Photo Essay: One Local Created The Ultimate Travel Bucket List



Valery Parham

“Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future.” ~Horace

Traveling has always been my passion, but “life” and “adulting” have kept me from my most ambitious travel goals such as visiting faraway destinations that require more than the standard 2-3 week vacation. Since there will likely never be a “good” time to go on this journey, I decided to MAKE TIME. As much as I have traveled with my family and friends, I have never taken a solo international trip, and I have never spent more than a few weeks at a time outside of my home state of Tennessee. I wanted to prove to myself that I can survive and flourish on my own as a solo female traveler in wondrous new places. There are many people who live with regret, but I hope my journey will embolden others to pick up their passports and go for it! Once you take the leap of faith, you learn that the reward by far outweighs the risk.

Now that you are paying attention, there’s one question you have to ask yourself. Where will you go when you have the opportunity to confidently explore the world again? Embark on this 4-part virtual tour around the globe, and start planning your next journey. When the world re-opens, all you’ll have to do is grab your passport and go! Check back for Part 3 and 4 next week.

Part 1: Europe

First stop: Ireland and Czech Republic

During your visit to Ireland, you must explore the city of Dublin (of course). Take in the charisma of the city and tune your ears to the charming Irish accents all around. Go on a city tour, visit pubs, the Guinness Storehouse, and the Jamison Whiskey distillery. After you have had your fun in the city, leave Dublin behind as you take scenic route and enjoy the natural beauty of Ireland’s landscapes.

guinness-lakeNestled in the lush, emerald Wicklow Mountains, Guinness Lake reflects the beautifully clouded sky. Photo taken in July 2018

If you love architecture, art, history and fairytale castles that exist in real life, then a visit to Prague in the Czech Republic should be on your next travel agenda. When you’re walking around looking at the magnificent buildings built over the span of many centuries showcasing architecture from Gothic to Post Modern and everything in between, you get a true appreciation for the history of the city as well as the hard work and ingenuity that went into the wonderful buildings that were built to last and have stood the test of time.

valery-parhamPrague castle, June 2018

Part 2: Africa

From Europe let’s take a very special 12 hour journey to a remote village in Togo. While there with the Mentor Leaders team, be immersed in the culture, serve and be enriched by the beautiful people who call Gbentchal, Togo home.


togo-africaGbentchal, Togo, July 2018

mentor-leaders-school-togoMentor Leaders School, July 2018


As an American with ancestors from Africa, it can be hard to pinpoint the origins of your African roots. Slavery disconnected family ties, erased family names and destroyed the links that allow one to trace his/her roots back to the origin. Visit Ghana and learn about the history while there. The country of Ghana used to be under British rule. Under Dr. Nkrumah’s leadership, the country gained its independence in 1957 and became a republic in 1960.

Walk in the footsteps of your African ancestors by retracing their last steps in their homeland before being forced through the “Door of No Return.” Visit the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana to learn your history within the walls of the place where it occurred.

cape-coast-castleCape Coast Castle, Photo taken July/August 2018

door-of-no-returnCape Coast Castle – door of no return and female slave cells. Photo taken July/August 2018

I encourage everyone to read about Dr. Nkrumah. For me, his story is another extremely inspiring example of accomplishing anything you set your mind to do. Imagine what an impossible goal he set for himself and his supporters: gaining independence for their country, but he weathered the storm to achieve victory. Standing in front of his statue will always be a reminder that I can do the same every time I set a challenging or seemingly impossible goal for myself.

What goal do you have that’s seemed impossible to accomplish? Research Dr. Nkrumah. Maybe his story will inspire you to buckle down and press on.

Ghana-first-presidentKwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Memorial Park, Photo taken July/August 2018

Next stop: Asia


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