Meet Leslie Price. Upon first glance, she’s your classic thirty-something, travel-obsessed Floridian. But look a little closer and there’s more to the blogger than meets the eye. If you’ve read the article headline then you’ll already know she quit her job as a funeral director to travel the world, but the way she’s ticking off her bucket list is pretty insane too. Instead of rationally picking a destination and then going to it, she relies on a random algorithm in order to determine where she’ll travel next.
Pretty weird, huh? Yep, here at Intrepid we were so intrigued that we had to have a catch up with the blogger herself. To explain the bucket-list-ticking-off algorithm, Leslie explains that it was created “after divorcing a man who never wanted to travel anywhere exotic”. She adds that, “I was so tired of always having my dream trips vetoed, I decided I was going to randomly pick one place from my bucket list and cross it off come hell or high water.”
The “you go girl!” moments don’t stop there. Stay tuned for more of Leslie’s life wisdom, travel tips, and genuinely crazy anecdotes:
You let an algorithm pick where you travel to… Tell us more about why you decided to do this.
This was pure laziness and indecision on my part. By the time I decided to get serious about checking things off my bucket list, there were well over 200 items on it and I couldn’t possibly begin to prioritize them. Making it completely random let me off the hook for decision-making.
How exactly does the algorithm work?
It’s a simple random number generator. I enter the number of items currently on the list (614 at the moment, but it’s always growing) and the generator spits out a random number. Whatever corresponds to that number on the list is what I do next. No do-overs, even if it picks something that absolutely terrifies me, which it frequently does. Examples of entries include #152 – watch silverback gorillas in the wild, #244 – visit the Acropolis, and #411– stand on the Equator.
How many countries has this taken you to?
15 countries so far, but that number is about to start increasing much more rapidly thanks to leaving my full-time job to be a travel writer. For the last 9 years I had to fit my bucket list adventures into a few weeks of vacation every year, but now this is all I do. I just returned to Florida from a two week road trip and I’m leaving for Asia in three weeks.
What’s the most underrated destination you’ve been to on your travels?
Myanmar. It’s so underrated a lot of people aren’t even sure where it is! This was also the very first place I ever traveled solo, 9 years ago when Aung San Suu Kyi was still under house arrest and the US state department cautioned Americans not to travel there. I was pretty anxious about that trip, but I had the most magnificent time and it changed my life forever. The people were so eager to talk to an outsider and share their lives, and I saw so many incredible temples.
I also had the best meal of my entire life sitting on an overturned plastic bucket on the side of a dusty road in Mandalay. The entire country just defies belief.
Flying in a hot air balloon over the temples of Bagan at sunrise was such an experience of pure magic, I have it tattooed on my arm.
What’s the craziest situation you’ve found yourself in thanks to the algorithm? Share some anecdotes!
Oh boy, how much time do you have? This whole random algorithm thing has basically done nothing but plunge my life into one misadventure after another. But it turns out those make for the best stories. At this point I don’t think my readers even want to hear about anything going right for me because it’s so entertaining when things go wrong.
In Myanmar I was exploring a temple when I was approached by an elderly monk who recognized me as an American right away and wanted to talk. He ended up asking me to follow him to another temple, and took me on a brief tour of Yangon’s slums, showing me citizens who had been enslaved by the government and then sent back to live in piles of garbage after being injured. While at the second temple we were followed by government spies and had to make a quick getaway, but no taxi drivers would let us ride together until I bribed one. You know, just a normal day on a normal vacation.
In Uganda, I was sailing down the Victoria Nile and the boat captain steered a bit too close to a baby hippo in the water. Instantly his angry mother launched herself off the bank directly at the boat, which started rocking wildly back and forth and taking on water. I was sure in that moment I was going to die. The river was full of hippos and Nile crocodiles and there was no way I would have ever been able to swim to shore if we capsized. The boat captain was magnificent, however, and quickly got us righted and on our way. Luckily the mama hippo had only decided to land in the water next to the boat. I’ll never forget how horrifically wide she opened her jaws – there is no question she could have demolished the boat with her grotesque yellow teeth if she had wanted to.
Also in Uganda, my camera battery died while I was tracking gorillas, causing me to hang back out of the way of the other trackers and come face-to-face with an enormous male gorilla who had just woken up from a nap to find himself separated from his family. This was amazing, and I was on top of the world until I realized I had forgotten to pack any bottled water and I was probably going to die of dehydration before I made it back to civilization to tell anyone about the experience. (Spoiler alert: I lived.)
In Indonesia, I was exploring a cliff-top temple when a monkey jumped on my head and ate my hair clip. I know that’s not very serious but I’m still furious about it.
Which destination have you found the friendliest people in?
This is a difficult question because travel has taught me that most of the world is full of kind-hearted people who genuinely want to help you and connect with you. I have a tendency to get myself into ridiculous situations and I have been taken under the wing of so many wonderful humans all over the world. Two monks who kept me from being stranded on a broken down train in the middle of the night in Myanmar, a Scottish bus driver who took care of me when I was sick, a woman in Greece who rescued me from the side of the road and sent me to her sister’s home because the hotel I had booked online was closed – the list goes on and on.
But if I really had to choose, I would say the friendliest people in the world are in Uganda. I have never been smiled and waved at as many times as I was there, and the people are genuinely so selfless and caring. While driving through an extremely impoverished area, slowly maneuvering our way over dirt roads that were nothing but muddy craters, a small child ran up to the side of our car and handed me a coin. I looked at my driver, speechless, and he explained, “Even people who have nothing here, want to give something to a stranger.”
If it was up to you, where would you like to go in the world next?
This is a question I rarely think about because I’ve grown so accustomed to letting fate decide for me. But if you told me my time was up and I only had one adventure left, I’d go watch the sunrise from the Great Wall of China.
If North Americans had just one week for a vacation, where would you advise them to travel to and why?
Everywhere! OK, that might not be realistic with only a week…
A week in London is barely enough time to scratch the surface of all there is to do there, but that’s always a safe bet. The same with Scotland.
I also spent a very enjoyable week riding a train across Canada, which was probably the most relaxing trip of my life. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a tropical getaway, head to a beach resort on St. Kitts and spend the week drinking frozen cocktails and eating mango BBQ wings.
Any advice for people who would like to be more spontaneous with their travel plans?
Yes. Go. Just go. Stop overthinking everything. People always tell me they would love to travel more, “but.” So many excuses. “It’s too expensive.” “I’m afraid of all the bad things that happen in the world.” “Things might go wrong.” “What if I don’t speak the language?” “What if all the food is weird?” And on and on and on.
If you can find money for cigarettes and video games and new shoes, you can find money for travel.
No one is going to stand up at your funeral and talk about how awesome it was that you had 97 pairs of designer shoes and a refrigerator with wifi. Experiences are always, always going to be more fulfilling than material things.
And bad things do happen in the world. But they happen wherever you live. When you get out of your neighborhood/state/country you realize how wrong you were about what people are like around the world. Things might go wrong, but those things make for the best stories.
Pick a place (randomly, if you like) and just go.
Feeling inspired? Check out Intrepid’s small group tours that run in over 100 countries.
Image Credits: All c/o Leslie Price (except Great Wall of China c/o Intrepid Travel)