How old were you when you made your first bucket list? Do you remember?
I must have been around 14 when I wrote my first draft. I had just watched The Bucket List, a movie with Morgan Freeman about a dying man aiming to check off the items left on his own list. I remember sitting in bed on Pinterest looking up bucket list item inspiration and adding just about everything to my list. There was nothing I found boring or not worth adding, no discriminating between activities I’d long dreamt of and those I was just learning about.
As a result, my list grew to be very, very long. Over the past decade there has been very little refining of my list. I added new items occasionally, and wrote down things I’d done which weren’t on my bucket list originally but which deserved noting, but rarely deleted anything.
Until this year.
2020 forced most of us to travel less, spending more time at home in introspection and quiet. There was no shortage of reflecting on myself and psychoanalyzing my every emotion and action. Without travel, I had to find new ways to entertain myself and new tools to cope with the stresses of daily life.
There were way worse things to be dealing with than the woes of a traveller stuck at home so I’m not complaining. In fact, this forced down time gave me some room to really reevaluate my live and travel goals, to reassess my priorities. I took a good, hard look at my bucket list and I realized something.
Maybe 1/3 of the items I’d put on my original bucket list draft weren’t ones that excited me anymore! What had changed?
After a time, I realized that the reason some of these things weren’t exciting to me anymore was because I had changed. I’d changed in innumerable, immeasurable ways since I was a teenager, drafting this list over ten years ago, before I’d ever really travelled at all.
When I started my list, I had no idea what I liked. I was newly discovering my passions – one of which was discovering new things itself. I wanted to see it all and do it all. I added sites to the list I’d only ever heard about without any background on why one would want to visit in the first place. Did it sound difficult, or exciting, or interesting? It was going on my bucket list.
Now I am an adult creeping closer to my thirties each day, with 35 countries stamped in my passport. (Which reminds me – I need to renew that ASAP because it’s about to expire…) I am a much different person at 27 than at 14 and I have real and tangible hobbies, interests, passions, and as important, plenty of clear dislikes.
I no longer want to see and do everything. I’ve experienced enough to know that some activities make my heart sing, some make my heart stressed, and some make my heart sad. Some things I’d really like to do but for moral or logistic reasons, don’t deserve a place on my bucket list.
Now I view my bucket list like a vision board – my most sacred collection of goals and aspirations which guides my actions and helps me live a life that fills me with joy. In this next decade of my bucket list, I’m excited to cross things off when I complete a lifelong dream but I look forward to removing some things from the list which are no longer dreams after all.
Here are 6 things I’m taking off my bucket list this year:
1. Walk on the Moses Bridge
I had to look up what this was when I started cleaning up my list so I definitely didn’t think this deserved a spot on my list of things I most want to experience in my life.
This is basically a bridge in the Netherlands that is reminiscent of the prophet after whom the bridge is named – you know, the Bible story where Moses splits the ocean in two and leads his people through the water just before closing it back over the enemy troops chasing them?
Except this one only ever served as an active-defense line in the 19th century that was renovated into a bridge, and has no historical ties to the Moses parable other than the name.
I have no idea why I added this – perhaps because I was a very active, practicing Christian at the time and thought it was cool? Now it looks to me like something you could appreciate well enough from the picture, and which is missing the historic accuracy that might make such a spot worth visiting. As it stands, I’m not sure I’d have any interest in visiting this at all now and it’s certainly not on my list of most important life goals.
2. Atlantic City Boardwalk, Walk of Fame, Coney Island, Cape Cod
Similarl to the Moses Bridge, these four spots are not places that I had on my list for any particular reason other than because I had heard of them before and felt like I needed to go. Of course.
This isn’t to say I’d wouldn’t like to visit these places. I’m sure they’re awesome and if I’m ever in the area I will still likely make an effort to go. But if I get to the end of my life and I haven’t see the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, I don’t think I’ll be disappointed.
3. Wakikik Beach, Hawaii
When I added this to my list, I probably had looked it up and decided it was gorgeous. Now, looking at photos, it looks like one of the most popular beaches on one of the most popular islands in the world. Still gorgeous, but also crowded and commercialized.
