3 Steps to Make a Bucket List You’ll Actually Cross Off!

In All Topics, Featured, First Time Traveler, Guides, Lifestyle, Personal, Self-Improvement by Ryan24 Comments

bucket-list-trashcan

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.

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 4.59.48 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 5.24.38 PM

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.

bungy-jump-new-zealand-taupo

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!

Comments

  1. This is very interesting, I only have two things on my bucket list…one of which will be crossed out this October. To be honest I don’t know what to put on the list even if I tried haha. Sponteously deciding where I’m going seems to work rather than not work at all.

    1. Author

      That is always good, I personally LOVE spontaneity when traveling. It’s good to have a list of places that interest you, but bucket lists like I mentioned are usually not very targeted. And not often crossed off. Glad you are marking that first one off!!!

  2. I agree, Bucket Lists are rubbish. The more I travel the more things I want to see. A, cross off list, of items to do while traveling, is a waste of time. If you want to see something; go see it!

    1. Author

      Totally agree Jonathan. It’s perfectly fine to have a list if things you might want to do, but going with the flow is my choice too

  3. Pingback: Travel Motivation | Pack your Bags

  4. Ah this post made me laugh. I tried to compile a bucket list once, years ago and it was much more laughable than your’s above. I also added things just to look cool and sneakily added things that I had already done (like a typical place a bet in Vegas) – you know, just to feel like I was achieving something.
    You’re right, they really are a load of nonsense unless you’re going to be proactive about it. I love your idea of a micro bucket list. Having realistic goals will get you so much further than a wishy washy half-hearted list. They’ll ultimately make you a lot happier too 🙂

    1. Author

      Lillian, glad you had a laugh! It was so funny reviewing some of these on my own list…I think I’d actually like to see your old laughable list if possible!

  5. I don’t see bucketlists as distractions from the present moment. I see them as a method of ensuring you achieve the things that are important to you, keeping you focused on the things you want to do and not letting everyday life distract you from achieving them. The key is to keep them realistic, as you say, and focus on what is truly important to you.

    1. Author

      Liv, great counter perspective. You are very right in your own view…it CAN be a powerful tool for inspiration as long as it is targeted, organized, and you actually do it. List lists. But I’m never one who has been good at following a list!

  6. If you are not following up on your bucket list, it means that you do not want it bad enough. This is true for everything else in life. If you want it, you will do it.

    Remember that it has to be your bucket list with to-dos on it that are truly close to you. Keep it important, keep it small with a few silly things as fun cherries on top.

    There is nothing wrong with setting up a (reinvented) bucket list. It is good to have dreams, and to think about what is important to you in life.

    Once you write everything down, and it is out there in the open, is when you create the possibility of making it a reality.

    Check out my Spin-Off Project. More than a bucket list, it is a lifestyle project designed to find your true passions: 12 things, 12 months, 12 lives -it is not only possible, it is life changing.

    Good luck all.

    1. Author

      I like some of your arguments here! But I will say, just because you make a bucket list and don’t mark it off doesn’t mean you don’t want to travel bad enough, it just means maybe it isn’t the right inspiration or tool for you. I’m terrible at following plans or lists, but I feel more fulfilled by not strictly following the bucket list! 🙂

  7. Ryan, you’re fabulous! I think they are generally a load of crap myself and I am of the same mind with much of what you said. I have some general things I want to do but they lack specification. I want to learn Spanish and be able to carry on a bit of a conversation and I’d like to live in a culture different from our own.

    I didn’t even know about Nicaragua until a few months ago when I was researching Costa Rica and Ecuador. Now I’m going to be going there on my own and staying six months! Too fun 🙂 I”m just finished with the North American craziness ( I will assume you know what I mean and not get into a very long diatribe) So that’s it, I booked the ticket. Oct 4th is the magic day, one month before the big 4-0 and I have a loose plan of places I want to check out, volunteer opportunities in those areas and other stuff that just looks awesome and I want to try.

    I just have to hike up one of the live volcanoes at night to see the orange glow and I’ve found out how. Anyway, I loved this post and it’s timed well since it seems like a lot of people are discussing the ol’ bucket list. You and your Chucks, have fun in Asia!

    ~Kitty

    1. Author

      Kitty, good for you!!! So happy you are headed out on what seems like a stellar trip! 6 months should be amazing! And I’m glad you found a way to inspire yourself and not believe a Bucket List will do it for you. Have an amazing time!

  8. Ohhh man you are right, this is great. It’s really true. I’ve lived in New York City for 7 years now, and I’m about to move. I’m sitting here worrying about all the “must do” things in New York I still want to do, when in actuality, I just kind of want to hang out with my friends and go out with a bang. It’s what the heart wants, right?

    Great piece!

    1. Author

      Chris, surely it’s about what the heart wants. Sometimes it seems easy to visualize in the form of a list, but it can put unnecessary pressure on you to do these things or trap you to fulfilling a list and maybe missing out on what you really want. Like that time with your friends.

  9. Pingback: LandLopers Picks of the Week

  10. For the past few weeks I’ve been thinking of taking down my bucket list from my site and just keeping a private one…thanks for the gentle nudge hun 🙂

  11. Oh, God, I lost it hard at “This just go even more hilarious. What the hell is the Ushiku Daibutsu? Or what/where the hell is The Prambana?”

    This is hilarious, but also true. I too have put things on a bucket list after that fact, simply because I figured that if I’d made the list before I’d done them these things would’ve been on there 😛

    Time to revise my list and then immediately buy that ticket…

  12. Pingback: behind the bucket: the reason | buck·et list (noun) informal.

  13. I agree and disagree with you all at once. I am one of those people who has a bucket list and i love it. It’s never ending and i’m always adding things to it that i want to do/see/experience one day. While I think it’s important to just go with the moment too and not be led by this list you made once upon a time, it a great feeling when you can actually cross things off and feel that sense of accomplishment, not because you crossed it off the list, but because you just experienced something you’ve always dreamed of! You can see my bucket list here: http://www.rooaroundtheworld.com/info-advice/general/bucket-list/ Some of mine are totally doable, other are pipe dreams, and that’s just the way i like it…you gotta reach high!

    1. Author

      I do agree with you on some points there! As always, I think if someone is actually using the bucket list in a way to mark things off, that’s rad! But if someone makes a bucket list, like a New Years Resolutions list tht they never mark off or forget about, they need another way. Just trying to create a fresh say to find inspiration 🙂

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge