Beyond the bucket list: 35 trips of a lifetime

There was once, in our more limited travelling lives, something known as "trip of a lifetime". But, for many us, the singular is now well and truly redundant. Instead, a trip of a lifetime has become a lifetime of trips.

Our travels at home and overseas, after all, are no longer confined to marking marriages, milestone birthdays and retirement. Some of us, thanks to ready access to healthy superannuation balances, canny investments and other factors, will complete dozens, perhaps even scores, of these trips over our lifetimes, rendering the so-called bucket list itself as virtually irrelevant as a single trip of a lifetime.

Even well before retirement, many Australians are devoting a significant proportion of their discretionary income with at least 10.5 million Australians returning from trips overseas last year in a nation of some 25 million.

A shrinking world with better airline connections means formerly remote and forbidding destinations are within much easier reach and with fewer hardships. The nature of this lifetime of trips can range nowadays from cruising to the ends of the earth, hiking into untouched wilderness, seeing animals in their natural habitats, riding luxury trains or asking the butler to pour a little more Cristal.

Of course, there's also the cache of being able to say "been there, done that" after a trip to a exotic destinations. "They want a little bit of brag factor," says Julie McIntosh, founder and director of the Classic Safari Company, who sees these travellers walk through her door on a regular basis.

They increasingly include grandparents who want to travel with their children and grandchildren, and are willing to pay for it. For McIntosh's clients, these lifetime of trips are more about the destination than the amount of time spent away.

Phil Asker, the travel industry veteran who started Captain's Choice, believes affluent travellers become addicted to a certain style of travel. Australians are now clearly more inclined to reward themselves with a lifetime of trips rather than tucking away money for the kids' inheritance.

Traveller asked six industry experts (see 'The Lifers' below) to name their own lifetime of trips beyond the bucket list holidays. See how many of these ideas take your fancy (and how many you can still squeeze into your own lifetime).

TAKE AN AROUND-THE-WORLD SAFARI

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Indian tiger male with first rain, wild animal in the nature habitat, Ranthambore, India. Big cat, endangered animal. End of dry season, beginning monsoon.

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In 2020, 50 wildlife enthusiasts will board a private plane to tick off a long list of animals. Abercrombie & Kent's first 25-day wildlife-themed jet safari will put a dent in the wallet – prices start from $205,810 – but that puts you in front of snow monkeys in Japan, giant pandas in China, whale sharks in The Philippines, orangutans in Malaysia, Bengal tigers (perhaps, they're elusive creatures) in India, gorillas in Rwanda, lemurs in Madagascar and the Big Five in Kenya. "The advantage is this trip connects places that aren't well connected by scheduled air services," says Sujata Raman. See abercrombiekent.com.au

DRIVE AN AIRSTREAM ACROSS THE STATES

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Traveller ALAMY
beyond the bucket list

Photo: Alamy

With shiny, pop-riveted aluminium panels and sleek curves, the Airstream originally paid homage to aircraft construction but eventually became an emblem of the open road. "There are old ones and new ones," says the Travel Corporation's Brett Tollman. "I'd like to get in one – with no plan – and go across the country. I'd like to see the sequoias in northern California and, because I'm a foodie, I'd identify great restaurants for southern cooking. Barbecue is one of my favourites so I'd go to Memphis and places in Texas. If I could find a barbecue competition, I'd try all the different kinds." See roamandboard.us outdoorsy.com

DISCOVER IRAN BEFORE THE REST OF THE WORLD

Iran is a misunderstood but thrilling destination, says Geoff Manchester. "People think it's the Middle East when in fact it's Persia," he says. "And because it's been difficult to go to, people are very welcoming." Intrepid's 14-day Iran tours include Persepolis, one-time centre of the Persian empire, and a home-stay with a Qashqai family. Last year, Intrepid launched women-only trips; activities include stepping into a beauty salon. "It's one of the best trips in our whole range," he says. Phil Asker says: "Go now before the world discovers how fascinating it is." See intrepidtravel.com.au

MEET THE YOLNGU PEOPLE IN EAST ARNHEM LAND

"Visit the Yolngu people to learn about the complexity of indigenous life," says Geoff Manchester. "The most amazing thing for me was learning about their trade and contact with Indonesia hundreds of years before European settlement." Intrepid's seven-day trip in September starts from $5396 a person twin share – hardly cheap but it provides an up-close look at one of the world's oldest cultures. See intrepidtravel.com.au

EXPLORE THE UNDEREXPLORED CAUCASUS

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Traveller ALAMY
beyond the bucket list

