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A Travel Bucket List For Your 30s & 40s
I believe that travel in your thirties (and beyond) is a different sort of experience than traveling in your 20s. For me, I was more settled in my career, more confident in what I enjoyed, and also more financially stable, which allowed me to seek out specific types of trips and experiences that I wanted, and not have to worry about every penny. So this is a travel bucket list geared toward that life.
Some of what you’ll see below are destinations, and some are specific experiences…in general, my travel style is very experience-based. Well, and let’s be honest, food-based! So without further ado…
30 travel bucket list items for your 30’s
1. Explore Jordan’s Lost City of Petra
Petra had been at the top of my bucket list since I was a teenager, and I was so excited to finally visit a couple years ago.
Wander through the ancient Lost City and marvel at the intricate carvings that have stood the test of time, learn about the mysterious Nabatean people, and make sure to experience the mystical beauty at night!
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2. Cappadocia, the air balloons
This had been a dream for many years, and for my birthday last year I planned an epic trip to Turkey that included a couple days in Cappadocia. It was awesome, but both mornings the hot air balloons didn’t fly due to weather conditions. So a return trip is definitely in the cards…
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3. Go on my first safari
There are so many to choose from, and I want to experience so many different ones! I want to stay at the giraffe manor in Kenya, a treehouse in South Africa, and see the “big 5” and so much more. It’s just a matter of figuring out where to start…
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4. Do an Alaskan cruise, rail, helicopter trip
The absolutely astounding natural beauty of Alaska has been on my list for probably a decade. Fjords, glaciers, bears, mountains, and more…what’s not to love?? I had a couple co-workers that did a combination cruise-scenic rail-helicopter trip and it looked AMAZEBALLS.
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5. Trekking in Son Doong Cave in Vietnam
Son Doong is the world’s largest cave, and photos of it are fascinating. The cave is so large that it has its own weather systems and creates its own clouds.
There’s only one company who can do tours, and there’s a two-year waiting list so you should definitely plan ahead if this is on your list. The five-day tour includes intense jungle trekking, river crossings, abseiling, climbing, camping, and more. You can see more about the tour experience here and the cave itself here.
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6. Hike Machu Picchu
I feel like this is self-explanatory, as it’s been on everyone’s world travel bucket list. I’m not a crazy camper/hiker so I don’t know that I want to do a multi-day trek on the Inca Trail…maybe a day hike and rail would be more my style. But llama selfies are a must.
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7. Take a week-long sailing trip
Despite growing up on a farm in landlocked Kansas, I have discovered an intense love of being on a boat…and particularly more of a sailing style trip. From sailing in Sweden to a couple days cruising the Turkish coast, I’m always looking for my next boating adventure.
I’ve done a couple of 2-3 day trips and a challenging 5 days from Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park, but I’d really love to do a full week sailing somewhere gorgeous. Maybe Croatia or Greece, but open to even more exotic locations!
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8. Stay in an overwater bungalow in the Maldives or Fiji
LIFE. GOALS. This just seems like the most luxurious paradise possible, and I really need this in my life.
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9. Hike up a glacier
Hiking up a glacier in Iceland was one of my favorite activities on that trip, and I’ve had my eye on glacier hiking in Alaska, New Zealand, and Argentina as well. It’s amazing digging your spiky shoes in, seeing the vast expanse of jagged ice rising up in front of you, and the mix of colors and textures inside!
10. Fly legit first class
I’ve flown business class over to London and Italy before (both Delta One), which was awesome and *kind of* counts. And I’ve done Turkish Airlines business class and Air France business class (during COVID), which were both a bit underwhelming.
But I mean one of those EPIC like Asian airlines with true luxury. Experiencing an airplane suite just seems so over-the-top and something I want to try sometime.
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11. See the Northern Lights
The Northern Lights have captivated me (and, like…all of Pinterest) for years, and I was excited to catch some glimpses in Tromso, Norway. But it still was just a small amount and I had to mostly view them through my camera.
