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Sifting Through Your Travel Bucket List

Posted: Monday, December 31, 2012

"You know all those things you've always wanted to do? You should go do them."

Ever since I saw that quote, I've been pondering it. Specifically, why do we not do things we say we want to? So often women have told me that they really want to go on a trip, sometimes a specific trip and sometimes just any trip, but...

So the end of the year seems like a good time to really sift through our bucket lists and consider each item. I've written this about travel but most of it is applicable to non-travel bucket lists too.

Generally, there are one of three reasons why we haven't done something we say we want to.

1. It genuinely isn't the right time. Maybe it's an issue of time, money, health etc. But the situation will be different in the foreseeable future - we'll graduate from school or retire from our job, our kids will leave the house, we'll recuperate from an operation or our partner will finish chemo. Put those things in your Future Travel Bucket List, with a definite date attached to when you'll do each. Otherwise they may just stay on the To Do list forever.

2. We realize we no longer want to do it. Maybe 10 years ago we wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail or climb Mt Kilimanjaro. But now when we're honest with ourselves, we realize we don't want to camp that long or commit that amount of time and money to one goal. That's OK, we all change. Maybe it's hard to give up something you always thought you wanted to do, but once you make that leap, you'll feel better. And you'll have both mental and physical space to make other things happen.

3. There is some underlying fear that is holding us back. The first thing is to recognize that that is what you're feeling, and then try to articulate that fear as clearly as possible. Often just saying it out loud helps give you clarity about it. For example, maybe you are interested in a specific trip but you are afraid you will hold everyone back. This is a common fear, incidentally. So then it's a question of looking at whether you have any evidence that your fear is true, e.g. you always arrive an hour behind your hiking group. If that is the case, then maybe you need to plan getting in better shape and getting more hiking experience on hiking trips with shorter mileage- both of those will help you pick up your pace.

But often the fact is that we're scared because it's something we've never done before - and doing something for the first time is always scary. You can do an excellent job of researching all the details but there will always be unknowables. What will the other people on the trip be like? The guides? The food? Will it be well organized? Will you be the slowest or oldest person on the trip? In addition you will be allocating two limited resources - time and money - and you want to know that it will be worth it.

But you can't. And nothing you can do will give you enough information. You really only have one of two choices: you can admit to yourself that you'll never do it and find things that aren't as scary; or you can feel the fear and do it anyway. Imagine yourself on your deathbed and think about how you'll feel if you never do whatever it is. If you feel no regrets, then let it go. But if it feels like it would be a loss, then this is the time to get over the hump.

One thing I've found helpful here is to think through what the worst case is. When I started Adventures in Good Company, I had a well paid very secure job with great benefits - that I didn't love. The idea of leaving it to start a businees (with no previous business experience) felt pretty terrifying. So I thought about what I was really scared of. The major fear was that the business would fail. Once I articulated that, I knew that the worst that would happen is that I would have to go back to my previous work, but that ending up bankrupt and homeless was not a real risk. And then I knew that trying and failing was infinitely better than not trying.

It's OK to decide not to do something - just make sure that it's a decision, rather than waiting until you really are too old or infirm to do it.

Happy New Year!!

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