May 22, 2019

My Bucket List May Surprise You

The last several weeks of posts have been a little on the serious side. Except for the one about the train trip through the Verde River Canyon, things have been a little "deep." Several readers have noted that the articles after my sabbatical are different from before: more personal, more philosophical, more varied in subject matter. I'm glad you've noticed and most seem pleased.

Today, just for a change of pace, I thought I'd write about something with a bit less heft, a little more tongue in cheek: my personal non-bucket list, things I don't feel compelled to accomplish while still on this side of the grass. Would I refuse any of these if offered?  Probably not, but I don't plan on scheduling them. They just aren't compelling enough at this stage of life.

In thinking abut my anti-bucket list I discovered a lot of web sites that give me lists to choose from, in case I can't come up with my own ideas. In fact, my favorite is this one: 329 Bucket List ideas to try before you die. If you have no idea of what should be on your list, either to do or to avoid, this is for you since it covers virtually everything. In reviewing it I found a surprising number of things I have already done that didn't occur to me would be bucket-list worthy.

Actually, it took awhile but I came up with my own list, my own ideas, based on my personality and my own desires and interests. As I thought about this post I realized I have accomplished several of the items these lists promote. Imagine how satisfying it is to not worry about including or excluding these: 

Normal Bucket List: Some of The Things Already Checked off:

1. Own an RV and travel around the country.

2. Own a weekend cabin in the woods while the kids were young.

3. Take a river cruise in Europe.

4. Visit Tuscany.

5. Become part owner of a radio station (in Hawaii, no less)

6. Become certified in Scuba Diving

7. Downhill and cross-country ski

8. Visit a nude beach ( in Hawaii and Oregon. Luckily nearly everyone was dressed, including me!)

My Don't Care Bucket List:

So, what about the things that are typical bucket list events, places, or activities that no longer hold any sway over me? What could I skip and go to the great blogging website in the sky and not feel cheated?

1) Skydiving/bungee jumping. Jumping out of a perfectly good plane or off an entirely serviceable bridge? At my age I already cheat death every day. Why mess with a good thing.

2) Riding the biggest fastest roller coasters. Big Thunder Mountain at Disneyland is already my stomach's limit. I can get sick all on my own, if I want.

3) Seeing Machu Picchu. Gorgeous? Spectacular? Yes. Very far away, very expensive, very high up, usually very crowded? Yes.

4) Going on an African Safari. Leave the animals alone or contribute all that money to protecting them from poachers and environmental destruction. 

5) Running in the Boston or NYC Marathon. When I was on the track team in high school I'd run 400 meters and throw up. I doubt things would be any different 55 years later.

It occurs to me what a "first world" problem a bucket list is. Billions of my fellow human beings worry about clean food and water, physical violence, poor (or non-existent) access to health care.....real things that make a dream list of trips and activities seem self-indulgent. Does that mean I should give into guilt and have no dreams of things I'd like to accomplish? No, I see no benefit in apologizing for the lucky circumstances of my birth and upbringing.

I'd still like to take a cruise to the South Pacific, visit New Zealand, and finally get good enough on the guitar so I don't sound like a sick cat.

At the same time, I see no reason to turn a blind eye to what others must endure. Frequently, I have written about the need for kindness and giving back. These aren't really bucket list-worthy concerns, but more an attempt to focus on what any of us can accomplish to make things better.

Some ideas for a non-typical bucket list to consider:

1) Support a child through an organization like Children International. Betty and I sponsor a boy in the Philippines and a girl in Zambia. Getting letters from them and watching them grow into young men and women is rewarding. We can't save lots of kids, but maybe help two.

2) Become a registered organ donor. What could be easier and at no cost or hardship to you. Trust me, you will never notice a piece is missing.

3) Mentor a younger person. I am involved with Junior Achievement, but there are all sorts of ways to help a younger generation. Isn't our responsibility to pass on what we know?

4) Protect the environment any way you can. Recycling is obvious, even if it appears to be less viable financially to some cities and towns. Avoid excess packaging, cut back on food you throw away, consider one car.

