The Bucket List: Should You Forget It or Embrace It?

Last week I came across an interesting article in The Guardian, titled Forget the bucket list: these are the things you should avoid before you die. Which of course made me think about the concept of a bucket list, its value, and the role it plays in our lives.

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Bucket List – as defined by google, is “a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime”. This phrase was, supposedly, coined by a 2007 film, with the same title, that followed 2 terminally ill men on their adventure to experience certain things before they “kick the bucket”. Since then, the term Bucket List has become a hot topic with our generation, often intrinsically linked to travel and life experiences. “100 places to see before you die”, “100 foods to eat before you die”, “50 life experiences to have”, and so on. It seems like these days, everyone has a Bucket List and equally as many people argue that Bucket Lists should be avoided at all costs.

In this Guardian article, the author reminisces about her own transformative moments, noting that she can’t recall any that she “… specifically sought to make [her] feel more alive”. So in that spirit, she reaches out to colleagues and readers to compile a list of “tried and tested experiences which are routinely added to wish lists but should be avoided at all costs.” If you haven’t read the article yet, go ahead and read it now… I’ll wait for you to come back…. click here to read

I have now read the article a few times. And the more I read it, the more I tend to disagree with it…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not supporting a superficial list of items that encourages you to run around from country to country, just to check off experiences for the sake of “completing the list”. In fact, I’ve shared my thoughts on this before. But I don’t want to swing the pendulum the other way and agree with the statement that we should forget the bucket list. Because why should we?

A bucket list can be a very powerful thing. It can be the thing that drives you forward, that inspires you to get out and explore, that acts as that tipping point that pushes you outside of your comfort zone! Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see harm in that.

Ticking off a big bucket list item at the Taj Mahal in India
Ticking off a big bucket list item at the Taj Mahal on my very first trip to India in 2012.
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I admit. I have a bucket list. I wrote it in 2011, when I was about to embark on my first adventure abroad. It was the list of all the things I wanted to do, and a list that has kept me wanting more. Over the last 3 years I have crossed off a number of items on this list, and while some of them were more life changing than others, I do not, for a second, regret doing them. And guess what? Some of the items on that list are exactly what this article says you should avoid at all costs.


“Fact: you won’t stand up the first time. Or the second. Or the third. But you will be shouted at by macho men who think they own the beach and can’t bear to share it with beginners. When you do finally catch waves, it will be wonderful. But not worth months of gulping freezing water and never-ending tinsels of dark bruises on your legs” . – @GuardianJessica

Yes, I didn’t stand up the first time I went surfing. Or the second. Or the third. But I stood up eventually and let me tell you it was AMAZING! And it didn’t take me moths, and there were no macho men shouting at me in the process. But for me surfing wasn’t about checking off an item off my bucket list, it was about challenging myself to try something new, something different, something that took effort and determination. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and a new found hobby! I may not go out surfing on a daily basis, but I have enjoyed getting out and hitting the waves once in a while during my travels!

Catching my first wave at a surf camp in Australia
Catching my first wave at a surf camp in Australia. I rode it all the way to the beach!!!

Surfing may not be for everyone. If you hate the ocean, are paranoid about being eaten by a shark, or you can’t bare the idea of gulping some water in the process, then you probably shouldn’t have surfing on your bucket list to start with.


“I have no idea why it is life affirming to wilfully fall out of a plane. – @agentbrasidas”

For me, skydiving was so much more than conquering some fear, it was so much more than saying I’ve done it, it was something I wanted to do for years. For me, jumping out of that airplane four years ago in Cairns, was actually life affirming! It cleared my mind, and inspired me in more ways than I ever imagined.

Skydiving in Cairns, Australia
Skydiving in Cairns, Australia

But skydiving is not for everyone. You might hate skydiving. You might hate the idea of falling out of the sky or be overtaken by the fear of dying due to a parachute malfunction. But for every person that hates it, there are hundreds more that absolutely love their first skydiving experience. And many go on to jump over and over again turning this once bucket list item into their ultimate hobby and a way to see the world from a different perspective.

How will you ever know if you are one of those people if you never try?


“Elephants. Everyone likes elephants: they’re impressively large, excellent at remembering stuff and some of them can even fly. And even though they’re massive, they’re scared of mice! Awww. So safaris in theory should be similarly excellent. But what you actually get with a safari is an incredibly expensive way of sitting around looking at a bush for hours. If you’re lucky you might see an elephant really far away…” @tom_lutz

I almost feel sad for this person. What kind of safari was he on? Probably not a very good one. I have recently written about my experience on a wild life safari in Sri Lanka’s Yala National Park. Yes, I saw elephants, incredible herds of elephants just a few feet away from our jeep. It was certainly a lot more than just some bushes for a few hours. There are incredible safari’s in the world! Hello, Masai Mara anyone? Or the Serengeti? I would love to spend days roaming around these parks, snapping photos and observing wild life in their natural element. So you bet, these parks are on my bucket list! Should they be on yours? Well that’s not for me to tell you.

Masai Mara National Park Safari
Masai Mara National Park Safari. Photography by Nigel Pavitt / JWL / Aurora Photos
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, Africa
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, Africa. Photo credit:

In fact, I believe your bucket list should be highly customized to what YOU want to do, what YOU want to see, and what YOU want to experience. Don’t go surfing if you don’t want to, don’t jump out of airplanes in you don’t want to, don’t copy items from other people’s lists just to be able to compare stories and brag about your experiences.

If you are religious, go to Vatican and stand there, admiring the incredible works of art in the Sistine Chapel or experience practicing your faith in this holy city. I promise you, it won’t matter to you that you are surrounded by thousands of other tourists.

If you are a history buff, travel to the Taj Mahal, the Angkor Wat, Ephesus, and Machu Picchu to stand on the ruins that have been there for thousands of years, taking in the history that surrounds you.

If you are a foodie, go to Paris and eat amazing French cuisine, or go to Asia and excite your taste buds with something you have never experienced before.

If you love adventure and a challenge, climb Mount Everest, jump off of a bridge with a rope attached to your feet, or learn how to scuba dive and discover a completely different world beneath us.

Do these things not because someone said you should, but because YOU WANT TO! And when you do, be proud to check these items off YOUR bucket list, but more importantly cherish YOUR memories and take the time to reflect on YOUR experiences.

What are your thoughts on the bucket list?
Do you think it’s a good idea for travelers to have one? 

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Read Next: 40 Bucket List Ideas To Inspire Your Future Trips

4 thoughts on “The Bucket List: Should You Forget It or Embrace It?”

  1. This is such a perfect article. I too had a bucket list, I still do. Whenever I take a peak at it, I wonder where am I. For instance, I always wanted to cruise in Atlantic but my bigger happiness was seeing a humpback breaching and tail slapping to show its love. And thus I keep modifying my bucket list with experiences and what I feel about those.


  2. Your retorts to the ‘must avoid’ bucket-list items are great. These activities are popular for a reason, after all, and it’s all about what you make of them. Seems you did them justice!

    I also had a little reflection about the value of a Bucket List when I started my latest blog. I do resonate with the comment in the Guardian article that “Thinking about my own most transformative moments, I can’t identify one which I had specifically sought to make me feel more alive” It is actually the same sentiment, if not text, that I have on my blog, right above my ‘Unbucket List’. I’ve decided to split the difference and make short term (a year or so at a time) lists of goals to challenge myself – because that’s what it’s all about in the end, right?

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