieran took their first Surfing Lesson this morning, with the team at Sunset Surf. The class was targeted for beginners and the boys got lots of attention with two instructors and just one other student.

The goal of this lesson was getting them up on the board in a small wave and staying upright until they surfed to the beach – which sounds a lot easier than it is. The boys found staying low and keeping your balance to be pretty tricky but ultimately had some success. Easier for children to pick it up apparently, and I’m certainly glad nobody had to see what my first attempts would have looked like!

Caleb thought the experience was “totally awesome” and Kieran said “very fun”. I’m not sure how many more chances they will have to practice on the trip, but they were very happy to have the opportunity to give it a go.

There is a major surfing competition happening here tomorrow that will give us a chance to see what the pros look like.

Thanks to Yordy (pictured above with Kieran) and Luke (pictured above with Caleb) at Sunset for making the experience so rewarding for the boys.

Until Next Time…

Hitting a groove

Week 2 is in the books and we’re starting to have a bit more going on. We rented a car for a few days this week and have gotten out to see more of the country we are enjoying this month.

The two primary draws in Costa Rica are beaches and national parks (for amazing wildlife and natural sights) and we’ve done a little bit of both. Beach highlights include visits to Playa Conchal (made up of tiny sea shells in place of sand) and Playa Tamarindo (one of Costa Rica’s famous surfing beaches). We also hiked in two spectacular national parks built around volcanoes, Tenorio and Rincon de la Vieja.

You can see more pictures from these adventures on our instagram feed and we’ll talk more about them later in the month.

This week we also succeeded in knocking our first “Top 100 Experience” off the list. Zip-lining (#42) was invented in Costa Rica by a US Biologist studying rainforest eco-systems in 1979. It was 18 years later when a Canadian man had a vision for the money-making potential of offering this experience to tourists at Parque Nacional Monteverde in Costa Rica (our next stop) and not long after that the activity spread to many other countries.

Caleb, Kieran and Wendy all gave it a go at Congo Trail near Playa del Coco (who have been running zip lining tours for 20 years, almost since the beginning). I’ve ziplined here in Costa Rica before and elsewhere, and, like most “thrill-ride” activities I can take it or leave it. The reviews from our crew were good – though this course lacked some of the really long cables (>1km!) that we did last year in Mexico.

The experience that left the biggest impact on us this week, though, was our morning spent at the Monkey Farm. The farm started out as a rescue centre for injured howler monkeys, but has expanded their vision to focus more on the volunteers who run the farm. The volunteers are all recovering addicts from Costa Rican communities who work therapeutically with the horses on the farm, support the monkeys and manage a sustainable organic farming operation. We enjoyed meeting some of the volunteers, touring the facilities and learning about how they are all working together to build a better life.

Until next time …

Finding a rhythm

The first week of the trip has come and gone, more or less as planned.

January has been planned for some time as an “ease in” month to begin our journey. We are spending pretty much all of the month in Costa Rica, where the weather is very warm, and not moving around much. The idea was to relax and recharge, get through the period at the beginning of all trips where your mind is on what you left behind as much as where you are, and to begin to develop the habits and routines that will carry us through the next 500 days.

This is especially true of our first stop here in Costa Rica at Playa Ocotal. We are staying here for 17 days, one of our longest stops of the trip. And, while there are a few highlight sights and activities nearby, we haven’t visited any of them in our first seven days. Our last week has been filled instead with lazy afternoons, long walks by the beach and figuring out how to incorporate some learning into each day for the boys.

We’re starting to develop some routines, but it’s very much still a work in progress. We’re all finding time for Spanish lessons (via Duolingo) and lots of reading and the boys are doing a little bit of math (via Khan Academy), some impromptu research (Dad, why is the wind blowing so hard today?) and writing (usually the hardest task to convince the boys to do). We’re adjusting to spending all day together pretty well, and finding ways to keep our day satisfyingly (but not stressfully) full without work, school and commuting occupying the vast majority of the time.

It’s a big change in the flow of the day, very much helped along by the midday heat here, which keeps us from wanting to do too much between about 10 and 4. We spend most of our time hiding from the sun at home (resting, reading or schoolwork), swimming in one the pools on our property or hanging out at the beach (mostly Ocotal so far).

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Playa Ocotal Art Project and environmental statement, courtesy of the local “Ninos del Sol” school.

We have two beautiful beaches within walking distance. Playa Ocotal, about 15 minutes walking to the South and Playa del Coco, about 25 minutes walking to the North – both made from black volcanic (and magnetic!) sand.

