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The whole bucket list thing

Article over the weekend in the WSJ about the concept of the bucket list. Behind the paywall of course, but here's an executive summary: Don't worry about it! By focusing on specific things and places on a list, you'll often walk by something of equal or greater value. But seasoned travelers already know this; if everyone says you have to go to X Museum and it's on your must-do list and you hate museums, guess what - you'll likely hate X Museum when you should have gone to the park or church next door or gone for a bike ride instead because that's what interests you.

Apparently the list wasn't even a thing until that Jack Nicholson movie years back. So have a list if you must, but don't be married to it and be aware that someone else's list isn't necessarily yours. The article implied that travel agents spend a lot of time wrestling bucket lists away from clients.

Posted by
739 posts

I guess I don’t understand this.

I have an unofficial bucket list (never really bothered to put on paper) but it consists of places I want to go. Not places others tell me I should go.

Posted by
6160 posts

I too have an unofficial and informal list, the challenge is to pare it down instead of expanding it with age. The Nicholson-Freeman movie might have popularized the term, but I think people have had these lists as long as travel has been happening. I can understand the challenge they present to good travel agents, or tour guides, or guidebook writers.

Recently I decided between two tours of Ireland. I picked the one that didn't include the Blarney Stone. (Guess whose.)

Posted by
8195 posts

A bucket list is your very personal list of places you'd like to see or things to do, before you die. No matter how you came up with your list, it's just a clever way of thinking about it that became a popular concept. Not to be taken too seriously or overthought. A lot of people just don't have the information or imagination to come up with a list on their own.

Posted by
10320 posts

We all have likes and dislikes. I love cities and museums of all kinds. And I like being in a more exotic culture. From my early childhood I wanted to visit China and Amsterdam and have been lucky to visit both several times.
But I also want to see a broader variety of places and have been able to see every place on my 'list'. Sadly, two of my favourites are off limits right now, Hong Kong and China, and I would love to return to both of them.
We went to Egypt right before COVID stopped our travels; that trip was a definite bucket list item. The place we have visited the most is Italy with ten trips there for up to a month each, staying in one or two places.
So, yes, I guess we have had a loosely defined bucket list but now we look forward to returning to places we have enjoyed.

Posted by
4471 posts

I don't know how others go about forming their bucket lists, but I can't fathom why someone would make a point of adding a place that they have no interest in. The only items on my list are places or experiences that I have a real desire to do. I have a rapidly diminishing number of travelling years left to me, and I certainly won't waste them on things just because someone else thinks they're a "must do". But who am I to decree what a person should or should not put on their wish list. Or whether they should have one in the first place.

And I agree that these lists, whether formally written down, or informally filed away in the back of your mind, existed long before they were given that name. A rose by any other name...

Posted by
4429 posts

As phred said, seasoned travelers don't need the benefit of thr article or advise, so it sort of 'preaching to the choir' but how may times have we read "what should I do in ??? city?" Or schedules so tight with things they think they need to see or do, that there is no room to let serendipity happen, or go where their interest draws them? And what after they get home will they remember? I put a lot of blame on 'influencers' grrr.
When I had time and money to travel, I was already in my 50s so I created a 'priority list', but I do refer to it as my 'bucket list' for the humour and social connection. By either name it was a few places that I would regret missing. Often they were interests from my childhood. I kept it modest in length, but it wasn't as modest in scope...Machu Picchu, Galapagos Islands, a Serengeti safari, Egypt with Nile Cruise. To these I added more to have a fuller trip. These are done, and I consider every trip I do now as icing on the cake and a blessing. IfmI had to stop traveling tomorrow, I would miss it, but have no regrets on prioritizing some over others.

Posted by
319 posts

I keep my list posted over the kitchen sink and in the bathroom over the roll of toilet paper! In the spirit of "if you build it they will come". People that don't have bucket lists are confusing to me. J

Posted by
14110 posts

I believe every traveler has some type of "bucket list" otherwise how would you decide where to go? You might not call it a "bucket list" but think of it as what interests you.

More, it seems, have a "to do" list rather than a bucket list. Here are the things we have to do today. And they go to each one checking them off. Mission accomplished.

