I’ve always loved making lists. My days and weeks and often my years are planned out on paper, and as such, I’m the quintessential bucket-list person.
And, in theory, a bucket list — a list of things to do before you kick the bucket — is a great idea. Who doesn’t experience a little thrill of satisfaction when checking something off a to-do list? There are even related books like 1000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz and 100 Things to Do in the Twin Cities Before You Die by Tom Weber. Just how much time do these authors think we have, anyway?
Whether or not they’re written down, there are many things in this world we’d like to experience. But that doesn’t mean we necessarily have the time or the funds to make them all happen.
It’s a no-brainer that writing out a bucket list is the first step in accomplishing our big-picture goals and dreams.
Once it’s done, you can proudly tape it to your refrigerator for everyone to scrutinize. As the years pass, however, the list will become dog-eared and food-stained and your regular house guests will squint at it and say discouraging things like, “You’d better get going; your knees aren’t going to last forever.”
Indeed. Here are five good reasons why you should consider kicking that bucket list to the curb.
1. It narrows your focus.
If you arrive in Abu Dhabi fixated on booking that camel ride in the desert, you might miss the lady at the table next to you, covered from head to toe in a black burka, trying to eat a salad under her veil. Or if you’re so hyped up to jump out of that airplane, you might miss the local children holding the giant iguana on a leash by the side of the road. Stop looking at the big event and start looking around. It’s the random side adventures and tidbits that make travel memories.
2. High expectations can disappoint.
I wanted to swim with the manta rays when we got into port in St. Martin. It was all I talked about. On the big day, the weather was bad, so the tours were cancelled. Major disappointment. Trip ruined. I’ve learned it’s better to travel carefree. Expect nothing — that’s when you find treasure.
3. Bucket lists make you feel obligated.
You don’t really have the money to spend on airfare to see Switzerland decorated at Christmastime. But you’re doing it anyway because it’s on your bucket list, gosh darn it. The truth is, we change as we age. What we once considered important and fun may not be so attractive in our later years.
4. You’ll miss out on smaller trips.
Bucket lists aren’t cheap to complete. A serious bucket list person is likely to turn down little trips along the way, because he’s saving up for the big journey. Not getting to do everything on your list doesn’t make you a bad traveler.
5. A bucket list turns you into a tourist.
Often our lists consist of things other people have told us about, things we’ve seen on TV or read in (ahem) magazines: “You simply MUST take the gondola ride in Venice,” for example.
But remember: When you’re in Venice, making a beeline for the gondolas is something tourists do. It’s not the most fun or authentic way to soak up the local culture.
When I was in Venice I got lost. I found myself quite far away from the tour meeting spot and in a residential neighborhood where I stumbled upon a yard sale, Italian style. I still have the Murano glass paperweight on my desk that I haggled down, with my broken Italian, to seven Euros.
Thinking about my own most interesting moments (moments I’ll cherish when I’m not able to travel any longer), I’m certain I’ll remember the ones that came to me at unexpected times — having a ghost interaction on a plantation in Jamaica; picking up a CD of the local music in Barcelona only to be jolted by how it spoke to me when I got home.
Despite it being years after my husband’s passing, I still smile when I run my thumb over the cork from a bottle of wine we shared on a rooftop restaurant in Mexico City while a dozen violins played around us.
There’s no list for things like that.
To balance out her dark days as a criminal court reporter, Jody Lebel writes romantic suspense novels and humorous short stories.