Playa del Coco is one of the oldest Beach communities in this part of the country. There are restaurants, accommodations and small shops aplenty. Playa Ocotal, by comparison, is clean and quiet, still very much in development in terms of tourist appeal. No cell signal, one restaurant only, great snorkelling and lots of space to stretch out – just our speed.

We’re finding our way, but not yet fully acclimatized to the life of the full time adventurer. I suspect finding that perfect rhythm of expanding our minds, feeding our family bonds and focusing on our own self reflection will be a long term project. Suggestions welcome.

Until next time…

And we’re off!!!

10 years of planning, 2 weeks of packing (including one very late night last night) and countless dreams and discussions later, we depart this morning on our journey together.

Destination #1 is Playa Ocotal, Costa Rica where we hang out for then next 17 days, a relaxing warmup for the adventures ahead. A 5.5 hr flight to Liberia and a short drive from there is the itinerary. We are all full of emotion this morning as say goodbye to Toronto for 18 months: excited for what lies ahead, sad to leave our friends and family behind for now and uncertain about how the reality of this journey will line up with one we’ve been imagining for so long.

Thanks to all who reached out with best wishes as we got ready to depart, and apologies to anyone we may have missed saying a direct goodbye to. Watch this space as the journey begins to unfold…

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The 100 Activities we can’t wait to do

The last of our Top 100 Lists focuses on activities: Animal Encounters, Cultural Celebrations, Thrilling Adventures, Exploring Unique Environments, Learning new Skills and Finding Ways to Give Something Back. These are the experiences that we are most looking forward to over the course of our trip.

And now… here they are:

#100 Take in an opera performance, Austria – Opera festivals are a big part of the summer season in Austria. None of us are opera fans, but taking the chance to see one of the elaborately staged outdoor productions at the Bregenz festival seems like an opportunity that we shouldn’t pass up.

Opera Festival Austria

#99 Study the Coriolis Effect, Mitad del Mundo, Ecuador – The Coriolis effect is the science that supposedly explains why water spins one way down a drain in the Northern Hemisphere and the other South of the equator. No visit to the equator is complete with a demonstration of this phenomenon for visitors and Ecaudor is our opportunity to see the show.

equator coriolis

#98 Gallop down a beach on Horseback, Costa Rica – Horseback tours are a feature in many travel destinations.  To truly live out our romance novel dreams, we plan to find a tour during which we can gallop them boldly down the beach. The beautiful beaches of Costa Rica are one perfect opportunity to make this dream a reality.

horseback

#97 Feed the Kangaroos at Kuranda Wildlife Park, Australia – Our bucket list of wildlife encounters wouldn’t be complete without a couple of iconic Australian entries. At Kuranda Wildlife Park outside Cairns we’ll have a chance both to feed several varieties of kangaroo and cuddle Koala bears.

feed the kangaroos

#96 Wonder at the Machines of the Isle of Nantes, France – Giant sized robot elephants, spiders and dragons walking around the streets and shooting water cannons. Sign us up! A few of their creations were recently featured on the streets of Ottawa to much fanfare for our 150th celebration, we missed them there and are excited to get a chance to watch them up close.

machines of nantes

#95 Sleep in a Jungle Treehouse – We expect to use Airbnb for most of our accommodations during the trip. They boast an impressive array of options and one that we definitely want to include is a treehouse stay somewhere in the Jungle, location TBD.

jungle treehouse

#94 Connect with Canadian History at Vimy Ridge, France – The Battle of Vimy Ridge is often cited is a key moment in Canadian History the helped to define us as a nation. We plan to visit here to get a better appreciation of the role Canadian soldiers played in bringing peace to Europe and the World.

vimy ridge

#93 Cruise the Mekong River, Laos – At over 4,000km, the Mekong (which translates roughly to “Mother of Water”) River is one of the world’s longest. Taking a river boat cruise down one of the many scenic stretches through South East Asia is an experience we’re really looking forward to.

mekong river cruise

#92 Learn about Guerilla Warfare at the Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam – The Cu Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City are a 121km long complex of tunnels and part of a large network that runs all over the country. These tunnels were used extensively by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam war to creatively frustrate American forces.

cu chi tunnels

#91 Go Truffle hunting in the Woods in Italy – There is barely a food in the world that Wendy doesn’t believe to be improved by sprinkling some stinky truffle mushroom on top. While we are in Italy, we hope to experience a traditional hunt for this delicacy (which grows underground) complete with truffle-hunting pig.

truffle hunt

#90 Try not to Freak out while exploring the Catacombs of Paris – These tunnels underneath Paris, built to assist with an overflow at city cemeteries in the 1700s and now open to the public as a City of Paris Museum, contain the remains of over six millions people.

