Why You SHOULDN'T Throw Out Your Bucket List

Lately, we’ve seen several blog posts (especially those shared on Facebook) encouraging people to throw out their bucket lists.

In these blog posts, the authors argue that the quintessential bucket list, made up of dream vacations and exciting (maybe even exhilarating or extreme) experiences, gets people too focused on the particular items written down on paper ... and thus less focused on living in the moment. The bucket list, they say, keeps people from traveling on a whim or jumping at a sudden opportunity because it might not line up with what’s on their bucket list.

And, of course, what's on the bucket list usually comes first.

In some ways, the argument against the bucket list holds true. We agree that you can become too obsessive with a bucket list, especially one that looks pretty on paper, and forget to go where the wind takes you. We also agree that some of the best experiences are ones you stumble across … ones that might never have made it on your bucket list to begin with … and it’s in a traveler's best interest to be open to those experiences.

One of our bucket list items was to lay on a beach in the Caribbean

One of our bucket list items was to lay on a beach in the Caribbean

However, we disagree with the people (even fellow travelers—we love you guys, though!) who encourage people to throw away their bucket list and live without one.

Maybe it’s just the way we travel combined with our specific travel personalities, but we think there are several benefits to having a bucket list!

It gives you a structured list of things to do

When Ben and I first met and started talking about travel, one of our favorite topics was asking each other where we wanted to go, what we wanted to do, and who we wanted to meet while abroad. These conversations weren’t locking us into a travel contract, but they really got us thinking about what excites us, what in the world matters to us, what we’re interested in, and what things we had in common.

We both love travel. You could even say we’re travel nerds (ha ha ha)! If you told us, right this second, to go look at the lovely world map hanging on our wall at home and decide where we wanted to go tomorrow, we’d have the hardest time deciding ... mostly because we want to go everywhere and experience everything we can get our hands on!

A bucket list, in this regard, really gives our wandering eyes and wandering souls some structure. Instead of spinning around blindfolded and selecting a random place on the map (kind of like pin the tail on the donkey), we’d take a look at our bucket list and pick a location based on something special that we both really want to do. What happens once we get there, however, is totally up in the air.

So if you like structure, like us, there’s nothing wrong with having a bucket list. It gives you something special to work toward!

It acts as a journal of fav experiences & places

If you go take a peek at our bucket list, you’ll notice two things.

1) We are constantly adding to our list of things we want to do, so our bucket list is actually very flexible.

2) As we complete things on our list, we add the date we did them and generally write a blog post or two about it.

Our bucket list isn't final, and it definitely won’t keep us from jumping at a sudden and exciting opportunity that isn’t on our travel list. In fact, we're going to Canada next week just because we can fit it into our busy schedule ... not because it's on our bucket list!

Basically, we don’t always choose where to go next based on the next item on our list, but it’s a really fun way to look at the things that are important to us and see what we’ve accomplished. As far as keeping track of our travels go, maintaining our bucket list as a personal journal of our adventures is almost as important as running Two Nerds Travel! We very much enjoy crossing something off the list and reflecting on the experience … almost as much as we like adding random items as they come to us.

It’s a great talking point

This is a big one. A lot of people, especially friends and family, ask us what our travel goals are, where we want to go next, what our top ideas are, and so on. In turn, we point them to our bucket list. It's an easy solution to a hard question. Not only do we generally not know what we’re going to do next (so the list quenches their curiosity), but it’s also a great talking point and breaks the ice for travel conversations.

Often enough, the person looking at the list will find something on it that they also want to do, and we’ll then break into a fun conversation about visiting Machu Picchu or taking surfing lessons in California, and so on.

Personally, I’ve had some of the best conversations with other people at random because our bucket list has acted as a segue into travel talk. I’ve never, ever, ever been disappointed with the discussions that are sparked by having a bucket list to look at.

Bucket lists have their place in travel, and we think they’re fun to have. Of course, a bucket list shouldn’t be the be all, end all of your travel experiences, and you should consider them as a list of “guidelines instead of actual rules,” but otherwise there’s truly no harm (and quite a lot of enjoyment!) to be had in making a bucket list, even if you eventually toss it aside later because life surprised you with experiences that were off the beaten path.

Who knows, maybe you’ll look back at your bucket list ten, twenty, thirty years from now and relive some wonderful memories. Or maybe you’ll meet someone, and the bucket list idea will spark some incredible conversation!

What do you think about the bucket list vs. no bucket list conversation? Leave us a comment or respond to the discussion with a blog post of your own. We’d love to hear from you!

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