Then I spent the night on a frozen Finnish lake in a tiny mobile cabin with them fluttering overhead for hours. So much better!
But someday I really want to see the lights DANCE, something I could see with my naked eyes and in all the different colors (like this pic). Still very much on the bucket list.
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12. Soak in Devil’s Pool at Victoria Falls
Nothing like an adrenaline rush on the edge of one of the world’s biggest waterfalls. And I’m a sucker for waterfalls in general, so this is very much up my alley.
13. Visit China’s amazing floating mountains
Immortalized in the movie Avatar, China’s Zhangjiajie Mountains are mind-blowing in their scope and other-worldliness. I’m DYING to visit and experience this in person. Blue creatures optional.
14. Visit all 7 continents
Like…I’ve gotta get a move on here. I’ve spent so much time in Europe, and obviously North America. I’ve done some solid travel in South America and Oceania (IF THAT’S EVEN A REAL CONTINENT).
But other than technicalities (Asian Turkey, I think Israel and Jordan may technically be Africa), I’ve got a ways to go.
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15. Experience Russia’s culture and architecture
The insanely colorful domes of Moscow and St. Petersburg have fired my imagination. There’s so much I don’t know about this massive country and culture, and I’d love to start scratching the surface.
16. Get my PADI dive certification
Up until my senior year of high school, I thought I wanted to be a marine biologist. Then I realized that I wasn’t super into science 🙂
But I still really want to get my dive certification to be able to take advantage of great scuba diving opportunities in different destinations. For instance, I would have loved to dive the Silfra Fissure rather than just snorkel, and same for Belize’s barrier reef.
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17. And with that, dive the Great Barrier Reef
This has been on my travel bucket list since I was a teenager! Even though half of the coral in the world’s largest barrier reef has been bleached or killed, there are tons of amazing dive spots left.
This article on Nomadic Matt has great info on how to plan your trip and what to expect, and I hope to make this a reality in the next few years…while it’s still open to tourists!
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18. Ride in a hot air balloon
I’ve actually scheduled this multiple times, and been repeatedly thwarted! I had hot air balloon rides planned in both New Zealand and Turkey, and both times the weather had other ideas.
I just think that floating over a cool landscape sounds awesome, and I can add it to my list of airborne activities…skydiving, paragliding, etc. 🙂
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19. Road trip around New Zealand’s South Island
It’s hard to even know what photo to use, because the diversity of stunning landscapes is unbelievable. From craggy snowy peaks to glaciers to turquoise beaches to alien landscape rocks to crashing waterfalls, there’s something for everyone here.
I spent a couple weeks exploring new Zealand and it still barely scratched the surface. I’m dying to return and spend more time here.
20. Visit the Grand Canyon
As an American, it just seems…shameful that I haven’t. I’ve seen thousands of photos and video of one of our most iconic natural wonders, but still haven’t managed to visit myself. Part of that is it truly is kind if in the middle of nowhere. Like, you’re not going to just end up in the neighborhood!
I also feel like you have to plan this trip quite a bit ahead of time to get housing and such, and I’m terrible at that longer-term commitment. But I definitely need to knuckle down!
Update: I was able to visit the North Rim on a day trip!
21. Watch the sun set over the Greek islands
This just sounds so magical. The Greek isles have been on my list forever…sure, I want to see the famous views of Santorini and Mykonos, but I’m not really a crowds person. So I’d love to spend most of my time exploring some of the smaller more “hidden gem” islands that Greece has to offer.
And maybe combine that with my sailing trip 🙂
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22. Cruise in Antarctica
Now that I’ve been to Cappadocia (my last bucket list #1), getting to experience the wonders of Antarctica sits squarely atop my bucket list. It takes planning and serious money, but it’s most definitely on my radar for the next 3-5 years!
From astounding icebergs to penguins to absolutely alien landscapes, my brain can’t even fathom what this would be like. But I know it needs to happen.