Paris Catacombs

#89 Watch a Soccer Game in Brazil – The beautiful game is played all over the world, but nowhere with more grace, and more passionate fans, than Brazil. We plan to experience this live for ourselves during our stay in Rio di Janeiro.

soccer game brazil

#88 Take a Junk Tour of Ha Long Bay, Vietnam – Sailing around picturesque Ha Long Bay in a beautiful Asian Tall Ship – a terrific way to spend an afternoon.

halong bay junk tour

#87 Hang Ten: Take a Surfing Lesson, Coco Beach, Costa Rica – Our trip starts with a month spent along the beaches of beautiful Costa Rica. Sometime during this month we will try our luck at riding the waves on one of the countries famous surf beaches.

Surfing Lesson Costa Rica

#86 Appraise the Merchandise at the Pushkar Camel Festival, India  – The Annual Pushkar Camel Festival is a livestock fair and important cultural festival in the desert region of Rajasthan, India. Beyond the opportunity to see Camel’s at their most impressive, the 5 day festival also features tug of war, bridal competitions and a longest moustache contest.

pushkar Camel Fair

#85 Experience the Future Riding the Maglev Train in Japan or China – It’s a train that floats in the air on super-powered magnets and travels at speeds over 400 km/h. There are only six in operation in the World, all of which are in China or Japan. We expect to experience the smoothest ride on the plant at one of these locations.

maglev train

#84 Fly over an Ancient Mystery, Nazca Lines, Peru – Created some 2000 years ago, the Nazca lines are a set of some 300 figures covering 50 square km, the largest of which is more than 1.1 km in length. The mystery is both how and why these figures, which can only truly be appreciated from the air, were constructed.

nazca lines

#83 Float in the Dead Sea, Jordan – Taking the opportunity to float, feet and arms up, in the Dead Sea is a classic travel moment we definitely want to include on the journey. After all, the opportunity may be gone before long. Water levels in the Dead Sea are currently falling at a rate of 3ft per year.

dead sea

#82 Eat a Snake in Vietnam – A meal at the Le Mat Snake village, just east of Hanoi, is more experience than nourishment. Here, you can select a live snake and have it prepared for you while you wait, every part being put to use. The heart (reportedly still beating) is served in a drink, and the rest of the animal included in a variety of dishes to follow: snake soup, spring rolls, dumplings and crispy fried snake skins are just examples of the possibilities.

snake meal vietnam

#81 Explore the Glowworm caves of New Zealand – There are a number of places in New Zealand with caves that offer one of the most otherworldly experiences going. These caves are filled with bioluminescent worms so plentiful that the experience is almost like staring up into the night sky. Our plan is to experience this wonder at the Kawiti Caves on New Zealand’s north island.

glowworms

#80 Hang Glide over the mountains of Rio di Janeiro, Brazil – One of the most adventurous goals on our list, and likely to be taken up only by the bravest among us (i.e. Wendy). There are few places in the world better situated to experience the thrill of soaring through the air then Rio where you can take off nearby Sugarloaf Mountain and land on beautiful Ipanema beach.

hangglide rio

#79 Fly a helicopter around Hong Kong – The island of Hong Kong, complete with magnificent landscapes both urban and natural in close proximity, is a perfect spot to experience a Helicopter Tour, something we definitely want to experience at one point on the journey.

hong kong helicopter

#78 Cruise the Nile River, Egypt – The Nile River is one of the world’s great waterways and the spectacular scenery along its shores, featuring monuments and ruins of Ancient Nubia, make this cruise a “can’t miss” experience.

nile cruise

#77 Relive childhood dreams at Efteling, Netherlands – Efteling is one of the most visited theme parks in Europe. Its area of specialty is bringing fairy tales to life. They have rides too, but the focus here is much more on making childhood dreams a reality.

