Here we are already so soon – the last episode of Out Travel the System for Season Two!
Through all of the changing conditions, it’s been a major goal to inform and inspire. With this episode about Bucket List Travel, we’re hoping to do not only that, but also get you thinking about how to take concrete steps to make a bucket list trip a reality – when the time is right.
Host Nisreene Atassi is joined by Sarah Austin Jenness, executive producer of The Moth storytelling collective, and Cory Lee, who blogs at Curb Free With Cory Lee. Listen in as they take you through some of their most hilarious and thought-provoking stories – and where they’re hoping to go to next.
This feels like the perfect time to dream about bucket list travel, so please listen and dream along with us!
Bucket List – Travel You Define, Travel That Defines You
Nisreene Atassi: Years back, some research came out regarding the wanderlust gene. According to the study, this gene affects the brain’s dopamine levels, which in turn shapes your behavior and motivation, which leads to increased risk- taking and a strong desire to get out of your comfort zones and into new destinations, no matter how near or far. I would definitely put myself in that category. And I know many of our listeners would as well. This past year, we found ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic, which meant that we were forced to find new ways to feed our wanderlust. At Out Travel The System we’ve been using this time to think about all of the places that we’re going to go when the time is right for us. And I don’t know about you, but since I haven’t been spending my money on travel this year, it means that I might be able to take some of my bucket list trips a little bit sooner than I had planned. That’s why I’m officially calling 2021, the year of the bucket list trip. So join me as we start the last episode of season two with hearts full of optimism, and minds full of bucket- list travel dreams. I’m Nisreene Atassi, and this is Out Travel The System.
I’ve been fortunate enough to tick off a few of my bucket list trips in my lifetime, but truth be told my list is quite long. Whether it’s my safari trip to Africa or two weeks traveling around the Greek islands, I’ve got it all planned, and my hopes are that 2021 will be the year. But as you know by now, I love good company when talking about all the possibilities of travel. Here with me today is Sarah Austin Jenness, executive producer at the storytelling collective The Moth. Welcome Sarah.
Sarah Austin Jenness: Hi there. Thanks for having me.
Nisreene Atassi: I also have Cory Lee who blogs at Curb Free with Cory Lee. Glad to have you with us, Cory.
Cory Lee: I really appreciate this opportunity.
Nisreene Atassi: Okay, Cory, why don’t we start with you. In the past seven years, you’ve traveled to 37 countries and all seven continents. I’m curious. Have you heard of the wanderlust gene? And do you think you have it?
Cory Lee: I absolutely have, and I definitely think that I have the wanderlust gene, and I got that at an early age. So when I was about four years old, that’s when I went on my first trip and it was only to Disney World, but after that I started traveling domestically and visited mostly along the East coast when I was younger. So all these other places like Washington DC and New York City and Florida. I live near Atlanta, so places that were drivable for me and my family at the time. And so then when I turned 15, I went to the Bahamas. And that was really the first time that I traveled and was able to experience a different culture and try new foods and all of the fun stuff that goes into traveling. And so when that happened, I kind of thought if the Bahamas could be this close and this incredible then what would somewhere like India be like or Morocco or Australia, or all of these other places around the world that are much, much further away. And so that is when my brain really started spinning and I really wanted to explore further. And then at the age of 18, I took my first trip to Europe. And from then on, there was no stopping me, and the Wonderlust was definitely born.
Nisreene Atassi: I think it’s so special that you can pinpoint this back to that sort of magical moment when you were 15 years old because I don’t think a lot of us can really remember when we sort of had that real change for us from a life perspective. So I love that you can trace it back to that.
Cory Lee: I grew up in a really small town in rural Georgia. And so I grew up with not really experiencing other cultures and meeting people that were much different than I was and lived completely different lives. So I think at that point when I did go to the Bahamas and finally saw something so different, it just struck me immediately and made me want to see more.
Nisreene Atassi: You’ve really ramped up your travel in the last seven years, obviously this last year, not withstanding. What are a few of your most memorable experiences that you’ve had and what makes them so memorable?
