In the age of social media, it sometimes feels like life is one constant bucket list. We check off items and casually brag about them on Instagram and Facebook. This is especially true when it comes to travel.
It seems like every other travel website has an article about the new must-see travel destinations, or places you “need” to visit before you reach 30. While these can definitely be helpful in giving you ideas, they can also give you a lot of unnecessary pressure that goes against the point of travel in the first place. Even more importantly, you could fall into the trap of doing things because other people say you should rather than doing what you want to do.
I’ve fallen into this trap myself and, honestly, I’m still working on how to get out of it. I first realized this when I went to Amsterdam. I just wanted to have my idea of a good time: partying with the locals, people watching in cafés and seeing some cool architecture. But I kept getting lists from friends of all the museums I just had to see. It really got into my brain and made me start thinking, “How could I come back and say I’d gone to Amsterdam without seeing all of the sites?”
Ultimately, I didn’t go to any museums on that trip (unless you include the cheese factory tour I did on a day-trip to Zaans Schans). And I don’t regret skipping them. I’m just not the type of person that generally enjoys museums. It took me a long time to admit this. It feels low-brow of me. But I think it’s important for us all to accept what we enjoy and make our own travel plans based around that. While some may prefer museums, art, and music, I prefer thrill-seeking activities, nature, and architecture. There’s no shame in that.
What’s been an even bigger challenge for me is getting over the checklist mindset of the bucket list. Travel shouldn’t be about just checking places and experiences off and thinking, “Been there, done that.” It should be a continuous exploration. I should spend as much time in a place as I enjoy and continue to revisit places I’ve fallen in love with. I should also be able to fully immerse myself in each new place and experience without rushing so I can move onto the next.
I’m not quite sure yet how I’ll get over this. I’ve met several people on my current Southeast Asia trip who have asked why I’m not going to Thailand. “Well, I already visited Thailand a few years ago.” “Did you like it?” “I loved it.” There’s inevitably a pause and I realize how silly I sound. While I sadly won’t have time to revisit Thailand on this trip, I now know that I will prioritize it in the future.
Looking back, my most enjoyable travel moments weren’t when I was rushing around and sightseeing. Instead, they consisted of late-night conversations with new friends or people watching at an outdoor café. That’s not to say I don’t cherish the amazing sites I’ve seen. But I think the best moments in life aren’t planned. By getting out of bucket list mode, travel can become easier to appreciate. To quote the wise Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”