I have to confess that the idea of a bucket list only entered my consciousness a few months ago. For anyone even less up-to-the-minute than I am (it was the title and central theme of a film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in early 2008 apparently), a bucket list describes a list of things someone would like to do – such as skydiving or swimming with dolphins, which are two popular choices – before kicking the bucket and joining the choir invisible.
Since then, I’ve been struggling with the idea. I can’t help but ask: what’s the point? For me, a bucket list is less an aspiration, and more a delaying tactic. When I came up with the idea of circumnavigating Africa, one of my first questions I ask myself after ‘is it vaguely possible?’ was ‘when can I do it?’
It took me more than another two years to depart for Gibraltar, and then Africa: which I spent in a combination of working/saving money, planning, and worrying a lot (which is less important than the first two, but something of a hobby of mine). On evenings and weekends, away from my working life as a medical researcher, I was invariably half-heartedly learning a language, reading an out-of-date guidebook from my local library, or trying to track down an expert for one or other part of my trip as it took shape on the dining-room wall.
Surely, for anyone with wanderlust or its equivalents a bucket list would be covered by the word ‘everything’, or ‘almost everything’. More correctly and specifically, it might simply read ‘as much as I can with what I’ve got’: meaning work, funds, and commitments (like having a family). That’s it. There is something like 130 ‘free’ days a year – weekends, bank holidays and the like – in which to tick things off the list. But I will come to those in another post soon.
If you have a bucket list, there must be something you can do right now – next weekend. So why not remove it off the list, and do it, rather than aspiring to do it?