This post will be my last ever to Travbuddy blog, and so comes tinged with a certain amount of sadness. What better way to go, though, than by looking to the future? I thought I'd do it in a big way. I hope Travbuddy will still be running in fifty years’ time, when I'll be just about 80, and I’m sure I’ll still remember the kindness I’ve been shown by the owners of this site. I’d like to be able to look back at this list and say 'oh yes, I did all that’. Or at least most of it. You guys, then, can try and hold me to this, and I hope my travel ambitions might give a few ideas to those looking for some trips of their own, too. Thank you all for reading, it's been wonderful to see a few of these posts grab thousands of views, cause discussions and hopefully give a few useful travel tips and exciting ideas along the way. Let me know if anything’s particularly grabbed you, I’ll still be around on Travbuddy and I’d love to hear what everyone’s up to. On the blog front, the highlight may have been grabbing a link from CNN not so long ago, which feels like quite an acheivement. Here's what I hope I'll be doing next... well, next in the loosest sense!
1. Visit Pristina. Kosovo's capital is a spot that fascinates me largely because of its political problems, but also because of its lack of tourism, which is said to make the locals extremely friendly.
2. Visit Chernobyl. A risk, but I'm hooked on the imagery that emerges from the disaster site - a dark depiction of a post-apocalyptic world, minus the apocalypse. Well, largely at least!
3. Visit Iceland's hot springs, and snorkel off the coast. Not as insane as you might think: Iceland's waters are some of the most beautiful in the world, you just need a good wetsuit!
4. Cycle the Camino de Santiago. Spain's notorious pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella. I'd like to start at or the other side of the Spanish border, and cover the entire thing by bike at a leisurely pace, soaking up the vibe and collecting those stamps.
5. Party at Tomatina. Another Spanish stop off, at the infamous tomato fight festival. I've heard too much not to go.
6. Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Maybe it's just Prince Harry's recent exploits, but Vegas has been calling me recently. Everyone should blow some money once in a lifetime. The Grand Canyon speaks for itself...
7. A Whole Weekend Clubbing Session In Berlin. There are a few places in the world where you can start partying on Friday night and continue until Sunday morning. My choice would be Germany's capital.
8. The Great Wall Marathon. I've run three marathons to date, and will line up hoping to complete my fourth in Dublin in October. The Great Wall Marathon stands out, though, having been as a tourist.
9. Visit North Korea unsupervised. See my blog of two days ago. The moment this is possible, I'll be on the first plane out, getting involved (I speak a moderate level of Korean) and blogging the hell out of the experience.
10. Spend a few weeks on a tiny tropical island. Relaxing, perhaps around a few locals, but far from the tourist crowds. Which rules out my previous tropical highlight, the still enviably lovely Koh Tao, in Thailand.
11. Get published in a really major newspaper, on travel. I've had two double page spreads in Ireland's 60,000 circulation Sunday Business Post, which I'm extremely proud of, on Verona and Ireland's Euro 2012 venues. To be in a truly world-famous paper would mean everything, though.
12. To visit every continent. Four down (Europe, Asia, Africa, North America), a good few more to go (South America, Australasia, Central America (ok, but I'm counting it) and Antarctica).
13. To average one country for every year I'm alive. I'm on target so far, with 30-ish countries in 28 years, but it's only going to get harder as the nearby countries run out. 80 countries in 80 years - touch wood - would do me nicely.
14. To become functionally fluent in another language. No need to be absolutely perfect, but at being able talk beliefs and philosophy accurately would do. Spanish is probably my first choice.
15. To Explore New Zealand. I'm not a huge Lord of the Rings fan, but I am hooked on the scenery, and that alone is enough to draw me in.
16. Canoe the Ganges. An nutty idea I've had in my head since visiting Gaumukh, the source. This is almost certainly a very dangerous proposition, but I can't get it out of my head.
17. An Amazonian Exploration. For the wildlife, for the river and for the potential to visit a few tribes and learn about some extraordinary new (to me) cultures along the way.
18. To swim with sharks (and whales). Not huge great ones, of course, but I still regret saving money rather than swimming with white-tipped reef sharks in Thailand.
19. To go cage diving. See above, only bigger. This still strikes me as one of the ultimate natural (ish) thrills, even if it would scare the hell out of me.
20. A few months in Africa. Ideally the less developed areas of Africa, so I can get a real sense of the harder edge to the lifestyles of African people. I'd like to write an expose on oil companies, but that's probably pushing it a little...
