Why bucket lists are bad and why you should shun them

Let’s say I asked you to put together a bucket list – a list of things that you want to do before you die.

Before reading on just take a minute to think about what those things would be.

Done it? Okay I will continue…

Without even knowing you I bet it included something of the following:

  • Going to see some major world landmark
  • Do some sort of travelling to a location that isn’t a mainstream travel locations, but gives you the feeling you are doing something cultured and deep.
  • Take part in some ridiculously popular endurance event
  • Do some sort of crazy extreme activity
  • Have something uniquely comical but unlikely activity for you to ever actually do.

Was I correct?

And that is why I dislike bucket lists.

The Louvre in Paris – you can spend four hours waiting to get in with all the other tourist or you can go and experience much more

A while ago I thought about adding a page feature where I would create my bucket list  of things that I have done and things that I would like to do and gradually tick them off one by one like working through like some life shopping list.

It felt so fake and lacking substance and when I had to Google what I should add to my bucket list I came upon the dawning realisation that by doing so I would be doing what other people think you should do before you die and not what I wanted to do before I die so I didn’t bother.

Run with the bulls they said, it would be fun they said.

Bucket List Journey – Where 882 isn’t special

Upon research on bucket lists I came across this site: Bucket List Journey, by a travel blogger called Annette. Looking at her bucket list page summed up exactly why I hate the idea.

At time of my viewing she had 882 bucket list items!  No one has 882 things that they must do before they die, the whole point of a bucket list in the first place – it’s some concise must do moments.  When you get to your deathbed you wouldn’t be sat there through the list of 100’s dwelling on the fact you never tried Spelunking.

The Great North Run – enjoy the experience of trying to beat your half marathon time while overcoming the challenge of being part of the Guinness World Record for “Longest Human Centipede”

882 things just aren’t special – it’s like if have 882 Facebook friends, I am guessing that you would be lucky if a dozen of them actually meant anything to you.

Perhaps I am wrong and maybe bucket lists should be as big a each individual wants it to be – I just don’t see the point of writing things like

“Attend a high school reunion”

I wasn’t a big fan of school or the people who went there so why would I want to see people I no longer have anything in common with before I die?

Another good one is:

“Eat fondue in Switzerland”

Perhaps I am just a philistine who just goes to the local McDonald’s when I am on holiday, but something I eat or don’t eat abroad isn’t some death bed regret!

Another reason I am careful with international cuisine is I like meals that don’t look at me as I eat it.

“Travel internationally”!!

Are you serious?  90% of your blog is dedicated to travel – surely the 750+ bucket list item related to your holidaying covers that?  It’s like saying “drink a beer” and then breaking down every type of beer you would like to try.

“Take a trip with mom”

… yeah I used to do that all the time, it’s called being a child .

Anyway I didn’t mean to turn this into a post where I picked on Annette, I have much respect for how she’s just found a great way of monitsing her holidays by appealing to the aspirations of others wanderlust.

The problem

The overall problem with the bucket list is that all you are doing is creating a bucket list with unattainable goals, clichés and things that when you really think about it you don’t really want to do but probably felt you should add to sound more interesting.

If you are serious about the items on your bucket list I would recommend turning them into real, obtainable goals rather than some pipe dream ‘want list’

Ohh!!! Skydiving – the experience of getting your arse strapped to another man’s crotch.  If that’s your bag I recommend Canal Street in Manchester

Life changes and evolves

The bucket list is written as a static entity – it doesn’t take into consideration as life goes on things change and don’t appeal so much anymore.

For example if you asked an 18 year old me what I would have on my bucket list I would have said

“Go to a festival”

I have never been to a festival and at the age of 34 I actually don’t want to – as an 18 year old into bands and girls, a crazy weekend roughing it away from home might have appealed.

Now it just seems like an inconvenience – sleeping in a tent, queuing for a dirty portaloo and in crowds full of dirty drugged up and drunk people in the mud waiting for some band who is 30 minutes late and upon arrival with feel a god given right to start lecturing you on their political views before proceeding to promote songs from their new shitty album when all you wanted was the hits.

Hey man!  Remember that time we went to the Download festival – we were kind of near the front watching Foo Fighters – how awesome was that?  Not really, all I remember is getting bombarded with people chucking bottles of piss.

If I died tomorrow, I would have no regrets about never going to a festival.

The unplanned is where the awesome death bed memories happen…

Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans” – John Lennon

Having a bucket list doesn’t consider the awesome things you do in life that aren’t planned and they always turn out to be better than the things you want to do.

The things I remember the most are those that I didn’t write on a list saying that I must do them – I never planned to do them, I was just in the right place and the right time and I thought “Why not?”

Therefore I recommend as an alternative to the bucket list is to live life as much as possible to increase your opportunities to find those experiences that you will remember right until your last day – travel by booking your holidays on what takes your fancy that day, hang out with friends, family and take any unplanned opportunities as much as possible.

