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When We Do Travel Again...

Bucket list development - the time is NOW. What will we keep? What will we change?

Before I dive too deeply into the subject of bucket list building, I want to give a quick shout out to @TravelFoodGuy, Larry Olmstead, who wrote a great article for on May 14 regarding a great American road trip. I admire Larry and his work and am so excited he and I think this special road trip, one I blogged about on May 11, is bucket list worthy. I mean, #Wanderlist worthy! Be sure to download the free itinerary and marry his ideas with mine.

If disease didn't exist, where in the world would you want to go? What do you want to see before you die? That's a bucket list. I call it a #wanderlist. How would you know what there is to see? How would you prioritize it? If this complete travel embargo has brought anything into sharp relief it is that life is short. Time to start to carpe every dang diem. Or, at least have a plan.

We are all so eager to travel. I know I am! Also, I am sure those of you reading this are feeling the seeds of enthusiasm, too. If you are not, that is ok, too. Dreaming about travel can also be beneficial.

Pent-up demand and desire to travel remain high. Six in ten respondents to the most recent U.S. Travel Association Travel Intentions Pulse Survey say they will be eager to travel for leisure once the COVID-19 crisis has passed. That's up from 54% just a few short weeks ago. Data continues to suggest that #roadtrips and travel to destinations closer to home will likely drive much of the immediate recovery as the pandemic fades. Be sure to join our community so you too can get road trip itineraries delivered directly to your inbox.

Bottom line: We are ramping up the idea of travel becoming part of our lives again.

Bucket list trips will not necessarily be the first trips we take, when the time feels right for us to get back out into the world. But now is the time to plan those bucket list trips, those trips we WANT to do in our lifetime, that take a long time to plan and budget.

As you ponder what could be on your personal bucket list, let's flip the script from WHERE to travel, but WHY we travel. You'll find that the why is where travel becomes transformative.

I have seen this with so many clients. For example, a couple plans a trip to Paris and they ask why their itinerary doesn't include the Louvre. Well, if the client specifically mentioned they aren't into museums, and the Louvre is an enormous museum, I wouldn't recommend it at all. Visiting a huge museum when museums do not spark your joy, risks wasting a half day or more doing something that isn't enjoyable or transformative. It feels like an obligation in some way because "it is what you do when you are in Paris".

Crowds strain to catch a glimpse of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris. Photo by Max Fercondini, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Petit Monde around da Vinci's Mona Lisa

I don't subscribe to that thought process. Any journey worth taking, any activity included in that journey, should become part of a traveler's own rich personal story - one that excites their passions. Not one that checks an arbitrary box. That doesn't mean a visit to the Louvre would be drudgery, but it can leave the day feeling flat, or worse, exhausting. Therefore, it is a virtually meaningless where, that doesn't have anything to do with your why.

The bulk of luxury travel that puts the ‘where’ above the ‘why’ is so mind-numbingly predictable. It’s a blueprint that, for all intents and purposes, hasn’t changed since the days of the Grand Tour of the 17th and 18th centuries. We visit the Louvre, tour the Vatican and see the London Tower Bridge. We do all these things automatically because they’re what you’re "supposed" to do. Said who?

Ok, fine, you say. How do I even start creating a bucket list?

1. Get Clarity: Ask everyone in your family with whom you travel. Create multiple categories: personal passion, family trips, couples’ trips.

2. Find Experiences: Research these destinations to learn about the different experiences that create a positive visceral reaction - that is your passion igniting.

3. Prioritize the Dreams: Take votes, rank them. Next, think about a timetable over multiple years for getting them all in. Are there milestones you want to celebrate? Calendar road blocks that cannot be moved?

4. Budget: this is always tricky - When is a good time to go? Is there a way to maximize our experience while minimizing expenditures? What about currency fluctuation? What about pricing changes over time?

Having a plan means having some level of clarity. Clarity reduces the feeling of being overwhelmed. A multi-year plan is incredibly useful for this. In terms of planning, the most special trips, from African safaris to small expedition trips (think Galapagos or arctic regions) to several weeks in Australia or New Zealand, often need to be planned a couple of years in advance to get prime lodges or cabins or experiences. Time of the year is also at play in this equation.