EFteling

#76 Sleep in the Desert, Wadi Rum, Jordan – The Bedouin people of the middle east may have been the world’s first Glampers. We plan to spend a night among the sands in this tradition during our time in the region.

bedouin camp

#75 Swim the Dolphins in the Wild, Kaikoura, New Zealand – Swimming with Dolphins is a common travel experience, but the Dolphins in question often live a difficult live, confined to small aquarium pools. In New Zealand you can swim with Dolphins in the wild for all of the appreciation without the exploitation.

dolphin swim

#74 Sandboard to a Desert Oasis, Peru – We will have a few opportunities during our trip to explore Desert climate. One that stands out is our plan to visit a true desert oasis in Huacachina, Peru. The Oasis is surrounded by sand dunes where Sandboarding is a very popular activity

Sandboarding

#73 Volunteer to help a Local Orphanage or Community in Arusha, Tanzania – Our stay in Tanzania is long enough to incorporate some time to contribute something to a community that is among those that need the most help. We plan to spend a week here volunteering at a local orphanage or community centre and get a grounding on what the day to day challenges are in this area.

arusha orphanage

#72 Walk the Way of the Cross in Jerusalem – Our visit to Israel will provide the chance to see many famed religious sights. We expect walking the Via Dolorosa (the Way of the Cross) to be among the most moving. The route through Old Jerusalem, which is believed to be along the path that Jesus walked on his way to the crucifixion, is marked by 9 stations along the way.

way of the cross

#71 Swim in world’s largest rooftop Infinity pool in Singapore – Our boys love a great swimming pool. We will be close to many of the largest/most distinct pools around the globe on our trip, but the one that most piques our interest is the one with the best view.

Rooftop infinity singapore

#70 Meet the Giant Tortoises of the Galapagos Islands – The Galapagos Islands have been a bucket list destination for us for a long time. There are all kinds of wildlife encounters to be had here that can’t be had anywhere else, but the most iconic are the giant tortoises.

giant tortoises

#69 Enjoy a Blast from the Past with a Ryokan Stay in Japan – A ryokan is a type of traditional Japanese inn that typically features tatami-matted rooms, communal baths, and other public areas where visitors may wear yukata and talk with the owner. Many Ryokan also feature or are situated near Onsen (hot springs) that can be enjoyed during your stay.

ryokan onsen

#68 Scuba Diving at Gili Islands, Indonesia – There are many iconic Scuba sites on our journey, and at least one Caleb hopes to take his first dive (Kieran will not be old enough). The Gili Islands of Indonesia sport some of the most accessible waters and is a likely spot for this adventure.

Scuba Gili Islands

#67 Take a Cooking Class at the Cordon Bleu School in Paris, France – All of us enjoy cooking and all of us love to eat. Learning how to make French pastries from the masters at the Cordon Blue School in Paris (where Julia Child learned how it’s done) would be a dream come true.

Cordon Bleu

#66 Honor the Birthplace of Lego, Demark – We’ve got a lot of Lego in our house, we find it everywhere small things can get stuck. Touring the factory where are all of that mess comes from in Billund, Denmark seems like a fitting way to spend a day along the way.

lego factory

#65 Hang out with the Holy Rats at Karni Mata Temple, India – The Karni Mata temple offers an opportunity for one of the quirkiest religious experience on the planet. This template is home to some 25,000 revered black rats.

KArni Mata Rats

#64 Eat something at the World’s Best Restaurant, Noma, Copenhangen – Noma has been rated as the World’s Best Restaurant 4 times, and most other years among the top few. While we don’t plan to do a lot of eating out during our travels this is one spot we definitely plan to make an exception.

noma food

#63 Shop at a Floating Market in Vietnam – Nothing says South East Asia more than shopping for fruits and vegetables at a market full of boats. The Cai Rang Floating Market near Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam is one of the country’s largest and draws hundreds of shoppers each day.

floating market cambodia

#62 Stalk the World’s Greatest Stalker In India – Our safari repertoire would not be complete without a search for Tigers in one of the amazing Natural Reserves in Eastern India.

tiger safari

#61 Volunteer for a Rainforest Conservation Project, Peru – Looking for opportunities to give something back is an important part of this trip. For one of these experiences we’ve planned a week to work in the Amazon Rainforest helping out at a conversation project there in whatever way we can be useful.

Rainforest Conservation

#60 See the Passion Play at Oberammagau, Germany – Every ten years, the residents of Oberammagau stage an elaborate theatrical retelling of the Passion. The practice started in the 1600s when the town was spared entirely from the Bubonic Plague after a related heavenly promise.

oberammergau passion

#59 Ride “The Demon” at Tivoli Gardens, Denmark – Tivoli Gardens (opened in 1843) is the 2nd oldest operating amusement park in the World (the oldest, by some 300 years!, is only a few kilometers away from there, but the rides are less spectacular). Among the most exciting attractions at Tivoli is the 4D Rollercoaster called “The Demon”.  This one may be also be only for the braver among us.

