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Ditch the Bucket List

...all people at root are time optimists. We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like ‘if.’

Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove

We’ve all heard friends use the phrase “bucket list,” often in conjunction with a dreamed-about travel destination. The idea is that this list, whether it exists on paper or not, is a collection of must-do travel destinations or activities that you want to experience sometime in your life. Maybe you’ve even used the term yourself. One thing I know: the travel industry loves to talk about bucket list vacations in marketing campaigns: it’s everywhere. I think we need to kill it off.

Arlington travel agent notebook

There are several reasons why I’d like us all to kick the “bucket list” to the curb, and these reasons go to the heart of what I believe about the value and meaning of travel. Let me explain….

OK, number one, it’s a little morbid. As in, “before I kick the bucket, I’d like to visit Petra.” Sure, me too, but do we have to frame this in terms of our own demise? I would love to see us use a phrase like “travel goals” instead.

The implied “bucket list” reference point of our own death is, by definition, in our longer range future. I suggest that instead, we shift our perspective to the present or shorter range future and do the things that matter to us in the now, young or old. Want to go to South Africa? My message to you is to do it, plan it now, don’t wait until the perfect time, go with someone you care about. Time is a precious resource: don’t park your dreams on a list.

Arlington luxury travel agent Petra Jordan

The second point of the bucket list that I don’t like is the checklist nature of it. Life is not a series of checkmarks. As someone who is classic Type A, I need this reminder all the time. You don’t have to go to Paris ever in your life if it doesn’t interest you: no one who truly matters is keeping score. You should travel where you want to go and when it makes sense to you. Your ideal travel destination this year might be Des Moines, Iowa to visit a dear relative: then go there and skip the ‘big trip’ this time. Find meaning in your travels, do what is right for you.

Also on the subject of the checklist mentality: once a destination is checked off, does that mean you need to move on to the next one on the list? What if you really fell in love with Tahiti and wanted to go again and again, even at the expense of a new destination on your list? Then do so.

Many of my travel clients are retired military, as is my own family. Traveling to locations we’ve been stationed at is a great travel goal. I have several clients choosing to revisit old stomping grounds in Europe but in a different way, often by river or ocean cruise. You’ll gain a new perspective while exploring destinations you fell in love with the first time. Does going back to a destination fulfill the notion of a “bucket list”? Not really, but it is a great way to rediscover the world and yourself.

Bluetail Travel luxury travel group Tahiti
Living out a travel dream in Moorea, Tahiti - Bluetail Travel

The best travel experiences are the ones that enhance our connection to the world and those we love (including ourselves). May I humbly suggest that we ditch the conventional list, and instead just plain go where we want to go? Dream big, travel well, and live your best life. Of course, I am here to be of service to help you plan those travel dreams.

What are your thoughts? Do you love or hate the “bucket list”? I’d love to hear from you. You can drop me a line through my contact page.

Happy Travels Always,


Photo credits: Notebook, by Aaron Burden (Unsplash, used by permission), Petra, Jordan by Joshua Rodriguez (Unsplash, used by permission), Bluetail Travel's ladies' travel group in Tahiti (copyright Christina Schlegel).


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