13 Going on 30!

So I turn 26 this week! And as the realization that I am now closer to being 30 than to being 20 dawned on me, you can imagine how quickly the stress kicked in. There’s so much I want to accomplish before I hit the big 30, in terms of my work or personal life or just me as a person. One of the things, I am sure of though is some of the places I want to visit and experiences I want to have!

While my list in reality is never-ending, I’ve narrowed it down to the Top 13 (not in order of preference) once in a lifetime experiences/ trips, I want to take before I feel like I'm ‘too old’ to enjoy them to the fullest!

1. Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, Peru

This one has been on my bucket list for solo travel for some time! Imagine a lush green mountainous terrain, with head quite literally in the clouds, that’s exactly what the Inca Trail is all about. This 43 km long hike to Machu Picchu, 4200m above sea level, is simply breathtaking. Encountering unparalleled natural beauty, rare species of animals, small villages and ruins of settlements and archaeological sites makes this trail enticing. Both exhausting and exhilarating at the same time, this hike is perfect to go on in this month of July, when the weather is warm, dry, and free from rain. Besides being physically demanding, this trip is on my travel list before 30 is because it makes for a great solo travel experience on a journey of self-discovery.

2. Yacht Week, Croatia

Picture this: Living a boat for a week... with your friends! It’s like college but only better! Partying, sleeping, sunbathing, swimming or just enjoying the crisp air and splash of waves on deck at any hour, all day… basically doing whatever you feel like without any rules… without worrying what hour it is or worrying about responsibilities or that you’ll lose cell reception! Yacht week takes place in prime summer from June to September where you can soak some Vitamin D and Vitamin Sea. While I want to cliff-dive, explore underwater caves, relax on virgin beaches and enjoy the Adriatic waters, I also want to be young enough to party all week! Before, we’re too old to party-hop from boat to boat or we have too many responsibilities to all take time off for this week, this trip is one I surely want to experience with my friends before 30! People from around the world come together for a good time and a good laugh. And meeting these like-minded people, having fresh conversations and bonding over a week of fun would enhance this experience by growing my perspective so much more!

3. Viva Las Vegas

You know when people say, “I want to experience everything”, I’m pretty sure they’re talking about Sin City. Las Vegas is one of those cities that just has to be experienced at least once in a lifetime to understand what all the fuss is about. A trip to Vegas would be incomplete without gambling at the fanciest casinos, or just watching the high-rollers on the adjacent tables. But Vegas isn’t just about gambling, it also offers amazing shows, performances and concerts, glamorous hotels, great shopping, some of the best dining and nightlife from busy bars to alluring clubs and parties alongside celebrities while you dance to the beats played by world-famous DJs, and of course weddings! Besides the wild side of Vegas, another reason to visit is the mesmerizing Grand Canyon. A hike, camping trip or a helicopter ride over this epic red rock beauty definitely qualifies as a once in a lifetime experience! To add to the adrenaline rush, Vegas also offers a plethora of thrilling rides. Las Vegas is a place that you could visit at any age and any number of times and still not run out of options of things to do. So though I’m sure I’ll go again, I hope my first time to Vegas is before 30!

4. Oktoberfest, Munich

So something you should know about me - I absolutely love beer. And well, this one's all about the liquid gold. This two week long, greatest, largest, most wholesome beer festival in the world takes place around the month of September. With a scale so grand that it hosts around 5-6 million visitors every year in over 14 massive tents with around 80 carnival rides, you can imagine why this would be an experience worth having! Dressing up in authentic german outfits, drinking pints and pints of beer with people cheering you as you ‘chug’, making new friends as you share benches, conversations and dances with your neighbors, and binge eating on french fries, jacket potatoes and ginger bread cookies to sober up before going on some mind-spinning roller-coasters- Oktoberfest is truly a party worth attending before 30! However, it has some strict rules on alcoholism and non-smoking as well as ‘kids night’ events that make it rather family-friendly.

5. La Tomatina, Spain

If you’re a Bollywood fan, you know about La Tomatina festival from the movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. For those of you who aren’t, it’s literally holi with tomatoes. How a supposed brawl between some schoolboys and musician over sixty odd years ago resulting in a crazy fruit fight that led to this festival of chaotic fun is a mystery of the evolution of human tradition. Nonetheless, this festival of throwing ripe tomatoes at each other through the town of Bunol, Valencia takes place in the last week of August. The day ends with music, dancing, and fireworks. This is a great chance to just have some old-fashioned, childish fun. I plan to paint the town red, both literally and figuratively, when I attend!

6. Scuba Diving in Silfra, Iceland

There’s something you can do only in Iceland, something so unique and magical that it should be on your bucket list too… that something is dry suit diving in the UNESCO heritage site, Silfra fissure. I recently got my diving license (and if you don’t have yours trust me that’s something that should be on your list). The experience of learning to dive, balance your buoyancy or equate your ears and the encounter with all sorts of fascinating marine life was extremely thrilling. Now having got my license, the next things on my list include wreck and cave divings. But while I can do these anywhere, diving in 1-2 degrees celsius cold, clear blue waters of Silfra is the only place where I can actually touch the two continents ((the American and European tectonic plates) at the same time! The dive is scary and exerting to say the least so I’d like to do tick it off my list while I’m still healthy and fit!

7. Mardi Gras, New Orleans

During the last two weeks of March, the entire city of New Orleans turns into a party to celebrate the festival of Mardi Gras. The city is full of fancy celebrity-studded parades, masquerade balls with performers like Pitbull and parties, abundance of live music and plenty of opportunities to dance your heart out. The green, gold and purple Mardi Gras decorations are so eye-catching and the floats and animal figurines are absolutely stunning. The most fun part is insane crowd-throwing tradition, where paraders throw beads, trinkets and coins to the crowds to collect! Mardi Gras is a must-do on my party bucket list!

