11.22.2014

Thoughts on Dumping Your Bucket List


Where will this path take you?
With all of my enthusiasm for travel and outdoor adventure, you’d think I’d have a bucket list lined up and ready to tackle. In reality, I’m not a big fan of the concept. If someone asks me what's on my bucket list I respond, "Everything." Who doesn't want to see and do it all in a lifetime?

While I have places I dream of visiting and ski tours I’d like to do, I stop short of creating a bucket list. I’m always up for exploring and checking out new things and have no trouble motivating myself to do so regularly.  Thus, I’ve never felt the need for a bucket list. To me, by creating a list you risk the chance of having your adventures turned into a series of items to conquer rather than experiences to make life alive and meaningful. Who needs another to-do list? 

I have met many travelers over the years that zip from place to place with little time spent in each.  Books like "1,000 Places to See Before You Die" appeal to this sort of person. These traveler enjoy talking about how many places they have visited but don’t seem to have much enthusiasm for any one place. If they do have enthusiasm for a specific place their remark is often, “And I wish I could have spent more time there.” To me, it’s a shame they didn’t slow down and spend some more time in a place that really resonated with them.


In some ways I can see why the bucket list concept appeals to many. Who hasn’t questioned what they are doing with their life? We may feel life is passing us by and question if we’re really making good use of it. A near-death experience may force us to re-evaluate or the dreaded mid-life crisis may become a reality.  Taking time to evaluate and assess life can be beneficial but I still suggest avoiding the bucket list. To me, bucket list and books like "1,000 Places to See Before You Die" reduce travel and exploration to a contest or an activity to be quantified and that is missing the point. Ugh! Don’t you have enough checklists and tests at work and at home and in school? 

My advice for dumping the bucket list is short.
Pondering the possibilities. Yes, I decided to ski it!


1)   Do shit. Always. Many company taglines perpetuate this idea and while I’d hate to pass on advice through the use of advertising slogans, I don’t think they’re bad ideas. Just Do It (Nike), Never Stop Exploring (The North Face), and my favorite Let's Go Places (Toyota). Who can argue with that line of thinking?  If you’re out experiencing new things and visiting new places on a regular basis, your life is bound to be full and meaningful. You’ll never have to worry about checking things off of some contrived list.  

2)   Don’t be afraid to stay put or focus on one thing. I spent a few days in Montenegro in April 2013 and loved it. It was the one place from that trip that I couldn't’ get out of my mind went I returned home. Good fortunate allowed me the chance to travel extensively a few months later and when deciding where to go, I chose to spend over half of my time in Montenegro. I bypassed the chance to visit new countries (And check more countries off) to explore one more thoroughly. I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to get to know Montenegro beyond the popular destinations and at a much deeper level. 

Similarly, if you go on a surfing trip as part of your bucket list and really enjoy it, go on another. Don’t avoid it because there are other things that are waiting to be checked off the list. Those can wait. Stick with your new found passion. Get good at it or become really familiar with it. Most importantly, see where it might take you.

I went to Prague in 2000. I loved it. I went back in 2003, 2004, 2007. I hope to go back again.
3)   However…If you're having a hard time motivating then a bucket list may be for you. Create one with a few items, set out to check them off but make it a point to eventually drop the list. Hopefully the satisfaction derived from the new and unfamiliar will with stick with you as you work through your items and you’ll develop a stronger ability to motivate without the use of a bucket list.

All of that being said, there are many things I’d like to do and places I’d like to go. A few are below. None of them are prioritized and some of these are basic self-improvement tasks as opposed to typical bucket list items.

Visit Russia – This has been something I’ve been thinking about for over a decade but time and logistics have prevented this from happening. Lots to do in Russia: Travel from Moscow to Beijing via the Trans-Siberian railway. Ski Mount Elbrus. Visit museums and take in the grandeur of St. Petersburg. Explore Kamchatka.

South America, 2002
Another long trip to the Balkans. An extended trip to India. A multi-country trip to Asia. Return to South America. This list will go on until the entire world is mentioned. Who doesn’t want to see everything?

Live abroad. Maybe for work, maybe for retirement. Now that I’m a dual citizen that will be easier.

Learn another language. Gain strong conversational skill in one. Learn a few words and phrases in several others. Brush up on the ones I have studied.

Do more ski touring in Europe.  Gran Paradiso. Silveretta. Imperial Crown. Western Oberalp. Pyrenees. So many great hut tours. Avoid the Haute Route and other over-crowded areas for a long as possible.

The Sphinx, 2006
Take a multi-day ski mountaineering course. Really learn how to use an ice ax and crampons. Ski lines that push my ability.

Go surfing. Maybe attend a weeklong surf camp and actually master it a bit.

Go ice climbing – Just once. I probably don’t want to pick up another gear intensive activity and even if I wanted to, this is probably not the one for me.

Write more often. Make this blog something people want to read. Get more eloquent at describing my thoughts and insights.

Cook more often. Really cook as opposed to just making a salad or assembling a burrito. Try new dishes regularly. Gain a greater understanding of food preparation and how foods and flavors work together. 

Engage more. Make it more of a point to keep in touch with family and friends. Email or call friends and family on a regular basis. Write emails (And even letters) with substance, not just a few sentences.

Okay. I’ll stop now before this turns into a self-improvement list. Time to get out and explore.

Who's on the bus for the next adventure?!