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This story was originally published on August 27, 2014.
In theory, travel bucket lists are fantastic. Lists of adventures and places that inspire you and encourage you to explore the world more intently? We're totally on board.
After all, bucket lists are all about fulfilling dreams and conquering the odds before it’s too late (i.e., when you “kick the bucket”). And, they’re also about motivating you to take action toward checking off those little boxes. All good things.
Except that there’s nothing fun about going through life with an unchecked list of unattainable experiences you’ll probably never be able to afford. Trekking across Bhutan, climbing Mount Everest, and traveling through space with Virgin Galactic all sound amazing, but the odds that you’re one of the fortunate few who can easily dole out the dollars for those expensive dreams may not be in your favor.
That said, we believe in the mystique of “what if.” What if we saved a little bit every day and then set off on that dream trip to Africa? What if a music producer heard our brilliant driving vocals and sent us on an all-expenses-paid tour of Europe? What if we overcame our crippling fear of sharks and surfed the massive but fin-infested waves of Cortes Bank? They're all beautiful ideas, aren't they?
Definitely — but there's more to life than just dreaming big. We want to experience adventure now, which is why we're talking about dreaming attainable, instead. That means, we've pulled together 15 amazing, budget-friendly bucket-list trips you could actually afford. As long as you can swing for the flight, you're there. And, it just so happens we can help with that, too.
1. Visit The Azores
These nine volcanic islands are only a four-hour flight from the East Coast on SATA Airlines, but you’ll feel like you’re a world away the second you step off the plane. The Azores are quite literally the midway point between the old and new world, and, fittingly, offer a paradoxical experience since they are all at once wild yet tame, and historic yet modern. The islands' remoteness has left the culture relatively untouched, and it’s not uncommon to spend the day splashing in natural swimming pools (which are actually volcanic craters) with locals, and then end up drinking local wine with the very man who filled the bottles.
Where to stay?
The Hotel Do Colegio ($124 per night). Located in the center of downtown Ponta Delgada, this charming four-star hotel was renovated from an Azorean 19th century manor house and is within walking distance to all the best attractions and restaurants, so you won't be wasting money on cab fare. A hot breakfast is included and is served in a refurbished stable room. There's also a Turkish sauna, free Wi-Fi, and an amazing restaurant, A Colmeia, which even locals rave about. Try the chef’s tasting menu for local wines and cheeses, fresh catches, and handmade blood sausages.
2. Ride An Elephant In Bangkok
With new routes scheduled from New York to Bangkok via Stockholm with SAS/Thai Airways, Bangkok is easier to get to than ever. And, this city is made for bucket-list travelers. Eat something you can’t pronounce at the floating markets. Learn to weave with flowers. Pray at a Buddhist temple, you've got your choice of quite a few. The food scene alone is worth a visit, but for the ultimate check on your Bangkok to-do list, take a ride on a pachyderm. Tons of local business offer elephant rides, but the best ones give you a behind-the-scenes look at how the animals are treated and even give you a chance to volunteer among their ranks.
Where to stay?
Anantara Bangkok Riverside Resort & Spa ($150 per night). You’ll probably forget you’re staying within your budget at this waterfront respite. The resort is set along the banks of the Chao Phraya River and has great dining options, a spa, and a free shuttle to the new Asiatique night market complex across the river. The resort is involved with the King’s Cup Elephant Polo, a site to behold, and the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, a charity that uses rescued elephants to help autistic children learn social skills.
3. Eat Black Forest Cake In The Black Forest
Fact: Boston cream pie is creamier in Boston, Anjou pears are juicier in Anjou, France, and there truly is no such thing as real New York cheesecake outside of New York. The same is true for legit Black Forest cake. Believe me, I’ve tried it. For a real slice of the good stuff, head to Freiburg, Germany, in the heart of Schwarzwald (that's "Black Forest," to you) and order a thick slice of Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte at any of the adorable little bakeries lining this romantic town.