'Places' fascinate me, whether it's a weekend in Wales or a month in Mongolia – hence my original 'bucket list' grew so long. To narrow-down the choice, I thought more carefully about what drives me to save up and click 'book.'
Mountains, nature and outdoor adventure are top trends in my travel choices, but captivating culture also appeals. Despite being an outdoorsy-type at heart, I have a fascination with world cities – without the daily grind and frustration of commuting, I find their frenetic buzz electrifying and, particularly when relaxing in pavement cafes, I find they can be strangely calming.
The Big Five
Japan: ski, surf and sushi
Just turned 21 and aching for adventure, I was invited to train as a kayak instructor in Japan. It was a dream job but, in the end, took an easier option in the French Alps. Since then, Japan has languished on my bucket list. From the buzz of Tokyo, the culture of Kyoto and peak of Mount Fuji, to surfing in Shonan and powder skiing in the Alps, Japan takes pride of place at the top of my Ten Year Travel Plan.
India: cities and sanctuary
India is home to some of the densest populations on the planet, Indian megacities, like Mumbai and Delhi, have appealed since my GCSE Geography days. I imagine being swept along by swarms of city dwellers, past teeming bazaars, intoxicating food stalls, ancient architecture and the world's biggest slums. When the pace of city life gets too much, I'll escape south to the tropical forests of Kerala to trek through the jungle, boat along the backwaters and seek sanctuary on the beaches.
Yunnan: Multi-day hiking, cultural encounters and a taste of wild China
I've visited China many times but, tucked away in the far southwest, I've never made it to Yunnan province. Distinctly different, it's home to half the country's ethnic minorities and, bordering Tibet, has stunning natural scenery – including one of the world's deepest canyons, Tiger Leaping Gorge. More recently, my decision to visit was cemented by an episode of the Wild China series, which had me spellbound by Yunnan's mesmerising wildlife.
British Columbia, Canada: the great outdoors
Snowy peaks, glittering glaciers, raging rivers and emerald forests; every photo I've ever seen of BC has been sensational. As a kid, my favourite cartoon was The Raccoons – although the setting was fictional, Evergreen Forest is most likely to have been based on BC, where the creator grew up. Skiing, mountain biking, moose watching and more, it's definitely my sort of place, and with Vancouver surrounded by the great outdoors, I could get my 'city fix' too.
Morocco, Dakhla: surf, surf, surf
In recent years, this little-known town has become a mecca for windsurfing and kitesurfing. Protected by a peninsula, a flat-water lagoon means the conditions for beginners and intermediates (like me) are unrivalled – for several years now, I've dreamed of spending two weeks on the water, fast tracking my windsurf skills to the next level. Morocco isn't hard to reach, so why haven't I been before? With no direct flights to this deep-south destination, getting there demands two-days of travel.
Raring to return to
Discovering new countries is always exciting but revisiting old favourites is fantastic too – I love the familiar feeling you get when you touch down at the airport and, from food choices to avoiding tourist traps, prior experience always pays off. I'd happily return to any of the places I've visited in the past, but these three are my favourites:
Fantastic friendly Philippines
More than 7000 islands make up the Philippine archipelago, so when I visited a few years ago, I barely scratched the surface. My trip concentrated on the main island of Luzon, home to the capital of Manila, the Cordillera mountains, and the whale shark hotspot of Donsol. With so much more to see, from the chocolate hills of Bohol to the white sands of Boracay, I can't wait to go back – and the fantastically friendly, English speaking locals only add to the appeal.
Seduced by Sulawesi
It still amazes me how few people have heard of this Indonesian island. A place of bizarre funeral celebrations, white sand beaches, mysterious sea gypsies and some of the most astounding scuba-diving spots I've ever experienced, it's an island of untapped adventure that I'd jump at the chance to revisit any day.
Amazed by the Amazon
In summer 2011, I spent three weeks in the Peruvian Amazon. Sleeping in a hammock, kayaking past pink river dolphins and catching caimans for a scientific study. The escape from reality was surreal and, so inspired, I entered a writing competition and won a trip to Antarctica. Since then, I often imagine I'm in my hammock, listening to the sounds of the Amazon lull me to sleep. One day, I've got to get back there.
Travel can shape our identities and influence who we are
My first trip to China inspired me to learn Mandarin and gave me a taste for 'real' Chinese cooking that I've never shaken off; two winters spent skiing in the Alps gave me a passion for off-piste; and a summer in rural Zambia encouraged me to reassess my life in England and consider what matters most.
Whether it's a week on a beach or a month in the jungle, travel allows us to break from routine, re-engage with ourselves and appreciate life away from technology and the trappings of everyday. By achieving my Ten Year Travel Plan, my wallet may be lighter, but I'm certain I'll be a richer person for it.