Why I’m Kicking the Bucket List

Do you have a travel bucket list?

If you do, I kind of envy you, but not in the way you might think. And if you’re a regular reader here, have you ever wondered why I don’t have one?

Well, this post is the answer.

Top of the Rock Edit

Ticking off an item on my travel bucket list? Not exactly…

You see, I have a problem with lists. It’s one I’m afraid to talk about, but I figured what the hell? I might as well write about it instead. The truth is that lists terrify me. Every Monday I attempt a to-do list for the week and I can barely finish writing it, let alone complete the tasks on it.

Instead I peek at the neatly written lists of others with a sad jealousy. I long for a book filled with neatly bullet pointed tasks, all ticked off and yet I can’t bring myself to make one of my own. I think it’s something to do with fear of failure (but therein lies a whole other character flaw, and there’s an entire self-help book in that, never mind a blog post!).

Luckily, I’ve never really needed lists that much. I’m bizarrely good at keeping things in my head, getting them done as and when required. I do mark off the dates when important things are due on a calendar or in my diary, and I get by on that just fine.

So fine in fact, thatΒ  there are several people I know who’ve told me they consider me to be both organised and responsible. Naturally, I find this hilarious, but obviously I accept such praise with grace and occasionally allow myself to believe it’s true.

Perhaps one day, however, my lack of list making will see me start to flounder in some sort of theatrical, listless fashion. I may rue the day I never learned to make lists and let’s face it, my good memory is bound to fail me a little as I get older. But then again, they do say that with age comes wisdom, so with any luck I’ll just be so knowledgeable that I’ll answer life’s problems with my poetic rhetoric, smiling at onlookers in the style of the Mona Lisa as they stare back, mouths agape in wonder at my wise ways.

Hole in my bucket list

There’s a hole in every list I make.

But anyway, let’s get back to the old chestnut of the travel bucket list (I appreciate you may have things on today’s to-do list that need, well, doing).

The strange thing is that I enjoy reading people’s bucket lists, despite refusing to make one of my own. I think I like the lists of others for the inspiration they provide. Personally, I do sometimes say “it’s on my list” about a certain place when I’m talking travel, I can’t deny that. But it’s a token turn of phrase and I’ve come to notice that the more I say it, the more acutely aware I become that I might never actually get to the place I’m referring to.

Honestly, I worry that my own bucket list would put pressure on me I don’t want – especially if I published it here. Because really, where else would I write a to-do list of travel experiences?

I also don’t know what would be on it, or if that stuff would be considered “good” enough. Then there’s the fear that certain things on the list wouldn’t crack up to be all they promised, or that I wouldn’t do them justice. Take Rome for example – I’ve been there and I’ve loved it. I mean really loved it. But I never visited the Colosseum.

Yes, I wanted to, but instead I decided to stay sitting outside a bar drinking beer by the Trevi fountain when I maybe I should have been sightseeing. And the best part? I don’t even care. Being tipsy and talking nonsense by the Trevi on what was my honeymoon trip is actually one of the highlights of my life so far. Just thinking about it makes me smile.

Trevi Fountain

The Trevi. Just looking at it will send you into a spin – no beer required!

In addition to all this, what about the places I never planned on visiting, but went to anyway? The cheap flights to anywhere and everywhere on dates that were a good fit, or the return visits to places I know I love when I could have gone somewhere new instead. None of those are bucket list material – but that’s the way I like to travel and I don’t intend for it to change.

So I think I’ll just continue to take trips as and when I feel like it, travelling to wherever the fancy takes me whenever the price is right and my finger decides it wants to click “book”.

Then maybe one day I will make a list; when I’m old and wise, and not up for gallivanting quite as much as I am now.

Maybe I’ll make a list of all the places I actually visited and all the things I genuinely saw before I really kick the bucket. It will be a list of the moments that mattered to me most.

And maybe I’ll put it in an envelope and leave it for a grandkid or two, just in case they need a push to get out and make some memories of their own in this big, beautiful world.

Staring into a Copenhagen sunset

Having the best kind of moment in Copenhagen. It wasn’t on my list.

Either way, for me there’ll be no worrying about whether I ever completed some to-do list I made when life calls last orders. All I’ll care about is that I had a good time and that I never missed the opportunity to take a trip, no matter where it might have taken me.

I’m too scared to swim with sharks and too tight to pay for a gondola ride in Venice anyway (and I’ve been there twice)!

Please keep writing your bucket lists though! I mean it – I do love reading them!

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  • bevchen says:

    I wrote my 35 before 35 list as a way to encourage me to get out there and actually do stuff. I’ve been saying for YEARS that I want to go to the Ukraine (my grandad was from there), but without a list, I’d probably spend the next 40 years saying I want to go then never actually end up going. Making a list kind of makes me accountable. (Just like #take12trips will hopefully encourange me to actually take a trip at least once a month, instead of just saying “I should go somewhere”).