Gudauri ski resort, Georgia. Photo: Alamy

Between the Black and Caspian seas is the Caucasus, home to countries including Georgia and Armenia. "People haven't ventured there for a long time – at least at [the luxury] end of the market," says Sujata Raman. "It's one of those places even widely travelled people haven't been to. People are welcoming and don't see tourists as an inconvenience." Raman visited last year and found the Caucasus Mountains and churches a highlight. "In Georgia they're beautifully frescoed and in Armenia they're much rougher – they're carved out of caves or the side of a mountain." See abercrombiekent.com.au

CRUISE INDIA AND SPOT THE GANGETIC DOLPHINS

Cruise Assam's Brahmaputra River, home to freshwater Gangetic dolphins, says Phil Asker. The MV Mahabaahu's two- to seven-night itineraries showcase the birthplace of Indian tea. Excursions explore temples, tea plantations and Kaziranga National Park, home to elephants, elusive tigers and the world's largest population of Indian one-horned rhinos. See adventurerivercruises.com; mahabaahucruiseindia.com

EXPERIENCE THE ULTIMATE NATURAL HIGH IN NEPAL

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Tent in the Everest base camp. Mountain peak Everest. Highest mountain in the world. National Park, Nepal.

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Nepal is back on the radar after 2015's devastating earthquake. Geoff Manchester says: "Go to see the mountains. They're so much bigger than anything we can normally comprehend. Nepal's on a different scale – it's quite mind-blowing. We take a lot of people of normal fitness trekking – you don't gain too much altitude in a day so you build up resistance to altitude sickness. The Nepalese people are also the ultimate example of living humble lives while being incredibly happy." See welcomenepal.com intrepidtravel.com.au

JOURNEY THE SILK ROAD ABOARD LUXURY RAIL

The Silk Road facilitated the passage of goods between ancient China and Rome. Few people travelled the entire route – goods passed through a series of middlemen. Today's travellers, Phil Asker says, can take local trains at minimal cost (and minimal comfort) or join the luxurious Golden Eagle for a 21-day train journey between Beijing and Moscow. "Whichever way you travel, you'll never forget the sight of Registan Square in Samarkand or the Uzbekistan cities of Bukhara and Khiva." See captainschoice.com.au goldeneagleluxurytrains.com

EMBRACE THE PEOPLE OF EGYPT AND THEIR TREASURES

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Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt, at sunset

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Egypt's pyramids, ancient history and "magical, mystical" Nile fascinate Brett Tollman. "The people are so warm and so well educated," he says. Tourists have stayed away in droves since the 2011 revolution but "it's safer to travel there now", says Tollman. Geoff Manchester notes that interest in Egypt returned in 2017; he recommends going now before the hordes return to the Giza Pyramids and other sites. See ttc.com/brands; egypt.travel intrepidtravel.com.au

RIDE WITH THE GAUCHOS IN THE ARGENTINE OUTBACK

Make like a gaucho and nose around Argentina's wilderness on horseback. "There are very few places where you feel like you're the only person there and the experience is just for you," says Julie McIntosh. "This trip is a complete immersion into a valley in Patagonia and it only takes eight guests, usually a private group. You're thrown into an estancia, hosted by charming people and the gauchos, and you ride high-quality criollo horses." See classicsafaricompany.com.au jakotango.com

EXPLORE REMOTE SWEDISH LAPLAND BY RAIL

For train buff Phil Asker, it's hard to beat "slow travel" through Sweden aboard its 1288-kilometre Inlandsbanan – an inland rail line originally built to ferry freight between central Sweden and Swedish Lapland. "Travel the rickety rails aboard a small train stopping at remote settlements carved from the forest," he says. The train has been known to stop so passengers can swim or pick berries. See captainschoice.com.au inlandsbanan.se

DISCOVER THE WONDERS OF THE WORLD BY PRIVATE JET

Sprawl on Italian leather flat-bed seats and sip Dom Perignon while zipping around the globe on a private Boeing 757, known as the Ferrari of commercial jets. Captain's Choice's Wonders of the World trip starts at $104,800 a person twin share but that provides an express path to the planet's most astonishing sights – Angkor Wat, the Taj Mahal, Petra, Jerusalem on Easter Sunday, a snippet of Camino, Chichen Itza, Machu Picchu and Easter Island – all over 22 days. See captainschoice.com.au

GALLOP WITH THE WILDEBEEST IN THE MAASAI MARA

Horseback-based travel is a rapidly growing trend, says Julie McIntosh, who's also a keen rider. Combine horse-riding with Kenya's Maasai Mara migration and you've got a trip that's "all-exhilaration". "The good thing is that non-riders can go as well," she says. "You're staying in a classic tented camp that gets packed up and moved to the next destination so when you arrive on your horse the next day, it's there. If you go during the migration, at some point you'll be riding past big herds of wildebeest and zebra." See classicsafaricompany.com.au