Tivoli Gardens

#58 Cuddle Baby Panda Bears at Dujiangyan Panda Base near Chengdu, China – The Dujiangyan Panda Base is the world’s only centre for research, care, conservation and disease control in the Giant Panda population. One highlight of a visit here is the opportunity to cuddle with some of the bears.

Panda Base

#57 Bathe a baby Elephant at Elefantastic in Jaipur, India – There are lots of places in the world where you can interact with or ride an elephant, but many of these do not treat their animals well. Elefantastic is a sanctuary for elephants that ensures these beautiful animals are happy, healthy and respected. Visitors have the opportunity to feed, walk with, wash and otherwise assist with the care of residents.

Elefantastic

#56 Take a Leap of Faith – Bungee Jumping in Queenstown, NZ – For the brave among the family (Wendy!) we hope to incorporate a bungee jumping experience somewhere along the journey and New Zealand (birthplace of the Bungee jump) makes sense. On a past Journey Wendy successfully attempted “The Ledge” in Queenstown, this time out perhaps Kawarau Bridge (offered in both Wet and Dry flavours).

bungee jump

#55 Zorb down a Hill, New Zealand – Zorbing is another  activity invented in New Zealand. It involves climbing into a giant plastic ball and allowing yourself to be rolled down a hill. More fun than a barrel of monkeys!

zorb

#54 Play Video Games at World’s Coolest Arcade, Anata no Warehouse, Japan – The Anata no Warehouse is an arcade in Tokyo, designed to look like it is straight out of a steampunk future. There are a number of fantastic interiors to enjoy, and hopefully some great gaming as well.

anata no warehouse

#53 Travel through time at Futuroscope, France – Futuroscope is a Theme Park in France specializing in multimedia experiences, some of which you cannot find anywhere else in the world. “The Time Machine”, a dark ride based on the Raving Rabbids, is one of their most popular experiences.

Futuroscope

#52 Walk around the world in 10 minutes at Verdenskortet, Denmark – Soren Poulson was working in his fields one day when he noticed a stone that looked like the Jutland Penninsula. He was inspired, from that moment, to recreate an entire map of the world using grass and stones. We are inspired to honour this whimsical landmark with a visit to recreate our trip in miniature.

verdenskortet

#51 Ride the Glacier Express in Switzerland – One of the most amazing train rides in the world, the Glacier Express travels from Zermatt, just below the mighty Matterhorn, to St. Moritz. Over the course of the 291km journey there are 91 tunnels and 291 bridges.

glacier express

#50 See the Andes by Cable Car, Telerifico, La Paz – Subways, streetcars and busses are fine, but for a truly interesting urban transit system we go to La Paz, Bolivia which boasts the world’s largest aerial cable car system (with a planned 11 lines including 30 different stations) to cover its hilly terrain.

telerifico

#49 Take a Segway Tour of an Amazing City, Czech Republic – Segway tours are popular all over the world and we’ve yet to give it a try.  Finding a grand old city that will make the most of the opportunity shouldn’t be hard on our road trip around Europe. The tour in the Historic Centre of Prague including the castle, jewish quarter and the Charles Bridge is reportedly one of the best.

segway tour prague

#48 Capture the Milky Way through the Clearest Sky on Earth, Atacama Desert, Chile – Working on our photography skills is one of our general learning objectives as we travel, all the better to communicate back to all of you the experience we are having. Astrophotography is definitely one skill area to work on, and there’s no better place to practice than here, capturing memories of the night sky much more brilliant than what we are used to seeing here in Toronto.

milky way chile

#47 Ride a Gondola in Venice, Italy – A classic travel experience, floating through the canals of Venice on a Gondola is one of those things we just have to do, no matter how “touristy”.

Venice Gondola

#46 Watch Climate Change in Action, Fox Glacier, New Zealand – There will be lots of opportunities to see up close the impact of rising temperatures on the Globe during our travels, but perhaps the most dramatic will be a trip to the Fox Glacier in New Zealand. One of the fastest shrinking glaciers in the world, it can retreat up to seven metres per day during the hottest temperatures.

fox glacier

#45 Volunteer to help a school or library in Rarotonga, Cook Islands – The last stop in our Journey is spending a month in the Cook Islands where we will slow down a little and reflect on the amazing things we’ve experienced and learned across our trip. We’d also like to spend several days of this time contributing to support the education system here, given how much our trip will have contributed to our own education.

