My questions were straightforward: What is on your bucket list? What are the places you want to visit, or perhaps revisit, before you kick the bucket? Why?
I posed the questions to numerous people involved in various facets of the travel industry, most seasoned travelers who have spent more hours in airplanes, airports and airline lounges than they care to count.
No matter their schedules, timetables, agendas or time zones, they seemed eager to answer. (Click here or on the map for a look at the myriad places on our bucket list survey. A selection of places also can be found in a slideshow by clicking here or on any of the images.)
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Some responses were short, sweet and to the point. Richard Fain, chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., was in Germany leading travel agents and media on a tour of the soon-to-be-launched Quantum of the Seas when asked what was on his bucket list.
"Maldives," Fain said.
"Why?" he was asked.
"I haven't been there because it is too far away."
"Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It's off the radar," Fain said.
The other extreme was travel essayist Pico Iyer, who answered at length: "I've been lucky enough to go often to beautiful places, such as Cuba and Vietnam, and to mystical, deeply stirring places, from Ethiopia to Tibet, and to eccentric places, from Easter Island and Yemen to Paraguay and Bhutan, but I can safely say that, in 40 years of almost constant travel, I've never been to somewhere as involving and rich and sophisticated and completely unreadable as Iran.
"It has the lure of a beautiful, intricate riddle that will only grow more elusive and complex the more you try to untangle it."
He continued: "If I could go anywhere tomorrow, it would be back to the mud-walled city of Yazd, so desolate and haunting as the sun sets over it, and back to the huge shrine in Mashhad, and back to Qom and the mosques of Isfahan and to the tea houses set in the gardens across Iran where, lying back with a piece of sweet watermelon as beautiful figures slip in and out among the colored lights, the sound of water all around, you really can forget about everything around you and feel as if you're in a kind of earthly heaven."
Travel author/speaker/commentator Peter Greenberg prefaced his answer by saying that he had been blessed, having been to more than 151 countries, which left at least 47 more to visit.
"But it's not a race, and it's not about checking off some list," Greenberg said. "I must also deal with the probability that I'll never make it everywhere. There are still a few places I want -- actually need -- to go, and all of them are on or are surrounded by water."
Greenberg's list included Kiribati, a string of 32 atolls straddling the equator in the central Pacific Ocean.
"I love the notion of a place that's difficult to reach, which also means it's difficult to leave," he said. "And that forces you to immerse yourself in the culture. I can't wait to get there."
Also on his list were the coastal islands of Colombia ("I'm convinced that if I ever get there, I won't leave!").
But Greenberg's top wish, "the experience I dream about that gets my heart racing and the adrenaline pumping every time I think about it has a three-word title: Night Carrier Landing -- to sit in the right seat or the back seat of a jet that makes a night landing on the deck of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier."
More down to earth but equally compelling was Rapa Nui (Easter Island) for Pilar Guzman, editor in chief of Conde Nast Traveler: "I have always been intrigued by its remoteness, its mystery and the unlikely advent of the pioneering Polynesian population that braved thousands of nautical miles in wooden outrigger canoes to settle there."
Also on her list: the Galapagos; Reykjavik, Iceland; and Alexandria and Luxor in Egypt.
Some travelers resisted the concept of a bucket list, among them Keith Bellows, senior vice president and editor in chief of National Geographic Traveler.
"I don't have a bucket list," Bellows said. "I want to go to places that are a mystery to me. What interests me are places subject to arrested development, like Burma [Myanmar], where I went 15 years ago. Now, I'd go to old Burma in the south, away from places on the tourism trail."
Bellows said his favorite country is India.
"I've been there nine times. I know it OK, and it is remarkable. Mostly I've gone solo up to see the tigers and the Himalayas. It is a country that never stops giving."
He volunteered that if he had just 48 hours left, he would spend that time "in a crofter's hut on the Isle of Skye off Scotland's west coast. It's a stone hut used by workers and shepherds. I went to school in Scotland, and the country left a big impression on me," he said.
As he responded, Bellows was leaving for the airport to explore Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia.
Despite travels that top 150,000 miles and 20 countries a year, Johnny Jet still has places he's not visited and even more to which he wants to return.
"The Great Wall of China is at the top of my bucket list," Jet said. "I've also never been to Egypt, because every time I plan a trip, there's a conflict going on. Another place is Antarctica, but what's holding me back is the crossing. I hear it can be a hairy two days."
A close relative of Monica Drake, travel editor of the New York Times, recently discovered through DNA analysis that some of Drake's descendants are Ghanaian.
"I've never been to Africa and would love for Ghana to be the first stop," she said.
Antarctica is next.
"Andy Revkin, the environmental writer, explained its appeal as being the absence of noise and the visual clutter that clouds your mind. And who doesn't want to go to the end of the Earth?" Drake asked.
Antarctica was also on the bucket list for Roger Block, president of Travel Leaders Franchise Group, while Ghana figured in the travel dreams for Juan Vela Ruiz, vice president of Velas Resorts of Mexico.
"I'd like to cruise the Gold and Ivory coasts of West Africa from Ghana to Dakar, cross Gibraltar and end in Seville, Spain," he said.
Patricia Schultz, author of "1,000 Places to See Before You Die," admitted to "countless" places on her wish list.
Whittled down, the list included Montenegro and Serbia ("Time spent in neighboring Slovenia and Croatia has stoked my interest"); Norway ("The country has somehow eluded me. I always saved it for when I had more time"); Cuba ("I've spent time in Havana with local relatives of Cuban-American friends. I would love to go back and explore agricultural Vinales and colonial Trinidad and Santiago"); the polar bears of Manitoba ("A recent trip to Antarctica was the exploration of an area of the world that is empty, surreal and beautiful beyond words. Now I want to explore the Canadian Arctic, see the world's largest gathering of polar bears and hope for crazy displays of northern lights").
