Whether you’re a professional extreme athlete itching for thrills in the off-season or simply a tried-and-true explorer with a passion for the untamed, every adventurer needs a good bucket list. Such hoped-for journeys don’t always come to fruition, but simply dreaming about them can keep you inspired (and hungry) year-round.
Everyone has their own fantasy destinations; everyone has their own definitions of adventure. In other words, it’s up to you and you alone to compile your personal bucket list based on your one-of-a-kind wanderlust and thirst for discovery. Here, though, are a few shavings of tinder to spark your brainstorming.
Embark on a Thru-Hike
The Appalachian Trail, the West Coast Trail, the Haute Route, the Great Himalayan Trail, the West Highland Way, the Milford Track–the world’s venerable long-distance footpaths are conduits for physical and spiritual adventure. The day-after-day routine–breaking camp, hoofing it through gloriously raw wilderness, filtering water, pitching your tent (or unrolling your sleeping bag fast on the ground), cooking dinner, gaping at pristine starlight–hones your muscles and centers your mind. The feeling of liberation you get when you hoist on a pack filled with everything you need and sally forth into the backcountry runs bone-deep. An epic multi-week walk isn’t just good for the soul; it also reminds you of what it means to be a human being, given our evolutionary coming-of-age story is basically one of hoofing it on two tireless feet.
Take the Mother of All Road Trips
Sure, a few months spent crisscrossing the country on smooth-paved roads has “good time” written all over it. If you’ve got the mettle of a hardcore adventure junkie, though, you’re probably itching to leave the asphalt, gas stations, and road signs altogether and see just what punishment you can put a vehicle through to see some far-flung countryside. Maybe aim for the Pan-American Highway, which along with vast stretches of perfectly smooth sailing has some dicey and tough-to-traverse sections–none more formidable than the Darien Gap, that little-known, guerrilla-prowled rainforest vastness at the hinge of Central and South America that’s resisted road-building for decades. Or tackle Siberia’s Road of Bones, nicknamed for the gulag laborers whose bodies were interred along the roadbed they struggled to clear through the boggy taiga of the Russian Far East.
Then again, if you’re landing a new Chrysler 300 in Canada, why not break it in on the Trans-Canada Highway–not so gnarly, maybe, as parts of the Road of Bones, but chock-a-block with some of the planet’s most sublime scenery?
Surf Remote Waters
Are you a dedicated surf-rider? Are you tired of endlessly queuing up in your thronged everyday breaks? Why not take a month–heck, take six months–and hunt pristine waves around the world? Follow the nose of your board to remote swells off empty Gabonese beaches, or Costa Rican rainforest headlands, or Western Australian desert cliffs. There are few things more heart-achingly beautiful than an untouched, un-peopled seacoast–and when you’ve got some perfect breakers curling into it, then you’ve got a surfer’s paradise-in-the-raw.
Trek Into the Heart of Winter
You can track down true off-season thrills even in fairly accessible outdoor playgrounds when you set out in the dead of winter. The Scottish Highlands–green and sheep-lumbered in summertime–become darn near Arctic in character during the bleak, cold, mostly dark months at the bottom end of the calendar, when hill-walking turns into low-grade mountaineering. Yellowstone’s backcountry, expansive in any season despite the crowded roadways, seems endless under that Rocky Mountain plateau’s voluminous snowpack–and plus the grizzlies are snoozing that time of year. Or go all-out and ski to the South Pole, piercing the core of the globe’s grandest terrestrial wilderness.
More likely than not, you’ll never cross every adventure-of-a-lifetime off your bucket list. And that’s probably a good thing: Sitting back in your golden years, relishing (mostly) the hard-earned aches and pains of many past whitewater rodeos, mountain climbs, and shore-break wipeouts, it’ll be great to know the world’s still got a few epic byways and outback vistas you haven’t clapped eyes on–yet.
Eric Henley is a keen sportsman and outdoor enthusiast currently travelling around the world. When he’s on a plane or train you’ll find him writing articles based on his adventure, his work mostly appearing on travel and men’s lifestyle sites.