School Volunteer Cook Islands

#44 Enjoy a Turkish Bath in Istanbul – A hammam or Turkish bath is a centuries old tradition of cleansing and relaxation in the Islamic world. The ritual includes heated rooms, a cold water wash and vigorous massage.

turkish bath

#43 Witness the Good Friday Processions at Seville, Spain – Holy Week (or Semana Santa) is celebrated across catholic Spain with great ceremony, music and massive processions continuing from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday in one form or another. The most spectacular of these processions happens in Seville where the 70 church brotherhoods set to the streets on Easter Thursday night to arrive at the Cathedral at Dawn on Good Friday.

seville good friday

#42 Zipline over the Rainforest Canopy, Costa Rica – Costa Rica has protected a huge portion and variety of its native Rainforest in National Parks. The most famous of these parks (the Monteverde Cloud Forest reserve) is already on our list of Top #100 sights. We plan to enjoy many of the other rainforest parks during our visit as well and there is no better way to enjoy this marvel then zipping through the canopy to see it from a different perspective.

zipline

#41 Drive through World’s Longest Tunnel, Laerdal, Norway – Our 5 month road trip through Europe will give us a chance to drive many famous stretches of road, the Grossglockner Alpine Road and the Autobahn to name a couple. One such iconic experience will be the chance to drive through World’s Longest Road Tunnel (at 24 km) in Norway

laerdal tunnel

#40 Sleep in a Castle, France – We won’t make it to the UK on this trip, but still want to have our Hogwarts moment. France has a number of castles where you can book a stay for a night and feel like royalty.

Castle Stay France

#39 Contemplate the dark side of Humanity at Auschwitz-Berkenau, Germany  and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Cambodia – Most of the manmade top sights on our list are there to celebrate the great achievements of humanity; some are there for more educational purposes. While the experience may be too intense for all of us to participate, we hope to learn something from visiting the sites of some of our worst chapters.

auschwitz

#38 Soak in the Hotsprings at Pamukkale, Turkey – All of us enjoy a nice hot soak and will be missing regular access to our hot tub during this trip. While there will be lots of spots en route to get our fix, none are more beautiful than the travertine pools of Pamukkale.

pammukkale

#37 Cycle across a Starry Night, Van Gogh Bike Path, Netherlands – The Netherlands is famous for its infrastructure for, and popularity of, cycling. With fancy glow in the dark bike pathways like this one it’s easy to understand why.

STarry Nigh Bike Path

#36 Summit a Mountain, Japan – We love to hike as a family and a mountain adventure is definitely one moment we want to tick off our to-do list. The kids are really inspired by the stories they’ve read about Mount Fuji, and climbing to the summit to see the sunrise here is a popular activity.

mount fuji climb

#35 Attend a meditation retreat in Bali, Indonesia – Working on our mindfulness will be a theme throughout our Journey. As Bali is synonymous with centering activities like Yoga and Meditation, we expect to get a crash course during our stay here.

meditation bali

#34 Navigate world’s largest outdoor maze at Samso, Denmark – The Samso labyrinth was recognized by Guiness as the World’s Largest outdoor maze in 2013. Spread across a 15 acre nature park it has 8 different goal points to try depending on your chosen level of difficulty. We plan to reach them all.

samso labyrinth

#33 Get lost in the world’s most difficult hedge maze, the Villa Pisani Labyrinth, Stra Italy – The boys in the family all appreciate a good maze. We hope to get the opportunity to try out several life size ones on our Journey. The Villa Pisani is reputed to be the most difficult hedge maze in the world – we’ll get back to you on that (or not if we fail to find our way out).

villa pisani

#32 Experience a Tea Ceremony in Osaka, Japan – No one does an afternoon tea quite lack the Japanese. We plan to have a chance to slap on a kimono and experience this ritual that sometimes goes along with the simple pleasure of a cup of tea.

tea ceremony

#31 Learn a new Language, Latin America – One of the many things we hope to do with our time over the course of the trip is to expand our language skills. The best opportunity we have for this is the first four months of the trip which are (almost) all in Spanish speaking countries. We don’t expect to become fluent, but do hope to be functional by the time we get to Spain

learn spanish

#30 Check out the World Expo in Dubai – A World Expo happens every 5 years and is an opportunity for nations around the world to display the best of what they stand for and can offer. The UAE has spent some $40B in preparation for this event in 2020 where 137 countries will come together to “Connect Minds and Create the Future”

dubai expo

#29 Challenge the World’s Toughest Maze, Desperation Fortress, Fuji Q Highland Theme Park, Fujiyoshia, Japan – Billed as the World’s toughest indoor maze, the Fortress of No Hope is a video game style maze with a tight time limit, challenging riddles and invisible doors. Out of 1.8 Million attempts to date only 3 teams have completed the challenge, now on its 3rd incarnation. We will do our best to beat the odds.

