You know what a travel bucket list is, right? It’s a list of all of the places you’d like to visit and global adventures you’d like to pursue before you kick the bucket. Writing such a list seems like an innocuous and personal endeavor but some serious travelers have passionate opinions for or against such lists.
Walt Disney said, “All dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” I I have a little plaque with this phrase on my desk to remind me of these words every day as I clack away at my computer, dreaming and pursuing big dreams. Post-it notes scrawled with encouraging words like this populate the cabinets, fridge and coffee maker in my house. I’m a believer in the power of visualizing your dreams into reality. I’m guiding an interactive session on building vision boards at TBEX Cancun. So, you can probably guess where I come down on travel bucket lists: I love them!
There is a whole group of travel lovers out there, however, who think bucket lists distract from real travel experiences. I recently asked a bunch of travel bloggers to share their thoughts on bucket lists and was not surprised to find very opposing views on the topic.
Margherita Ragg, of the Crowded Planet blog, is against bucket lists because, “travel is a lot more than ticking boxes for me.” This sentiment was echoed by other travel enthusiasts who seem to think that people who write travel bucket lists are simply traveling for the joy of placing a checkmark next to an item on a list.
The implication is that bucket list writers merely want to brag about where they’ve been; they don’t care about connecting with the culture or having a meaningful experience. Amy Truong, author of the Generic Dreams blog, said, “I think having a bucket list is fun and a good way to decide what some of your goals are (travel-related or not) but it shouldn’t be just about ticking off a check list or bragging rights.”
Everything Everywhere Founder Gary Arndt seemed to poke fun at the idea that bucket list makers are only in it for ticking off items when he said, “I don’t think people should shop for groceries just to check stuff off a list.” (Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.)
Talon Windwalker thinks that a bucket list can distract travelers from living in the present moment. On his blog, 1Dad1Kid.com, he said, “When you have a bucket list, there’s that constant sense of ‘I haven’t done everything yet! This is the main reason I don’t have this kind of list. I don’t want to spend my time focusing on the things I haven’t done yet. I’d rather focus on what I’m doing.”
Shawn Achor, author of the book, Before Happiness, explained in an interview with Oprah Winfrey on the OWN Network’s “Super Soul Sunday” that travelers actually enjoy their vacations more before leaving home than they do during their vacations. It is the anticipation of travel that brings so much joy. He said, “Our brain can’t tell much difference between visualization and actual experience. So if you’re visualizing something positive that’s going to happen in the future, you’re literally doubling the positive effect upon your life.”
My Itchy Travel Feet Blogger Donna Hull also believes travel dreaming is good for you. She said, “There are many once-in-a-lifetime trips. Want to make them happen? Start a list. Keeping these special trips on a bucket list (or whatever terminology you choose to use) is a good way to set goals to make the trips actually happen.”
Amanda Kendle would rather reflect on her travel accomplishments than create a list of travel goals. On her blog, NotABallerina.com, she said, “I’m not really a fan of the bucket list craze that seems to be sweeping the world (and travelers in particular!). I don’t mind a spot of travel daydreaming, but the idea of making a really long list of things I must do before I die is a bit overwhelming (especially since I have no idea how long I have until then – ten years or fifty?)…” Instead, she decided to write a reverse bucket list to revel in dreams fulfilled.
As the creator of a bucket list and reverse bucket list, I see value in both exercises. Writing down your achieved goals gives a sense of gratitude and pride. It is important to celebrate our accomplishments by pausing to look back and be thankful for how much we’ve experienced.
According to Gretchen Rubin in her book The Happiness Project, “Gratitude is important to happiness. Studies show that consistently grateful people are happier and more satisfied with their lives; they even feel more physically healthy and spend more time exercising. Gratitude brings freedom from envy, because when you’re grateful for what you have, you’re not consumed with wanting something different or something more.”
Anti-bucket list blogger Windwalker feels that travel bucket lists can serve as a distraction. He said, “I think people get so focused on the list that they lose out on other things, other places, and other parts of the places they’re visiting.”
I believe the key to successful bucket lists (and vision boards) is being flexible with the results. Set goals, but be open to how they manifest in your life. Robin Roberts, sports newscaster and Good Morning America host, talked about being creative in how you reach your goals on the television show, “Master Class”. She said, “I used to dream about one day being at Wimbledon. I could taste the strawberries and cream. I could see myself curtsying there on center court. And I didn’t make it there, obviously, as a tennis player, but let me tell you, even though I had a mic in my hand instead of a tennis racket for ESPN when I went to cover it for the first time, to me it was like, “Check. Wimbledon.”
Be willing to rewrite your bucket list if a goal no longer appeals to you. Add new wishes to your list as needed. To come back to Arndt’s grocery list analogy, just as shoppers may purchase some impulse buys that aren’t on their lists while in the store, bucket list makers shouldn’t be afraid to stray from their defined travel goals either.
As poet Ursula Le Guin said, “It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”
What do you think about travel bucket lists? Let us know in the comments below!
Bio: Colleen Lanin is the author of The Travel Mamas’ Guide and the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. She teaches blogging classes and gives presentations on how to travel with babies and children. She has given travel tips on television, radio, and as a paid video blogger. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. Her stories have appeared in such publications as the “Today” show’s travel section on NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, Working Mother Magazine, and more. Colleen will be leading an interactive session at TBEX Cancun on creating and using a vision board to remain inspired and focused.