Several years ago, I had the best bucket list. It mirrored most bucket lists I found on the Internet and in self-help books.
Those types of lists really boomed somewhere around 2007 inspired by the movie The Bucket List with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. Some still call them 100+ Things to Do Before You Die. (this always sounded a bit too urgent for me so I went for The Bucket List!)
I even had my bucket list board on Pinterest, called… you guessed it My Bucket List, where I collected all the different things I wanted to:
- achieve and
- become in my life.
A popular blogger I read at the time had a 101 items list, and she was crossing them off and writing about it. I watched this and piled items onto my list, too.
I kept my list saved in an excel spreadsheet, like the serious business that it was.
My list consisted of beautiful and diverse wishes and wants, ranging from very ordinary items I could complete at any moment (but for some reason didn’t) to more extreme and extraordinary that I didn’t even know I wanted to do until I saw other people putting them on their list.
Excerpts from My Bucket List
To illustrate, let me analyze some. They have been around for a while, so maybe some of these are on your bucket list, too.
Go on a Zipline
Being the adventurous soul that I am, I had to look up “zipline” to find out what it was. Oh, yes, it had to go on my list. It looked like fun.
I finally went on a zipline last year (and not for bucket list reasons!) and it was…ok. Kind of like ‘been there done that’. Scary, empowering, yes, but mainly it made me wonder why we crave such adrenaline rush experiences. Is there something else missing in our lives?
Meet Hugh Laurie
I loved Dr. House as much as anyone, but it never occurred to me that I wanted to meet Hugh Laurie. I mean, I know he isn’t really Dr. House. But when I saw it on Pinterest, I thought, what a splendid idea, let’s make that a life aspiration.
Have a night picnic
I could have accomplished that one the same week it appeared on ‘the list.’ But then again, did I really want a night picnic that much? At the time of writing this, I still haven’t had my night picnic.
There were some harder to achieve items (not that meeting Hugh Laurie would have been easy) like:
Climb a volcano
I mean, really, look what happened in New Zealand in 2019.
Stay in an underwater hotel
I am pretty sure I didn’t even know underwater hotels were a thing until it popped up on someone else’s bucket list. Goodbye, thousands of dollars for the experience of …..being there.
Experience zero gravity
Hey, I kind of still like this one.
Rent a luxury yacht and spend a vacation with family
Sure, a nice one. But on a more philosophical level, what would this achieve, what would be the focus, the yacht, or a vacation with family? I have since acquired a family and have had many vacations, none of which featured a luxury yacht and all wonderfully memorable anyway.
Would I still like a vacation featuring a luxury yacht? Yes, of course. But would I want to end up paying for that vacation for years to come?
Anyway, the majority of my items were in the same theme, egocentric, picture-worthy fun stuff. I was much younger when I made it.
It was a fun list.
To be fair, there were some worthy life goal items on there like:
- Become a bestselling author
- Learn to play piano
- Open and run a bookstore
- Have a book I’ve written made into a movie
- Take my mum on vacation of her dreams
Now if you have one of these lists and you are slowly crossing off items, perhaps documenting the experiences for your blog or your social media, or just dreaming about them during the pandemic, know this, I don’t judge you.
I loved my list. It gave me a purpose. An escape.
I prettied it and refined it. I even added pictures to it to enhance visualization.
Time to Delete
But with time, as my life unfolded, and I set out to examine it and strive towards inner minimalism, I realized that my fantasy wants have gradually waned.
Maybe it wasn’t the result of my various efforts on improving the inner self. Maybe it’s simply the wisdom of age. Maybe we all get there, eventually.
I came to realize, albeit slowly, that I didn’t need any of those items crossed off to be happy.
So one fine day I was looking at my Bucket list, all the successes to achieve, possessions to possess, experiences to experience, places to travel and I realized that there was only one thing I still needed to do.
Right-click and delete.
The whole thing. (Well, I did keep a reminder of it in one of the Evernote Notebooks I keep for such memories.)
And just like Marie Kondo makes you ask yourself, “does it spark joy?” to help you declutter, I decluttered my Bucket List by asking myself:
Will any of it bring value to my or anyone else’s life? Will it make any difference to anyone (including myself) whether I do this or not?
Most of the items didn’t pass this test.