5) Learn a new skill. It doesn't really matter what it is: playing chess, taking better photos, learning to play the piano, speaking Spanish, taking online courses in something you know little about.....anything to keep your brain active. Stagnation is the enemy of a satisfying retirement.

OK, your turn:

  • What is on your bucket list?
  • What have you already accomplished you feel good about?
  • What do you no longer care enough about to keep on your list?
  • What can you add, today, that you'd like to work toward?


  1. Everything on your "Don't Care List" I'd put on mine as well, although doing a zip line does appeal to me which is a milder form of your #1.

    I've been doing Bucket Lists since people first started creating them and I revisit them from time to time. It's surprising how quickly I've been able to check items off in recent years. But then my lists are not ambitious...things like 'Do the NaNoWriMo challenge again' and 'Buy a recline bike." I once had on my list 'Write a fan letter to Oprah' and 'Read all the links on 1,000 Bucket List Ideas' but I've lost interest in doing both of them.
    If I had to add one today, on the spur-of-the-moment I say, Find the balance between that feeling of wasting time and being too busy.' It seems like I've been searching for that my entire life.

    1. I have yet to zip line, but think I'm willing to try it. The ones I have run across in Hawaii have been too expensive for my tastes. At an African animal park a few hours from Phoenix there is a zip line ride over the animals and the price is more reasonable. That might happen.

      Balance in how we spend time is a continuing issue, at least for me. That isn't so much a bucket list item, but a life problem that defies a solution.

  2. I bet most of us had never heard of a bucket list until they released a movie of that name back in 2007. In any case, I have some things I'd like to do, though if not it's no big deal. Right now, while we have our health, this is mostly travel related. Outside of business travel, which in my mind is work and not travel, we've really not travelled much except to visit family.

    My wife is from England and our kids were the only grandchildren for my in-laws so we've had lots of trips there. If that sounds romantic, having many many years where your vacation time was spent with your in-laws, I can tell you it wears a bit thin after a while. This is not a knock against them, they are lovely people and loved our children to bits, but I hope you understand what I mean.

    My wife's parents have passed so we are free to travel elsewhere and being retired we have the time too. So far this has been a month in a different part of Europe each year, last year we had a hiking holiday in Ireland. As time is marching on and as the flight from central Canada is grueling we are heading to Australia and New Zealand for 5 weeks in October-November before that flight and the jetlag it entails becomes more than we want to take on.

    The plan is as we get into our 70s we will then be looking to travel more in North America. Less time in airports and far fewer time zones to have to deal with plus there's no lack of things to see across this continent.

    I've also been hiking the 900km long Bruce Trail end to end -- 700km done and 200km to go. This was never a "bucket list" type of thing but when I retired that I thought I'd like to keep active and there was a hiking club at the local senior's centre. I joined up and one thing leads to another.

    Are those "bucket list" items? Perhaps, but I never thought of them that way.

    1. You are right about the whole concept of "Bucket List" becoming a more common term since the movie. "Bucket List" in its present definition was first used in 2004, but it was the film that brought its use into the everyday.

      Betty and I are seriously considering a rather major trip for 2020: fly to Hawaii, spend a few days, take a cruise to Tahiti and New Zealand, fly back to Honolulu from Auckland, spend a few days, and fly back to Phoenix. Like you, the effects of small seats, jet lag, and a slower bounce-back from travel stress are facts of life we must consider. I don't think I would survive a 14 hour flight from New Zealand to Phoenix.

      I am glad we had the RV for several years. That made travel within the U.S. much more pleasant and doable. Your comment did open up an idea for me, though: Canada.

      While we have been to Vancouver and Victoria a few times, Betty has never been to eastern Canada. She has not been to Toronto, Montreal or Quebec City, places I know she'd love. And, I am fascinated by Nova Scotia.

      If things get too much weirder in America, we may become Canadian citizens anyway!

    2. I would love to see Australia and NZ, but the flights look killer - more so as I age. I love the idea of a layover in Hawaii!

      BTW, we were in Toronto visiting kids and grands last weekend (Victoria Day) and overheard not one, but two conversations about - you guessed it - our president and our politics. We are a definitely a topic of conversation. And not in a good way.

