I’ve long said that I don’t have a bucket list. That I think it’s silly to identify a few places when frankly I want to go anywhere I haven’t been before. It’s a big world so why limit my travel ambitions? But then I would detail a short list of places of places I REALLY want to see and before long I realized that I did indeed have a travel bucket list, much to my chagrin. As I examined my own inadvertent bucket list though I realized that it isn’t just places I want to visit, not necessarily, but things I want to experience. That made me rethink the entire concept of the bucket list, which I think you should do as well.
More than pretty pictures
Many of us, myself included, fall prey to all of those pretty pictures we see on TV, in books and especially on calendars. I blame travel calendars for most of the poor decisions travelers make actually. While the sunset on Santorini or the view from Victoria Falls may be nice, those should not be the only reason why you visit a place. Why? Because they will never, ever match your expectations. We stare at those pretty pictures every day and in our minds construct a travel ideal that is simply not attainable in practice and we invariably leave disappointed. So instead of letting calendars determine where you want to travel, where you dream of going, let your own gut instincts lead the way.
It’s about the experiences…
While a pretty picture can spur the travel bug, that image soon fades when it comes to the nuts and bolts of planning a great travel adventure. That’s because when you look at travel it quickly becomes all about the experiences, as it should be. That’s what I realized when I examined my own bucket list. Sure, several of the places on it were inspired by others, but the list wasn’t a bullet list of places, it is a conglomeration of experiences, unique activities I want to do before I shuffle off this mortal coil. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here are some of the experiences on my own travel bucket list:
- Swimming in Jellyfish Lake in Palau
- Hiking to the Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan
- Walking the Bund in Shanghai
- Feeling colorful during Holi in India
- Trekking with polar bears in the Arctic
- Seeing the Northern Lights anywhere
- Crossing Asia on the Trans-Siberian railway
- And so much more
And the people
But even detailing the experiences don’t tell the whole story behind a good bucket list. Travel is invariably not about the things you see or even do, it’s all about the people you meet. An even slight encounter with new people transforms every traveler in ways they may not realize. The act of traveling is the best thing that we can do to minimize hatred and bigotry and to better understand other people and their cultures. It’s impossible to travel and not learn something; in fact I dare you to try. So along with those places you lust after, you should also consider the amazing people you will meet along the way. Fishermen in Palua, guides in Bhutan and shopkeepers in China will all transform your trip from something average to an extraordinary life event. Even better, if you can in turn teach them something about you and your own culture, then the ongoing circle of citizen ambassadors will continue working its good.
There is a slight chance that I have over intellectualized something that is meant to be fun, but I don’t think so. I think that no matter what type of trip you take, whether it is for relaxation or discovery, you should keep these points in mind. You should be honest enough to realize that you aren’t traveling to replicate a photo; how boring. No, you are traveling to create your own photographs that will inspire you and others for years to come.
So, with this in mind, what’s at the top of your travel bucket list?