There was, in reality, nothing on my list but what are, in itself, meaningless experiences, enhanced by a profit-motivated industry that tells you that you are not worthy enough if you haven’t experienced this or visited that or traveled there or hiked here.
But Here Is a Surprise
I had completed many of my bucket list items anyway, but not because they were on my list but because I either:
- Combined it with something more meaningful (visiting Arthur C. Clarke’s home in Colombo, Sri Lanka while visiting a very dear Sri Lankan friend and her family).
- Did it spontaneously (a trip to San Antonio and the Alamo while staying with another old friend in nearby Houston — yes, I went to the Space Centre and ticked another one as well).
- Because it was convenient to do it (like zip-lining during a team-building retreat with my work colleagues) And yes, that’s me on the zipline picture above.
- Or accomplished an item I wanted with what was available and needed at the time, like creating a home office in my apartment that had always seemed to have had no space for a home office.
Now, this could be simply the result of the Law of Attraction working its magic on my vibration of not needing and therefore attracting it on the same vibrational level as having it would have. But that is for another post.
Analyze Your Wishlist
With the onset of dedicated Travel bloggers, the enhanced nature of colorful listicles type posts that sometimes makes you feel like you have accomplished nothing until you have ‘been there done that,’ it is now, more than ever, important to analyze your wish list.
- Why is this item really on there? Is it a long term desire?
- What do you really want to get from the experience?
- Would you still do it if nobody knew about it and you couldn’t decorate your social media with it?
Or as this Psychology Today article on Bucket Lists postulates:
“How many items on a typical bucket list would be deleted if someone were not allowed to talk about them to others?
A likely answer: Many of them”
Examine Your Bucket List
Let’s say your item really is to do a hot-air balloon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey.
- Why do you want to go to Cappadocia?
- Are you passionate about its beautiful, natural rock formations?
- Have you read up on it and you want to combine it with another item you are passionate about, like seeing the sandy beaches of Antalya in Turkey
- Maybe you are tracing the locations of a favorite book?
- Maybe you are taking your mother on the trip of her lifetime?
Ever since I started honestly analyzing my travel and desired experience (and possessions!) wishlist, my list narrows down further.
In fact, most of what I want from life experience and travel is time spent with friends and family. Or time spent by myself.
And that, thankfully, I can all do anywhere.
Do What You Can With What You Have
Ideally, we would appreciate and enjoy our lives, now, as they are, and not wait for some future life that may or may not come.
Don’t limit yourself to just the highlights, the listicles.
A good example of this is to look at a Travel blog describing your own home location.
You will probably see someone who has spent 4 days (or less!) in your location, listing the cool places to visit. Something like ’10 Things to Do in…’ or ’10 Must See Places at…..’ And there is nothing wrong with that. I certainly check them out too before I travel somewhere. You want ideas, of course.
I live in a tourist destination and I constantly see these lists about my home town.
But they miss so many other places and experiences, they miss the people and history.
Many (if not most) will rush through focused on doing more without any genuine interest in the country. They will leave knowing nothing of the place at all. Except for the superficial, picturesque, check-in worthy places.
I used to do that, too, of course.
But now I make sure visiting a specific place has a specific meaning or outcome for me, and when I can achieve that, it is time and money well spent for me personally. Rushing to see more in a shorter time period becomes meaningless. You will get a better value from watching a documentary.
Don’t plan your annual 2 weeks to visit 7 countries (people do!) Savor one.
A Word About Travel Bucket Lists
It amazes me how many people cannot bear to stay put locally even in the pandemic.
If it is close by and easily accessible, it is not unworthy of your time! It is even more worthy, even more to be appreciated than a short trip to a destination far, far away that you will, perhaps, end up having to pay off for a very long time.
Mark Twain said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”
But he was probably talking about slow, prolonged travel that would have been the only type possible in his days.
Today’s habit of rushing through trips and experiences often does not allow the time to even collect and examine your own views.
Right-click, delete your Bucket List right now. And free yourself from that burden. Doing that will help you get to the point of deep contentedness. You would feel complete even if you never traveled or experienced anything exciting or unusual (or popular!) again.
And if in doubt about your why for anything that you want, remember these questions:
- Will any of it bring value to my or anyone else’s life?
- Will it make any difference to anyone (including myself) whether I do this or not?