Nowadays bucket lists are everywhere and especially when it comes to traveling, people seem to always talk about their bucket lists, share them with others on blogs or their Social Media accounts and constantly keep adding things to do and see. There is even a whole business surrounding bucket lists: books, which tell you the 100 things you have to see before you die can be found in every bookstore and bloggers make a lot of money promoting bucket list worthy experiences.
I’ll be honest: I have been guilty of the bucket list craze, too. It can be loads of fun to sit down and write a list of things you want to do in the future, especially when you are spending a terribly boring, rainy Sunday afternoon at home and like to dream yourself away for some time. But there is something incredibly stressful that I have noticed with fellow travelers who were very focused on mastering the art of working off their bucket lists. Unfortunately many people are so caught up in their goal to see EVERYTHING that they don’t take the time to really enjoy a bucket list destination.
The first time I witnessed this phenomenon was in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, in 2010. My family and I had spent fantastic four days in a beautiful lodge that was situated in one of the best areas of the park. We had seen all kinds of exotic plants and amazing animals on our game drives and had learnt so much about nature and the area we stayed in. We had seen Zebras, rhinos, water buffalos, a crocodile fighting a buffalo and had played with a very nosy Chameleon. But according to our fellow travelers from Mexico these last days had been a complete disaster, because we hadn’t come across any elephants. Our ranger explained to us that most elephants had recently left the area because it had been too dry for them to find water sources. That explanation didn’t satisfy our Mexican friends. They had come to South Africa to see the Big Five and tick that off their bucket list. While we were enjoying the gorgeous nature around us, they were sitting in the van feeling miserable, moaning constantly and unable to enjoy the magic around them. Funny enough, two hours after they left the lodge, we suddenly found an elephant casually hanging around near our accommodation.
Another time that I found myself quite irritated by other travelers was during my trip to Jordan in 2015. The antique city of Petra is without a doubt one of the most unique places in the world and therefore on many travelers’ bucket lists. After entering the area it takes a pretty short walk before you finally arrive at the canyon that we have all seen on the covers of National Geographic and other travel magazines. The world famous treasury is basically the first building you see when entering the canyon. I had met a couple from Great Britain on the way down to the canyon and we had started to talk about our travels right away. They were a lot of fun to hang out with! After standing more than half an hour in front of the majestic treasury I was ready to explore the rest of the areal. Sadly, they couldn’t join me because they were on a tight schedule. They only had one day in Jordan left and just had to tick off another thing on their bucket list: the Dead Sea. We said goodbye and while I spent the entire day exploring the secrets of Petra, I realized that they might have seen the main sight in Petra but really didn’t get to experience its true magic. Yes, they were able to tick off Petra from their bucket list, but had they really seen this unique place?
Unfortunately I have often found that long, extensive bucket lists lead to people feeling an enormous pressure to achieve all their travel goals. When they finally get to the places they had dreamed about they are often already so caught up in the next point on their list that they can’t make the most of their experience.
I try to fully enjoy my travels and dive into every culture I get to experience. When I embarked on my first Interrail trip throughout Spain I fell in love with one particular city and decided to spend weeks there instead of ticking off every single city on my bucket list for Spain. I really took the time to get to know this place, meet amazing people and try out every single tapas bar available. At the end of the trip I hadn’t ticked off every point on my Spanish bucket list but guess what: I had fully indulged in a great experience and made memories that I will cherish forever. In the years after that I got to visit some of the places I had missed on that trip and I hope I’ll get to see some others in the future. But you know what? I will not die an unhappy woman if I end up not having checked off every single thing on my bucket list and neither will you.