Cory Lee: If I had to pick maybe one or two, I would definitely say Morocco every single time. Morocco is somewhere that I never really expected to be this wheelchair accessible destination that just offered so much variety. But then I went there just a couple of years ago in 2018 and actually led a Curb Free group trip where some of my followers and fellow wheelchair users were able to join me for about a week in Morocco. And so over the course of that week, we went to Marrakech and saw the snake charmers, and Casa Blanca, and even out into the desert, the Sahara desert. And I rode a camel thanks to an adaptive camel seat. And so that was an experience that I really never thought would be possible for me as a wheelchair user. And then to be able to have such a unique experience in Morocco was just incredible, and it surpassed all of my expectations. A second experience that was really special to me was in India. As of about two years ago, there is now a wheelchair accessible van in India. So as soon as I found that out, I booked the first flight and went to India and it was sensory overload in the most amazing way that you can imagine.
Nisreene Atassi: What is really the source of inspiration for your blog and the main content that you share with people?
Cory Lee: I wanted to really create a place that other wheelchair users could come to online and hopefully make their planning process a little bit easier. I receive messages now from other wheelchair users saying that they found information on my website about accessibility in London, and so they finally took that dream trip for the first time that they never thought was possible. And there’s really nothing better or more that I could ask for than that.
Nisreene Atassi: So many of us who do have the wanderlust gene and are constantly traveling, it’s not always that we get a chance to sort of share those experiences with others and have it really actually benefit other people. And that’s exactly what you’re doing. Sarah, let’s go to you. So again, this year not withstanding, you usually travel a ton as well, both for The Moth, heading to different storytelling events held around the world, but also you love to travel personally. Do you think you have the wanderlust gene?
Sarah Austin Jenness: Yeah, I have the wanderlust gene. My mom used to tell a story about me when I was three or so. My grandparents’ friends had a tiny plane. We went to see it and I basically climbed out of her arms and climbed into the plane. When some of the adults were kind of nervous to get in, I was right there.
Nisreene Atassi: So when you hear words like dream trips and bucket list trips, what does that signify to you?
Sarah Austin Jenness: Bucket list to me meant something different when I was younger. I think it meant more of kicking things off of an actual list, like jumping out of an airplane or things that you could say yes, been there and done that. Bucket list trips can be used really to create your identity. So you could list out these things and say, ‘I’m the kind of person who X,Y,Z’. I wanted to be the kind of person who has gone on all sorts of adventures. Many of which were perhaps not planned ahead of time. On my bucket list, I still want to be the person who goes to the airport and doesn’t know where she’s about to go and just buys a ticket. On your bucket list, it could be to be spontaneous and taking a trip. So I think that a bucket list is both planned and deliberate and can be identity making, but it can also be spend two weeks in Florida exploring and be a little bit more open- ended.
Nisreene Atassi: Yeah, I think that’s a good articulation of it because so many people when they hear ‘bucket list’, they think it has to be super, super far away or very expensive or something just really, really out there. But you’re right, that sometimes it could just mean ticking off a new experience or just trying something new, no matter how small or big it is. That can help make things a little bit attainable for so many of us. Cory, what about you – when you hear ‘bucket list trip’, what does that mean to you?
Cory Lee: I do have a bucket list and it seems to grow every week actually. So I’m constantly adding to it and it seems like every time I check off an item, I just add three more in its place. I’ve been really lucky to check off a lot of items already. I went to Antarctica, visited my seventh continent and that was kind of my huge life goal, and at the very top of my bucket list for a long, long time. That is the most thrilling item that I’ve probably ticked off. I have a lot of international things on my bucket list, but also have a lot of domestic. I mean, on my bucket list, I have going to Hershey, Pennsylvania and getting a cocoa facial and eating all the chocolate that I can.
Nisreene Atassi: Amazing.
Cory Lee: Yeah.
Nisreene Atassi: That’s great.
Cory Lee: And I’m really looking forward to that. Anything can be on your bucket list. If it’s something you’ve always dreamed about or even just recently started dreaming about, I think there are just no limitations if it’s something that you’ve dreamed of doing.
Nisreene Atassi: I’m loving how we’ve dug into the conversation about defining a bucket list trip and how these trips actually define us. When we come back, we’re going to dig a little deeper into all of the places in the world that these two veteran travelers are still dreaming about heading to. So stay with us.