For Julia Cosgrove, vice president and editor in chief of Afar Media, top bucket-list destinations include India; Bogota, Colombia; Buenos Aires; the culinary scene in Charleston, S.C.; and off-the-beaten-path state parks and nature preserves in California and Oregon.
Zachary Rabinor, director general and CEO of Journey Mexico, divided his bucket list into two categories: one devoted to his passion for surfing, the other to family travel.
"I never stop dreaming about places to go and surf," he said.
These include Nihiwatu in Sumba, Indonesia; Tavarua, Fiji; Teahupoo, Tahiti; Skeleton Bay in Namibia; and surfing through the Maldives on a boat trip.
For the family dream list, it's Turkey (Istanbul and beyond); Sicily and southern Italy; and the Basque and Galicia coasts of Spain.
Alex Zozaya, CEO of Apple Leisure Group, said that "as an avid scuba diver, revisiting the waters off Cocos Island in Costa Rica, which has one of the world's highest concentrations of sharks, and planning my first trip to Mexico's Isla Guadalupe, one of the few dive spots to swim with great whites, are high on my bucket list."
Zozaya's colleague Jeff Mullen, president of Apple Vacations, also leaned toward surfing, although with some creature comforts thrown into the mix.
His list included: "Costa Rica for some early morning surfing at world-renowned Witch's Rock, followed by a relaxing dip in the Tabacon Hot Springs, ending with a Flor de Cana [a brand of Nicaraguan rum] on the rocks, a Pacific sunset and a repeat of the same the next day."
Brother Tim Mullen, president of Travel Impressions, said his bucket list included "a South Africa vacation that mixes the wine country, the beach and whale-watching in Hermanus, followed by a safari in Kruger."
He added that his company "offers it all, so I just need the time to make it happen."
Yellowstone and Redwood national parks topped the domestic bucket list of Jeff Higley, vice president, digital media and communications/editorial director of STR/STR Global/Hotel News. "Every U.S. citizen should experience the natural wonder and beauty of what we have here," he said.
Higley also wants to explore New Zealand's natural beauty, Sicily because he has roots there and Fiji for its beaches and relaxation.
Tony Wheeler, founder of Lonely Planet, first drew up a bucket list in 1992, prompted by the question "Why haven't I been to Angkor Wat/Cambodia?" After he finally did get there, he returned three times.
His current list includes Yemen (the only Middle Eastern country Wheeler hasn't visited) for its mud skyscrapers and history; a trip on the Aranui passenger/cargo vessel from Papeete to the Marquesas, "the only region of French Polynesia I've not gotten to"; and Vanuatu, its volcanoes and a dive to the SS President Coolidge, a warship that sank in 1942 from a Japanese mine blast and today is one of the top 10 wreck dive sites in the world.
Wheeler also hopes to board the Rocket Paddle steamer for a Bangladesh river trip and visit Sitakunda, which he described as the "ship-wrecking beach" near Chittagong, also in Bangladesh.
Olympic gold medal sprinter Usain Bolt wants to set his famous feet in Dubai, while Adam Stewart, CEO of Sandals Resorts International, envisions Whistler, British Columbia, in the winter.
"It's the opposite of where I work," he said of Whistler. "They sell snow; we sell sunshine. When it comes to vacations, I like to slow down, get off the beaten path and enjoy the solitude that nature has to offer. I imagine that cross-country skiing in Whistler's back country would be marvelous."
Closer to home, he'd like to explore the southern Caribbean by sea. "So often my travel for work is quickly in and out by plane. To travel these islands by boat would be amazing."
Croatia's Dalmatian coast, the Maldives and Morocco top the list for Kayak CEO Steve Hafner. "I also do have three favorite places that I visit every year: Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes, France; Villa d'Este in Lake Como, Cernobbio, Italy; and Ett Hem boutique hotel in Stockholm," Hafner said.
For Doug Gollan, group president and editor in chief of Elite Traveler, his list reflects a love of train travel that began as a youngster, when he visited his dad's family in England and Scotland and traveled by BritRail throughout the U.K.
"My bucket list is all train-related," Gollan said, ticking off the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express ("'Dr. Zhivago' is one of my favorite movies. Maybe I'll find Lara"); the Royal Scotsman ("Supposedly they play bagpipes when you board. I like bagpipes"); the Maharajas' Express in India ("The Presidential Suite is an entire car, the type of upgrades everyone likes to dream about"); South Africa's Blue Train; the Indian Pacific and the Ghan ("The first goes east-west across Australia, the latter north-south"); and the Canadian and the Rocky Mountaineer, which, when combined, offer travel from Toronto to Vancouver.
A deep love of Italy based in part on her Italian heritage influenced the bucket list of Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting since 2005. In her former role as assistant secretary of state for education and cultural affairs under Colin Powell from 2001 to 2005, "I traveled throughout the world from Iraq to Moscow, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, to name a few, but now I really want to return to Italy to visit those areas that were neglected in favor of Venice, Rome and the Amalfi coast," she said.
A sail around Sardinia, beginning with a visit to the capital city of Cagliari, followed by a yacht trip along the coastline and a stay at the Hotel Cala Di Volpe is on Harrison's list, along with visits to sites mentioned in "The Leopard," written by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and set in Sicily.
"New York City is always and constantly on my bucket list. It is still the greatest city on Earth," she said.
Cruise editor Tom Stieghorst contributed to this article.
Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly.