The Bucket List: Make the Bucket Big Enough

In my earlier post, I talked about one of the experiences on my bucket list. While I do have a vision board that illustrates some of my life goals, I have never made an official bucket list. Instead, I have a fluid, ever-evolving ‘secret menu’ of moments I hope to experience. If I look back at my life, especially my twenties, I feel lucky to have fulfilled many of these desires…like this one:


Skydiving near Cairns, Australia

…or this one:

Top of Grizzly Peak, Alberta

Top of Grizzly Peak, Alberta

Part of what made these bucket list items achievable was that I made them flexible enough for me to seize. While New Zealand is often considered the extreme sports capital of the world, I took the opportunity to skydive while I was in Australia. This is one case where I needed to commit myself to work up the courage, but I tried to keep my options flexible. Even though I was originally planning to do the jump in Brisbane, the to-do list item simply read: skydive somewhere abroad. I ended up having the opportunity to jump in Cairns, again having to shift my plans around because of the weather. Had I been too specific about jumping in Brisbane, I may not have had a chance to jump at all on that trip.

In the summer of 2007, I became frustrated with the fact that I had hiked extensively in the Rockies, but had never peaked any mountains, despite growing up in Calgary. Returning home from my penultimate semester at uni, I requested we change our plans for a family hike into one that would have us peak a mountain, any mountain. Taking advantage of Grizzly Peak’s proximity to home, our family outing turned into a family scramble (my dad and brother used to be avid scramblers). While my mom didn’t quite make it to the peak, she made it much further along than I would expect of any of her peers, and I got to enjoy the company of my whole family on this special trip. Had I been pickier about the mountain, it may have proved too difficult for my parents at that time in their life.

Some experiences are meant to be specific: like seeing the Grand Canyon – there is only one! Other times, a little bit of flexibility can help make something achievable. The same advice applies to travel – put yourself where you need to be, but don’t pigeon-hole yourself so much that you lose a chance to do something special. So, I now turn the question to you: what’s on your bucket list?

The Bucket List: Fleeting Beauty

I have always had a bucket list – it’s just not written anywhere. I like to think of it as an ever-evolving secret menu that a handful of people know about. Sometimes, even I don’t realize that I have ‘always wanted to do that’ until I have already done it. Other times, there is a clear vignette that I am chasing, which becomes a driver for making my travels happen a certain way. Our decision to divert to Japan for our upcoming trip is one such example. In 2005, I spent a co-op term in Vancouver, working in an office building which had many beautiful cherry trees in its garden. As March turned to April, I saw them in bloom for the first time, and it was a profound visual experience, especially when the breeze would blow. It was there that I learned of the importance of Sakura (cherry blossom) in Japanese culture, and it was there that I formed a desire to visit Japan to partake in Hanami (the act of appreciating the transient beauty of flowers).

Sakura in Heian Shrine

Sakura in Heian Shrine, by Oyvind Solstad (Used under Creative Commons license Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic)

I carried this desire in my heart, unspoken, until a couple of months ago when Al and I were deciding how we would fly back from Bangkok, the destination we had booked a year ago because of an exceptionally cheap flight deal. Flying back on points via Tokyo proved to be the most efficient way, and we planned a stopover in Japan, leaving Thailand (a country we had each already visited, separately) as our primary destination. Realizing that this would put us in Japan during prime Sakura season, I told Al about how it was on my bucket list, and we adjusted our plans to spend some more time in Japan, allowing us to travel to the northern parts where the trees would be in full bloom at our arrival. This is how we ended up with such a whirlwind world tour. While some of my earlier posts explored meaningful travel at a slower pace, seeking a natural/cultural experience is another way to make travel meaningful. In this case, I feel the pace is fitting. Life is guaranteed to be transient, like the Sakura. If we’re lucky, it can also be just as beautiful.