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As I’ve been reading other travel blogs lately I’ve come across a particular hatred for the use of bucket lists.  Here and here are a few examples.  Many writers say it’s because people tend to make a list of things they’d like to do without actively pursuing those goals to accomplish them.  Others say it’s because the term “bucket list” refers to things you want to do before you die, or “kick the bucket” (where did that term come from, you say?  Read here).  So by making a list of things to do before you die, you supposedly procrastinate on that list until you have a major epiphany that life is too short and you scramble to do as many things as possible on that list before your life is snuffed out.  Just like the movie The Bucket List portrayed.
But I see a bucket list in a completely different light.  To me it’s a list of accomplishments I’ve already completed combined with a number of things still left to do.  And the journey I take to completing each item on the list is an accomplishment in itself.  For example, on my list you’ll see “Ride in a hot air balloon”.  I added this to my list because 1) I think it would be really cool and 2) I have a pretty big fear of heights.  By completing this task I will hopefully overcome my fear, just like seeing a tarantula in the Amazon somewhat made me overcome my fear of spiders (I still won’t touch one).You’ll notice that I don’t have things on my list like “Go Sky Diving” or “Learn to fly a plane”.  That’s because there’s no way in hell I would ever do either of those things, nor do I have any interest in doing them.  I know my limits.

Now of course some of the items on the list are just about going to a particular destination and seeing an important landmark or having a particular experience.  But other items are much more work than that.  There’s no way I could climb Mt. Fuji without losing some weight and getting into serious shape.  So by working to accomplish that task I will have to force myself to meet other major goals not listed like getting fit.  Hosting a foreign exchange student will allow us to experience what it’s like to be a parent, something we’ve pursued for just about all of our 5-year marriage.

When I set out to create a bucket list I knew that it wasn’t something that’s set in stone.  It’s an ever-changing document.  As I travel more and experience more of the world there are some things I may want to add and some things I may want to remove from the list.

On top of being flexible I also think it’s realistic.  While I appreciate the whole reach-for-the-stars mantra, I also think I’m setting myself up for disappointment if I add something that I would never be able to physically, financially or emotionally accomplish.  I’m also not hellbent on doing every single thing on the list.  Life happens, people have babies, people get sick, people lose jobs, it’s all unpredictable.  While I will always strive to complete my bucket list I know I can’t avoid things that are completely out of my control  There may be periods in my life where my bucket list will remain untouched for years at a time and I’m okay with that.

Still, I think it’s helpful to look back on the list and see how much I’ve already accomplished, especially during times when I feel like I’ve accomplished so little.  We’re not parents yet so we can’t see the rewards from our hard work grow up before our eyes like parents do.  We’re not writers or scientists who can see our ideas in print for others to read.  We’re just ordinary people.  Our bucket list is our child.  It’s our book.  And in the end when we’re old and grey and sitting somewhere in a nursing home we’ll be able to look back at pictures and journal entries and remember the times when we accomplished things we never thought we were strong or brave or even crazy enough to do.  That’s why I like bucket lists.

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