When it comes to travel, some folks rely on lists -- the Top 10 Best Cities, the Top 5 Resorts -- and the mother of all travel lists -- 1,000 places to see before you die.
Years ago, I made my own "bucket list" of extreme sports to try while I was still young. Here are my Top 5 Adventures -- hand-picked over years of wild living leading up my recent hip surgery.
1. Cage diving in the Farallones: In late fall, when the great white sharks come to feed on the convention of elephant seals off the Gulf of the Farallones, you can be part of the process. The trip calls for a hearty constitution as you travel by boat some 30 miles in choppy waters to this extraordinary marine sanctuary. You're lowered in a cage, just below the surface of the water and attached to a breathing tube called a hookah line. You're not the bait -- but you feel like it. At any moment, a beast the size of an SUV can lunge at your steel-bar enclosure, thinking the piece of carpet that's tethered outside is a meal. Above the water, the show continues as sharks shadow seals and then lunge from beneath -- sending a plume of blood 15 feet in the air. As the name of the outfitter indicates, this is one of life's incredible adventures.
2. Dog Sledding on the Arctic Circle: This is Santa's real home, in Northern Lapland. It's where the sun sits just above the horizon for five hours of mystical daylight -- just enough time for a two-hour mush across the frozen tundra. The dogs are part wolf -- with piercing eyes and woeful sighs and energy that seems fed from the moon. They live to run and run to live and you tear through the wind at a pace that's both exhilarating and a little unnerving.
3. Bobbing amongst icebergs in the Gulf of Bathnia off the coast of Kemi, Finland: A favorite of Russian tourists, this sport is not for the thin of blood. Travelers board the Sampo Icebreaker -- a ship designed to keep frozen waterways open -- and journey deep into the sea's massive ice fields. Donning wetsuits the oil workers wear in the harsh Norwegian winters, passengers plunge into a frigid black hole surrounded by a sea of ice. It's an eclectic cocktail of people from around the planet -- treading water in a frozen slush.
4. Caving in Bend, Ore.: We crawled on our bellies as the encrusted opening got smaller and smaller. I fought back the waves of claustrophobia and kept my flashlight focused on the heels of the stranger in front of me. "Just a few more feet and we'll reach the mouth," said our guide, who was taking us deep underground in one of Bend's network of caves. Even the spiders avoid this place, although bats will congregate here for a moist, quiet place in which to spend winter.
5. Heli-skiing at Glacier 3000 in Switzerland: It was still dark when our helicopter landed in a field near a 15th century church in the village of Rougemont. We loaded our skies and climbed aboard. The chopper maneuvered through snow-covered passageways in the imposing Alps until suddenly a modern metal structure appeared. The something out of a James Bond movie -- Glacier 3000 juts out over the Bernese, Vaud and French Alps. Skiing on a glacier is inherently risky, but it's an adrenaline rush you'll remember for the rest of your life.