Why I Don't Have A Bucket ListBucket list: a list of things to do before you die. If you spend any time reading through travel blogs, you will find that many writers have a “bucket list” post or even category. A  list of dream destinations they want to visit, or an adventurous activity they would like to do. Something amazing they would like to see before they, you know, kick the bucket. My friends, I don’t have a bucket list.

Fun fact: One of the theories on the origin of the saying “kick the bucket” refers to someone in a noose, standing on a bucket, which they kick out from under their feet to commit suicide. Sorry, morbid fact.

Whenever I would read someone’s bucket list, something about it would make me feel weird inside. Uncomfortable. Like in a cringy way. Like it is just any empty list of dreams that we both know you won’t get to cross everything off. Or even make the effort for most of the items. Who are you even trying to fool?

Here are a few reasons why I don’t have a bucket list

1.A bucket list is simply a wish list

I don’t think a bucket list is any kind of concrete plan. It’s a list of dreams. It’s not the same as making goals and steps to reach those goals, such as saving and logistics.

Maybe deep down you know it’s not possible to see all 100 things on your list. Then, I can’t see the purpose of setting unrealistic dreams for yourself that will only make you feel bad for not “getting around to them.” You will always see travel bloggers saying “my bucket list keeps getting longer and longer, hahaha, lolz.”

2. It’s an excuse to not make plans

If your bucket list is just a list of dreams, then you probably won’t make much effort to actually do anything. Most things on someone’s bucket list are usually big/expensive/time consuming/scary/challenging things, like visiting Macchu Picchu or swimming with hammer head sharks. It’s much easier to keep these things on an unattainable list and continue to dream about them. But what’s the point? Maybe it’s better if you don’t have a bucket list.

3. You might be disappointed with your experience

Let’s say you made it to the Colosseum, but you were disappointed there is a McDonald’s right beside it. You went to Iceland to see the Northern Lights, but they just didn’t happen. You saw the Pyramids, but they’ve been so overhyped they didn’t impress you. (I don’t think this is possible, by the way.) You tried to climb a mountain, but the weather was bad and you had to turn around.

I think having things on your bucket list sets them to too high expectations. You will be disappointed that this huge thing you had been looking forward to for so long turned out to be a failure to some degree. Because travel doesn’t always go the way we want it to.

4. I don’t have a bucket list because I don’t want to regret it if I can’t finish everything on the list

What if you make it to the end of your long life, and you haven’t done most of the things on your bucket list? You didn’t “get around to everything,” or you didn’t “check everything off.”cBecause life is one big check list, right? (BTW, in other contexts, I’m a huge fan of lists.)cAnd if you didn’t get anything… you’re a failure?

You will regret that you weren’t able to do everything. I won’t say accomplish, because as I’ve said, they aren’t real goals. But you will probably find yourself saying, “I wish I saw the Taj Mahal,” or “I wish I went zip lining through the Amazon.” See? Wish list.

5. What happens if you do cross everything off?

If, by some chance, you do everything on your wish list, I mean bucket list, then what? Forget about it? It’s over, so does that mean you can die now? Or do you make a new list and start again? But that would put you back in the position of potential disappointment and future regret. Are you starting to see why I don’t have a bucket list?

autumn leaves okazaki

…..

Ok, Jennifer. Thanks for the soul-crushing post. But then do you have a better idea? Don’t you want to see all the things and do all the stuff?

You’re welcome. I don’t know if I have a better idea, but a bucket list is not for me. And yes, I want to see things and do stuff. Duh.

If I read anyone’s bucket list, I probably want to do most of those things too. I want to see the Australian Outback. Go on an African safari. Learn how to SCUBA dive. I want to to stuff my face with chocolate in Switzerland. And on and on. A want list. But I still don’t have a bucket list.

If you really want to go somewhere or see something, then actually make a plan to do it. Don’t sit in front of your laptop dreaming about it. Figure out the cost, time, etc, and start saving and planning. Make it happen. This will force you to chose something from you wish list. You will have to make one item a priority and go for it.

Life lesson by Jennifer: instead of dreaming about a million different impossibilities, make one REAL possibility. (I take credit for this quote.)

Also, I think the best experiences and fondest memories happen by accident.