    • Clare says:

      I’d definitely agree that lists make you accountable and perhaps that’s why I fear them – because I’ll be accountable if I fail to finish what’s on them. The to-do lists I do make for daily tasks usually end up abandoned, so I’ve given up now!

      I like that you mentioned #take12trips though, it made me think. And although I set myself a challenge – a list was never going to be part of it for my experience. For me it needs to be flexible, allowing me to do anything or go anywhere – it’s the “something” part of it that counts for me personally. But there are certainly places in the world I’d really like to see, though I’m not committing. The idea being that then I won’t mind so much if I end up elsewhere!

      I love your 35 before 35 though – I shall admire your commitment and be my flaky self from a safe distance! πŸ™‚

  • Vlad says:

    I’m the type of person who loves making lists because I get some satisfaction when I cross off an item (is it strange?). But when it comes to traveling, I agree with you, I can’t make a bucket list. Sure I could try and say “I want to go to Iceland and Morocco” but in reality, I would like to see as much as this world, and I enjoy every trip I take. For example, I hadn’t thought about visiting The Hague before planning that trip last year, but I fell in love with the city. πŸ™‚

    • Clare says:

      See, I forget to cross stuff off – which kind of makes my lists redundant! I like your approach to the bucket list though – in a travel respect we’re on the same page pretty much!

  • Sammi says:

    I’ve got a sort of Bucket List on my blog, though its sat as a post at the moment. The thing is I have a terrible memory, really terrible. So if I don’t write things down I forget (to the point of getting others into trouble when asked to pass a message on). Also that’s one of the reasons I blog, so I don’t forget even the little silly moments I’ve had whilst chasing my dream of seeing the world. One day I’ll be able to look back and read all about that time I was freezing cold at La Tomatina because the company I went with was rubbish (and hopefully by then I’ll have learnt to laugh about it, too πŸ˜‰ )

    • Clare says:

      I never thought of my blog as a list – but I suppose when I think about it, it’s a catalogue of thoughts and memories, so in that respect it is a list! Perhaps this will be my legacy, ha ha! I’ll certainly look forward to looking back and reading it in future – and all the comments, too!

      Day, to day though, I am just a list writing failure – but you can’t win β€˜em all!

  • I love your approach here! I agree that putting too much pressure on ticking experiences off the list does water them down somewhat, and may prevent you from something purely spontaneous that might not be on the list!! I enjoyed making a reverse bucket list last year when I turned 30, and could go back and see all the cool things I’d already done. That made me feel energized to keep having those random experiences, and think, hey, I’ve done alright so far! πŸ™‚

    • Clare says:

      The reverse bucket list idea is way more appealing to me! It’s all the unexpected things that have had the most impact on me when I look back so far. I like the idea of a spontaneous travel life. You’re so right – those random things are energizing!

  • I always like the idea of making a list but they end up just stressing me out! Loved reading this post, thanks for sharing.

    Happy travels πŸ™‚

  • Farrah says:

    You know what’s funny- I have a post in my drafts that’s my ‘I Will Never Do These Things’ anti-bucket list that I want to finish. Crazy things- like you, swimming with sharks, go to outer space, accept an Oscar (for WHAT? who knows?!) etc. It’s funny. For us, travel has become more than ticking off places too. We go back to the same ones over and over because, as you said those memories and moments matter. They aren’t just a box to mark. It’s all much, much more than that πŸ™‚

    • Clare says:

      I couldn’t agree more, and if travelling ever became a box ticking exercise, it would be time for me to find a new passion! I feel like that about country counting too. I am not even sure how many times I’ve been to Greece, but I could have gone to a new country for every return visit and I am so not bothered.

      Accepting an Oscar though? Clearly a life goal worth having – just think of the free frock you could wear on the night!

  • Sally says:

    I agree, travel bucket lists are kind of scary. For some, they motivate and get them to leave their homes which they may not have done otherwise. But for people like me, they just make me panicky and trapped into things I may not want to do two years down the road.

    There’s also an alternative, though, a list of “Cool Shit I Might Wanna Do One Day” that you could glance over before booking flights. Just as reminders of the things you could do, but not with the expectation that you’ll do them all. Even with spectacular memory, there’s no one that could actually remember all of the cool stuff there is to do all over the world. πŸ™‚

    • Clare says:

      I had a right good nod reading your comment! Thanks Sally! Panicky and trapped is exactly how I feel about bucket lists! No expectations works for me. And ever evolving ideas of what to do and where to go.

  • Great post. My wife loves lists and checklists but I don’t. I am very much like you in that I manage very well with keeping what needs to get done in my head. I hate planning where we are going when we travel and prefer to simply wait and see what I feel like doing on that particular day.

  • Aggy says:

    Lovely Clare! I am also like you, I wouldn’t know where to start with a bucket list and I like my options open and just go anywhere I wanna go πŸ™‚

    • Clare says:

      I’m glad I’m not alone – this comment thread has reassured me that I’m not the only person in the world who hasn’t made a proper bucket list!

