From a young age we learn the term bucket list. We develop fanciful ideas of things we want to achieve, do and see before we die, but somehow many of these goals are never accomplished. This is especially true in the case of travel. Throughout high school we may dream of visiting the Eiffel Tower, so this becomes number one on the bucket list. Then, in college, we hear friends tell tales of their hike to Machu Picchu, rides on double-decker buses through London, and sights of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Each of those become numbers two through four on the list.
If you’re anything like me, your grand ideas of travel become a checklist of places to do and things to see, but we forget that our experience is solidified in the tastes of a delightful café, the smell of cherry blossoms as we stroll down a road, or the sounds of new company laughing at a foreign joke. These are the things that develop our sense of belonging in the world and are a more pressing reason to be mindful of a bucket list instead of simply saying, “I was there!” We have become conditioned to think in terms of what instead of why. Why do we want to sip coffee on the coast of Santorini, or see a play on Broadway? What do we hope to gain out of the new experience?
…we forget that our experience is solidified in the tastes of a delightful café, the smell of cherry blossoms as we stroll down a road, or the sounds of new company laughing at a foreign joke.
Traveling offers so much more than the opportunity to brag to co-workers about that seventh-wonder-of-the-world we saw on our most recent vacation. A year ago, I had the opportunity to go to the Galapagos Islands, but this archipelago off of Ecuador’s coast was never on my bucket list of must-see places. I did, however, experience something I could check off – independent travel. This was an experience that I longed for, and finally seeing it come to fruition gave me an amazing sense of accomplishment.
No matter what anyone says, the world is truly vast. There are so many foods to try and people to meet, we cannot simply marvel at it all. This is when a bucket list comes in handy: we can focus our loftiest travel dreams onto one piece of paper (or Pinterest board). However, instead of simply writing down (or pinning) places, choose a food to try in a foreign place, like deep fried scorpion from Thailand; or travel cheaply with Willing Workers on Organic Farms and volunteer on organic farms around the world. This way, we don’t put another feather in our well-traveled caps but instead have a meaningful and life changing experience.
So, next time your bucket list comes out, look for adjustments that can be made to it. Lists are for grocery trips, not for travelling the world – creating memories is far more important. Jot down something you hope to get out of a place next to the location’s name. It doesn’t matter what you choose, only that you travel with a bigger purpose for yourself and the world around you.
What experiences are on your bucket list? Why?
Image via Marlena Pearl Photography