Life Bucket List

The Problem with the Life Bucket List

Often, the life bucket list is built with the wrong intentions.

By definition, they are meant to be a list of events or activities that we all strive to accomplish, sometimes defined more strongly as– before we die lists.  Most likely, they require a plan – to prepare for them, save money, bank vacation days, or gain the courage to complete them. Thus, they become monumental and often, life-changing accomplishments, before we sadly, kick the bucket.  Most importantly, the life bucket list also shows us progress — goals to work towards and to hold us accountable to achieve things bigger than we ever expected to do.

18722365760For example, Troy and I love to hike and hiking the Inca trail to see Macchu Picchu was high on our life bucket list. We knew it would be physically demanding, to challenge our fitness to prove we could finish an endurance hike, while also exploring Peru, a country we had heard so much about for its diversity of landscapes and fascinating culture. The end result was a massive appreciation for the country, and the wonderful people we met along the trail.

Questioning the purpose of a life bucket list

I often ask people we meet while traveling why a particular item or adventure is on their list. The responses I sometimes receive are variations of, “I don’t know”, “It’s a cool thing to do”, or “My friend did it, and I want to do it, too.”

I also see some people (often in travel blogging) using a bucket list as a check-the-box kind of list: “I’ve been to 30 countries,” or “I’m going to travel 50 countries by the time I turn 25.”Regardless of what it is, these lists seem less intentional, perhaps even about bragging rights, rather than a personal accomplishment to achieve a significant goal.

What if we deliberately made our life bucket list meaningful and purposeful?

 One inspiration for my rant is a great post from Zen Habits called “The Anti-bucket list.” Blogger/writer Leo Baubauta makes some great points. Namely that many bucket lists out there are just lists – activities unrelated to anything meaningful. Why can’t they be about something like “changing someone’s life”, or “being compassionate to my family?”

So, Instead of rushing to check the box on another country on your map, perhaps a new  meaningful travel  approach is in order to:

  •  See a country more deeply by staying there longer and familiarize yourself with how a different culture lives.
  • Learning a few words of a new language to connect with people different than your familiar network back home.
  • Work on a social program while you go on a life bucket list location to learn about issues and challenges in different parts of the world.

I’m not suggesting changing your desires in life, but maybe we could all look at our life bucket list with a different lense. 


About the Author Dorene

Dorene is a marketing consultant and freelance writer. She quit her 20-year career in marketing to redesign her career and lifestyle on her own terms by living location independent. Now with her husband Troy, she helps people who want to redefine their midlife and make conscious changes at TravelLifeX. She also trains & coaches travel and hospitality clients to improve their marketing at

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