Climbing Mt. Fuji five years was a spontaneous decision. The weather was good, and we decided two days before. It turned out to be an unforgettable experience. When I went to India, I didn’t know I would be hiking in the Himalayas for three days, almost eaten by snow leopards and nearly dying of hypothermia. I didn’t go to Chile planning to go sand boarding or horseback riding in the desert. But both of those things happened.

Of course a trip requires some planning as well as some dreaming. I just don’t think you should let the dream part take over while the planning and doing part gets forgotten. Plan something when the time is right, then let the adventures happen when they happen, and make the most of them when they do.

prayer flags

…..

Now, back to the title of this post. I do kind of, sort, have a little, tiny bit of a bucket list. While I hesitate to call it a bucket list, there’s only one thing on it.

I don’t have a bucket list, but I want to have a summer birthday.

My birthday is in January, and in Canada it was always cold and often snowy. This means I can only do things indoors, or outdoors with lots of winter clothes on. It’s the same in Japan. I’ve never been in the southern hemisphere or a warm country in January.

I want to have a birthday where I can wear summer clothes. I want to feel the sun on my skin. Have a barbecue. I want to play outside. Go to the beach. Play in the water. Go to the park. Biking, hiking, whatever. Eat ice cream. Eat popsicles.

Now, this is something I could easily make happen now. It’s easy to fly from Japan to a country in southeast Asia. And my birthday is after the holiday season, so it might even be semi-cheap. Also, I don’t have any real obligations that are keeping me in Japan. So I’m well aware that I could it. I could have done it by now

What’s stopping me? Don’t know. I guess I’m not super worried about it. I keep making excuses to put if off. Afraid to be disappointed. I don’t want to spend my birthday away from my husband. What happens when it’s over? See? It’s already fallen into the bucket list trap.

Therefore, I don’t want to consider it a bucket list item. It’s just “a thing I want to do someday.” Like a lot of other things, but Anyway, I’m not sure how to wrap this all up. So I guess that’s enough rambling for now.

I hope you understand why I don’t have a bucket list, and maybe I’ve made you consider your “bucket list.” Or maybe not. That’s fine. You do you. Let me know your opinion on bucket lists in the comment section!

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tentacle fingers

Read: The singing sand dunes of Khongoryn Els

Read: Cherry blossoms viewing at Yamazaki River

Author

Jennifer has lived in Japan for a total of seven years. She has travelled, taught English, studied Japanese, completed a Master's Degree, and travelled some more. She currently calls Nagoya her home, where she lives with her Japanese husband.

24 Comments

  1. Am not one for lists either – for me ‘putting something on the bucket list’ is more an expression, as I want to go and I might think about it one day! I prefer taking things as they come and make the most of the places I am lucky enough to go!

    • In my everyday, I do like lists. Like for shopping, things I need to do in the day, things for school, things I need to research. Practical things. I’m really a big organized nerd 🙂 I dream, but I don’t make dreamy wish lists.

  2. Lists are fine and serve for me, a daily purpose but a bucket list is kind of like a New Years Resolution. Setting yourself up for failure.

  3. Hah love the tentacles in our faces. Hmm I might say once in a while that I have a list but I do not know if it is a bucket list. I am a die-hard list-maker, accompanied by little doodles in my journal. But does that make it a bucket list? I do not know. What I do know is that I do have an idea about what I want to see and taste and live before I kick the bucket. Oh and when anyone says lolzz…I mentally use a hammer to calm myself down. You have a story of hiking in the Himalayas? I would love to read that!

    • I’m also a list-maker. I have to-do lists, and I regularly cross things off and add new things. It’s especially useful for me with my school stuff so I remember when to submit things, go to meetings, and lots of other things. Even if I go to the store for a couple things I like to make a list. I think I forgot to mention that point in my post… There are lots of things I want to do too, and I have some ideas. My Himalaya story is one of my bigger adventures, and I don’t know if I’m mentally ready to write about it, ya know? I’ve actually thought about making it into a short story instead.

      • Well whatever you do, it would be great if you put it down before time starts to nip into the memories and the finer details of your story. Someday I will hope to read it xx

  4. You make a good point. My bucket list is looooooong! It is definitely easier to add to the list than checking an item off. Do you have any fun trips planned this year?

