This article is a part of my OOMF series, where I revisit old articles from my past blogs relating to travel and self-improvement, and republish them here to be a resource and to give you the push you need to travel.
Bucket lists are trash. Yes, I just said that. Ooh, those are fighting words huh? Well let me state it again: Bucket lists are rubbish. A whole lotta’ malarkey. Junk. Nonsense.
Bucket lists are as useless as said bucket without a bottom, because you will keep filling it up with a bunch of random crap but won’t actually collect anything.
But I will give some good news — bucket lists make for fantastic dust collectors! Unless you lose it if you ACTUALLY wrote it out on paper. Then it’s just as meaningless as when you wrote it. And good for you, you created waste.
Lost. Forgotten. Shoved in a desk. Never crossed out. Written on a whim of inspiration that died right after you taped it to your wall or posted it on Facebook.
I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. Here is a remedy: Quickly add, “Send Ryan an email with a middle finger photo when I complete my bucket list” to your bucket list. And when you complete it, do exactly that. Because I would be HAPPY to see that email.
But until then, I’m sorry I’m not sorry. Actually, I’m not sorry at all.
Why am I so against bucket lists? After all, it has been a symbol of inspiration for decades of hopefuls wishing to accomplish fantastical feats before they die. Or the most popular category on your Pinterest board. Hell, I even had a bucket list once upon a time! And that bucket list had a few items crossed off after traveling a year in New Zealand. Whoopie, right? Not so much. Let us take a look at that original bucket list I wrote up before I flew to New Zealand, my first foreign country.
Wait, I REALLY had “Down a Marmite Sandwich” on there?! After trying Vegemite, I think I could die without wondering if I missed out on trying Marmite. I felt like dying while I tried to get the taste of Vegemite out of my mouth when I tried it. I didn’t even know what Marmite was before I went to New Zealand.
And I’d be damned if I wanted to relax near the sulfur pits of Rotorua. AKA The Bog Of Eternal Stench from that David Bowie movie Labyrinth.
And “Wine Tasting in Marlborough” Ryan? Seriously, who was I kidding? I haven’t ever been on a wine tasting tour, and even though I would, it isn’t something I am worrying about missing out on every day. I was in wine country of New Zealand many times after, and even though I didn’t have the budget, I still didn’t have the urge to go. Again, I didn’t even know where in New Zealand Marlborough was.
To top it off, a lot of these things on the list I added after the fact, just so I could cross it off. And worst, some of the items on it I added because I thought other people would think it was cool.
Wow, I feel like a poser looking back on all of those make believe things I didn’t accomplish on this bucket list after I left New Zealand.
Actually not. But I do feel silly when I read back over the things I wrote on that original list.
This just go even more hilarious. What the hell is the Ushiku Daibutsu? Or what/where the hell is The Prambana? If these were so important as missions before I die, why don’t I remember what they are? Sure, I could Google them right now and suddenly say to myself, “Ohhh Yeahhhh!” but it still wouldn’t make a difference with the importance.
Just as I was about to embark on my trip to Southeast Asia, there were a few items on that list that I’ve always dream of doing; releasing a lantern into the sky, exploring Angkor Wat and surrounding temples, walking atop the Wall of China, and definitely doing a motorcycle trip across Southeast Asia.
But those are in my head and in my heart. I know these to be the at the forefront of destination desires, and I know I will make it a mission to do these.
But all of that other bucket list crap? I’d probably forget about it, or probably end up doing them just to cross it off. Just so I don’t fail my list and secretly feel like a failure.
I may even end up doing it without ever realizing it was on this old bucket list, just because I wanted to at that very moment. Inspiration in the moment while traveling leads to more awesome experiences than a bucket list.
When I was in New Zealand, I didn’t once look at my bucket list for guidance, I just went with what called to me at that moment, and it worked out just fine.
Why do most people fail their bucket list? Because it is a false hope.
