When you head out on a long-term trip, every single person you meet will ask you what your favorite experience has been. We have been asked this question hundreds if not thousands of times, and for several months it was very hard to answer as we have had just too many great experiences to pick the very best.
As a way to share our favorite experiences and give you inspirations for activities to do on your own long-term trip, we decided to put together a ranked list of our Top 100 experiences, destinations, restaurants, and moments from around the world.
When reading, keep in mind that we haven’t been everywhere. This list represents our favorite experiences as of now, from all of the destinations we’ve been to (500+ cities in 67 countries), and will be updated as we travel more and find great experiences that make the Top 100.
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#100 – Guided Tours
You wouldn’t expect guided tours to rank in the top experiences for long-term travelers considering that at its very nature long-term travel is very independence driven. But for us, guided tours gave a welcomed break to doing everything on our own. From private food tours, free city tours, and multi-day tours in destinations we would not have gone solo in, we certainly had several instances where hiring a guide to do all the work enriched our experience and made things easier for us (and others, such as our G Adventures tour, didn’t work out as well).
Kyoto is my favorite city in Japan as it has numerous modern attractions, a rich history, and local food items you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else like okonomiyakiand the famous candy, Yatsuhashi (which you can luckily find in the airport in Tokyo if you have a layover). While there are some experiences that fall flat here, like Japanese geisha hunting and Kinkaku-ji (the golden pavilion), Kyoto is sure to please even the most demanding visitor.
#98 – Las Lajas Cathedral, Colombia
Normally overnight stays at a border crossing are boring. Often in remote destinations that are too dangerous to travel overnight, a stay in a border town amounts to eating a meal, sleeping, and leaving as soon as the sun comes up. But in Ipiales, Colombia, on the Ecuadorian border, one of the world’s most beautiful cathedrals can be found. Las Lajas Cathedral was built in the mid-1900s in Gothic Revival style with ornate decorations, an expansive bridge crossing the valley the cathedral is perched over, and a natural rock wall serving as the backdrop for the alter. This is one border sight worth stopping at! Just don’t stay in a sex hotel like we did when you are there.
#97 – Gambling in Las Vegas, Nevada
“Bright light city gonna set my soul, gonna set my soul on fire!” Okay, I’m not a gambler by nature. I like earning my money, keeping it, and spending it on more important things (like travel). But there is something about Las Vegas that makes you want to get out and enjoy the games. For us, it isn’t for the chance to win big, but instead is a way to get free drinks at the penny machines before going out and enjoying unique Vegas experiences around town like RM’s Ice Cream Challenge, the Buffet of Buffets, and the Bellagio Fountains. In this case, the house does not always win.
#96 – Okonomiyaki
Jeremy’s favorite Japanese food, Okonomiyaki, comes in at #96 as it is an incredibly addictive food that he had several times per week while in Japan. Translated as “whatever you want, fried” okonomiyaki starts off as a cabbage pancake that can be topped with whatever you like, the most common being seafood, bean sprouts, green onions, soba noodles, egg, a thin crepe, bacon, Kewpie mayo, and Okonomi sauce (a tangy barbecue sauce). Eating one of these is an experience as it’s often prepared right in front of you in an open air dining arrangement. Unfortunately, for those who want this dish outside of Japan your options may be limited as it is not a common menu item abroad! So far we’ve only seen it at Teppanyaki Kyoto in Pittsburgh and Otafuku in New York City.
#95 – The Mozart Symphony in the Golden Hall of Vienna
One of our biggest bucket list items is to see the world famous Vienna Philharmonic play in the Golden Hall in Vienna, Austria. Unfortunately tickets are quite expensive and sell out quite far in advance. Since we didn’t know exact dates that we’d be in Vienna (and ended up not being there during a concert), we did the next best thing – saw the more touristic Mozart Symphony play in this famous concert hall. Although watching a bunch of musicians dressed in period costumes was somewhat cheesy, the music was fabulous and sitting in the Golden Hall is truly a great experience for music themed things to do in Vienna.
I’m not a huge fan of sake, but I knew that I wouldn’t have done Japan justice without giving sake a chance during my travels. When I found out about the brewery town of Saijo Japan which features dozens of distilleries offering free samples all within walking distance of each other, I knew I had to go. With my Japan rail pass in hand, I made a day trip from Hiroshima to taste some of the world’s best sake. I found a few that I liked, learned quite a bit about the steps to make it, and may have also been a bit tipsy by the end of the day, too. While I may not be buying bottles of Junmai Diaginjo grade sake for my home bar, I can safely say exploring the breweries in Saijo was one of my favorite alcohol related experiences abroad.
#93 – Sailing
Catamarans, cruise ships, and yachts. If you can get me out on the water for a few hours or a few days, you wont hear me complaining (although you may hear Angie if the waves are rough). There is something about being out on the water with the sun shining down and wind in your hair that is just amazing. From our cruises in the Caribbean to a yacht tour in Milos, Greece, this is one activity we simply do not get the chance to do as much as we’d like.
#92 – Shipping Chocolate Home from Ecuador
Prior to traveling, if you would have told us that the best chocolate in the world is Ecuador chocolate, we would have laughed at you. It wasn’t until visiting the cacao producing regions of Ecuador that we fully began to understand how wonderful (and cheap) the local chocolate bars are. So we did what any good chocolate addicts would do, we bought about 50 of the best bars we could find (several won gold in international competitions) and shipped them home. This one is the gift that keeps on giving.
#91 – Visiting the Biggest / Oldest / Newest Things
We’re not ones to really check off items from a list when we travel, but we do have to admit that visiting the biggest, oldest, or first of anything is quite interesting. The Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building) is simply massive. The first pyramid in Egypt (the step pyramid of Saqqara) is an engineering feat considering it is over 4,500 years old. The first place to make the Pina Colada? Yes, please! Our most anticipated checklist item for the future? The 1,000 year anniversary of world’s oldest continually operating brewery, Weihenstephan, in 2040. We can wait.
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How We Came Up With This List
- Angie and I each put together Top 100 lists based on our favorite experiences both together and separately.
- We then compared our two lists and averaged out items that appeared on both lists.
- Example: An experience ranking #12 on Jeremy’s and #20 on Angie’s list was re-ranked at #16
- Roughly 50 items appeared on both lists.
- We then critiqued experiences which only appeared on one list.
- For experiences that we both had, the one who did not list it originally assigned their own rank and we averaged them out like above.
- For experiences that only one of us had from traveling solo, we accepted the listing as ranked and promised to take the other one day.
- Roughly 20 of Angie’s items and 30 of Jeremy’s unique items made the final cut.
- We then came up with a final Top 100 list based on these adjustments and then tweaked placements together as needed to fix any unusual averaging errors.
- Destinations visited by staff members were not considered.
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