  3. Love your new bucket list. It is a good thing to aim to leave this world just a little better. Since I don't care about skydiving I might as well use that money to do something for someone else anyway.

    1. A friend of mine is building a very interesting business around taking single women on African safaris, so I hesitated a bit about that bucket list comment. But, I think she'd understand, and her company is very eco-friendly and aware of animal-human interactions.

      We all make choices on how we spend our time and money. I guess the core focus of this post is to do so with thought.

  4. My sister has an anti bucket list, too, that is probably more comprehensive and would include flying anywhere. I would love to see New Zealand and have bee exploring possibilities similar to yours. I can't fly more than 6 or 7 hours without an overnight break (hhmm, it's pretty much the same with driving). If you do it, I'll be really interested in how it works for you.


    1. One of my daughters is a part time travel agent so she is looking into options for the cruise. I may have to just try to survive a 13 hour return flight if stopping off in Hawaii on the way back makes the whole trip just more than the budget will tolerate.

    2. About 10 years ago I went for a week to Melbourne Australia on business and I was a baggy eyed wreck for most of it, I never did adjust to the jet lag. For our upcoming personal trip in October I saved up enough airline points to book us both first class seats that turn into lay-flat beds for sleeping. I can only hope this helps but there's no easy way to get to that part of the world. It's 22 hours of total travel time where we are starting from to Sydney Australia with one leg being the 3rd longest commercial flight in the world.

  5. I read a book once that called it a "Life List" so I'm gonna go with that. That said,I am not a very adventurous person in general.I don't like the speedy out of control ride of zip lines (have not done one,don't wanna!) but I do love to kayak, hike, visit art museums, architectural spots, and botanical gardens.. Travel tends to wear me out, not energize me! But I still would love to see New Zealand,too. I want to got Paris with an art group of some kind.. a ladies tour maybe. We do have a Thailand trip planned this year.. a real adventure for us;Ken wanted to do something "exotic!" We'll be taking off for San Antonio too soon..just a 4 day jaunt. We enjoy the shorter trips IMMENSELY! (Both being kinda homebodies.. ) but I do think of our age, and if there are more exotic, longer trips we want to do , NOW IS THE TIME..I don't expect to get MORE Limber or MORE adaptable to jet lag etc as I get are pondering these things. Other than travel: I want to learn to be really CONVERSANT in Spanish.I'd like to see more places in the USA , I want to get better at watercolor.I'd like to get all my recipes organized, and maybe self publish a nice cookbook for myself.. I would like to write a book or two. ANd I want to keep deepening my spirituality. I am getting more and more zen as I go through time.. calmer, more "in the moment.." and it feels good!

    1. Well, this list should keep you busy well into your 120s!

      Thailand? That should be quite an experience. I gather the landscape, colors, and architecture are fascinating. You should come back with all sorts of inspirations for your watercolor work.

  6. I don't like being a tourist (I apologize to your daughter!), which to me is nothing more than expensive entertainment. And I'm too old to be a true traveler, a person who immerses himself in another culture and truly shares human experience. That's not to say I don't travel. But I stay in America, and mostly visit friends and family. But that's just me. Anyway, I like your non-typical bucket list.

    1. The advantage of the non-typical bucket list is there is something for everyone. Travel is expensive and can wear you out. Skydiving can kill you! But, helping our planet and teaching young people actually energizes you and can save money. A win-win.

      Thanks, Tom, and my daughter accepts your apologies!

  7. I spent my 29th birthday in Machu Picchu. Not so crowded then. They had a tiny hotel on site (maybe 8 rooms -- small!) where I stayed for three nights. This allowed me to hang out in the ruins before and after the daily tourist buses, although even then it wasn't so crowded. The second night I was there, I met a young couple from Colorado. We struck up a friendship and they ended up sleeping on the floor of our little hotel room. I am still friends with them today. You never know.

    Anyway, that was a nice memory sparked by your list. I can't think of anything on my bucket list anymore. I live pretty content. Non-bucket list is too long to even get started. But I definitely agree with the bungee jumping, roller coaster, and anything else remotely like either of those.

