Retiring Abroad Special Edition: Robin Esrock’s Bucket List

Robin Esrock - Mar 06, 2023

Bestselling author and travel personality Robin Esrock has reported from over 100 countries on 7 continents.  As the world opens up and tourism booms, we’ve invited him to share some travel inspiration. 

International Dream of the Season:

Winter is icing the north, so the bucket list tips south. We’ll head to Australia to board The Ghan, one of the world’s great rail journeys. Named after 19th century Afghan cameleers who carved a route through Australia’s desolate red centre, this luxury train traverses almost 3000 kilometres from Adelaide through Alice Springs to Darwin, or vice-versa.  A 3-day, 2-night crossing caters to a range of budgets, from sleeper chairs to luxe ensuite cabins with double beds. Enjoy gourmet dining, fine wine, and sensational, non-stop views.   Daily off-rail excursions are included with the package, including the croc-infested Katherine Gorge, iconic Uluru, and eccentric Coober Pedy, a remote desert opal mining town where people still live in underground caves.  Click here to learn about different Ghan itineraries, as well as other Australian train journeys.  Here's a short video when I ticked The Ghan off my Great Australian Bucket List.

Canadian Dream of the Season:

Quebec City is freezing in February, but you can’t do Canada if you can’t do cold, and you certainly can’t do the world’s largest winter carnival. The famous Ice Hotel is also open for business, although I recommend visiting during the day when you can tour all the rooms, warm up in the ice-vodka bar, visit the ice chapel, and enjoy the winter wonderland (exit through the gift shop). As for spending the night, think less romance, and more frost-tips on your nose. The carnival itself runs day and night, with ice-carvings, live performances, sub-zero street parades, snow palaces and contests, climaxing with the wild ice-canoe race across the icy St Lawrence River. I recommend booking into the castle-like Fairmont Chateau-Frontenac, the grand railway hotel that dominates the old city’s skyline. If you’re with the kids, Valcartier Village hosts the ice hotel and Bora Parc, an impressive (blessedly heated) indoor waterpark connected to a great hotel.

Leaving the Pandemic Behind:

Destination Canada recently shortened their projections for tourism’s post-pandemic recovery. By 2024, they expect domestic tourism revenue to exceed 2019 levels. Tourism added $45.2 billion to Canada’s GDP in 2019, a contribution that was on par with the GDP from agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting combined.

Pro Tips:

Even pros end up packing too much. The culprit often comes down to toiletries. Rather than squeezing Shoppers Drug Mart into your luggage, consider picking up what you need if and when you actually need it. Unless you’re going backcountry, it’s not difficult to find a pharmacy, even on a cruise ship. The same principle applies to bulky clothing, although pack those layers if you’re heading to Quebec City in February! Ladies, consider different scarves as a light, dashing way to change-up your evening-ware. The Great Luggage Crisis of 2022 taught us to travel with carry-on only, which in turn taught us we don’t need to pack nearly as much stuff as we think.

Let’s Go:

As a volunteer Canadian Geographic Travel Ambassador, I’ll be hosting two bucket list trips in summer 2023. Join me for a 5-day horseback riding trip to Banff’s backcountry lodges, or on a 3-day luxury heli-hiking adventure. Incredible views, wildlife, mountains, food, stories…we’ll have it all. Click the links above for more info.

Yonder be Quotes:

“Once a year, go somewhere you have never been before.” – Dalai Lama

“Travel is never a matter of money, but of courage.” – Paulo Coelho

And a classic:

“My favourite childhood memory is my parents paying for my holidays.” – Anon

If you have any travel-related questions or inquiries,

email me at