My bucket list: 5 glorious destinations to enjoy once it’s safe to travel again

As if the pandemic wasn’t bad enough. On his way to making “America Great Again,” former president (soon!) Trump’s failure of leadership to tame COVID-19 got American’s uninvited to nearly every country in the world.

At one point this summer, we could only openly travel to 8 of the planet’s 195 countries.

As a result, it feels like making any travel plans, be it international or domestic, is a futile exercise in wishful thinking, even under a Biden administration that is already devising new plans to tackle the pandemic featuring actual experts.

None of this can dampen my enthusiasm for travel, even if I can’t really jet off anywhere right now. In fact, it may have intensified it.

So I’ve decided to embark on and dream a little dream about travel in 2021.

Here’s my future travel bucket list…

1. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Dreaming of long, sun-filled winter days at the beach followed by michelada’s and ceviche at a surfside restaurants…

Puerto Vallarta Beach
Beware the PV sea monsters! (Starring writer as said monster, partner as innocent victim.) 2018

I fell in love with this Mexican coastal resort town a few years back, a well-known destination for LGBTQ travel throughout North America. This impending trip would be my third visit, and since the country is still, even now, open to Americans, I figure this is likely to be a safe, initial international excursion.

My previous visits occurred during the New Year’s holiday when PV is at its busiest and gayest, and this upcoming trip would ideally fall during this same period of time, COVID-19 permitting of course.

Playa Los Muertes, the gay beach in Zona Romantica, is easily accessible from the local hotels and home to one of my favorite dining spots, The Swedes, a great place to see and be seen. I also look forward to revisiting the Red Cabbage Café, a favorite destination of Frida Kahlo, easily accessible by cab, a little inland off the Rio Cuale River.

2. Alaska

Dreaming of never-ending July daylight, hikes around craggy mountaintops while dodging moose and bears (the animal kind)….

After nearly 15 years here, I’m a New Yorker, but I still identify as “Alaskan” as I was born and (primarily) grew up in the 49th state. For most of my adulthood, I would make at least one trip per year to the Land of the Midnight Sun to visit family, but now that most of them have relocated to the Lower 48, those trips are far and few between.

I haven’t been “home” in years and would like to take a trip next summer to introduce my partner to the s

There’s still a lot of the state that I have not yet explored myself, but for this trip, I’ll just be happy revisiting my favorite locations and catching up with friends I haven’t seen in years.

3. New Zealand

Dreaming of rolling green hills, outdoor adventures, and casual cocktails at local cafes…

I lived in Auckland, New Zealand in the late ’90s for two years, but haven’t been back since the reason for my extended stay and I separated. Despite the relatively short period of time, the small island country has always maintained a special place in my heart and I think it’s high time to make a trip back.

In addition to revisiting locales that I have fond memories of, like Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula (where you can make a small hot tub for yourself by digging a hole in the sand that will naturally fill with hot water from the natural hot springs below), I’d love to embark on adventures that I’d never managed when I was there. This would include black water rafting (essentially inner-tubing down an underground river surrounded by glowworms), abseiling and zip lining in the Waitomo Caves on the North Island, and backcountry hiking in the Southern Alps on the South Island.

Considering the day long (at least) flight each way and the strict COVID-19 policies the country has in place, this dream may need to wait for a full year or more.

4. Scotland & Italy

Dreams of fulfilling a lifelong wish while exploring medieval structures in ancient European cities and tracking down distant relatives…

Christmas Day this year is my mother’s 70th birthday, and I’m long overdue on the 35-year-old promise I made to take her on a trip overseas. This dream excursion to Europe would be her first time traveling internationally and I had intended to make it happen prior to her birthday. I had barely begun planning the trip when COVID struck, however, and clearly, this adventure will need to wait until next year (at the earliest).

Naples, Italy
Overlooking a city street in Naples, Italy. June 2019

I’ve never been to Scotland, and we were both excited to explore the countryside, visiting castles and embarking on day-long hikes and bike rides. I’d also love to visit Loch Ness Lake to do our part in (not) sighting the legendary monster within. I envision bookending a week there with some urban exploration as well, flying into Glasgow and out of Edinburgh on our way to our next destination, Italy.

My mom’s family is predominantly Italian-American, with both sides originating in tiny villages east of Naples called Teora and Lacedonia. These, would of course be required visits. I’ve been to Italy twice myself and would love to show my mom around some of my favorite spots (Rome, Cinque Terre & Florence), but I’d also love to explore the many plazas and canals of Venice.

5. New Orleans

Dreaming of evening walks through the French Quarter with a cocktail in hand while being serenaded by live jazz musicians on the street….

Outside of NYC, New Orleans is my favorite city in the US. I’ve been twice before, and I love the unique architecture and culture. My prior trips did not occur during any of the city’s well-known festivals. I love the idea of engaging in Mardi gras, Southern Decadence, or Jazz Fest, although it seems unlikely that we will be able to participate in any large group events anytime soon.

Instead, I’d like to spend time exploring the city streets with a drink in hand (cause yes, drinking on the streets there is legal). Between walks, we would indulge in the multitude of amazing cafes and restaurants and take part in one of its unique city tours (a Ghost and Vampire Tour, anyone?).

As it becomes more and more apparent that working from home will continue until a vaccine is distributed, I will consider finding a rental property for an extended stay to really get a chance to absorb the city in all it’s glory.

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