Nisreene Atassi: You’re listening to Out Travel The System. And I’m your host Nisreene Atassi. All season long, we’ve been on a mission to really inspire and inform you about travel. We’ve talked about the different types of virtual travel from traveling through your eyes and ears, to traveling through your stomach and laid the foundation for trips to specific destinations. When the time is right for you to travel, listen through again and pull out all of the tips and tricks we’ve given you, so you can maximize your travel budget and planning. If you have ideas you want to share for future episodes, be sure to message us anytime on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, we’re @ Expedia.
Nisreene Atassi: We are here with blogger Cory Lee and Sarah Austin Jenness of The Moth. Sarah, what are some of the most memorable bucket list trips that you’ve taken or that are most near and dear to you?
Sarah Austin Jenness: I convinced my colleague to do a last minute safari. The company’s literally called Last Minute Safari because we couldn’t make up our minds of, where we wanted to go, what we wanted to do. So we found Last Minute Safari that took us to Ruaha in Tanzania, Ruaha National Park. And we spent two days and one night in the wilderness, and that was pretty incredible. We slept in tents that we couldn’t check into because there was literally an elephant standing in front of our tent. So we had to wait for the elephant to decide to move away, which was just incredible. I have a couple of travel stories that are basically exotic failed attempts at romance that led to a good story. My trips to Copenhagen and to Madrid were all with the, should we date question that started the story, and then the answer that we found was no we shouldn’t. But I think that the exploration of Madrid and Copenhagen were incredible.
Nisreene Atassi: Sarah, I heard you took an e pic sky diving trip in New Zealand. Tell us a little bit about it.
Sarah Austin Jenness: Yeah. I was in New Zealand after a Moth Mainstage that we had, and I decided to stay an extra week because I was about to turn 30 and I wanted to jump out of an airplane, jumping into the new decade. And I was with a friend of mine and we decided we were going to go to Abel Tasman National Park on the South Island and we show up and of course we bought the budget package to go up into the sky and a plane that looked very much like a minivan with very small wings.
And my friend was put in a different airplane, but I acted like that was all okay because I was a big girl who was about to turn 30, and we go up into the air. And of course, since it was my first jump, I was doing a tandem jump and I was strapped to this guy. He was this older salty dog. I believe his name was John, but he was very weathered looking. Very, very kind. And he told me not to be nervous because he’d read a lot of books. And he was sure because of reading all these books that we would be fine. And I think I just looked at him with deep terror. He said, no, I’m joking, I’m joking. I’m the oldest guy at this place. We are going to be fine. But we were in this tiny minivan, up in the sky with two other women, and they had bought the most expensive package, which included-
Nisreene Atassi: A videographer and whatnot.
Sarah Austin Jenness: Yeah. They had a glam crew and they videographer and they were… It was extreme. And they blew out of the plane first. And then we just sat there and I was literally sitting in this stranger’s lap. He was holding me like I was in a Baby Bjorn in front of you. And he said, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want. He said, I was just up with a woman who just got married and her husband signed her up to jump out of the airplane and we got up, he jumped out first, and then she looked at me and said, I don’t want to do this. And we just landed the plane and it was fine. And I said, well, thank you for that little anecdote, but no, I’m excited to do it. And he said, well, whenever you’re ready. And so we edged out and we dangled our feet and he said, when you’re ready, just lean forward, and the wind will take you out. And we sat there for a little while and I did take a photograph with a camera that was mounted on the end of this minivan’s wing for what felt like maybe five minutes. And I was taking in everything around me and the beauty of New Zealand. And then I just leaned forward and he and I left the plane. And what they don’t tell you about skydiving is that there’s a lot of pressure at first. And so I was immediately thinking, what have I done? Because I am afraid of heights, but I’m also very strong- willed and I am very goal oriented. And to be honest, I’m not so afraid of heights that I was debilitated. Of course, I just don’t love heights, but I really, really, really wanted to jump out of an airplane. So that kind of surpassed any fear that I had. So I leaned forward and we fell for a little while and then he pulled the cord, but I heard him in my ear say, are you ready? And I yelled, yes. And he pulled the cord and then the parachute came out and there we were, we were two adults in this adult swing almost with this parachute up above us. And it was beautiful out. And this salty dog was the sweetest man and started just showing me all around. It was basically like a tour guide, but you were so many hundreds of feet high. He said, this is where you can buy local strawberries. And if you’d like to kayak, go over here. And then he said, well, now we’re closer to the ground. And so when we do hit the ground, it’s important that you hit, but you run.