8. Ski in Ischgl, Austria

Come Easter, and most of us instantly long to hit the slopes! Cause what better way to bid winter goodbye than camping in a cozy chalet or cottage, stuffing up on fondue and raclette for the last time before worrying about our ‘summer bodies’ and gliding over the soft white snow? Skiing in Ischgl, Tyrol, Austria is a magical experience because of the guaranteed miles of white expanse over the magnificent quality of slopes and fast lifts, along with the sheer beauty of the glittering white view. A must-do is the 37.5 km gold smugglers circuit, one of the longest ski circuits in the world, which connects Ischgl to Samnaun, a Swiss duty-free. The fun that starts on the slopes carries down to restaurants, bars and clubs. Ischgl with a reputation for its glamorous après-ski, could easily be called ‘Ibiza on Ice’ as you end the day of skiing with partying alongside celebrities and top DJs. The loud social scene, luxury shopping and gourmet restaurants make Ischgl the ideal ski destination, especially for anyone under 30!

9. Carnival, Rio De Janeiro

I’ve always been in awe of the rich vibrant culture of Brazil. And the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro brings together and highlights this culture to the fullest! This is the largest carnival in the world and takes place every year around the months of February/March since the 18th century! I can’t wait to witness the breathtaking bright colors, costumes with twice the flare, mammoth floats, elaborate musical skits, dance competitions and so much more! While I think this is an experience for all age groups, I want to drink and dance and let my hair down as I join in the street parties (Blocos), try some local beer and delicacies and hopefully pick up a bit of samba before I feel too old!

10. Time Travel in Cuba

Cuba’s charm is its colorful buildings and cobbled streets that not only capture it’s past but also freeze it in time. Having been embargoed for years, Cuba seems like a time capsule. But Cuba won’t remain this uncommercialised time capsule for long, which is why this exotic Caribbean island is on top of my bucket list. When it comes to Cuba, I instinctively dream of nights infused with salsa dancing and cuban rum tasting, visiting cigar lounges, live music as I walk down streets lined with vibrant buildings and palm trees, cruising under the glaring sun in antique 1950’s cars, sipping on mojitos on the beach or swimming in fresh waterfalls and the salty sea, romantic rides on horse-drawn carriages, appreciating the rich historic culture and so much more. But my favorite thing about a trip to Cuba is that there is little to no internet access and no sense of punctuality- the perfect combination for a laid back holiday!

11. Full Moon Party, Thailand

As the name says, the full moon party is, first and foremost, a PARTY! Clubs and bars along the Haad Rin beach are drenched in this party spirit, and littered with tourists and locals alike. The party lasts all night and part of the tradition is to stay up by beach campfires till the sun rises. There are captivating fire shows, buckets of alcohol (literally), dancing to all kinds of music from psychedelic rock, trance, reggae, RnB, hip-hop, pop, bass and house music and more! The party hosts thousands of people looking to lose themselves, surrender to the music and have a good time. Since the full moon party takes place every month on the island of Pha-ngan, an added advantage of this festival is that you get to choose when you would like to attend it.

12. Backpacking across Vietnam & Cambodia

While I could visit Vietnam and Cambodia at any time in my life, what I really want to experience is backpacking across the East and what better place than these two underrated but extraordinary neighbors! Vietnam is every foodies dream! Cities are filled with tasty Vietnamese street food like summer rolls, noodles and dim sums. In Vietnam, appreciating the culture and architecture in Hanoi on tuk-tuks, exploring the bamboo forests as I stay in tribal guesthouses in Sa Pa and visiting the scenic Ha Long Bay (one of the seven natural wonders of the world), Phong Nha caves, and Da Lat mountains and the rice paddies of Mekong Delta are just a handful of things on my list. In Cambodia, I’m most excited to visit the temple of Angkor Wat, and to walk/ bathe a herd of elephants at the Elephant Valley Project in Mondulkiri and to shop at the local amazing markets. But what would be most exciting about this experience - living only in a few pairs of clothes out of rucksack (I cannot travel light!), being on-the-go without pre-booked hotels or transport (I have OCD to pre-plan everything), learning new things (language, history, culture and more) and meeting interesting people, and making new friends along the way...

13. Tomorrowland, Belgium

Let me start by saying I live in Belgium!! Ok, so I only moved here little over a year ago but it’s just one of those things I’ve been taking for granted- “Its right here, I can go anytime...” This ridiculously grand music festival in Boom, less than hour from where I live, takes every year over two weekends at the end of July. The stage set-up is absolutely epic, the food is excellent, the costumes are elaborate and the artist line-up is a dream come true for any music buff. No wonder, its often called the ‘Disneyland for adults.’ With thousands of people coming together from across the world and with well known names like Armin Van Buren, Tiesto, Avicii, Axwell, Dimitri Vegas, Like Mike, David Guetta and many more having lit up the stage and brought the party to Belgium, this festival is definitely an once in a lifetime experience. Though unfortunately, I won’t be in Belgium for it this coming weekend of creative and crazy celebrations at this EDM festival, I’m already ready to buy my tickets for next year!

Bonus: Football World Cup Finals. With the ubiquitous football (world cup) fever that just ended this month, its unavoidable to acknowledge the amazing, intense and absolutely insane atmosphere amidst a roaring crowd as you not only witness sports history being created right before you but also join in the crazy frenzy! This definitely qualifies as a once in a lifetime experience! So well, Qatar, I'll see you in 4 years!

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By Travel Consultant  & Curator: Himadri Karani Mehta
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