SAVOUR THE NATURAL WONDERS OF SOUTH AMERICA

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Traveller ALAMY
beyond the bucket list

Relaxing in the Atacama Desert. Photo: Alamy

Balance the sophistication of Chile's Santiago with the starkness of the Atacama Desert, says Sujata Raman. Look for the Atacama's three flamingo species and more birds in Ecuador's Galapagos Islands where the finches inspired Charles Darwin to rewrite our ideas on evolution. The islands, 1000 kilometres from the mainland, are famous for blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas and giant tortoises. See chile.travel ecuador.travel

EXPLORE THE WORLD WITH A SENSE OF PURPOSE

When Canadian Craig Kielburger was 12, he read about a 12-year-old Pakistani boy murdered for speaking up for human rights, says Brett Tollman. Craig and older brother Marc set out to free kids and their families from poverty with a charity focused on social change. Today, the organisation also offers youth, university, adult and family volunteer trips to countries such as Kenya, India and Ecuador. See metowe.com

MAKE A PILGRIMAGE TO GALLIPOLI

Despite the recent political controversy between the Turkish and Australian governments, Gallipoli remains as important to Turks as it is to Australians, says Intrepid's Geoff Manchester. "They're amazed at how the Anzacs fought there and have a big respect for them," he says. "In Istanbul, see the remains of the Ottoman empire, Cappadocia is a must-see for its scenery and you should hit a beach resort on the Mediterranean coast." See intrepidtravel.com.au goturkeytourism.com

A LIFETIME OF CRUISING

ANTARCTICA

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Antarctica, says Phil Asker, will astonish with "hundreds of icebergs and coastal cliffs covered in ice". "Taking the polar plunge and seeing, hearing and smelling thousands of penguins on the beach are also hard to beat," he says. Raman recommends Antarctica cruises that include the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.

THE KIMBERLEY, AUSTRALIA

Australia's Kimberley region, with highlights such as the multi-tiered Mitchell Falls, can be explored via its "aerial highway" or a land-based tour. Take to the water for a different perspective and aquatic thrills such as boating the Horizontal Falls. Sujata Raman says expedition cruisers also rate the on-board expert lectures. See australiasnorthwest.com

MOZAMBIQUE, AFRICA

Mozambique's Ibo Island Lodge offers a multi-day, island-hopping cruise aboard traditional dhow vessels in the greater Quirimbas Archipelago. You can tailor your itinerary to include as many remote islands and sandbanks as you fancy during your sea-going safari. See iboisland.com

NEXT-GEN CRUISING

"You can surf the Rhine in Cologne, kayak along the river and get off to use very cool bicycles," says Brett Tollman, extolling the virtues of U by Uniworld's youth-oriented, eco-friendly European cruises. "Uniforms are recycled, we have no paper on board and everything is communicated to our travellers through WhatsApp." See ubyuniworld.com

SCOTTISH ISLES

Slip away from the Scottish mainland for the impossibly romantic isles scattered to the west and north. Phil Asker recommends stitching together an itinerary of ferry hops to explore the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the Orkneys and Shetlands. See calmac.co.uk northlinkferries.co.uk

A LIFETIME OF TOURING

BE THEIR GUEST

 

Want to peek inside someone's home overseas? Through Trafalgar's Be My Guest experience, you can do just that. Brett Tollman recommends the encounters in the famously hospitable countries of Portugal and Spain. See trafalgar.com

AFRICAN BEATS

Limber up for a groove safari through West Africa. Ghana, Togo and Benin, home to voodoo rituals, tribal drumming and trance dances, are among the continent's most welcoming nations, says Sujata Raman. See abercrombiekent.com.au

INDIAN HIMALAYAS

Despite recent India-Pakistan border unrest, the Ladakh region remains under the same travel advisory as most of India (high degree of caution). This high-altitude desert region tucked into the Indian Himalayas features stunning Buddhist monasteries and stark scenery. See shaktihimalaya.com

COSTA RICA

Skip off-the-rack tours and design your own. Adventure companies such as World Expeditions and Chimu Adventures can tailor a tour to suit you. Chimu, for example, can stitch together a Costa Rica itinerary that includes turtles, toucans and sloths – along with boutique hotel stays in San Jose. See chimuadventures.com, worldexpeditions.com

A LIFETIME OF TRAIN JOURNEYS

 