Marquee sporting events like the Kentucky Derby, the Masters, the Superbowl, Wimbledon, or playing the Old Course at St. Andrews also benefit from booking at least year out - not just for tickets, seats or tee times, but also for accommodations. Same for fashion events like NYFW, Paris Fashion Week or Milan Fashion week - entry and accommodation are dually important and hard to come by.

Anything that requires a special permit, from climbing Everest in Nepal to trekking with gorillas in Rwanda, also has a long lead time to plan. If you dream of cage diving with sharks, you'll need your PADI certification and that takes time. Obtaining visas for entry into certain countries - even if you are merely transiting on your way elsewhere - can also take time. These logistics are critical to a successful trip.

There are also some destinations or types of wildlife threatened with extinction or adversely affected by climate change that you have to see before they are gone, rather than the other way around. Greenland is one example of this, so is the arctic landscape north of the Hudson Bay where a polar bear safari is pure magic.

Besides these complex logistical issues that exist around the WHERE as well as the WHY of your travel dreams, the biggest reason to plan a multi-year bucket list calendar for your life is to make sure you do it in a way you can afford. Did you know that it can take over 20 hours for an individual to plan one simple trip (not even one with multiple stops)? Did you know that most travelers don't budget properly and overspend by 30%? That is a lot of time and money.

This is where having a trusted travel advisor is invaluable. Virtuoso - the ultimate invitation only luxury travel consortium - created an interactive and highly personalized travel planning program called Virtuoso Wanderlist. There are around 200 designated, specially trained travel advisors who are certified to share it with their clients. I am one of the 200 advisors certified in this process. It was hard work but it is an amazing platform. Creating an actionable travel portfolio ensures my clients don’t miss out on their travel dreams, while also letting them take advantage of dynamic financial information like seasonal rates and currency fluctuations to maximize the budget.

My Mess is My Message

Before becoming a travel professional, I planned a number of multi-generational trips for my family. They were nightmares! From no air-conditioning in a Lake Como villa to a Bataan Death March tour of "must-see sights"in London, everyone was a little bit miserable. Have you ever planned a group trip for your family or friends? Yes? Well, you already know how difficult it is to please everyone. It no longer has to be that way! Yay!

Was this a terrible vacation? No. Was it a dream trip? Also, no.
Was this a terrible vacation? No. Was it a great trip? Also, no. Why? No consensus on what we wanted to do.

The Wanderlist process starts when I, or another certified Virtuoso Wanderlist advisor, send a very visual and game-like online questionnaire (it is similar to Netflix interface) to every member of your group (family, friends, colleagues, club, etc.). The platform then asks questions about desired destinations (there are over 160 to choose from) and experiences (well over 1,500). Once everyone completes the survey, the tool syncs and streamlines opinions, producing a roadmap for future travels. It is modeled after a financial planning tool and also takes into consideration economic conditions and major scheduled events. The system is dynamic: you can change your mind, reorganize your thoughts and desires and discover new experiences you didn't even know were possible. There are compelling and interesting destinations and experiences that may really appeal to you that you did not previously know about, but find during your questionnaire. After those steps that can take an hour or days depending on how you want to explore the platform, you will discuss results with me or your Virtuoso Wanderlist advisor to create a strategy that fits your passions, your available time and your budget.

The goal is a plan, a blueprint of future dream trips, such as Australia in 2022, genealogy trip to Ireland in 2023, Botswana in 2025, etc. 

Currently, the Top 10 destinations Wanderlist users have picked are (in order): New Zealand, Greece, Italy, Australia, the Galapagos Islands, South Africa, Japan, Ireland, Iceland and the Maldives. Top experiences fall into these categories: Active Adventure, Local Food & Wine, Safari Nature and Ancient Ruins/History.

Does that mean yours will look like that? Heavens, no! Why? Because this process is about your where and your why.

Keep dreaming! Keep in touch! And please, please stay happy and healthy!


Olivia Nash Richardson is a 10 year veteran of the luxury travel industry as a #Virtuoso member, affiliated with The Travel Society #ttshost. She is based in #Nashville, is from #Ohio and takes care of discerning clients all over the US.

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