Travel Industry Aces Talk About Bucket List Destinations

Staying curious, with a persistent urge to learn about other cultures, destinations, and landscapes is what will connect us as humans during these uncertain times when we have to stick closer to home to be safe. Currently, we can’t cross many international borders, but we can continue to dream about far-flung locales, discover the extraordinary bits, and map out our next adventure for when travel is given a green light again.

Syncing up with travel writers, editors, and public relations professionals, several bucket-list destinations have been highlighted. Read about countries across the globe and American national parks that have gathered these industry champions into their collective grasps, keeping them engaged and absorbed. Antarctica, Rajasthan, Patagonia, Montana, Peru—these are some of the dreamy locales that have captivated these tourism industry mavens, giving them indelible memories to draw upon, even now, while safely situated at home.

Bucket List Destination: Antarctica

Years ago, my boyfriend, also a travel writer, invited me to accompany him on a dream trip to Antarctica. I hadn’t even thought to have put it on my bucket list at that point, as it seemed to be such an epic and out-of-reach destination in my mind. It was even more captivating up close and in person with its ice-choked passages, stunning icebergs, charismatic wildlife, and bergy bits. I was in a perpetual state of awe and have longed to return ever since. That trip was also the last time I was able to fully disconnect and be entirely present in the moment. I believe a satellite phone was our only workable means of communication. It truly is the last frontier. 

Heather Mikesell is the Co-Founder of Well Defined, a new destination for all things related to wellness. Mikesell, the former editor-in-chief of American Spa magazine, is an award-winning journalist and content strategist, skilled in writing, editing, and media relations. As a freelance writer, she has contributed to Elite Traveler, Islands, Kiwi, Luxury Travel Advisor, Organic Spa, Porthole Cruise, Travel Agent,,,, and

Favorite Travel Quote: 

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”—Tim Cahill

Bucket List Destination: Yellowstone National Park—Wyoming, Montana, Idaho

During these challenging times, I find myself daydreaming of past visits to one of North America’s great wilderness destinations, Yellowstone National Park. It might seem counterintuitive, after so many months of quarantine and social distancing, to fantasize about returning to a place that encompasses over two million acres of remote backcountry and wide-open space, and yet, Yellowstone still calls.

The world’s very first national park (established in 1872 by Ulysses Grant) is an outdoor lover’s paradise that offers a very rare combination of dramatic Rocky Mountain landscapes, incredibly unique geology and some of the best wildlife viewing in the U.S. Because of its immense size, Yellowstone is a place that rewards patience. Visitors often have the urge to rush around and see as much of the park as possible in a few days but to fully appreciate Yellowstone, one needs to slow down and fully immerse themselves in their surroundings.

A day exploring the majestic Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, with its multicolored rock walls and towering waterfalls is always a day well spent. An exploration of the park’s abundant geothermal features provides a crash course in volcanism and fascinating insight into the powerful forces at work beneath the Earth’s surface. A backpacking trip into the serene Yellowstone backcountry offers a complete escape from the tourist crowds and a fantastic opportunity to see some of the park’s abundant wildlife including bison, elk, pronghorn, moose, and bear (black and grizzly).

But of all the treasures that lie within the park’s boundaries that perpetually draw me back, it’s the Lamar Valley that I think of first. This vast, hauntingly beautiful river valley lying between two mountain ranges is home to several of Yellowstone’s wolf packs. Reintroduced in the park in 1995, the wolves have flourished here and, for those lucky enough to see or hear them during a visit, serve as a reminder of the resiliency of life and of the truly wild places that still exist in our increasingly frenetic world.

Andy Kronen is the REI Adventure Travel program manager for North America. REI Adventures offers a variety of immersive hiking, backpacking and cycling itineraries in Yellowstone National Park. 

Bucket List Destination: Rajasthan, India

My obsession with the state of Rajasthan (located in the NW corner of India) has run deep pretty much my entire life. Known as the land of kings and palaces, Rajasthan was one of the first trips I remember taking at a young age when visiting our home country of India. I was enamored with the colorful majesty and grandeur of the stunning palaces, imagining what royal life must have been like during the Mughal era.

As an adult, I still find myself mesmerized by the intricate art and architecture set against the desert landscape, with a sophisticated level of luxury that encapsulates a visit to this magical destination. As travel restrictions are lifted due to COVID, I absolutely expect to be booking a trip to this dreamland that truly makes my heart sing and feel like I have come home.

Sapna Dalal is the founder and writer for Vegetarian Tourist. Dalal is a storyteller with a passion for the amazing people, unique global places and vegetarian food she encounters. Embracing life to the fullest while living in downtown Chicago, she is always dreaming of her next international rendezvous. Her adventures take her everywhere from the quirky, hole-in-the-wall joint to the most luxurious destinations around the world.

Favorite Travel Quote: 

“Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport.” —Unknown

Bucket List Destination: Exuma

As a travel writer abruptly benched by COVID-19, I spend much of my downtime reflecting on where I’ve been and expanding my to-go list. I vacillate between mourning the process of travel, the not-knowing of when normalcy will return, and recognizing the gift of temporarily hitting pause and learning to appreciate the quiet of home.

Like many, my social circle has shrunk drastically, so when I think about resuming travel, it’s the face-to-face human connection I crave over new landscapes. It’s not about a specific destination but chasing the soul-fueling that comes from by-chance encounters with strangers that lead to a swapping of stories or perspective-changing conversations.