It is a distraction from a moment when you are looking for more meaningful things in your life. It is an un-motivational motivation of time-sensitive desire that will soon dissipate like a cool breeze on a summers day.
Just like my own collection, bucket lists are sporadic “ooh ahh” moments experienced through Stumbleupon when you see things like the Spring Temple Buddha or the Terracotta Army. Usually, they are just “Top 10” photos meant to distract you from your morning train commute or your daily cubicle hell.
But don’t fool yourself with a bucket list anymore.
And don’t ever fail another “Bucket List” again if you think about the concept a little differently.
Here is how to really make a bucket list you’ll complete.
MICRO BUCKET LISTS //
(Okay, okay, you can clap if you want…)
Call this what you like, but in hopes of making a bygone list of goals into something tangible that can be accomplished, I decided not to outright end bucket lists. Just re-invent it the bucket list a little.
Why do these lists fail? First and foremost is because they are scatter-brained collections and you can’t even freakin’ focus on where to start!
So how about this concept…
STEP 1: SLOW YOUR ROLE //
I know you are super freakin’ stoked by all of these pretty places you see through the electrical images presented to your cortex on a computer screen. You’re tickled by them. But seriously, chill out.
Pick only one place, or one country, and start there. Don’t just like like like like like them all.
Pick the country that first comes to mind, one you have always been dying to visit. List out the things you know for sure you want to do there if you were to die tomorrow. Don’t waste space on “Wine Tasting” if it isn’t something you really love to do.
STEP 1: GO LOCAL BABY //
If you don’t have a round the world ticket, and you are sitting on your ass clicking “Stumble” all day, how do you expect a list of these nifty places and activities to change the situation? Your pin board isn’t going to buy you that ticket to Thailand so you can where elephant pants and sip coconuts now will it?
If you aren’t exploring locally, or traveling to places nearby, how do you expect to go from Antarctica, to Japan, to Egypt, to China, and then to Space? Or Westeros?
Create a local bucket list of things you would really love to do in your area you have never done before. Have you always wanted to see the Grand Canyon? Get the hell over there! Want to hike through Yosemite? Do it already!
Once you get the gears turning inside you by accomplishing local goals in local destinations, you build momentum to broaden the scope to another country.
But remember, one country at a time dudes and dudettes.
STEP 3: MAKE MOVES YA FOOL //
The very first thing on your bucket list should be “Buy my ticket to…“
Why? Sure, saving money or buying a ticket was never something you desired to do before you die. It is something you have to do to travel though. First, I’m going to slap you with a little sense — Travel takes MONEY! And a ticket to get there.
At the beginning of your micro-bucket list, buying a ticket to the country of your dreams should be the first thing listed, and the ONLY thing listed until it is purchased. Then you can add other nifty tidbits.
Why? Because saving the money for a ticket will lead to the purchase of a flight to another country, which will lead to you skydiving over the alps like you’ve always wanted. That will lead to you hiking that mountain you always dreamed of, which will lead to you purchasing another ticket, which will lead to you creating another micro-bucket list, which will lead you to doing more things you wanted to do before you die.
See the momentum building?
Travel is infectious, and simply creating a list isn’t going to change anything. By taking action with things you can accomplish right now, you will begin to reach higher, and go farther, and cross off these mythical things you wanted to do before you die.
It will no longer be a dust collector, or a coaster for a coffee cup, or a false dream lost forever. It will be a list of goals, feats, adventures, and desires all crossed off by red pen. Or a Hello Kitty pen you buy in Japan.
You will be left smiling, not thinking about when you die, but how you are happy now. How you are living life this very moment.
Now you know how to create a bucket list that you will cross off. Feel free to call it a list of goals, a list of feats to conquer, or even after the fact — a list of personal accomplishments that made you happy.
Either way, when you have completed the first micro-bucket list, I want you to email me a picture of your smiling face with the middle finger. Because I will know you are on your way, and I will smile back.
Have a bucket list you are actually crossing out? Share the link!
Have one you aren’t? Tell me the first country you want to go to and let’s get this started!