EL TRANSCANTABRICO, SPAIN

El Transcantabrico, a narrow-gauge luxury train, pootles about northern Spain. The popular Gran Lujo itinerary connects the foodie capital of San Sebastian with the pilgrim magnet of Santiago de Compostela. See renfe.com

ROVOS RAIL, AFRICA

Julie McIntosh adores the "yesteryear feeling" evoked by Rovos Rail's luxury African train journeys, which include an epic trip from Cape Town in South Africa to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Don't be surprised to spot wild animals from your seat. See rovos.com

BERNINA EXPRESS, SWITZERLAND

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Traveller ALAMY
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"This is the most spectacular alpine train ride of them all," says Mark Smith. "It's a narrow-gauge train with spacious panoramic carriages that crosses the Alps from Chur [in Switzerland] to Tirano [in Italy] ... and reaching 2253 metres above sea level." See rhb.ch raileurope.com.au

VENICE-SIMPLION ORIENT EXPRESS, EUROPE

Of Belmond's seven luxury trains, none is more popular – or more expensive – than the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, which shuttles between London and Venice (some journeys travel to Berlin). Journeys last just two days but it's the train where many choose to pop the question. See belmond.com

VIA RAIL, CANADA

Be rocked to sleep aboard Via Rail's transnational service, The Canadian, and keep eyes peeled for the odd moose as you roll across this vast country between the modern cities of Vancouver and Toronto. See viarail.ca

A LIFETIME OF WALKS

KENYA

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African landscape. Zebras herd and antelopes wildebeest at sunset, Kenya

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It's been described as the continent's greatest bush experience. The Great Walk of Africa is a 160-kilometre game-tracking hike through Kenya's Tsavo National Park, Africa's largest park. "It's a foot safari like no other," says Julie McIntosh. See classicsafaricompany.com.au

PERU

Striking out for Machu Picchu? Opt for the lesser-known Quarry Trail instead of the classic Inca Trail, advises Geoff Manchester. "Apart from locals and farmers, we didn't see any other tourists," he says. See intrepid.com/au peru.travel

SPAIN

A tangle of pilgrim routes leads to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. The Way of St James is popular but Geoff Manchester recommends the lesser known Via de la Plata starting from Seville. See intrepid.com/au pilgrim.es/en

NEW ZEALAND

Stewart Island, New Zealand's southernmost and least populated island (with just 380 residents), is home to one of the country's Great Walks. The Rakiura Track features prolific birdlife but unpredictable weather. Set aside three days to tramp the 32-kilometre loop. See newzealand.com

TASMANIA

Combine hiking along pristine beaches and coastal tracks with gourmet fare and long soaks in an outdoor tub. The Tasmanian Walking Company's four-day Bay of Fires lodge walk rejuvenates the soul. See taswalkingco.com.au

MEET THE LIFERS: OUR EXPERT PANEL

PHIL ASKER, FOUNDER, CAPTAIN'S CHOICE

Melbourne travel industry veteran Phil Asker is the founder of Captain's Choice, specialising in private jet tours and bespoke cruises, rail and land journeys, and Antarctica Flights, which runs scenic day flights. See captainschoice.com.au

GEOFF MANCHESTER, CO-FOUNDER, INTREPID TRAVEL

After travelling through Africa in a converted tip truck, Geoff Manchester co-founded Intrepid Travel, a Melbourne-based international tour company that specialises in small group tours and big adventures. See intrepidtravel.com.au

SUJATA RAMAN, MANAGING DIRECTOR, ABERCROMBIE & KENT AUSTRALASIA

Sujata Raman worked for global luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent in Egypt before moving to Australia where she is the company's regional managing director for Australia and Asia Pacific. See abercrombiekent.com.au

BRETT TOLLMAN, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, TRAVEL CORPORATION

South African-born, Los Angeles-based Brett Tollman is chief executive of The Travel Corporation. The company's portfolio of brands includes Trafalgar, Insight Vacations, Uniworld, AAT Kings and Contiki. See ttc.com/brands/

JULIE MCINTOSH, FOUNDER, THE CLASSIC SAFARI COMPANY

Julie McIntosh created The Classic Safari Company, based in Sydney, when she was just 22. The company specialises in tailored journeys to Africa, India, South America and other destinations. See classicsafaricompany.com.au

MARK SMITH, THE MAN IN SEAT 61

British-born Mark Smith is the founder of the immensely popular rail travel website, the Man in Seat 61. Once employed in various capacities at British Rail, Smith, who has travelled the world on trains, has run the site since 2007. See seat61.com

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