My Problem With Bucket Lists

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“Oh, I’m putting that on my bucket list!”  I hear this all the time — from readers, from family members, from other travel bloggers.  Each time, I’m thrilled to hear that someone has been inspired enough to dream of traveling there someday.

But at the same time, I’m a bit apprehensive.  Why?  Because I know that to many people, a bucket list might as well be a Pinterest board — a collection of pretty things that you say you want to do but don’t intend on ever making happen.

My problem?

If your deadline is death — you’re not making it a priority.

I’ve written about prioritizing travel before — how the reason that most people don’t travel as much as they’d like is because they don’t prioritize it.  They dream about travel — but they spend money on nights out with friends, or having an apartment in the best part of town, or going to dozens of pricey concerts a year.

Again — I don’t expect anyone to travel as much as I do, nor do I think that most people should.  If you’re happy with your current life, please continue what you’re doing!

But I do believe that if you want to travel and aren’t prioritizing it, you need to make it a priority.

I do know people who actively work on their bucket lists — my aunt and uncle are a great example, checking off their goal of camping in 48 states and adding new adventures all the time.  Still, most of the people I know who not only make a bucket list but actively chip away at it are either travel bloggers (and we really don’t represent the general population!) or people who have retired.

Why not now?

It’s not just that you could die young, although that’s a very realistic possibility.  You could be hit by a debilitating disease, or have a severely disabled child or spouse.  This could happen to any of us at anytime.  All we can do is grit our teeth, hope for the best, and live in a sense of denial.

The point?  Make your travel dreams come true while you can.

The Travel Priorities Challenge

Readers, I’d like you to join me in a challenge.  Make a list of around 5-10 of your travel priorities.  Make these items you’ve always dreamed of — diving the Great Barrier Reef, hiking to Machu Picchu, riding in a gondola in Venice, or going on an epic bike trip down the west coast (as two of my friends, Matt and Ryan, are doing now!).

The challenge is to find items that genuinely appeal to you and your personal brand of wanderlust.  Don’t put “See the Pyramids” or “Explore the Galapagos Islands” on your list because you think you should include them — only add them if you really, really want to experience them.

Two years from now, I want you to have achieved one of the items on that list.  It may seem daunting, but two years is a long time.  Enough time to save quite a bit of money, plan for the time off from work, and go.

So I’m going to create a Travel Priorities List, and instead of filling it with everything under the sun, I’m going to prioritize the things that mean the most to me.

  • Walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  I’ve wanted to walk this nearly 800-kilometer journey across northern Spain for years and years, and I was thinking about doing it this September (until September booked up with not one but two travel blogger conferences).  My friends who have done the Camino tell me that it changes your life.
  • Research my family’s roots and visit one of their hometowns in Europe.  I have a few different options, but I’d most like to go to the village in eastern Sicily from where my mother’s grandfather immigrated.
  • Experience the beauty of New Zealand.  Beautiful places inspire me, and from what I’ve heard about New Zealand, nowhere else in the world comes close.  I dream of the opportunity to photograph these islands.
  • Successfully drive a motorbike or scooter through an extremely challenging city.  So far, that seems to be in either Saigon or Hanoi, Vietnam, but I’ll gladly add Rome, Naples, or any city in southern Italy!
  • Travel solo through Myanmar.  I hear that Myanmar (Burma) today is the way the rest of Southeast Asia was 20 years ago — and I’d relish the challenge of diving headfirst into a country where you can’t rely on ATMs, internet, or even electricity.
  • Cruise through the Arctic.  Antarctica may get all the wistful attention, and I do want to go there, but I’ve got my eyes set on the Arctic — polar bears, icebergs, and the absolute remoteness of places like Svalbard and Greenland.
  • Go somewhere that makes people scream, “Are you crazy?!” and show them what a nice place it is.  Some people thought Jordan was crazy.  Hell, some people thought Cambodia was crazy.  But I think people would freak out considerably more if I went to Iran, a country about which I’ve heard absolutely wonderful things.

Do I have plans to visit any of these places?  Nope, not unless you think Iceland is crazy.  But I love this list.  Because it’s pared down to the things that mean the most to me, it looks a lot more achievable.

That’s exactly what I want for you — to turn your travel dreams into achievable goals.

You can do this.  I know you can.

What’s going to be your biggest travel priority for the next two years?