There was a thread recently on this board on how some think you should do just the opposite of what the article says--go where the guidebooks tell you to go because the authors know better than you and you might like it.

I disagree with that. I go where I want to go and see what interests me-- not the guidebook author. I tell people, regardless of who wrote the guidebook--you don't have to stay where the guidebook tells you to stay, you don't have to eat where the guidebook tells you to eat, you don't have to see only what the guidebook tells you to see.

Be open to what you might come across when you turn the corner.

Posted by
8195 posts

It's just that the term bucket list has a certain resonance with us older folks who recognize the limits we are up against. A young person probably doesn't need to think like that. Kicking the bucket is a pretty old-fashioned euphemism.

Posted by
586 posts

Old person is bucket list.
Young person uses TikTok to chase his dreams.
Then again, I don’t think TikTokkers have dreams so much as whatever they see on TikTok. Thats it. That is the scope of their imagination.

Posted by
781 posts

Nothing wrong with having a travel bucket list to organize your trip plans and thoughts as long as you know how to slow down and smell the roses every day...I have a bucket list "obsessed" friend who has a form of tunnel vision when traveling - each day is a literal pressure packed arm's length to do list, but she can't ever seem to notice the "roses" when racing from list item A to B to my opinion, she allows for no discovery of what is just around the corner...and as a result, when we travel together, we typically split up for the day because I am the opposite. The greatest joys and memories I have in 4 plus decades of travel are the "unplanned" discoveries made when I least expected them.

Posted by
3794 posts

I can't fathom why someone would make a point of adding a place that
they have no interest in.

Sometimes an interest or a passion springs from exploring what you don't know. For example, on our first European adventure we went to Rome. I knew I was going to be bored to death looking at all that art at the Vatican. I had no interest in art or religion. But as it turns out it was the highlight of the trip for me. What I discovered is that I'm not a fan of religious art, but I did find a real interest in the history of religion and its impact. That sprang a deeper dive into English history, especially the Tudor times. All because I followed the sheep and went where I was 'supposed' to go while in Rome.

Other bucket list items that I will go to even though the influence is because of what others have said:

  • Other than Versailles, Paris doesn't hold a lot of interest for me, but I know I should go and experience it for more than the 2 half days that I have been there.
  • Egypt. Those pyramids look cool, but I've never really studied up on it.

I can't recall a vacation where I haven't had some wow moments just because I took the advice of millions of others that "you gotta see it."

Posted by
4429 posts

@Allan, I think we have all done some travel influenced by others, but if it is a jumping off point, research it for things that do interest you.
I wonder if wandering Rome and popping into churches that caught your eye wouldn't also have sparked that history or religion.....

Posted by
3794 posts

I wonder if wandering Rome and popping into churches that caught your
eye wouldn't also have sparked that history or religion.....

Maria, I have to give most of the credit to our guide. We had booked a tour of the Vatican, and she focused less on the art and more on the mis-deeds of the church and the reformation. She was the right person at the right time.

Posted by
739 posts

The only times I have gone to places I was not “interested in” was when a traveling companion wanted to go to said location.
Most of us have different interests so if you travel with others you will do things you otherwise would not.
I was not that interested In Stonehenge but my father was. So we went. It was more interesting thdn I expected.

But I do have places that I want to go to. I have always wanted to go to these places. I don’t really care about what others say and while I may go where others want on occasion I try to go to as many of my choices as I reasonably can.
You can call it a list, a bucket list a dream or anything else you want, but most of us have priorities of where we want to go and what we want to do. Some of us have longer lists than others. And it can be fun to ‘see what is on the other side of that hill yonder” But I am pretty sure that most of us have priorities that we would prefer to see if we get the chance.

Posted by
8241 posts

Curiosity, practicality and avoiding hordes is what propels my travels.

I read and research prior to traveling and adapt when I reach my destination. Will ask cab/taxi drivers about good cafes. Will wander about libraries and ask librarians the same questions. I’ll sit on park benches whenever I can to people watch. I’m usually eating a pastry and enjoying coffee or having lunch when I do this.