Hawaii is absolutely on my bucket list. I’d love to spend weeks or months on the islands exploring and soaking up the good weather and the Pacific Islander culture. Still, Wakikik Beach isn’t even close to the top thing I want to see in Hawaii. A quieter island, with fewer high-rises and less immense crowds, might replace Wakikik Beach on my bucket list.
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4. Ride in a submarine/See earth from space
Honestly, this was something I desperately wanted to do when I was in the throes of my Titanic obsession. I thought it would be so amazing to take a submarine ride to go see the ruins of the S.S. Titanic on the ocean floor.
Now? I think a submarine ride is probably a bit more claustrophobic, and probably more boring, than a lot of things I could do. There just isn’t much to see at the bottom of the ocean – even with a shipwreck.
Logistically, it is possible. Apparently, OceanGate is now offering submarine rides for people who can cough up $125,000 to serve as “mission specialists” supporting research as they take the trip. At that price I could probably cross off most of the rest of my bucket list!
Seeing Earth from space is kind of the same deal. Unless I want to pursue a career as an astronaut (which I do not) then I have to wait until the future where commercial space travel is a reality. It would be cool but I have little influence over whether a trip to space is available to purchase as a tourist, and no desire to help make space travel a reality, so I’m taking it off the list.
5. Visit Mt. Everest
I have no plans to become a serious mountain climber anytime soon – hiking Mount Everest is an ambitious goal that is not for me.
My bucket list said “visit” not “hike” specifically, but I’ve removed it from my must-see list for reasons of over-tourism. The influx of travelers to Mt. Everest, either as climbers attempting to summit the mountain or as tourists stopping at base camp, has contributed to pollution, illness, and death on this most famous of peaks.
We are lured to overtouristed places because we want to share our own stories with the romances established around them, and project ourselves into the collective perception of their beauty and uniqueness.The Guardian
It’s a lovely way to say we only care about this mountain, this particular hike, because of the fame around it. If I am in Nepal or Tibet or China near the mountain range, I might consider visiting. Otherwise, I don’t want to go out of my way to visit a place that is struggling with too many visitors, just to say I’ve been.
6. Visit every country
Visiting every country is something that’s been on my bucket list from day one. The idea has guided most of my daydreaming and planning over the past decade pushing me to take advantage of every possible trip, seeing as many places as possible.
I really went back and forth deciding if I was ready to take this off the list and I think I finally am.
I spent so much time searching for accounts from other travelers and info about tourism for every country for my Global Directory and I learned so much along the way. While I am curious about every country and would love to see them all, I’m taking it off the list because it’s no longer my priority to try and check them all off.
In part, there are places I feel aren’t ethical to try and visit right now. Places in the middle of civil war or humanitarian disaster come to mind, like Syria or Yemen.
In part, there are places which aren’t sustainable to try and visit right now. Cities which are suffering from tourism and begging people to stop flooding their homes, like Bali or Barcelona.
And there are places where tourism simply isn’t developed and where there just aren’t a huge variety of attractions that really excite me.
I’ve spent a lot of time and energy – perhaps too much – thinking about how to accomplish the goal of seeing every country. Sometimes I’ve worried it sucks joy from the actual experience of traveling, makes it harder to be present and appreciate what I get to enjoy in the here and now.
Instead of pursuing a checklist of countries because I decided I need to see them all, I want to be more intentional and more sustainable. I want to do more research before I travel and find the sites and sounds and smells that actually seem exciting to me. Sometimes that might be the popular tourist spot and sometimes it might be something completely off the tourist trail. I want to think carefully about the impact I’m having on a place and be considerate about what I do on my travels so that I can protect the environment and support the local community as best I can.
I even want the chance to stay home and enjoy all that I have at home if that’s how I’m feeling and not worry that I’m running out of time.
So these are all the things I’ve taken off my list, and I still have some items on the chopping block. Is there anything you’ve taken OFF your bucket list? Comment below and let me know!