Nisreene Atassi: Hit the ground running, as they say.
Sarah Austin Jenness: Yeah. You literally hit the ground running. So we did, we hit the ground running. He helped me run into my thirties.
Nisreene Atassi: I think there’s also an element of something that may not necessarily have been on your bucket list, but ends up being sort of a bucket list worthy trip because of the memories that you have from it. Cory, is there any sort of trip that you underestimated and didn’t think you were going to get a lot out of, but after you went there and you experienced it, it became a really memorable trip for you?
Cory Lee: I went to the Florida Keys. And it’s always somewhere that I’ve kind of thought about going to, but it’s never been a huge bucket list item for me. I went to a turtle hospital in Marathon, Florida, and that was just such an incredible place and organization. That is a rehab and release facility for turtles. I am such a huge animal lover and to be there and see these turtles that were injured and learn about our impact and how we can really create a better planet for everyone, including turtles and the animals. I think that was probably the highlight of the trip for me, seeing such beauty in Key West. Every night they had a sunset celebration on Mallory Square and I went to seven of the sunset celebrations. Every single night I went to that. To see that much beauty in one location, it definitely surpassed my expectations, and I wish I would’ve had it on my bucket list sooner.
Nisreene Atassi: Cory, are most of your trips solo travel trips, or do you usually travel with others?
Cory Lee: I do always travel with someone. As a wheelchair user, I do need a care attendant or a caregiver there to help me in a transfer into the plane or off the plane and into the bed and shower and get dressed in the morning and ready. So I do always travel with a family member, a friend, or a hired care attendant to go with me. I’ve been able to have some really remarkable experiences with friends and family that I probably would not have had without the disability. And I think it’s made me a lot closer to people even, and hopefully a better friend and son. I mean, I travel with my mom a lot. She’s always up for a good trip. She really, I think, gave me the wanderlust gene that we were talking about earlier. In a way I felt very fortunate to be in a wheelchair and have to rely on others because it’s given me the opportunity to become much closer to those people.
Nisreene Atassi: But also, how lucky are the people that you get to choose to go with you? So you’ve already been to so many places and some people might think, well, what’s left?
Cory Lee: Venice now has wheelchair accessible gondolas. And so riding in a gondola in Venice has always been a bucket list item for me. And now that they finally have an accessible gondola, that I could just stay in my wheelchair and get on the gondola. I mean, I think it would just be incredible. And so I’m hoping to finally make that trip and be able to go
Nisreene Atassi: Well, fingers crossed that you get to take that trip because it’s absolutely beautiful in Venice and a place that I definitely think everybody should get a chance to see at least once in their lifetime. Sarah, let’s talk a little bit about how you approach your bucket list trips, because a lot of the times you’re not necessarily taking a place off of a list, but you’re getting to experience a place because you’re traveling for work and things like that.
Sarah Austin Jenness: We have a couple of incredible places that are still on the list for The Moth. We have women and girls workshops in Katmandu, events in Thailand all about gender equality, where we bring people from all around the world together to share personal stories in community with each other. And so I miss being able to get on a plane and meet new people and work with them one- on- one on their stories. It’s just such an incredible way in which we can be in communion with each other. But sure for myself, oh, I’ve got one of my best friends, April, is all about going to the West Highland Way in Scotland and hiking. And she’s trying to convince me to stay in bothies and it just sounds very exotic and exciting and the right mix of something that feels in my comfort zone, and also a little bit unknown. I would love to take a couple of weeks and travel to Cambodia and Vietnam and spend time there.
Nisreene Atassi: You mentioned, Sarah, cost as obviously a big thing that might keep people from taking some of these bucket list trips. Do you have any cost saving tips or anything that you implement to help you fulfill some of your travel dreams?
