We asked 11 famous folks, including Brian Cox, Kate Humble and De La Soul, the destinations that top their ‘To Do Before I Die’ list. From Borneo to Korea, these are their answers, and the clear favourite is…?
Douglas Coupland (DJ Weir)
I’d like to see Korea, both North and South. I’m fascinated that North Korea even exists, that they have flash cards as a national art form, or that their national leader wears pant suits. It’s so random and accidental and strange.
South Korean airlines, by some number, has more crashes than almost any other airline. It’s in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers book. He asks what is it in Korean culture that makes them always crash their jumbos. It’s worth the read.
Another place I’d love to go to is Antarctica. I’ve been up north to the Arctic. But I’d love to see Antarctica, for the isolation and remoteness. If there’s one good thing about global warming, it’s that it will unlock secrets about Antarctica. I just know that place has bodies buried everywhere. There’s all sorts of stuff just waiting to come out.
Michel Roux Jr (BBC)
As much as I love lazing around on a beach, I do get itchy feet very quickly. I have to explore, normally on foot. I can walk in cities for hours on end, just going off the beaten track.
I’ve never been to St Petersburg or Vienna. Those are two on my list that I want to visit because of the beauty of the cities and also the history.
I’d also love to travel to Brazil. I’ve never been. Every year on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, there are two or three restaurants in Brazil: Alex Atala’s D.O.M. and Daniel Redondo and Helena Rizzo’s Mani, both in Sao Paolo. I’d love to go to Brazil and try those restaurants out.
Gary Numan (Joseph Cultice)
There are a few places I still really want to go to. I’m fascinated by Antarctica. My wife isn’t interested in the slightest because it’s cold. She doesn’t do cold but for me it’s a real big thing.
I’m absolutely desperate to go there, and also to the Cook Islands in the Pacific. I just think if you could draw what paradise would look like, to me that’s it. You can go to places there where there are no telephones and no electricity. You can go to some of the outlying islands and be absolutely away from technology and humanity. It must be the most peaceful place on Earth and I would love to go there.
There’s a place called Bora Bora that I really want to go to. There’s a specific kind of whale species that breed there. Apparently, you can sit on the beach in the evening and hear the whale song coming up from under the water. That must be the most magical thing ever: to lay on the beach, looking up at the stars, listening to whales, with no one around. I can’t imagine that. That’s a massive thing I’d like to do, as well as Antarctica. They’re two extremes really, but those are the two things I’d love to do.
Kelvin Mercer, aka Pos, pictured right (De La Soul)
I’d love to go to India, especially for the colours, the people. I’ve met a lot of great people from India. I have a lot of great friends who are from different parts of India.
I’ve always been into what to read and what can enhance me from a spiritual standpoint, so I love the look of it from that perspective. Musically, I’m very interested in India too, because as a person producing hip hop music I can find samples from there. Some of the most cool, weird and amazing soulful samples I’ve heard were from the instruments that they use there and they have incredible arrangements. For a lot of reasons, I would love to go to check out India.
Kate Humble (BBC)
There are large parts of the Far East that I have never been to. Somebody often says to me, “I can’t believe, Kate, that you have never been to Borneo”, but I have never been to Borneo and I would love to go. Obviously, it’s a wildlife destination and a location I would be absolutely fascinated by.
Mohsin Hamid (Kashi)
I’m really keen to go to the Arctic, the far north of Canada or Norway, because I want to see the Northern Lights. I think that it’s great to go far from urban pollution, and the light reflecting back off the sky.
When you look up at the sky from the Himalaya, for example, you can see the Milky Way, like milk that’s just been scattered across the blackness. It’s just incredible. You get that feeling of enormity. People used to look up and see the sky every time they looked up but now they don’t see it anymore. It’s very profound.
I think that somehow seeing the Northern Lights would mean something to me. I just want to have that experience, to go to the Arctic, Northern Canada or Norway. That would be one thing I’d love to do before I leave this planet.
Brian Cox (BBC)
It would be a wonderful thing to travel into space. I think the Virgin Galactic idea, where you’ve got this sort of easy and safe access to just look out the window and see the Earth below against the black of space, would be a wonderful thing. Virgin are idealistic, but I know they hope that it will change the world, that the more people who see the world from space, the better the direction we’ll be heading in, and I think that’s probably true.
I know they’re hoping to get the costs down to something like £75,000 dollars or so, which is a more reasonable size, but that’s still a lot of money. But when it gets to around $10,000 or $20,000, or the cost of a Business Class return ticket, then I think perhaps you can start changing the world.
I’d certainly like to do that. Whether I’d like to be an astronaut, I’m not sure. It’s a different thing altogether. It wouldn’t be so bad on a commercial space flight, like a space trip.
Chris Hadfield (NASA / Victor Zelentsov)
Australia is a place that I saw from orbit that I’d really love to go. I looked all along the Great Barrier Reef and the north-east. It looks very alluring and interesting. I’ve taken my children diving in the Bahamas, and the Great Barrier Reef made me think of the same kind of destination.
I’d love to visit Perth, because it’s so remote and in a part of the world I’ve never been. I like places that are a bit off-the-beaten-track because they tend to develop more personality and have a little less self-importance. They recognise the remoteness of themselves. I imagine the sunsets are gorgeous because it’s on the south-western tip.
Then, from space, I also looked across to New Zealand. It looked so gorgeous, from the deep fjords and green of the south end right on up. At the northern end of the south island, the big river valley flows up and you can see the volcano across the straight. There’s wine country there, too, with the big river and the long valley.
If there’s a Number One place I looked down on from space and thought “I’m looking for a place for a beautiful vacation with my wife”, then that’s it. We might go to the northern end of the south island of New Zealand into the wine country and spend some time looking around there. It looked beautiful.
Martin Parr (Magnum Photos / Rocket Gallery)
I haven’t been to Iran. I would like to go there. It’s a very interesting country from what I gather. I’ve had a show there and I couldn’t get a visa to attend that. They’ve got a very healthy photography community there so I could see what that’s like and people say the food’s incredible there. Tehran sounds like a crazy city, too.
Francesca Martinez (Virgin Books)
I love discovering places. I’d like to see a rainforest up close, because I think they’re like the last untouched places in nature that really exist. We wouldn’t be here without trees, so we should all be tree huggers.
I’d also like to experience a desert island beach, like in the Maldives, where it just looks so idyllic. I love beaches, but I’ve never been to one like that. I’ve got best friends who are really active and they’ll be like “Oh, we booked to go to the Maldives and we booked the biggest island because we were scared we’d get bored.” I was, like, give me the smallest island and a book, and I’ll be happy.
Gordon Buchanan (BBC)
I’ve never been to Antarctica. I don’t know why I’m drawn to these cold places but I do love the extremes of the planet. I’d love to see penguins.
I’d also really love to go under the ice and see what life’s like at the bottom of the planet. There’s life locked under the ice. In Antarctica, 99 per cent of it is beneath the ice and the sea. That’s why I’d like to get down there and see what’s there.
Main image: Fernando de Noronha in Brazil (Dreamstime)