There’s a case to be made for revisiting destinations because each time, you learn something new, your comfort level with exploring matures and the relationship with the people and culture deepens. A first-visit for me will be Exuma because I thoroughly enjoy the authenticity of the people and the ocean’s water that runs the gamut of clear as bath time, to deep sapphire blue with layered turquoise hues. Adequate words do not exist to describe its beauty or the way it feels to be immersed in its charms—there’s an almost mentally medicinal effect.

Grand Isle Resort, Peace and Plenty Resort and The Salt House deliver varying styles of lodging that fit a range of budgets and amenity requirements, all equal in access to the richness of the region. A quick chartered boat ride to the barefoot beach bar Chat N’ Chill is essential for their pulled-straight-from-the-ocean conch salad and wading shin-deep to feed scraps to the circling stingrays skimming your toes. The concierge at Grand Isle Resort can arrange excursions to visit the swimming pigs of Big Major Cay, the intimidating but surprisingly gentle Allen Cay iguanas, a relaxed guided tour around a subset of the Exuma’s 365 islands, many celebrity-inhabited, or facilitate a plunge with sandpapery nurse sharks.

Maria Chambers is an editor at Red Tricycle, Chicago and a freelance writer. She’s a mom of three sons and a daughter, living in suburban Chicago. Chambers is “a long-time wrestler of words living her dream as a writer. Hopelessly in love with the way intentionally thoughtful travel can connect, shrink perceived gaps, inspire mindset shifts and, sometimes imperceptibly, nudge us to think and grow.”

Favorite Travel Quote: 

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”—Oliver Wendell Holmes

Bucket List Destination: Patagonia

Patagonia has been on my bucket list for years! (I’ve visited both Argentina and Chile in the past but didn’t have a chance to make it to this region shared by the two countries.) I actually had flights booked and plans made to go in 2020, but when travel came to a halt in early March, I had to put those plans on pause. Nevertheless, I’m still planning and dreaming for the day the trip happens.

I want to hike through Torres del Paine National Park; spot penguins, dolphins, whales, and other wildlife in Punta Arenas; visit Los Glaciares National Park to see the impressive Perito Moreno glacier (one of the few that’s still growing); and road trip through the scenic Lake District that straddles the border of the two countries.

Jamie Hergenrader is the Senior Editor at TripSavvy where she writes and edits content for the site on a variety of travel topics and destinations. She currently lives in New York City where she seeks out any opportunity to board a plane or a train to explore somewhere new. So far, she’s traveled to 28 countries and territories and 30 U.S. states. 

Favorite Travel Quote: 

“Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” —Gustave Flaubert

Bucket List Destination: Mauritius

Mauritius has my heart. This was a family holiday I took with my mum and dad in 2016. The island of Mauritius is full of pristine beaches, great hiking sites, underwater activities, clean, crisp air, and above all, warm and friendly people.

We went paragliding over the sea-green colored ocean in Île aux Cerfs, experienced underwater sea walking in Grand Baie, hiked in the famous Black River Gorges National Park, touched and interacted with a pack of adult lions in Casela Nature Park where I also saw tigers in their natural habitat less than two feet away, visited the touristy Citadel fort and saw a creole mansion.

I didn’t know earlier that the population of Mauritius comprises of a large number of people of Indian origin who celebrate Hindu festivals and have their own version of the Holy River Ganges in Grand Bassin. We visited temples too—all this in a span of seven days. I would call Mauritius a magical island, which is a must-visit for any adventure seeker.

Deepika Sarma is the Director of Public Relations at The Langham, Chicago. She’s a travel enthusiast, nature lover and meditator as well as a former television host and actor, Miss India pageant contestant and event emcee. She finds joy in volunteering, singing and always working towards being the best version of herself.

Favorite Travel Quote: 

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” —African proverb

Bucket List Destination: South America

I love adventure vacations. I caught the adventure travel bug a few years ago during a trip to South America. Hiking Mt. Fitz Roy was a bucket list item—I fell in love with Patagonia. I was just about to book an REI Adventures trip to Rainbow Mountain and Machu Picchu in Peru when COVID became a household word. The hike to Rainbow Mountain looks as beautiful as the actual destination. I cannot wait to book this trip and finally explore another amazing part of South America.

Kristin Yantis, Principal at Malen Yantis Public Relations, is seasoned in the travel industry. Yantis also has a history of giving back. She was a founding board member of First Descents, a kayak camp for young adults with cancer.

Favorite Travel Quote: 

“The joy is in the journey, not the destination. We have a better chance of seeing where we are when we stop trying to be somewhere else.”— John Bingham

Bucket List Destination: Ascension Bay, Mexico

The Grand Slam Fishing Lodge located in Ascension Bay, Mexico, is  just one hour south of Tulum. This lodge is on my bucket list due to the modest luxury, seclusion, beach beauty and of course, the wide variety of fish to catch on a fly rod (Permit, bonefish, tarpon, etc.). My wife and I would be able to fish all day with a private guide and then come back to the lodge to relax in the sand and swap fish stories with the other travelers. The ability to receive plenty of sun exposure, drink cold, tasteful cocktails and eat freshly caught seafood for dinner is an added bonus.

Max Krapff, is an Associate PR Account Manager and outdoor industry professional who enjoys chasing fish with a fly rod alongside his wife and dogs.

Favorite Travel Quote: 

“This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun.” —Clark Griswold

Connect with the author, Wendy Altschuler, on Instagram or her website.

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