Sarah Austin Jenness: I’m a big budgeter. I enjoy budgets. I mean, coming from a producing background, I like numbers and figuring out where to save so that you can spend later on experiences or food or what have you that will bring pleasure. I mean, bucket lists can be a financial investment, but to me it’s more of a time priority and how many delicious weeks or days can I put aside to travel to these places and really sit and experience the culture and new friends. So if there’s a place that I really want to go to and explore, I’ll do my best to put that stake in the ground or that time on the calendar as many months in advance as I can, because it’s just so precious. So it’s blocking out the time and then you’ve made the commitment to yourself and everything else can fall into place from there.
Nisreene Atassi: That bucket trip can actually be quite close to you. Because Canada is so close to the United States, I think a lot of people actually take it for granted and don’t necessarily think of it as a particularly special place or bucket list worthy, if you will. What is on your actual bucket list specific to Canada?
Sarah Austin Jenness: I love trains, and I’ve always wanted to take a train cross country in Canada from one side to the other and write and drink tea and look out at the beautiful landscape. And yeah, there’s something about that that’s really intriguing to me. It feels, you’re right, exotic, but also in your backyard. I’ve never been to Vancouver. I’m just fascinated to really see Canada and the beauty there. I also just find train travel kind of a lost art. In the same way that stories are held as arguably the first art form, I feel like train travel is one of the earlier modes of transportation that people just don’t talk about.
Nisreene Atassi: Yeah. And they have some really amazing trains that have windows all over the place and sort of glass ceilings and things like that, so you can just see everything around you. And I think it’s a really great way, frankly, to see a country and really maximize your time. So I can understand why you’ve got that on your list. Cory, what is it that draws you to Canada?
Cory Lee: I’m kind of one of those people that has never really considered train travel, and now I’m going to be looking it up as soon as we hang up. So thank you both. Some destinations in Canada that I would really, really love to go to our Banff and Lake Louise. I think those look beautiful. I’m a big fan of outdoor experiences that are accessible. And so just that natural beauty I think would be incredible to see. And then also Vancouver. So I have been to Vancouver one time, but I was only there for one night and then got on a cruise to Alaska. And so, unfortunately I’ve not really gotten to explore Vancouver a whole lot, but I would love to go and see much, much more of BC one day.
Nisreene Atassi: We’re having this conversation about Canada and even earlier core you’re mentoring, Hershey, Pennsylvania. I feel like, at least for myself personally, I think I really took for granted all of the amazing things that are sort of close by to me or a two hour flight or Canada, I’m based in Seattle, so Canada is really not that far. I’ve sort of reframed my perspective on what a bucket list destination is. I am absolutely jumping at the chance to travel, especially after this episode. I have never been more inspired. So thank you both for coming on the show today. My guest today has been Sarah Austin Jenness, executive producer for The Moth. Thank you so much, Sarah, for joining us today, really appreciate your perspective.
Sarah Austin Jenness: Thank you so much for having me.
Nisreene Atassi: Also with us today has been Cory Lee, who blogs at Curb Free with Cory Lee. Cory, again, thank you so much for inspiring all of us and for inspiring everybody and all of your followers really appreciated having you on the show today.
Cory Lee: Thank you so much. It was a lot of fun.
Nisreene Atassi: One last thing before we go, we talked in this episode about how to take a bucket list trip and really sort of make your dream a reality. And Cory, we at Expedia wanted to help get you a little bit closer to your next trip. So we are going to be giving you $1,000 in Expedia vouchers to use for your next trip. And hopefully, whether that’s heading to Germany or to Japan, we want to help you get there.
Cory Lee: Oh my God. Thank you so much. I appreciate that more than you could ever imagine. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I really appreciate it.
Nisreene Atassi: It’s the least we can do for everything that you do for the travel world and all of your followers. So we’re happy to be able to help you along your journey.
Cory Lee: You guys are amazing. I’m over here tearing up now. Thank you so much.
Nisreene Atassi: All right, well, that’s a wrap from us today. I’m Nisreene Atassi, and this is Out Travel The System brought to you by Expedia. I hope this season of the podcast has also helped you get one step closer to your next trip. It certainly has helped me stay inspired during this truly, truly bizarre time that we have found ourselves in. So until we talk again, everybody, happy travels.