I could go here and be just another idiot pretending I am holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa – ha, ha, ha!! You’re so witty and original!

How living for the moment is better than the bucket list

By following this approach I got the pleasure of  going in an Indian Canoe in Canada on a lake at Sun Peaks.  One minute I was sat in my hotel, the next I was paddling along admiring the scenery with the mountains in the background as I imagined myself following in the footsteps of the pioneers who originally explored Western Canada.  I never wrote that this was something I must do.

Another time I was sat bored watching the TV in a hostel in Ottawa.  When the owner said “you can’t leave here without skating on the Rideau canal!”

I replied “I don’t have any skates”

Because this was Canada they have raggy old skates kicking around like everyone else has socks.  He pulled out a big box and asked “What size are you?”

45 minutes later I was gently skating down a perfect frozen canal – it beat the hell out of skating round the tiny rink I learnt to skate back in Yorkshire anyday!

The only real planned moment that lived up to the hype was getting married – but even then the things I remember most about the day where the unplanned things we didn’t expect to happen!

There are lots of things I have done –  I have travelled to three continents in this world so far, lived in Canada, got two degrees, learned to drive, did stand-up comedy, saved someone’s life, fell in love, become a manager – all experiences in my life.

Some people think that they have to spend loads of money to show that they live their life to the max.  You see them everyday posting on Instagram with fake posed shots with fake smiles to give the illusion of having a good time.   What they forget is the stuff that happens beyond the camera, those you don’t share with the world,  the unplanned things – they have always been sweeter!

The Pyramids in Cairo – enjoy seeing the dawn of civilization and fighting off 100’s of beggars trying to get dollars from the “rich” westerner

But! But! Must, live, life, to the max, before, I dieeeeeee!!!!!!!!

There are still things that I want to do, but I don’t feel this pressing demand of some checklist that says “I must do this before I die, otherwise my life is worthless!”  I will just do them when I can and if I die before doing it I will just take the mindset that I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I thought I would have.

I don’t need to write down list of over a 1000 words to show that I lived or how I intend to live, I don’t need to document each little thing I do on Facebook, Instagram or even here –  my memories are what remind me of when I lived!

So whether it is going to the Pyramids where you have to fight off 100’s of Arabs trying to sell you stuff you don’t want, running the New York marathon where you won’t even get a good time with the number of people running (run local instead), boring cliche Skydiving – I implore anyone to shun the bucket list and just live instead!

To your future!

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9 thoughts on “Why bucket lists are bad and why you should shun them

  1. You are so, absolutely, perfectly right. I have more fun on an everyday cycling road trip with my friends or a family vacation than I could possibly have skydiving or some other “bucket list” item. Great post, man.

    1. Thank you. I think it is the best post I have written so far.

      I bet with your family/friend cycling trips all those awesome memories came from something you didn’t expect happening. Thank you for commenting

  2. I like this post. Great sentiment. Bucket lists sometimes seem like calls for attention. Why not just LIVE?

    1. Agreed fully, I notice a lot of self-improvement, goal setting people having bucket lists, I kind of wrote this because I wanted to challenge about it. Thanks for your comment

  3. I agree with you, James. Maybe it’s because of my advanced age 🙂 but running all over the world no longer appeals to me. I have goals that are important to me, but they are more about my life’s purpose and permanent changes I want to make to my life (i.e., where I live, etc.). Personally, I’m at a time in my life where I’d rather live full-time in a place I really enjoy rather than put all my hopes into a few days or weeks of travel. This is, however, a personal decision, and there is a lot to be gained from traveling to new places and experiencing new things. Yet, as you said, we also have to enjoy the present moment. When all is said and done, it’s all we have, all we can be sure about!

    1. Thanks Gloria. Personally I feel a lot of the “wanderlust” if aspiration from all the writing about travel – from blogs to books. I feel some people have this big list of travel destinations because they have to come off as interesting and showing that they lived Personally there is no place like your own bed!

      Non-travel related goals are the best because they are more complex than acquiring money and time to travel.

      Thanks very much for your comment.

      All the best
      James

  4. Great post I agree, there’s no point in a bucket list and I’ve always hated the idea of having to pick a bunch that if I really thought about it don’t appeal so much. Having said that I’d love to visit Egypt’s pyramids though but at dawn when there’s no tourists around and it’s only because I’ve got historical and archeological interest in the place. Tourists kind of ruin holiday destinations for me 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comment. Yes agree fully with you, when I went to the pyramids it was full of tourists and beggars so I was more concerned with looking after my family and possessions rather than enjoying the wonder of the sight before me!

      I recently went to the Acropolis early in the morning and it was brilliant. It was starting to get busy on the way down, so early morning visits are the best thing to do.

      Regards
      James

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