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How to make your “Bucket List”: Five Guidelines


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Everyone loves traveling. I love it. It’s really easy to see a picture online or read about some place and become super excited about it. And because I get so easily excited, I’ve developed some guidelines to help me pick the places in the world I really want to go. My list is too long even with those criteria, but it helps me make a manageable one. So, if you’re the kind of person that has a bucket list for travel, take a gander at these guidelines and see if you can thin out your list.

My five guidelines:

1)      New Frontiers

2)      Language

3)      Food!

4)      Friends

5)      The Feels

Firstly: “New Frontiers”

Travel is all about broadening your horizons. While it’s always good to go back to places to revisit what you’ve established there, it’s important to keep yourself open. Push yourself—travel lets you put yourself out there and experience new things. There’s no point to getting out of the house if all you do is try to recreate your life abroad. Get involved!

Whenever I try something new or move out of my comfort zone I remember it. I only regret not acting.

My family took a trip to Turkey in 2008—we had the opportunity to have lunch in a old widow’s house in a village near Ephesus. Not something we’d ordinarily do, but we headed out there and sat in her house and ate her dolmas.
My family took a trip to Turkey in 2008—we had the opportunity to have lunch in a old widow’s house in a village near Ephesus. Not something we’d ordinarily do, but we headed out there and sat in her house and ate her dolmas.

So when you’re making your bucket list, don’t just think about sitting in the hotel. Don’t just consider the airport or the Wi-Fi. Think about places that would offer something new; places that would almost provide a challenge. Traveling lets you see the amazing things our planet has to offer—so seize them when you can. Take initiative abroad and you won’t forget it!

Secondly: “Language”

Our guide, Emang, in Botswana. He taught us lots of random words in Setswana, the language spoken by the Tswana in Botswana.
Our guide, Emang, in Botswana. He taught us lots of random words in Setswana, the language spoken by the Tswana in Botswana.

Language is a vital part of any culture and in a lot of ways is indicative of the culture. Our planet has a musical diversity of language and with it a musical diversity of thought that can only be experienced through interacting with the native speakers. In a pragmatic sense, yes, it’s always a good idea to go somewhere where you can practice your foreign language skills.

However, language is much more than words. Language is the way people relate to one another. Traveling lets you both learn new languages and teach your own—and in that way you can connect with people you meet in an incredibly special way. So, when you’re making your bucket list, think about how people communicate. Ask if you understand how people of that culture relate and ask yourself if you want to try to learn.

Thirdly: “Food!”

Platter of meats (clockwise from top left: meatloaf with pepper jelly, “tuna di Chianti” (pulled pork), roasted pork loin, “Chianti sushi” (Chianina beef tartare). Served by a crazy butcher who recited Dante’s “Inferno” constantly.
Platter of meats (clockwise from top left: meatloaf with pepper jelly, “tuna di Chianti” (pulled pork), roasted pork loin, “Chianti sushi” (Chianina beef tartare). Served by a crazy butcher who recited Dante’s “Inferno” constantly.

Food is vital to travel. I have so many amazing memories of dishes I had—from scorpions in China to sweetbreads in Paris. It’s always an adventure to find a restaurant, ask about local specialties, and experience cuisine that is unique and almost always delicious. Food is a great opportunity to widen your horizons while abroad. And who doesn’t love a good meal (plus you have three chances a day to try new things!).

But meals mean more than just sustenance and taste. Like language, food gives people something to connect over. Between cooking together and eating together, food has since the dawn of time been the way for people to sit in each other’s company. Breaking bread has archaic symbolism to it—and that must not be undervalued. The way people eat together is highly indicative of the way they relate to others. So, when you’re making your bucket list, think about food in that place. Think about what it is; where it comes from. Think about the dinner table there and yours at home. Think what it means to break bread and how you want to share that.

Fourthly: “Friends”

My Abbey Road roommate and I with our friend we met in Cádiz, Spain. We played Frisbee, discussed soccer, and traded profanity.
My Abbey Road roommate and I with our friend we met in Cádiz, Spain. We played Frisbee, discussed soccer, and traded profanity.

Connections give you some of the most long-lasting memories from going abroad. Friends enhance travel greatly, and the best part is that they just keep popping up. Friends can come with you to keep you company, to help you along, but meeting friends abroad is amazing too. I still chat with friends I met in Spain and I have plenty of stories about people I met in China or in Italy.

So, when you’re making your bucket list, remember what friends mean to your trip. See if anyone wants to come with you. See if you know anyone there. See who you might be able to meet.

Fifthly: “The Feels”

I don’t want to sound like an online forum, but “the feels” is a good name for the all-encompassing emotional longing to go somewhere. The feels can be anything that gives you a gut desire to visit a place. This can be the feeling of seeing the country your family is from or going somewhere that you’ve wanted to go to since your childhood. This can include connection with the culture or simply a love of the culture’s food. Either way, your gut will tell you when you love a place. Learn to know that feeling and pick new places by your gut. Use the force, Luke.

This is me fishing in northern British Columbia, Canada. The majesty and wildness of this place gave me the chills—I’ll never forget visiting here.
This is me fishing in northern British Columbia, Canada. The majesty and wildness of this place gave me the chills—I’ll never forget visiting here.

If you ignore all the other guidelines, at least remember this one. Traveling is about enjoying yourself and the world around you. Don’t force yourself to do anything (well, not anything too drastic). Go with your gut. You’ll know, once you go somewhere, if you love it. You’ll feel the rhythm of daily life, the warmth of the people—people react to all sorts of random places around this world. Embrace that, and seek it out. We’re all just looking for our place on this Earth, so don’t push aside that feeling when you get it.

So, when you’re making your bucket list, trust your gut.

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