DOWN SOUTH | Travel Bucket List: 5 awesome places I must see before I turn 35

Golden Gate is one of the top destinations in California. Photo by Alex Sam.

Golden Gate is one of the top destinations in California, USA. Photo by Alex Sam.

A moment ago, I saw a photo of a waterfall in Abra, Philippines. Its multi-tiered riverbed reminds me a lot of Kuang Xi Waterfall in Laos. The striking difference is that I’ve been to Kuang Xi, never been to Kaparkan Falls. Abra is one of the many places in the country I long to go before I reach 30. I am a month shy of reaching 31. My personal bucket list keeps on getting longer. I am getting old, yet I am not close to getting everything done.

I wonder if, by mid-thirties, my destination choice and travel preference would change.
I unexpectedly enjoyed Sydney’s cityness, its rustic appeal, its stores’ names’ fonts, its neat layout, its huge Asian communities.

Perhaps by 35, I would spend more time in cities, find my own nooks and crannies, accommodate, if not tolerate, the noise, the urban crowd and their quirks, sorrows, and sentimentalities.

In my early 20s, I basked in the unadulterated beauty of nature. I scaled mountains, dipped in sometimes murky and sometimes turquoise lagoons, chased waterfalls, chased a school of sardines away, camped under a moonlit sky.

Now some pounds heavier, I found myself slowing down. A full day of exploring around requires another full day of lounging and mastering the art of doing nothing.

I listed some places I could go back to five years from now and see if the list becomes a reality.

1. Krka National Park, Croatia

Krka National Park in Croatia is one of the author's dreamed destination. Photo by Robert Bilos.

Krka National Park in Croatia is one of the author’s dream destinations. Photo by Robert Bilos.

It only took one photo to convince me to include Croatia, a country located in southeast Europe, in my personal bucket list. My affinity with flowing rivers can be linked back to my writing. I have a river for a muse, which I visit almost every month during my fifteen years of living in Cebu City.

A living river leaps, flows, summersaults, journeys towards the open sea regardless of its circumstances. I wish my writing emulate that life.

When I was 24, I randomly booked a flight to Surigao del Norte without knowing my destination is located in Surigao del Sur. The sight of Enchanted River (now aptly named Hinatuan Enchanted River and Underground Cave System) filled me with longing back then.

So, yes, Krka National Park because rivers are personal.

2. Iran

The interior of Pink Mosque in Shiraz, Iran charms any travelers. Photo by Jimmy Dau.

The interior of Pink Mosque in Shiraz, Iran charms any travelers. Photo by Jimmy Dau.

I know, I know. I have been warned about Iran and its neighboring countries. But I was too about Mindanao. I think every country, every place has a face that mainstream media overlooked, intentional or otherwise. I refused to believe this Islamic country’s narrative is purely violence and terrorism. I would like to believe it has warmth, welcoming and accepting. I would like to believe it is humane and kind.

Plus, Islamic architecture, its intricacy, arches, and colors draw me, and Iran has some of the most beautiful mosques and markets.

The urge to visit this country becomes strong upon following a couple’s journey to this side of the world: the Iran they experienced and the Iran media portrayed felt like two different countries.

The urge becomes stronger upon knowing that I, a Filipino, can apply for a visa on arrival.

3. California and Alaska, USA

I intend to visit the Philippines’ 81 provinces before traveling abroad. That did not become a reality. The extremes: Sitangkai (Tawi-tawi) and Babuyan group of islands (Batanes) deemed themselves elusive.

I am drawn to any country’s polarities, especially the most literal: its geography. Tawi-tawi’s culture is close to Malaysia; Batanes to Taiwan. Yet both belong to the Philippines. I wonder if California and Alaska have such polarities—Alaska borders to Russia, California to Mexico.

Alaska’s wildlife and landscape are the main reason I want to visit it someday. My fascination towards California starts with several content writing jobs that focus on its surfing culture and vibrant cities.

Someday, I’m going to book a cheap hotel in Las Vegas, walk the streets of Los Angeles, seek out the hidden beaches of San Diego, bike around Santa Barbara, and bask in Californian multicultural life.

4. Madagascar

The famous Avenue of Baobabs in Madagascar. Photo by Nellie Huang.

The famous Avenue of Baobabs in Madagascar. Photo by Nellie Huang.

Aside from rivers, trees draw me. They are as valid as temples and beaches for destinations. Big trees, the old ones, feel like they hold the secrets of the universe. They are massive and intimidating; they stand tall yet silent. I sourced spiritual inspiration and energy from them. Every time I see a huge tree, I touch the trunk and murmur some love notes.

Madagascar has one type of tree I wanted to see before I die. Yes, the baobab trees. Their trunks are fat, sleek, and smooth. Their leafy and short branches crown the top like messy hair. Someday, I will find myself walking around the Avenue of Baobabs and share my own secrets to them.

5. Nepal

In Nepal, two Kkids enjoy their meal. Photo by Mustafa Ucar.

In Nepal, two Kkids enjoy their meal. Photo by Mustafa Ucar.

Visiting the place where the sky and the mountains co-exist is going to be a reality soon. I started my year-long trip last December. I traveled solo in Cambodia, then flew to Australia and camper-vanned East Coast, Australia for four weeks with my boyfriend. We then flew to Papua New Guinea and explored the Highlands for two weeks before flying to Malaysia. Right now, we are separately traveling around the Philippines. And then, we are going to fly to Vietnam. My partner is going to motorbike the whole length of Vietnam while I would mostly stay in Hanoi for a volunteer opportunity.

After that, we are going to head to Nepal to do a weeks-long trek in Nepal. I am not fit enough to stand a month-long trek, so most probably I would seek out an organic farm and lend a hand or help a school in teaching kids.

When I think of Nepal, I think of the clouds flying low. I think of mountain ranges teasing the horizon. I think of those cute kids with pinkish cheeks. I think of the Himalayas and its beautiful yet extreme weather. Someday, I’m going to cower in Nepal kind of coldness.

In Cebuano, we have a wishful equivalent of someday. Puhon. Someday. Puhon, I’m going to visit all these places when the body and the spirit are good and able.

Jona Branzuela Bering decided to take the digital nomad route to pursue her life-long dream to travel long-term. While vagabonding, she aims to finish her second collection of poetry and first collection of short stories. She blogs at Backpacking with a Book. For collaboration, email her at