21. Cycle Lands’ End To John O'Groats. Despite being born in Britain, the travel bug has always compelled me to spend holiday abroad, and I've seen shockingly little of it. I can't think of a better way than cycling the country end to end.22. Hike and surf in Hawaii. Another TV-related compulsion; I watched all of Lost, and can't resist the temptation to see some of that gorgeous scenery minus the drama.
23. Explore Cuba before it loses too much of that revolutionary charm. This has always been near the top of the list, and I think it needs to be fairly soon. Cigars, rum, salsa and those charming little yellow box taxis will all play a role...
24. Explore a few Caribbean Islands. The imagery is more than enough to appeal; St Lucia (a childhood project about the play still inspires today) and Jamaica stand out for me, as well as Cuba, of course.
25. Spend a couple of weeks lost in the Stans. I hear so much good, adventurous stuff, and I currently have my nose in a book about cycling across. Hardcore, and enticing...
26. Fill in the gaps in my Irish experience. I've done a lot, but before I (potentially) leave, the Ring of Kerry, a swim in the sea at Sandymount and sampling the toxic homebrew poitin are all high on my must-do list.
27. Go on tour with a rock band. I've already done a couple of international dates in the company of regional level bands, but the full on experience would be fantastic...
28. Walk the Inca Trail. Ideally from as far away as possible, to get the full effect.
29. Travel across the Atlantic by boat. A strange ambition I've had for a while now, for the combination of solitude and thinking time with a real sense of distance. I'd probably choose a large tanker as first choice.
30. Do some major international charity work. Not something I’d pay to do, but by offering a few new skills to people somewhere, where they're really needed over an extended period. I'm not quite sure where yet.
31. Drive the Transfăgărășan Highway. Romania's recently opened ex-military road, widely billed as one of the most exciting roads to drive down in the world.
32. A few days in North Africa. Probably Morocco, exploring the markets and traditional houses of the region and learning about the culture along the way.
33. The Pyramids. This could fall under the above, admittedly, but they're certainly an independent must-see for me.
34. Ethiopia. One of Africa's less-explored corners, it just has so much to offer it's incredible. I'd love a month to get to every little corner, though safety would obviously be a factor.
35. Go to Glastonbury on a media pass. Because the backstage shenanigans have been so fun at Reading, Electric Picnic and Oxegen that I can't begin to imagine what they're like at Glastonbury. I'll be in for my seventh set of tickets come October...
36. Get into the heart of the Galapagos' wildlife. Like any fan of Darwin (can you be a fan of someone who's dead? Anyway...), this would blow my mind.
37. Swim with dolphins. Sure, it's a cliché, but I'm pretty sure it'd be incredible. I think only the wild would do, though.
38. Spend some time hiking in Alaska. Purely for the isolation, and an experience of a true wilderness.
39. Klitvice National Park (Croatia). Simply to see one the waterfall, which looks like it was lifted straight from a Disney movie.
40. The Three Peaks Challenge. Another 'home' one for me. Climbing the highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales and driving between them in less than 24 hours.
41. Drive a Tuk Tuk. I have a strange fascination with these things. I know they're rubbish, but they just do something for me. It would only count in India, of course.
42. Go to Oktoberfest. Beer + Munich = good. I've already learnt this one, but Oktoberfest would be an entirely different level.
43. Go Ice Driving. Spinning a car around on a frozen lake sounds like an incredible experience.
44. Swim at the Great Barrier Reef. And find Nemo. Or just learn to dive over some of the most spectacular spots in the world.
45. Visit Tibet. Few places are as culturally inspiring as one of those countries that isn't. At least officially. Camera at the ready, and soul on my sleeve, time to walk around a few temples...
46. See Aston Villa win something. My inept choice of football team hasn't won a trophy since 1996. Somewhat out of my control, but I’ll be there the moment a final comes up. It would make me one happy man.
47. Save someone's life. I know, not exactly something you can plan, but I'd love to be able to say I've done it. Scratch that, it's not even about saying it, just knowing it happened would be enough.
48. Call a couple of other places home. The UK, South Korea, Ireland, India and Switzerland isn't a bad little list of home bases. I'd still like a few more.
49. Have a child, and it show it a few of my favourite places. A little way off, perhaps, but I can only imagine how much pleasure I'd take in this, when the time comes.
50. Write a book about the entire experience. Not a best seller. Hell, not even a book for publication. Just something to remember it all by before it all slips my mind.
Realistic? Possibly not, but I can't help but aim high, like we all do. I think it makes sense that my final words on this blog should be about looking forward. Onwards and outwards...