23. See a Broadway show in NYC
This is just one of those quintessential life goals, almost a rite of passage for travelers in their 20s and 30s. No matter whether you’re a musical theatre nerd or not (I am a bit), this is such a fun experience. Get dressed up, having dinner ahead of time, and then enjoy being dazzled.
I saw Wicked on Broadway several years ago (not the original cast, sadly), but would love to get back there for one of the even older classics some day!
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24. Walk the Great Wall of China
This might feel cliche, but it’s a must-do for a reason. The size and history are a huge part of the draw, not to mention its spot as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
And then I can pretend I’m a soldier defending the wall from the Huns…
25. Take an amazing river cruise (or the fjords of Norway)
Again, I’ve *technically* done this, with my two-hour boat trip through the Nærøyfjord, but I’d like to do an all-day affair. Norway’s fjords are stunning, and you know I love me a boat, so this is a match made in heaven. I’d really love to see this in summer as well, with all the greenery and blue skies.
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26. Eat breakfast with giraffes in Kenya
This feels kind of like a cheat since I already talked about a safari, but this is a little different. I’ve been obsessed with Kenya’s Giraffe Manor ever since I first saw it on Pinterest.
The manor was originally built in the 1930s and has been a giraffe sanctuary since the ’70s. There are only six bedrooms so it’s very private, and guests can share breakfast with the eight giraffes in residence. And they are the CUTEST!!!
27. Take cooking classes in Turkey (or anywhere else)
Turkish food is one of my absolute favorite cuisines (as evidenced by the ode to Turkish food I wrote). I also got to experience a ton of homemade Turkish food on my 2-day sailing trip, and I want so badly to learn how to make some of this myself. Tender spiced kofte and kebabs, doughy pide, crispy burek, comforting gozleme, flaky baklava, and so much more. DROOL.
I actually learned to cook in Italy, way back in college when I studied abroad. My mom was a great cook but I basically refused to learn, until I studied in Florence for a summer. I still make my host mom, Giovanna’s, homemade pesto and tiramisu all the time, and would love to do more cooking classes there.
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28. Go dog sledding in Scandinavia
I had an amazing time visiting Camp Tamok outside of Tromso, Norway. We slept in a traditional Sami lavvu, enjoyed gorgeous scenery during Polar Night, and got to go dog sledding with the pups in the morning. I did a TON of research ahead of time on the different tour operators and how they raise and treat the dogs to make sure I was able to find a great, ethical place.
These pups seemed so excited once we got to get out and run, and it was a breathtakingly beautiful pearly pink morning. A must-do.
I also went dog sledding in Finland, if you want to check that out!
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29. Snorkel or scuba dive between continents
Despite how insane it sounds, something that I think should be on everyone’s travelbucket list is snorkeling or diving Iceland’s Silfra Fissure. I know, snorkel + Iceland sounds crazy. And it is cooooooooooold (like 36 F cold…). But totally worth it.
The fissure is a gap between two continents, and the only place where you can dive or snorkel BETWEEN CONTINENTS. How badass is that?!
The water in the Silfra Fissure is some of the clearest in the world, with visibility up to 400 feet. It’s also clear water from glacier run-off, so totally safe to drink when it gets into your snorkel air tube… (only me?? fine then.)
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30. Jet off to the Faroe Islands
These tiny islands are so remote, halfway between Norway and Iceland (though actually an autonomous part of Denmark), and THEY ARE SO CUTE. It just looks so mystical, like a smaller and sparse Iceland but even more unique. I want to get there before *everyone* has visited!
It feels like I’ve just scratched the surface, but I think this travel bucket list can keep you busy for a decade! I’m continuing to add to my own list and starting one for my 40’s as well (I mean I *am* 35 already)…I’d love to know what else I should add to my list. What future destinations should I dream of??
Other travel inspiration you’ll love:
- 6 Travel Intentions for 2022
- 7 Travel Intentions for 2020
- 10 Places I’m Dying to Visit in 2020
- The 10 Best Books I Read in 2019
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