    1. I didn't know you had visited Machu Picchu but I am not surprised. That fits the Galen I know. (Blank) years later, I wonder how you'd feel about what it has become.

      Bucket lists are good because they focus you on experiences rather than things. But, like you, my focus tends to be closer to home with a very pleasant life and surrounded by family. I am content.

  8. As I get older, I find things that I thought I FOR SURE wanted to do seem less important. I would still like to get Down Under but the flights are formidable - not the cost so much as the time in a metal tube hurling through the sky. But I may do it yet.

    I find simpler pleasures are more satisfying now that I'm retired. We looked into relocating if we downsize and have decided we like our neck of the woods. We like the four seasons (mostly), our doctors, dentists, library, churches, etc.etc. I like to travel abroad, but also find that my energy flags sooner. I suppose as I approach 70 that won't get better, so we will have to get to our "bucket list" locations soon. :-)

    1. Based on my experience and some of the comments the whole concept of a "bucket List" may be invented by, and better suited to, younger folks. As we age we realize the importance of experiences over things, but we appreciate that the experiences don't always have to come from far away.

      Some of the South Pacific islands, New Zealand and Australia are the only places that could entice me onto a very long plane flight. A cruise or stopping off at Honolulu makes even more sense.

  9. Don't these Russian bots drive you to distraction?
    I've decided to ignore them on my blog and leave them up.
    I will not be driven out of comments by an entity that tries to stir up generational outrage. First it was racial, then it was political, then gender, now generational. Interesting.

    As for my comment?
    I don't really have a bucket list. I've traveled more and done more then I ever thought I would as a kid growing up in the same house for my first 18 years. I am grateful beyond all measure!
    Now, things present themselves and I decide whether I have the time, energy or money to do it. We saved for our trip to Israel- the timing seemed right politically and economically. I am, currently, saving to take the entire family to my mom's for her 90th next year. We have plans to move in four years. Who knows....
    Maybe, when I am much older, I will have to plan things better. I doubt that I will. My husband? He would be happy to never set foot in an airport again.

    1. That hateful comment, posted verbatim every time, appears occasionally. As soon as I see it, I delete it. I don't want to give whomever is involved one more second of exposure than I can. I am past feeling anything but pity.

      Your husband and I probably could have a good conversation. 20 years of constant airline travel (including over 1 million miles on Delta) has left me in the same position: fly when there is no other way.

  10. Oh...did not realize you were back! Happy to find you again. My husband and I just do what we do. Travel, day trips, sports and exercise, cooking good food, etc. No list. Too formulaic for us. I’d feel bad if we didn’t get to it all. We just spent a month traveling in and around Switzerland which was really not on any list except a family member moved there so we went. We did buy a boat, which I have always wanted to do and we enjoy that immensely. Love living here in New England and enjoying four seasons.

  11. My sabbatical ended in March. I found 6 weeks away from writing was enough.

    I've always heard the saying that the two happiest days of boat ownership are the day you buy it and the day you sell it. You seem to be proving them wrong!

  12. I like your idea of a non-bucket list, Bob. I think sometimes people get fired up about certain bucket list items for keep-up-with-the-Joneses reasons (hike the Camino, go look at polar bears). I’ve been horrified to hear about people travelling to see the Gal├ípagos Islands or the Great Barrier Reef “before they’re gone.” Somehow, that seems very cynical and self-centred (not, of course, if people are actively working to promote reef preservation, or to prevent animal extinctions).

    As for me, I’ve already had to accept that certain big life goals or activities that I would have liked to do have passed me by, as they belong to an earlier stage of life. And certain other wishes might be going that route, too. Two things that I still live in hope of maybe doing “someday” are going helicopter skiing, and living for a year in another country, such as Mexico or France.


    1. Since I wrote this post, Betty and I have committed to a 16 day cruise from Honolulu through the South Pacific, and then a week or so in New Zealand. These are things I have wanted to do for years but keep putting off. They are much more important to me than a "check-off" type of bucket list item.