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What I Learned Editing Time's World’s Greatest Places Issue

And the spots that are now on my travel bucket list.

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illustration of woman placing a red pin on world map
Kate Wong
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"What do you think about Sierra Leone?” a writer asked me, as I was working on Time magazine’s World’s Greatest Places.

I had been brought on to help edit the esteemed magazine’s special 2023 issue, and our small team was still making decisions on what destinations we planned to include.

Contrary to what many people wondered when I told them of the gig, I would not personally be traveling around the world in pursuit of the list’s creation; rather, I would pull from my (fairly vast) travel knowledge and experience, employ deep research and utilize the incredible roster of writers who had just returned from Giza, Egypt, Ladakh, India and Aarhus, Denmark (all of which are featured on the list).

But no one said anything about wanderlust, and if ever there was a job to increase my already strong appetite for travel, this was surely it. If you’re anything like me, you may have a mental list of places you want to travel to and regions of the world you long to explore. Might I suggest taking your mental list and putting it down on paper? And if your travel plans will involve someone else — whether a friend or a spouse or a grandchild — start planning. Travel planning can be almost as enjoyable as the travel itself!

For our wedding anniversary in 2020, with the pandemic halting travel indefinitely, I bought one of those maps of the world to hang on our living room wall. The map came with pins — three different colors, one to signify places we’d been, another to mark places we wanted to go, and the third to pinpoint those places we’d been but loved so much we hoped to one day return.

Barcelona, Spain and Torres del Paine National Park in Chile received this third-colored pin. Meanwhile, after reading the writer’s pitches for Aarhus, Denmark, considered by some to be an even hipper version of Copenhagen, and Churchill, Manitoba. I, too, wanted to see polar bears and beluga whales, both of which are practically guaranteed sightings in the remote Canadian region, I learned.

My husband and I have done a fair amount of traveling since the world opened back up after the pandemic. However, we have a long way to go if we want to make it to all of the places we’ve pinned on our map. Trust me. The pinning and planning are a joyful part of the process of travel.

Oh, how I would love to fly halfway across the world to French Polynesia where travel to the Tuamotu Archipelago might mean brushing up on my surfing skills, snorkeling or sailing, with all thoughts of a to-do list far, far away. Ask yourself: What is it you’d like to experience for the first time or, alternately, what is something you’ve done on a vacation that you’d like to do again?

When I talk to retirees who are now traveling, their tips are incredibly inspiring. One woman told me she always makes an effort to get off the beaten path wherever she goes, by asking locals about their favorite hikes. A friend in her late 60s tells me she finds that the best part of traveling is to return to her “history holders," places in the United States and overseas — her family loves France — that house sweet memories of her youth and of vacations with parents no longer here.

While I relished the wanderlust evoked by others’ travels, I also found enjoyment and a sense of peace in recalling and reminiscing about some of the places I’d been that had stuck with me long after I’d returned home to Brooklyn. Writing entries for two of Time's picks — Ollantaytambo, Peru and Kyoto, Japan — places I adore, was like sitting with an old friend and chatting.

Revisiting Washington, DC evoked just that. It was an easy trip from New York on Amtrak, and my stay at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, housed in the historic Old Post House Building, was impressive from the first steps in the lobby. Outside of the gorgeous hotel, I visited the Rubell Museum DC filled with extraordinary contemporary art as well as the nearby International Spy Museum.

Learning from the magazine issue about far-flung adventures, such as a journey to Chyulu Hills, Kenya, only stoked this fire further for my own new adventures, such as a safari in Africa. That is a big, pricey trip and one that we aren’t in a position to go on just yet. In the meantime, I am content to explore this country’s national parks.

This summer, I had a wonderful time visiting Yellowstone National Park in Montana and Wyoming, the latter a state I had never been to. Indeed, one of the park's most popular attractions, Grand Prismatic Spring, was spectacular.

If you want to explore America’s National Park System and like the idea of camping but aren’t convinced the rustic aspect is quite for you, you, too, might consider glamping. Under Canvas offers upscale camp-like retreats in parks that span Yellowstone, Acadia, Mount Rushmore and Moab — just to name a few. Glamping is a great choice for older women who want an immersion in nature with more luxurious facilities than standard tents.

Another great option would be to join a group trip. Many specifically cater to seniors, with itineraries that suit all levels of physical fitness. Check out options such as Gutsy Women Travel, EF Educational Tours (that offers courses in language immersion), Backroads and Girls’ Guide to the World.

The world is full of possibilities, and my map is full of pins — yours could be, too.

What's at the top of YOUR travel bucket list? Let us know in the comments below.

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