The late 70’s and early 80’s were formative years for me. Given the absence of any internet, my siblings and I had the Sears catalog to peruse as kids. Sometime in early fall the Christmas edition arrived to huge fanfare in our home, providing a particularly memorable way to get excited for the holiday.
If I had the chance to steal it away from my older brother, the catalog expanded my wonder for the world. The possibilities of things like battery operated miniature cars and my own luggage set seemed magical. I was probably the only 8 year old in Scappoose, or the state of Oregon, that wanted luggage as a kid. Still, it was liberating to dog ear pages in the thick magazine to create a wish list of sorts, even if I just ended up with socks.
Today, I have a real car and a roll bag that loyally follows me all over the world, 8 years and running. I don’t really have a list of things. My modern day Sears catalog is a National Geographic atlas. And since it’s the season for wonder and hope, I’ve developed a special list of places to experience in the year to come. This is the North America version, but Kessi World 2020 wish list holds the entire grouping, which includes the 10 global destinations.
Travel continues to push and pull me in so many profound ways, allowing new connections with people, places and myself. I want to work to stretch and see more of the world with purpose. It’s my hope that by sharing my goals and dreams, in the groupings below, you might feel a spark of inspiration to create your own wish list. Whether they’re truly tangible or just dreams, wander away with me and perhaps venture to a place or two featured below.
Happy wishing, and traveling, and connecting. And may your 2020 be merry and bright!
A few notes before we get started
As I take a gander at my list, I notice now that it is heavy on National Parks. Perhaps the pendulum corrects a bit from the last year spent in a lot of populated areas. No matter where I am in the world, nature always recharges me, so 2020 could be the year to freshen up in wide open spaces.
The locations listed are not exhaustive, just tight on my radar this year. For full disclosure, I have firm plans to visit Key West in the coming time and several others, like Mississippi and Alabama seem promising due to a conference I have in New Orleans in May. Some of the others could be like the miniature battery powered car in the Sears catalog. No matter which way, I hope this inspires you to set your sights on a new experience, near or far, in 2020.
✈ A note about this symbol: Since I love planning trips just as much as traveling, I’ve already done preliminary work on how to get to each location by flying. I reference the nearest airports that would have enough airline competition to offer reasonable airfares and/or convenient flights on mainline (think 737 or A320) aircraft. For example, Key West enjoys major airline service to their local island airport, but Ft. Lauderdale opens up to additional carriers that compete on price and offer more flight options.
1 Key West, Florida
Picture buildings painted in pastel colors and a breezy care free pace of life. Seems peaceful to me. I look forward to learning more about the history of this part of the world, along with some swimming, snorkeling and sun.
✈ Fly into Miami or Ft. Lauderdale and experience the drive along the Overseas Highway.
I’ve been before but passing through on a cross-country road trip when I was 19 doesn’t count. I’m expecting to run into my friends Deacon and Gunner and Juliette Barnes at the Bluebird, among other things. I’m a little bit country, after all.
✈ Nashville has good service from all over the country.
3 Yellowstone National Park
It feels like Yellowstone is the flagship national park in the country, and I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never been. Lately logistics just weren’t on my side and in the summer I’m very wary of thousands of cars clogging up the roadways. Seems like September would be good.
✈ Fly into Salt Lake City or Boise and drive for 6 hours or Bozeman, MT is about a 90 minute drive away.
4 Driving through Mississippi and Alabama
Other than the more prominent cities, I don’t have much knowledge or experience of the south. Aside from a few trips to Dollywood, (on a completely different list for me) I’ve not ventured into the countryside. I’m heading to New Orleans for the x-teen time this spring and want to explore more rural culture in the south. From Natchez, Mississippi to Selma, Mobile and Birmingham Alabama and places in between.
✈ Fly in/out of New Orleans, Atlanta, Memphis or Nashville or connect between two of these.
5 Acadia National Park, Maine
Ken Burns must have a love affair with this park, because it is featured so beautifully in his National Parks series, which came out about 10 years ago. I remember watching with my friend Shawn, as each 2 hour-long episode strolled by. The park has an interesting back story, and relative remoteness seem appealing for a summer jaunt.
✈ Fly into Boston and drive what looks to be about 4.5 hours.
6 Exploring Upper Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Vancouver Island is vast in size and scenery, and relatively mild like the rest of the Pacific Northwest. The island is on all kinds of obscure lists, like the largest Pacific island anywhere east of New Zealand. What does that even mean? I’ve been to Victoria and environs but the draw here is the wild coastlines farther up past Nainamo towards Campbell River.
✈ Fly into Vancouver and ferry over to Nainamo to venture onward on a 4 hour-ish drive all in.
7 Kentucky bourbon and horse country
True, I’m working to complete visits to all 50 states (I have 5 to go) and although the Cincinnati airport is technically in the bluegrass state I don’t think it counts to connect in an airline hub of the past. Ever since my older brother did volunteer work here I’ve felt the draw to check it out, but I guess not that driven, until now. All this state counting aside, who doesn’t love a good Mint Julep? Or sampling great whiskey for that matter.
✈ Fly into Nashville, Louisville or Cincinnati.
8 Devil’s Tower and Badlands National Park, Wyoming & South Dakota
The role of Devil’s Tower in the 70’s movie “Close encounters of the third kind” is forever burned into my memory, so it’s a must. Ever since mashed potatoes were used as Richard Dreyfuss’s vehicle to make a version of the landmark at the dinner table, I’ve never looked at the comfort food in the same way. There are quite a few sites in this area that require some driving.
✈ Billings and Denver seem like the best gateways and are four and six hours away from Devil’s Tower, respectively. This is going to be a longer road trip!
9 Death Valley National Park, California
Notice an abundance of National Parks on this list? Me too. I’ll have to take this trip in the fall or winter.
✈ It’s a five hour drive from LAX or 2 hours from Las Vegas.
10 Toronto, Ontario
Always enjoy my time with our neighbors to the north and have curiosity about this largest Canadian metropolis after hearing so many great reviews from friends over the years. Coming from a city with a distinct landmark on the skyline (Space Needle), I can’t wait to check out the CN Tower.
✈ Toronto has a major international airport.