I’m going to guess that, like me, anyone who travels fairly frequently puts together his or her own private “best” and “worst” lists.
With a little prompting I can probably come up with a list of the 10 nicest hotels I’ve every stayed in. Or the five best golf courses I’ve ever played. Whenever my family dines out we eventually start talking about the best meals we’ve ever eaten. My 18-year-old daughter still remembers with fondness the chicken with apples and Calvados sauce she ate at the restaurant in the Hôtel le Lion d’Or in Bayeux, France, when she was just 7.

I have my personal list of the five most idiotic things I’ve ever done while traveling, topped by the time I was driving through France with my diesel engine rental car. Being a very stupid American, I filled it up with regular unleaded gas. After the car came to its inevitable shuddering halt, a mechanic, after having learned what I had put into the car, told me in his wonderful French accent: “You keeled eet!”

Travel writer Patricia Schultz has taken the idea of a “best” list to an extreme with her massive tome, “1000 Places to See Before You Die.” It has certainly struck a chord with the traveling public—it became a New York Times bestseller, and television’s Travel Channel has just launched a new series based on the locations featured in the book.

It’s easy to see why the book has become such a hit. People like to travel, and they like to make lists. And, after all, we are all going to die—eventually. When asked recently what she thought accounted for her book’s popularity, Schultz gently pointed out that as baby boomers begin to face their own mortality, many have the money and the time to indulge their travel fantasies. Life, she says, “is no dress rehearsal, and the notion of carpe diem should apply,” she says. “It’s time to get off the couch before your knees expire!”

So, “1000 Places to See Before You Die” presents baby boomers and other readers a chance to list both where they’ve been, and where they want to go—before it’s too late.

It’s also, Schultz points out, a pretty good resource for meeting planners looking to excite jaded attendees. “I like to think I open up discussion about places that may not have naturally appeared on the conventional meeting radar,” she says. “The incomparable city of Istanbul; the stunning wine country outside of Santiago, Chile; the gorgeous Alp-framed lake district of Italy, just minutes from Milan; the exciting Canadian city of Vancouver and Vancouver Island just to the west. I like to think Chiang Mai in northern Thailand could be a consideration, or some of the island resorts sprinkled across the waters of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The possibilities are countless, and [typical incentive locations] start looking pretty tame by comparison.”

I read through the book and started checking off the places I’ve been to—the start of another list. The first one I came to happens to be a destination I’ve visited on business. I had the opportunity to accompany a group of meeting planners on a site visit to Maroma Resort & Spa on the Riviera Maya in Mexico. I can see why Maroma is one of Schultz’s 1000. Away from the hustle and bustle of Cancun, it sits between acres of pristine jungle and what has to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The location is truly spectacular.

A further look at the book was both useful and fruitless. I discovered plenty of other places I want to visit, but none that I’ve actually been to. So my list, for the moment, stands at one.

Only 999 to go.•BB

Michael Bassett is a staff writer for Corporate Meetings & Incentives and Financial & Insurance Meetings.