Fortress of No Hope

#28 Peer into an Active Volcano, Italy – What’s more exciting than climbing a mountain? Climbing one that has a history of exploding of course! There are a few places in the world where you can experience the highly unusual environment found at the top of an active volcano. Mt. Etna in southern Italy is one such location that is active, but carefully monitored for the risk of eruption so it can be visited when there is no risk.

mount etna climb

#27 Celebrate Diwali in New Delhi, India – Diwali is the Festival of Lights, celebrated by Hindu’s, Sikhs and Jains around the world in the Autumn. We will be in India during this 5 day festival and hope to experience many different ways of celebrating.

Diwali

#26 Ride the Rails in India – Train trips are one of our favourite ways to travel and India is renowned for its extensive and historic trail network. We’re not sure where yet, but we definitely plan to take in some of the beautiful countryside by rail.

train ride india

#25 See How People Pray around the World  – World travel will give us a chance to see how people live and eat around the world. It also will give us chance to get a better understanding of religious practices different from our own. We hope to attend services from as many different traditions as possible during our voyage.

praying

#24 Cycle along the Li River, Yangshuo Country, China – The Li River valley near Guilin serves up some of the most beautiful country side scenery in China, complete with mountains, fisherman and the famous Long Li Rice Terraces. A great spot for an afternoon bike ride.

cycle yangshuo

#23 Sleep on a Deserted Island, Indonesia – Sleeping in a Treehouse, a Castle, a tent in the Desert and a Glamping get up are all a part of this list, but the grand-daddy of all of our interesting accommodation plans would be to find an opportunity to live out our Pirate dreams and spend a night on a deserted island

deserted island stay

#22 Hike the Path of the Gods in Italy – A clifftop trail above the Amalfi Coast. The main section of the hike is 6.5 km between the villages of Bomerano and Nocelle and features views of the coastal towns and sea below.

Path of the Gods

#21 Celebrate Cherry Blossom Season in Kyoto, Japan – Japan’s most iconic celebration,  cherry blossom season in Kyoto.  The blossoms typically bloom between the last week of March and first two weeks of April.

cherry blossos

#20 Enjoy a Natural Mud Bath in Hell’s Gate, New Zealand  – Kieran never misses an excuse to roll in the mud it seems. For the rest of us, a specific invitation will probably be required. The Natural Mud Baths of Hell’s Gate, where the mud is warmed by geothermal activity in the area, may just be tempting enough to get us all very dirty.

hells gate mud bath

#19 Go Glamping in the Forest, Sweden – Some of us in the family love to rough it in the woods, but to get all of us to sleep under the stars a little bit more creature comfort is required. The forests of northern Sweden host some luxurious glamping options that will give us a chance to connect with nature without having to sleep on the ground.

glamping forest sweden

#18 Cycle the Shimanami Kaido, Japan – The Shiminami Kaido is a 60km expressway with a dedicated bike lane. It connects Japan’s main island to 9 of the Geiyo Islands, including Oshima, Umashima and Innoshima.

shiminami kaido

#17 See the midnight Sun in Rovaneimi in Finland – Summer in Scandanavia will give us the opportunity to travel up to the Arctic Circle for the first time. We’ve timed our arrival there to co-incide with the Summer Solstice so we can experience 24 hour sunshine (the Midnight Sun) while participating in local “Mid-Summer” celebrations.

Midnight Sun

#16 Ride World’s Steepest Funicular, Gelmerbahn, Switzerland – Funicular systems are used in many parts of the world to move people up and down steep hills. In some places, they look exciting enough to cross over into roller coaster territory. The Gelmer Funicular is one such location and we look forward to giving it a whirl.

Gelmer Funicular

#15 Tube the Lazy River in Vang Vieng, Laos – One of the most famous backpacker attractions in Laos, the Nam Ngung river in Vang Vieng offers a lazy 3 hour drift down the water, complete with several bars and restaurants where you can stop along the way for some refreshment with tube in tow.

vang vieng tubing

#14 Hike Trolltunga, Norway – One of the most beautiful day hikes in Norway. It’s a 23 km march culminating in a gorgeous view of the amazing “Troll’s Tongue” rock formation over a glacial lake.