  • Lucy says:

    I’m a bit of a list girl – but for me it’s definitely a memory thing! If it’s not on the list I probably won’t remember to do it, which mostly applies to paying bills and posting birthday cards. But I do have a ’40 before 40′ travel list of cool things I want to do in the next few years, though it’s a bit of a work-in-progress as my ideas change and if I hear of something new I love I’m not averse to ditching something else off the list!

    • Clare says:

      I think that’s the key – not being bothered if you ditch the list at times! I think I would benefit from being more of a list maker from a memory point of view, but I just tend to scribble, turn a page and never go back to cross off any tasks!

  • Monica Suma says:

    Really like your perspective. Sometime lists and expectations can lead to a lot of stress. And make you miss other amazing experiences. Awesome post!

    • Clare says:

      Thanks Monica – lists do stress me out! I hate feeling like I “should” do things. If I end up skipping them, I feel guilty or something so I’ve given up. I just make up my travels as I go along, whenever I find trips with flights etc. at the right price.

  • I totally get this. I don’t have a bucket list, either — I want to go just about everywhere and I don’t like feeling that I’m locked into anything. However, I have put a couple of places on a crossing-my-fingers-I -get-there in 2014 list — Rome and Krakow. I like you idea of the “moments that mattered most” list.

    • Clare says:

      I like the “hope” to do idea, but I completely agree about being locked in – that’s the last thing I want to feel when it comes to travel.

  • Brittany says:

    I love listing things out so I have a bucket list. I have never published it, so no one knows what’s on it but me and my computer πŸ™‚ I think of it more as a list of inspiration on where I want to go not necessarily a requirement to feel that my life is complete!

    • Clare says:

      I think it’s good that you’ve never published your list – that means it’s just for you and I guess that’s how it should be. Personal inspiration sounds like a pretty good idea!

  • I kind of understand your fear of having a list. I do have one but I treat it more like a draft rather than an obligations to tick off πŸ™‚ I have a lit and yet I go on the adventure which is not included, I do not care!
    Once I had one reader commenting on it and telling me that I could quickly do some of my points if I want to like plan a tree etc etc Of course, and I have plant many trees in my life but what I meant on my list was sth special in a special location πŸ™‚ Hard to explain what stands behind simple statements to people who are not me ha ha ha I think it is very personal thing for everyone so do not feel obligated to have one!

    • Clare says:

      I think “obligations” is the key word! Lists shouldn’t necessarily make us feel obliged to do what’s on them when it comes to travel. And you’re right – it’s so personal!

  • Syd says:

    Totally agree. If I ever made a bucket list it would pretty much doom everything on the list. However, I love making to-do lists because it’s an excellent way to procrastinate. I’m much more likely to actually do the item in question if I never write it down, though… Oh and no one has ever called me organized…

  • Liz says:

    Loved this post. I actually just did a post late last year with my bucket list! But I totally agree with doing so many things in life that aren’t actually on your list, like ice skating on a frozen lake in Beijing or attending a sumo wrestling tournament in Tokyo! My ‘list’ is never ending and ever changing πŸ™‚

  • I have a minimal ‘bucket list’ but there are so many more things that I want to do and see that just are not on there. These days, I kind of just stick to things I want to do/places I want to travel to within the year.

    • Clare says:

      Yeah, I think going year by year is a good bet. I guess I kind of do that if I’m honest. But I am still largely driven by flight prices so I often sack things off for next year if they prove to be too expensive!

  • I don’t have a bucket list either. Sure, there are places I really want to visit (e.g. Patagonia), but I don’t feel the need to write down exactly what I want to do. Part of the fun of travel is discovery and surprising yourself.

    I loved the part about Rome! It took me a few trips to actually go inside the Colosseum, but finding coffee shops was no problem at all! πŸ˜‰

    • Clare says:

      Discovery and surprise are the best things about travel I think. I’m glad you liked the bit about Rome! Sometimes you just need to have that beer/wine/coffee and just let the city come to you rather that go to see the sights!

  • Amanda says:

    I’m one of those people who really enjoys lists! And yes, I’ve got a bucket list, too… I totally respect those who refuse to write them, though!

    • Clare says:

      The thing is, I have nothing but respect for those who *do* write them. I think I am just flaky and commitment phobic when it comes to travel planning!

  • Mzuri says:

    “Discovery and surprise are the best things about travel I think.” I agree with you, Clare. I think travel experiences cannot be measured against a checklist. Then you become a tourist rather than a traveler with the been-there-done-that approach. It’s nice to dream of places to travel to, especially when you are working full-time. But stay open, I reckon, spontaneity can be rewarding!

  • Bucket Lists are good. They are there to remind you but don’t let your world world revolve around them. Nothing is written in stone. I even have two things in my current list (which I don’t tell anyone because I’m afraid these things might not happen) which I crashed out because I’m not interested in doing it anymore. πŸ™‚

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