There are two categories of travellers - while one group prepares a 'bucket list' and plans journeys according to it, the others set out on a trip on the spur of the moment. Most people belong to the latter category; however, there are many regular travellers who list the places they wish to visit and make elaborate plans for the journeys.
All these people can be considered as tourists, but which section represents real travellers? Whose approach can be considered as genuine?
Some travellers say preparing a bucket list is suicidal. They consider life itself as a journey and set an agenda only for making life enjoyable. In many ways, this is the better approach. If someone wishes to travel to a place, he or she should set on the journey whether the place is on the bucket list or not. The path to achieve any goal will present itself before the seeker, if pursued earnestly.
The opinions of seasoned travellers on the matter would offer revealing insights. However, there would not be clear solution to the poser on whether a bucket list is needed or not.
Samer Kawar's views
American architect Samer Kawar has prepared a bucket list of 154 countries and wishes to visit all of them as soon as possible. “I consider bucket list as integral part of my life. Often, we come across information about a new place or experience which excites us. The source of the information may be a newspaper, magazine, the internet or a conversation with friends or colleagues,” he says. Kawar immediately adds the place to his bucket list, which expands all the time.
“I always refer to my list while planning a new journey,” he informs.
But Kawar admits that life can go on even without a bucket list. “There is so much to see and feel in the world and there is no need to prepare a list. Though I keep a list ready, I am not a slave to it. Moreover, my bucket list has a major drawback - even after several journeys, the list gets expanded,” he reveals.
Kayla Diamond from South Africa has a different view. “On one hand I agree that preparing a list has some benefits, but on the other I am against such a process. By making a list of my travel dreams, I can refer to it every day and start preparations for my next journey. However, a trip presents several wonderful experiences which can never be planned. Such occasions will present themselves before a traveller only after he reaches the destination. In such cases, preparing a list would only be a frivolous affair,” says Diamond.
Against the list
Sarah Bearchell, a former corporate executive who now travels around the world teaching English, is dead against bucket lists. “Such lists are for those who would literally kick the bucket soon. I would prefer to prepare a 'list of life' instead. It would give me pointers to gradually turn life better,” according to Bearchell.
“Listing places we wish to visit or sights we dream of seeing deprive the journey of its true spirit. Your life may not improve if you click photos of yourself in front of the Eiffel Tower. Such displays are only a show which earns likes on the social media,” she says.
Instead, journeys have to enable us to meet new people, experience their lives first hand and realize that all mankind is one. “Travels should also help us know that many factors which we consider important are in reality meaningless,” adds Sarah.
“Lists of places or experiences will tie you down in the world of social media and the material aspects of life which hamper your real growth,” she warns.
However, Sarah gives advice on what can be done. “How would a list which improves your life look like? Which all places or experiences are meaningful, according to you? What all things would you like to learn from visiting these places? Make a list of each such point,” she says.
A 'ticket list'
IT professional and blogger Srinidhi Hande maintains a list. He calls it 'ticket list.' He makes some practical suggestions. “I have turned booking flight tickets at the lowest fares into an art. Many of the bookings I make are done months before a journey, which helps me plan for the trip in advance. For a person who is not serious about preparing for a journey and doing advance bookings, bucket lists are a tedious affair,” he says.
Psychology behind the arguments
Narrow aims: A traveller heading to Kenya to see the lions may not notice the other animals. In other words, a trip planned for a specific purpose turns exclusively one for meeting that goal. Such a traveller misses several other experiences and delightful encounters.
Disappointments: Another argument against planned trips is that they may lead to disappointments. For instance, consider a trip planned to the Normandy coast inspired by the pictures of Mont-Saint-Michel. A traveller dreams of wading to the castle through the sea. However, if it is high tide when he finally gets there, all his plans would be submerged as the castle would be inaccessible.
Trips should be enjoyable, not a burden: A trip included in the bucket list could turn a burden if it is not affordable. For instance, if a person sets out to realize his dream of visiting the Arctic at any cost, he may have to pay dearly, losing money as well as valuable time.
Depression: Not visiting all places included in the bucket list does not make a person a failed traveller. He or she should not be depressed over the matter. Such a list sets a high standard - which most of the time cannot be met. Avoiding a bucket list is similar to keeping away from a cause of worry. Moreover, it would make journeys more pleasant.
Most travellers admit that bucket lists include places one would never ever visit; 'must see' destinations which many believe would make life enjoyable and places which may not really interest you.
Seasoned travellers advise that bucket lists, if prepared, should be taken seriously. Including destinations which can indeed be visited would help matters. Avoid making a 'list of dreams,' they say.
Creating a bucket list helps one achieve fixed goals. However, such lists confuse personal preferences with social norms. In other words, several people pursue the same dream. It is similar to a shopping list made by customers who dream of acquiring everything in a mall. “Each list is an attempt to improve lives and fill deficiencies,” say psychologists.
Preparing bucket lists has a competitive angle. One would not only improve his or her list but also try to make it better than that of the others. In this age when achievements are decided by Facebook pages, making and displaying such lists is not a surprising trend. Psychologist Linda Blair, in her book 'The Key to Calm' says that if one enjoys setting big goals and pursuing it whole-heartedly, it is indeed a great achievement.
“Make money, prepare plans with friends. This is my way,” she says.
“However, it is no life that you always focus on the future and avoid the present,” she adds. Would all the planning help defeat the inevitable death? Linda does not believe so.
“The bucket list is a method to evade the idea of death. One feels that there are many things to do and most of them would turn a reality soon. Such efforts are directed to keep away thoughts of death. A bucket list is considered the list of things you like to do before your last day. When preparing a bucket list of journeys, it is indeed a list of places you wish to travel to before the inevitable event occurs,” according to Linda.
In a nutshell
There are only a very few destinations a traveller may not really wish to visit. The entire globe may soon become a bucket list. However, this may not apply to all travellers. A person who has visited 15 countries could feel that he has seen everything in life. But still, one can travel to London during summer this year, to Greece next summer, and to Thailand the year after that. There are immense options for travelling, just as in life.
Much experience is needed to embark on fruitful trips and turn them enjoyable. One can dream about a journey and discuss about it. Everybody does it. But would preparing a bucket list and adhering to it help? One still feels doubtful.