If a church or cathedral door is open I’ll go inside.

I’ll meander side streets and river paths.

Not a shopper so I rarely stop to buy anything. Do love trunk sales, street markets, street art, pub dogs or cats and a good cup of coffee.

Simplicity and practicality.

Posted by
3794 posts

Stonehenge is another one of those sites that we were ambivalent toward, but when we're there, why not? Once again, the sheep were right. However, if we hadn't sprung for the sunrise tour that allows you to walk among the stones, we may have remained ambivalent after we left. Sometimes the blockbuster sites need a bit of a tweak to enhance the experience to suit your taste.

Posted by
8241 posts

I do love the “ old days” of travel prior to the RS phenomenon.

Have photos of myself, my friend and her sister on a November day at Stonehenge. Nary a soul but the three “ druids” who stepped over the rope and were quickly escorted away by guards. We’d Trained from London to Salisbury and took the bus. After seeing seeing the stones meandered about Salisbury ( the cathedral et al). Enjoyed a lengthy pub grub dinner and pints and nearly missed the last train back to Waterloo. Took a black cab back to our rented flat in Bloomsbury. Have 3 rolls of Kodak Kodachrome photos in an old photo album of the adventure. Must say having Stonehenge to ourselves was fantastic.
You couldn’t pay me to go there now.

Its the reason I no longer desire to see the Amalfi Coast. Crowds upon crowds of humanity.

Posted by
483 posts

I don't have a formal bucket list, but I have a few things I'd like to see or do before I cash my chips in. Which I guess is a bucket list.
It is based on my art appreciation, my interests and my preferences, informed by guides and historians and tastemakers, but also tailored to me. Ghent Altarpiece, Prado for the Garden of Earthly Delights, Osteria Francescana for Massimo Bottura's brilliance, Augsburg cathedral for the 11th century glass, and a return to Paris for a return visit to St. Chappelle, also for the glass, and Barcelona for the Barcelonaness. Recommended by friends, experts, the Internet at large, but also experienced slow enough to catch anything else that's nearby.

The difficult thing to internalize with travel is that you will never see everything. At no place you go, will you see everything to see or do everything to do while there. You have to travel as though you will return, and you have to swallow the FOMO, and focus on the things you enjoy and the things you can get to, without regret for the things you miss out on.

It's good to have a plan. It's good to build flex into that plan. That is all that a bucket list should be. A highlight list with flexibility.

Posted by
484 posts

While at university, I took an art history class. The professor had done her PhD on Saint-Foy, in Conques. We learned a lot about it and I guess I started a bucket list with "if I ever get close, I'm going to go there".

About five years later, I had just got married, and we were visiting my father in law's cousins in Millau. While the two gentlemen were happy just to fish in the river, rest of us were trying to think about what to do. Not knowing much about anything, I threw out the question "Is Conques near hear?". It was about 100kms, and the cousin's son lived very close.

We made a day trip and everyone had a good time, and my bucket list was reset to zero.

Posted by
55 posts

Max, I love "Barcelonaness" -- I was momentarily taken aback, thinking it was an actual artifact :~).

As I am now getting closer to the end of my travel days, maybe 15 years out, I have revised the list of places I really, really want to see because I know I have to pick and choose. I will probably never go on an Alaska cruise; although I would love to see the wildlife and natural wonders, every time I see photos of the stops along the cruise I am turned off by the commercialness. Similarly, I have long wanted to go on wildlife safari in Africa but when I watch the videos I don't feel the landscape calling to me. So, perhaps we'll do a land trip to Alaska, staying in B&Bs and lodges, and I have now started looking at trips to Africa that focus on birding. Overall, though, I think we'll focus on the experiences and creating those aha!, bucket-list moments on all future travel.

Posted by
9 posts

I think it depends on how seriously you take the list. I don't have a "bucket list" per se, but I do have a list of places I want to visit and things I want to do. None of them are things I absolutely have to do or my life won't be complete, just a nice reminder of some things I want to keep in mind when making travel plans. But I'm kind of a list person - I have the same type of thing for shows and movies I want to see.