The Dunn Thing

Bucket list travel

Issue 3 · Winter 2015/16
By Andrew Dunn, founder of Scott Dunn · Illustration Mathew Cook

“I went to Iguazu Falls in Brazil with my family when no one else was around. I’ll never forget the way our senses were invigorated”

Issue 3 · Winter 2015/16
By Andrew Dunn, founder of Scott Dunn · Illustration Mathew Cook

“I went to Iguazu Falls in Brazil with my family when no one else was around. I’ll never forget the way our senses were invigorated”

There’s always been a desire among travellers to see spectacular sights and do amazing things, but the idea of the “bucket list” – a list of things you should do before you die – is a growing trend. People are more adventurous today and social media, with its obsession over lists, has fuelled the popularity.

While I applaud the concept of the bucket list, I think it’s vital to do it right. I’ve always found the idea of a horde of visitors arriving somewhere en masse, taking a photograph and then leaving, somewhat odd. I would advise giving each experience a bit more space. Don’t simply “tick off” wonders like the Taj Mahal and the ruins of Petra in Jordan. Savour them. I would even discourage people from obsessing over photographs before they go somewhere, otherwise bucket-list experiences can end up being underwhelming.

Mind you, at Scott Dunn we always say that if a place is described as “overrated”, it’s probably not being done properly. Ideally you should add something extra to the experience. With a safari, I’d steer away from “passive” luxury and towards the more raw experience of fly camping with bucket showers. It’s less pampered but far more exclusive, and enables our guests to be the creators of their bucket list experiences, not the followers – the antithesis of the “take a picture and move on” attitude.

So what’s on my personal bucket list? I’d love to go to Machu Picchu, assuming it wasn’t crowded – our Consultants always suggest going early in the morning when the site isn’t too busy. Then I’d love to go to the Galapagos Islands, particularly because I studied biology. I’ve never been to Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia – Angkor Wat is one of the classic bucket-list destinations – and I’d like to visit Nihiwatu on the Indonesian island of Sumba and to ski in the Dolomites. Plus, I’ve always wanted to do a cookery course in Bangkok.

Thankfully I’m lucky enough to have already enjoyed some great bucket-list experiences. I found Jordan and Petra exceptional places to visit. I went to Iguazu Falls in Brazil with my family when no one else was around and I’ll never forget the way our senses were invigorated. The Serengeti wildebeest migration is mind-blowing and the Northern Lights are amazing – we arrange for guests to see them from glass igloos in Iceland. And of course, a drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles in an open-topped car is a bucket-list classic, but we can add little adventures like staying in yurts overlooking Big Sur. Let’s not forget, too, that people increasingly have food and drink bucket lists. For me, Kerala in India is the real must-do: the best food I’ve ever tasted.

These days, too, more and more clients bring their own bucket-list ideas and Scott Dunn has organised some extremely memorable experiences on request. Once we arranged for the entire Great Pyramid to be closed to other visitors while one of our guests hosted his own private dinner party there. Another client hired the Temple of Luxor for Valentine’s night and decorated it with 5,000 candles. Serious productions both, but nothing’s too much trouble for us.

This desire for truly special experiences isn’t just confined to the bucket list though. On significant-birthday breaks, for example, guests want to see or do something extraordinary, while honeymooners want to do an African safari and beach, then add something unforgettable like hot air ballooning over the plains. Bucket list or not, I believe all holidays should exceed expectations. And that’s what we’re here for.

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