    • Oh, thanks for asking! I have a research trip to Thailand in July/August with my school. And I’ve applied for a couple other school things, though I haven’t heard back yet so it might be a no-go. Ummm…that’s all for right now. What about you?

  5. I too would love to read that Himalayan story when you’re ready to write it. Interesting take on the bucket list thing. Never thought about it really. I don’t have one, but I have lots of thoughts of places I’d like to go – wishes, dreams – they fire me up, enable me to see the wonder of life. I guess I balance this with practical action about the thing I want to do next. I visit somewhere, but there are always other places to go. I don’t mind that I’ll never live long enough to do all, see all, experience all. It just adds to the mystery and gorgeousness of the universe….

    • I think we all have to resign ourselves to the fact that that there’s a very good chance we won’t be able to see all the things we want to see. But that’s okay.

  6. Hi Jennifer,

    I really enjoyed reading your post. I must admit, I had a bucket list when I moved to Japan for a year in 2015…but it was a relatively small and manageable list I think–a bit cliche too. Things like Hanami in Kyoto, the overnight climb for the sunrise atop Mt. Fuji, Thailand for Golden Week, and visiting Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial. I hit most of the big things on my mini bucket (except for Hiroshima), but at the end of my year, I realized the more meaningful experiences and travels I had were the ones that were unplanned–hopping on a trekking trip to Yakushima, Nagasaki for the lantern festival, and so much more…so I completely agree with you about bucket lists just being a checklist. I find so much more meaning in unplanned adventures.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Best,
    Becca

    • Thanks for your comment. I wasn’t sure if my post was going to be too critical of bucket lists. I don’t want to offend anyone, but it could just be that those who are offended haven’t commented. You’re right, so many great things happen when you don’t plan them. Maybe that’s why they turn out so great though because we didn’t already hype them up. Then we are surprised and remember this awesome thing that happened that we hadn’t planned.

  7. I’m with you, Jennifer. I’ve never made a bucket list because as soon as I think of something I want to put on it, I go out and do it. I love reading other people’s lists and always hope I’ll feel inspired by something on theirs. Which does happen. Like – I love your idea of having a summer birthday in January. Which then makes me think that since I have a summer birthday (August), maybe I should try to make one a winter birthday. I’m such a copycat. I should just ask other people to make a bucket list for me. 😉

    • You can copy the seasonal birthday thing. It might be just as interesting for you to experience a winter birthday. It might be fun to play in the snow and bundle up with warm clothes and food. I’m sure it would make a fun memory, just for something different. You’re right about other people’s bucket lists giving inspiration though. There are still lots of things I don’t even know about, so I can get ideas from other people.

  8. This is really good! I feel a bit funny about bucket lists too, and although I do have one I’m always hesitant to put things on it. I think there’s a difference between a wishlist and a BUCKET list, and a lot of people don’t seem to have a line between the two. Out of 100 things, I’m betting only about 10 of those would be things you’ll be genuinely disappointed you didn’t do.

  9. Interesting take on this. To me, a bucket list is a wish list that allows me to set goals and aim for them. So far I’ve done well. Having said that, I don’t sit there and make a huge list of places/experiences that are officially a bucket list. They are loosely identified as that. I think the term has become so overdone because people are just using it as an unattainable want to do as opposed to actually doing it.

    • That’s great that you make plans and take action when you decide that you want to see something on your list. But by that nature, wouldn’t it more of a list of goals rather then a wish list? I think the word “wish” itself implies something unattainable and that you don’t necessarily put effort into achieving, which is the point I’m making in the first place. Maybe it’s an issue of semantics and the way people throw around the term “bucket list” without even thinking.

      • Yes you are right. To me bucket list is a list of goals but many use it as a wish list. In that interpretation I totally agree. If you’re not planning on doing it or going there then why bother?

  10. I agree !! When I see a great country I say ‘I’ll add it to my bucket list’ but to be honest (#SpoilerAlert!) I don’t have one aha I have countries where I want to go (like almost every countries but some are higher in my ‘list’) but it’s good to have motivation, but to do as you feel and not only wanting to cross stuff out your bucket list !

    • Thanks for being honest about that. I also have sort of lists where some countries or places are higher in terms of me wanting to go there. I’ll admit though, it is nice to get ideas and inspiration from other people’s “bucket lists”

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