Turn a Bucket List Into a Booked It List

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Written by: Vicky Philpott


How to Turn the Dream to Reality

It’s not actually that hard to achieve your travel dreams, seriously. As long as said dream is kind of realistic. If you want to fly a two-seater seaplane round the world or go to every country before you’re 25, you’re obviously going to have to work that little bit harder to get ahead. But if your bucket list wish just involves you making the time and energy investment to get some cash, then researching it, booking, and going… you can do it.

What’s on your bucket list?

I asked the gapyear.com community what would top their bucket list for 2015 and found the usual travel daydream suspects, alongside a few more unusual answers. So, using my tried and tested knowledge, with a helping hand from some of the community members, I want to show you how you can make your travel dreams a reality.

Road trip the USA

Road trip the USA

“To do a road trip across America. I’d love to check in to a motel and see all the sights you see on the films. It would be an incredible adventure to remember forever.”– Emily Sanchez

“It’s a massive cliche, but I really want to road trip across the USA. Probably west to east. The slight problem being that I can’t drive.”– Dave

Ahh, you can’t beat a good USA road trip. I’ve been on two now, down exactly the same route. Original.

The first time I was passenger along the Pacific Coast Highway going onto Coachella, and the second I drove a Mustang along the same route from San Francisco to LA. Both times were incredible experiences that have inspired me to want to see more of the country. And after reading this review of the journey down Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica I think that might be my next adventure.

A USA road trip is not as expensive and out of your grasp as you may think, especially if there’s a group of you going. You can share fuel costs, rental and team up in rooms – a dodgy cheapo motel room is an essential must do for a Brit on a US road trip anyway.

If you’re a bit nervous about going it alone, or it looks like you’re going to be going solo, take a look at this trip from NYC to LA overland, and you won’t even have to take the wheel.

To see the Northern Lights

See the Northern Lights

“Tough one, I have so many but probably number 1 is to go see Polar Bears and go dog sledding in Svalbard and hopefully see the Northern Lights as well.” –swanny123

You can see the Northern Lights in Britain, if you’re lucky. But that’s not a glamorous location to show off to your mates about, is it?

I’ve been to Iceland and Norway in search of the neon beasts, but the trouble with the Northern Lights is that no one can reliably predict where they’ll be and where. Sure there are resources and assumptions all over the internet but it may take a few days and attempts to actually ensure you see them in all their glory.

There are a few Northern Lights options on gapyear.com where you can combine the search with other activities, so that if you don’t manage to see the sky you still get the chance to take in the stunning land.

The Trans-Siberian Railway

The Trans-Siberian Railway

“My (top 3!) are party at Mardi Gras, travel the Trans-Siberian Railway and travel the old Silk Route!” – Motterway

Travelling the Trans-Siberian always comes up when people talk about bucket lists. It’s a craving for that feeling of solitude as you chug across the continents from Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia, I assume. At 5,753 miles long, it goes through seven different time zones – that’s sure to confuse your iPhone, and you.

There’s been chat on the message boards about travelling on the Trans-Siberian, with some really useful and important information on food, drink, costs and the likelihood of sleep too. A few companies have set up as official providers but my advice would be to round up a friend and just do it!

To go to Antarctica


“Antarctica for me! It wouldn’t just be about seeing something so different, it would be the emotional experience I’m after. I want to experience being somewhere THAT remote, and experience the silence. I know it won’t BE silent, but I bet it’s just such an attack on the senses!” – *Nikki180188*

Oh, Antarctica. I’m afraid I can’t give any first hand advice as I’ve never been, but Lucy Grewcock has, and just reading that post has me Googling the possibilities, when I’m meant to be writing this.

To go to Antarctica, you’re going to need about £4k first, to pay for your cruise, and then you’ll also need the flight to Ushuaia in Argentina, and the money to hang out there at the start and end.

Sure, it’s an expensive trip, but this is Antarctica, and how cool would it be to say you’ve been there?!

£4k at minimum wage is 597 hours work, 15 weeks, and if that’s all it takes to achieve the thing you want to do most in the world, it’s definitely achievable. Of course, you need to eat too, so it might take a little bit longer than 15 weeks, but details, details.

To go to my first festival

My first music festival

“Go to my first festival… I’m hoping to hit up a European on in the Summer!” – StaceyBee

C’mon Stacey, you can do this! Festivals are around £200 plus the cost of getting there. Over the years the gapyear.com team have been to EXIT, Ultra, Holi and Loi Krathong among many, many others. There are so many to choose from in the UK, and thousands around the world.

If you’re travelling around this year I’d recommend you have a quick Google to see if there are any festivals in the area. Some of the best ones I’ve been to – Seville Feria, Tomatina and Oktoberfest – have all been totally free to enter. You can do this, StaceyBee!

To go on safari

Go on safari

No one actually said this when I asked on the message boards, but I always see it on bucket lists, so I thought I’d help out anyone pining to join the set of the Lion King.

I went on safari in Tanzania to the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti. I saw buffalo, wildebeest, flamingos, zebras, lions, leopards and all kinds of birds. Trundling around on that tundra trying to scout out the animals was an experience I’ll never forget, and well worth earning the money that went into paying for it.

You could go on safari in the Kruger in South Africa, or on a Cape Desert safari in Namibia or even a safari guide in Zimbabwe.

And take a look at this story from Andrew Tipp about being a park ranger in South Africa – there’s one way to earn your kip while achieving your dreams.

To go to the Galapagos

I haven’t yet managed to tick this one off my bucket list but it’s definitely high up, so I might need to take my own advice here. The Galapagos in Ecuador is one of the best places in the whole world to go wildlife watching. You’ll find huge tortoises, iguanas, seals, sea lions and over a hundred more species.

And if you want to go and explore the Galapagos with the comfort and security of a company, check out this conservation opportunity right here, or, try the Galapagos on a shoestring. Have to say, I’m tempted.

Dive on the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef

Yep, I’ve dived in the Great Barrier Reef. It’s actually one of the first things I managed to move from the bucket list to the ‘booked it’ one. I remember it well – a beautiful sunny day in Cairns – and out I went backwards off the boat. Under the sea was every bit as stunning and beautiful as you’d imagine. The fish were vibrant, the reef colourful and if Nemo or the Little Mermaid had appeared from behind a rock, I felt like I wouldn’t even be surprised. It was that beautiful.

Work your arse off in the UK to get the minimum you need for a Working Holiday Visa, get to Australia, get a job near the reef and spend it all on going to explore. It’ll be an incredible few months and well worth the effort.

How to afford it all

You’re going to need some cash. And while we can’t give you said cash, we can definitely give you some tips on how to get your little paws on it.

Ok, I’ll stop. Actually, one more: How to Afford a Gap Year on Minimum Wage

And how about combining your bucket list with a bit of work or volunteering along the way? It will help you travel for longer and deeper, and you never know what opportunities it may bring.


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