15 reasons not to make a travel bucket list
As we kick off the new year, you might be tempted to make a travel bucket list. While there’s nothing wrong with dreaming of all the places you’d like to visit, the concept of the bucket list is a bit problematic—here’s why.
It’s too much pressure
You’ll be putting a lot of pressure on yourself by creating a list of all the travel goals you’d like to achieve before you die. What happens if another year goes by and you haven’t ticked one item off the list? No matter the reasons, you’ll probably feel guilty about not having made any progress. A bucket list is just another to-do list, and we tend to feel bad about ourselves when we haven’t gotten things done.
You might miss out on other experiences
If you fixate on the destinations and activities on your bucket list, there’s a chance you’ll pass up other travel opportunities because they aren’t part of your plans. A road trip to the Jersey Shore with your best friends may not have made it onto your bucket list, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. It doesn’t have to be the trip of a lifetime for it to be a blast.
You don’t have something to prove on social media
If you feel a burning need to share every highlight of your travels on social media, you might want to ask yourself why that is. Are you getting more pleasure out of the trip itself, or out of the number of likes you get on your photos? It’s very easy to fool yourself into creating a bucket list that’s more about looking cool on Instagram than doing what really makes you happy.
Bucket lists are often unrealistic
Travel bucket lists tend to consist of the most adventurous, awe-inspiring, or expensive trips we can think of: diving the Great Barrier Reef, trekking in Patagonia, flying in a hot-air balloon over the Loire Valley.
For most of us, though, a long to-do list of epic experiences is simply unrealistic; just one of these trips could sap our resources for quite some time. If you’re not committed to a bucket list, you’ll have more freedom to enrich your life with smaller-scale adventures—which can be just as rewarding.
Bucket lists can be a burden
If you tend to be stubborn, there’s a good chance your bucket list will become a burden at some point. You may feel a strong need to tick off every item on the list—even the ones you’re no longer as excited about—just for the sake of finishing what you’ve started.
You won’t be a spontaneous traveler
If you’re determined to visit as many of your bucket-list sights as you possibly can, you won’t leave any room for spontaneity in your travels. Maybe you only have a week in Southeast Asia, but if you try to squeeze in both Angkor Wat and Ha Long Bay, you won’t leave time for the unexpected discoveries and spur-of-the-moment adventures that make travel so thrilling.
You won’t get off the beaten track
Because most of us have limited time and money for travel, bucket lists usually boil down to the most famous sights and well-known destinations. It’s natural to want to see Rome, Florence, and Palermo during your vacation in Italy, but that means less time to explore the gorgeous countryside and uncrowded smaller towns.
You’re less likely to live in the moment
With a bucket list, you’re always anticipating the next adventure. Yes, looking forward to an upcoming trip feels good, but it’s important to find joy in everyday life, too.
A bucket list asks you to identify the experiences you wish to have before you die, but in reality, you’ll be spending most of that time doing routine things like taking the bus to work and making dinner for your family. These things may not be as exciting as hiking to Machu Picchu, but you can find pleasure in them if you’re paying attention.
Travel isn’t about competition
We are naturally compelled to share our most enviable travel moments with our friends, who in turn impress us with their most extravagant bucket-list experiences, and then we strive to top those experiences with something even more awesome. Travel shouldn’t be about accumulating the most notches on your belt, but bucket lists encourage this kind of one-upmanship.
Bucket lists encourage conformity
A funny thing about bucket lists is that they are typically not very original. Even as we try to best each other by coming up with ever-more-desirable experiences, we see the same items on bucket lists again and again: seeing the Grand Canyon, going on a safari in Africa, swimming with dolphins, trekking in the Himalayas. Do you truly want to do all these things, or have you based your bucket list on what everyone else is doing?
Bigger isn’t always better
Bucket lists have become synonymous with big adventures. But what if you don’t want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro? If your ultimate fantasy is to lie on a beach in Florida, you shouldn’t feel like you’re not living life to the fullest. Bucket lists make us feel like we should want the big, bold escapades, but some of us prefer other types of travel experiences.
High expectations can lead to disappointment
Let’s say catching a glimpse of a leopard is high on your bucket list, so you’ve booked a safari in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. On the tour, you spot elephants, giraffes, rhinos, and lions—but alas, no leopards. You’ve seen some amazing wildlife, but you can’t help but be disappointed. Your expectations were let down, and another item on your bucket list remains unchecked.
You’re less likely to appreciate what you’ve already done
A bucket list urges you to look ahead, to think about all the things you have yet to experience. When we are always focused on what should come next, it’s easy to lose sight of what we’ve already accomplished. If you’ve been lucky enough to travel, take some time to savor your memories and reflect on how your experiences have enriched your life. Perhaps repeated visits to one destination will ultimately give you more satisfaction than an endless chase of the new.
Bucket lists make you anxious about getting older
With every passing year, you have less time left to do all those things on your bucket list. Maybe you wanted to take a solo backpacking trip before you turned 30, but now you’re starting a family and that no longer seems feasible. Maybe you had planned to walk the Camino de Santiago before you turned 60, but now your feet are sore enough as it is. Bucket lists remind us of all the things we thought we’d have done by a certain age, but haven’t.
The bucket list isn’t exactly an uplifting concept
The term “bucket list” comes from the slang phrase “kick the bucket”, which means “to die.” Listing all the things you want to do before you die might seem like a motivational exercise, but it can actually be pretty depressing. It forces us to think of fulfillment as attainable only at some later date, after we’ve crossed off every item on the list.
Ditching the bucket list in favor of doing whatever we feel will make us happiest right now is a much more liberating approach to travel.
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