Trolltunga

#13 Master the Freestanding Handstand and L-sit – Taking 18 months off work means having more time to keep our fitness up, but travelling means less access to gym facilities to do so. As a result, the plan is to work on Calisthenics as one way to stay fit. Robin’s fitness goal for the trip is to work on being able to achieve a good freestanding Handstand and L-Sit by the time the trip is complete (and maybe even the ability to transition between the two).

handstand

#12 Crush Grapes into Wine, Mendoza, Argentina – We love a good glass of wine and hope to have a chance to see a number of famous wine regions around the world on the trip. While we’ve made some of our own wine before from pre-made grape juice, we’ve never done the process all the way from the grape. We hope to close this gap during the few days we will spend in the home of the Argentinian Malbec.

crush grapes

#11 Live out our Survivor Dreams at Palau Tiga, Borneo – Our weekly Survivor Episode is one our guilty pleasures as a family. Palau Tiga is the location that started it all (for North American viewers), walking the same beach as Richard, Rudy, Sue and Kelly, and playing in their mud volcano will be a thrill. We should also get to see some Survivor locations up close in the Cook Islands, but the original is the most exciting.

palau tiga

#10 Spot the “Big 5” on Safari at Serengeti National Park, Tanzania – Getting the chance to go on Safari in one of the world’s most famous wildlife parks is a true privilege. Robin’s safari experience in neighboring Kenya 15 years ago is among his very top Travel experiences. While the list of animals we hope to see is too long too name, chief among them are the so-called “Top 5”: Lions, Leopards, Rhinos, Elephants and Water Buffalo.

serengeti

#9 Hike a portion of the Nakasendo trail in Japan – Part of Feudal Japan’s network of highways. At full length (534 km) the trail connects Tokyo to Kyoto and features several beautiful day hikes along the route. The section between Tsumago and Magome (8km) is one popular portion we’d like to experience.

Nakasendo Trail

#8 Stroll around the Shire, Matamata, New Zealand – ‘The Hobbit’ is one of many family reads we have enjoyed together. While there are many Hobbit centric sights to see in New Zealand, the chance to walk around Hobbiton together is probably the one we will enjoy the most.

matamata hobbit

#7 Celebrate Carnaval in South America – Carnaval is a four day festival celebrated widely across Catholic South America with parades and parties.  The name literally translates to “the end of meat” as it signifies the last few days of robust eating before the beginning of Lent. We plan to celebrate in Cusco, where both Catholic and Andean tradition will be on display with lots of water fights in the streets.

Carnaval

#6 Celebrate Lunar New Year in Singapore  – Chinese New Year is celebrated in most countries around the world, but Singapore is reputed to be one of the best places to experience this event. Parades, Fireworks, Street Bazaars, there will be lots of excitement to take in as we ring in the Year of the Ox.

Lunar New Year

#5 Hot Air Balloon Ride at Capadoccia, Turkey – Enjoying a hot air balloon ride is something we’ve always wanted to do. One of the most amazing places to have this experience is Capdoccia, land of the fairy chimneys.

hot air balloon capadoccia

#4 River Rafting, Padas River, Borneo – Whitewater rafting is another activity on our to-do list for the trip. The Padas River in Borneo, not far from Kota Kinabulu, offers Class III and IV rapids that should keep us awake.

pacuare river rafting

#3 See Penguins in the Wild, Bartolome Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador – Of all the animal encounters he hope to achieve Kieran is most excited about being able to see penguins (his favourite animal) in the wild. The Galapagos Islands is one of a small number of places we will visit where you can find penguins, given that South Africa, South Argentina and Antarctica are all off the list.

penguins bartalome

#2 Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New Zealand  – The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is rated by many people as the single greatest day hike in the World. The park was used as the setting for Mordor in the Lord of the Rings movies. It covers 19 km of thermal pools, mountain views and volcanic earth.

Tongariro

And finally… our most anticipated experience….

#1 Attempt The World’s top Escape Room: Ghost Hunter Ernie Hudson and the Wailing Woman, Hamburg, Germany – We’ve enjoyed escape games individually and as a family in a number of spots in Toronto: some high quality and some less so. Skurrilum, in Hamburg, Germany, has been rated by escape game enthusiasts as the highest quality in the world and the Wailing Woman is their crown jewel.

Ernie Hudson

Well, that’s the list. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback. What would be your top choice? Anything you think we’ve left out?

Drop us a comment if you like… before too long we’ll be sending back evidence of ticking these off of our bucket list.