Remember the awesome MasterCard Priceless campaign that ran for ever and ever? It showed in a really clever way that while yes, for certain things you need money, the true and important experiences are priceless and cannot be bought. That got me thinking that it is the same when it comes to travel, while you need a certain budget, the true and memorable experiences will be, maybe not for free, but always priceless.

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With that thought in mind I was delighted to attend Pure Life Experiences in Marrakech a few weeks ago. As you can tell by my last story about Marrakech I am really falling in love with this city, so it was no hardship to go there for a second time in one year. Pure is a not-so-average travel conference and trade show. Not-so-average because it is all about experiential travel: places and destinations that are a little less known, paths that are a little less trodden, and experiences that are truly unique are introduced here.

Though it is a luxury show, the motto is “real people, unreal experiences” – something anybody can apply to their travels. Luxury is also defined in a new way here: Spectacular views, stimulating conversations that you wouldn’t ordinarily have at home and new sights that may take your breath away – the focus is always on the experiences that are to be had. It is not so much about who you are, but what you do that makes or breaks a trip. You don’t need to be Sinbad to sail the Seven Seas or Max to find out Where the Wild Things live; you, a real person, can do all of this and much more (personally I would love to meet the Wild Things though!).

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While I was in Morocco to work the week came with some pretty unreal experiences for me as well: I quad biked to the backdrop of the snowcapped Atlas Mountains, we rescued a tortoise from the road and the staff from the fancy Royal Palm hotel was nice enough to ignore my mud splattered boots when I went there afterwards for a massage. I had a real red carpet moment (mind that the carpet was actually black) and ate nothing but macaroons for an entire evening. A camel nibbled on my knee while I changed from heels into flip flops in the midst of watching fireworks and most importantly I met many new people from all over the world with whom I shared moments and conversations: a Moroccan Ayurveda cosmetic, a Turkish cowboy, a French 2-star chef, an Algerian hippie turned hotel owner, an Indian girl from the Arctic; story tellers, visionaries, adventurers, environmentalists, and people who just believe that the world is wonderful place with lots to see and explore.

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Meeting all of these people I realized that while destination bucket lists are all well and good, it is really about the experiences and the interactions with others you have while traveling that entice me. Some of these costs money, others don’t, however they should always be meaningful and personal. So I started my own little, but ever-growing list of things I would like to do and experience next.

1. I want to stay home in December.

This month will be about finally experiencing advent and Christmas in Germany again, something I haven’t had for years. I want to take my god-child to see the Christmas lights around town, drink mulled wine with my friends, and do last-minute present shopping with my mother.

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2. I want to ride a hot air balloon.

I have been in a Cessna, a helicopter, and your usual array of regular planes, but I have never been in a hot air balloon. I can’t think about a better place than Cappadocia for my first time.

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3. I want to go to the opera.

My dad has invited me to see an opera at the Palais Garnier in Paris this spring. While I’m not the biggest fan of operas, I like the old world glamour about them and most importantly sharing special moments like that with my father.

4. I really want to climb Mt Kinabalu in Borneo.

And I also really don’t. While it ain’t Kilimanjaro you have to be reasonable fit in order to get up and I’m not right now. So it would be a huge challenge to get fit enough and do it *gulp*. But what really could be a better experience than doing something you are a little scared of and that you have to work for to accomplish it?

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5. I want a cat.

On my recent trip to El Gouna I was informed by the hotel owner that if I feed a kitten, I have to take it home. It would have actually been possible – two days for a vet certificate and off it would go with me. How tempted was I? So I think I need to make it reality soon and finally get a kitten. As you may know I am a little cat obsessed and would have no problem with ending up as the crazy cat lady. So every place I visit I look out for kittens and want to take them with me, all of them! Thinking of that, one might actually not be enough.

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6. I want to kiss someone in the rain in the rainforest.

Or actually anywhere for that matter as long as it rains.

7. I would like to learn a new dish from someone whose language I don’t speak.

I think food and the act of making a meal connects like no other. Whenever I felt lost in a place due to language barrier, I find that a shared cooking experience is the best ice breaker.

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8. I want to go to Japan.

Japan has quickly moved high up my list of places I want to go to badly also thanks to Marie’s awesome itinerary. When I go I really want to stay at the Tawaraya, the oldest ryakon in Kyoto. Writer Pico Iyer, one of the speakers at Pure, talked about and it described it as completely quiet. A place with a silence that is not a void, but rather a beautiful presence. It sounds like the perfect place to just be and disconnect from everything else. Yes, I’m looking at you iPhone!

Tawaraya Ryokan, Kyoto

9. I want to learn something new, something active…

…and after a brief introduction to it, I’m thinking of wake boarding or kite-surfing. While I might not a natural on a board and there was lots of sea-water-swallowing going on, I love the idea of spending more time in the water and getting a workout while having fun.

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10. Watch more night skies!

I love stars and actually used to own a small telescope, but I don’t seem to look up very much anymore these days. I realized that when was in Egypt and became completely mesmerized by the starry sky there. So, I want to sit somewhere quietly, look at the stars and the moon and just be still.

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The list may go on and on and will probably change and especially grow over time, but I think that’s alright and how it goes with dreams and wishes.

I understand that money is an objective for most of us when it comes to traveling, but if there is an experience I truly yearn for, I will spend it. In any case start your own list with experiences big and small that you would like to have. Write it down, make it specific, and see where it takes you – after all experiences are to be had everywhere and anywhere, sometimes all it takes is to leave the house and chat to your neighbor!

Pictures: Cappadocia, Mt Kinabalu, Tawaraya, all other images by Annika

This post was written by Annika Ziehen who was a Travelette until 2019. Originally from Germany, Annika has lived in New York and Cape Town and now travels the world full time. She considers herself a very hungry mermaid and writes about her adventures, scuba diving and food on her blog The Midnight Blue Elephant. You can also find her on Instagram here!