Is a Bucket List a good idea?

Is a Bucket List a good idea?

Bucket Lists are the things you want to do before you die. In published lists, some items appear time and time again … visit Machu Picchu, swim with dolphins, dive the Great Barrier Reef. Sound familiar? By creating lists like this, are you setting yourself up for disappointment? To die unfulfilled? Are you inadvertently damaging, even permanently destroying, iconic places and incredible creatures?

The term ‘bucket list’ became popular following the 2007 film of the same name. Two terminally ill men, played by Jack Nickolson and Morgan Freeman,  travel the world ticking off items from their wishlist before they kick the bucket (die).

I love lists. I love to travel too. Bucket lists should be right up my alley. But no. This concept doesn’t sit right.

To illustrate why let’s take 2 popular Bucket List items.

1. Swimming with Dolphins

Dolphins are universally loved. But do you really need to get in the water with them? Pucker up for an Instagram Kiss? Let’s be honest. You’re most likely to visit a Dolphin in captivity. An intelligent, sociable, fun-loving ocean creature confined to a limited space with, perhaps, one or two other dolphins. Still sound enticing?  No. Still think a Bucket List a good idea?

Is a bucket List a Good Idea? Swimming with Dolphins
Is a bucket List a Good Idea? Swimming with Dolphins

2. Dive the Great Barrier Reef

Visible from space, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest living thing. 2,300km of reefs, islands and diverse, spectacular wildlife. That could change. The Reef faces multiple threats: global warming, industrial pollution and tourism.

Don’t be a part of the Reef’s demise.

Is a bucket List a Good Idea? The Great Barrier Reef
Is a bucket List a Good Idea? The Great Barrier Reef

The term ‘bucket list’ became popular following the 2007 film of the same name. Two terminally ill men, played by Jack Nickolson and Morgan Freeman,  travel the world ticking off items from their wishlist before they kick the bucket (die).

Do I really have to give up my Bucket List?

No. Just do a bit more research. Reframe it. Imagine seeing dolphins in the wild. Enjoying the freedom of the ocean. Their innate curiosity bringing them close to you. They choose to come greet you.  Jumping and swerving around your boat. What a thrill.

Rethink the travel experience.

I’ve been fortunate. I’ve visited lots of extraordinary sites – the Taj Mahal, the Acropolis in Athens, The Dead Sea, The Colosseum in Rome,  Niagara Falls,  the Pyramids at Giza. I enjoyed all of them but they’re not my most memorable travel experiences. Through images and TV, I am intimately familiar with these places already. I arrive pinch myself, take my shots, then leave.  

Much more precious are memories of the unexpected encounters you won’t find in a guidebook (or on Instagram). Treasured memories of:

  • Returning from The Dead Sea, my driver asked me if I’ve tried ‘the Hubbly Bubbly’.  Would I like to? 30 minutes later we are sitting in a desert cafe smoking fruit infused Tobacco from a Hubbly Bubbly.
  • Sitting on a clifftop waiting for a late bar to open in Mykonos. Silence but for the sound of the ocean below. Moonlight reflecting off the surface of the water. A stairway to the horizon. Most of all I remember the warm, silky breeze on my skin.
  • The drama of a flat tyre, miles from anywhere, in Western Australia. My first appreciation of Australia’s vastness. All around me, in every direction, sand and scrub. Awesome. Humbling.  
  • A casual chat with a shop owner on the tiny Greek island of Hydra leading to a home-cooked traditional Greek dinner with a local family.

So where does this leave me and my Bucket List? Is a Bucket List a good idea

Obviously, you can’t plan the unexpected. Have an open mind when opportunities arise. Don’t throw away your bucket list. Tweak it a little. Be kind to the world. Travel guilt-free. Leave behind only footprints. Fulfil your travel fantasies but wander off the beaten track. Chat with the locals. See where you end up. You might just create unforgettable moments.

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10 Comments

  1. I love this sentiment. When you see iconic places, they really do look just like the photos you’ve seen. My favorite travel memories are unexpected moments, too.

  2. I like the idea of a bucket list simply because trying to check off items on the list usually leads to those unplanned, unexpected moments. I agree that the unexpected moments make the best memories and they’re the stories we tell over and over again.

    1. Yes Marc. I keep a list of places I’d like to go too. I’m always planning another trip somewhere. It’s fun writing these blog posts… it but I brings to mind moments of pleasure that might have slipped my mind.

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