Three Obstacles to Finishing Your Bucket List

On February 16, 2014 by travelogueblog

Well, the weather outside in New Jersey looks like this:

Frozen Jersey
And it’s got me dreaming of all the places I’d rather be right now.

Daydreaming About My Bucket List

If you’re somehow unfamiliar with the term, a bucket list is a list of things to do in your life before you “kick the bucket.” Too often, people add places to their lists that they never actually intend to visit. It becomes a sad collection of all the amazing things they’ll never get to do. I was guilty of this, too, until it somehow clicked in my brain that I only get one life, and now is the time to maximize it. Some people dream too small. Some people dream too big. Either way, it doesn’t matter, because a dream only suddenly becomes a goal when you start to work toward it. Then you realize what’s possible.

It’s fun to daydream, but what’s stopping you from actually accomplishing your dreams? Money, ability, and more pressing obligations get in the way, of course, but that’s exactly my point. These are the obstacles that would hinder anyone from scratching dream projects off a list. They’re big obstacles. I know that everyone is trying to muddle through as best they can, but something tells me that you’re reading a travel blog about bucket lists for a reason. Maybe you’re looking for a way forward in one of your goals? One of the reasons why I started this blog is to encourage people to start doing what they initially thought was impossible.

This is part of my bucket list, at the moment. It’s a shortlist of future adventures. I haven’t gotten to the hard work of planning, scheduling, or saving… yet. But it’s not a fantasy compilation. These are some of the amazing experiences I’ll get to do in my life if everything goes according to plan. They’re going to be difficult to achieve for various reasons: expense, effort, and the time required come to mind. But to me, they’re worthy goals.

Climb a Real Mountain

Slide Mountain

At the base of Slide Mountain

I’m in love with the idea of climbing a mountain. It doesn’t have to be the highest mountain, but I’d like to reach a respectable summit: one that I’d have to build strength and stamina to attempt, and maybe even have to take a class beforehand to help me get there. Most of the highest peaks in Washington State are between 8000 and 9000 feet high. Mount Fuji in Japan is 12,000. Mt. Everest – the tallest peak in the world – is just over 29,000.

I don’t have any delusions about my ability at the moment, or even what I’m capable of in the future. I’ve got two bum knees (I had surgery on the first when I was 19), and hiking up the 4,000 foot Slide Mountain, the highest peak in the Catskills, was one of the harder physical acts in my life. But the view at the top was an amazing payoff, and I did it without any real preparation. I think I could double or triple that peak with a concentrated effort.

I already like to backpack and mountain hike. That kind of climbing is something I can do on the weekends, and when the warmer weather comes back I will start it up again. When I’m ready, though, I’ll progressively get more serious as a lead up to an advanced climb. A good bucket list should push limits, and when I tell people I climbed a mountain, I want it to be for real.

Thru-Hike the Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail is a connected set of footpaths, independently maintained by local enthusiasts, that stretches from Georgia to Maine. It can get strenuous, but the real difficulty is in the amount of time it takes to start at one end and hike all the way to the other: over six months. That’s a huge hunk of life! It’s also a huge commitment to living uncomfortably off the grid, where most of your human contact is engaging with the neo-hippies who are doing the hike beside you. I’m listing the reasons to NOT do it before I explain why I want to.

I think everyone dreams of a more simple life in our busy, modern lives. For a long time, I have been consumed with the idea of living outside, with no obligations or responsibilities except to walk, and see; experience the world, learn about myself, and meet like-minded folks. The AT is not a practical item for my bucket list, but here it is, regardless. Realistically, it will probably get done in chunks. My opportunity for doing this while young and futureless has passed. I’ve got to get a lot of things out of the way, now. I’m in the midst of my career and building a family. But life doesn’t end with the choices I’ve made, and I’m saving this one for a time when I’m still physically able, but ready for a major transition: maybe mid-life, or in retirement.

Explore the Ancient World

Stone Henge
I’m fascinated by ancient civilizations. In the great span of time that has occurred from the beginning until now, human existence has been a mere instant. We are a blip on the timeline. Yet, in our moment, people have managed to accomplish astonishing achievements. Entire societies and empires have risen and crumbled, while thousands of generations have lived and died across Earth. There is still so much more to learn about ourselves.

I’m excited by discovery and exploration. I love to read and to study, to understand what is already known about our history, and to ponder the implications of what isn’t. Much of this can be accomplished for next to nothing: a computer and Internet connection, or hell, a library card and a solid few hours. But books and articles can only take me so far.

I want to feel the breeze standing beneath the statues of Easter Island, and wipe the sweat from my brow after the trek to Machu Picchu. I want to dig in the dirt around the Egyptian pyramids, and touch the cold stone marvels of the Ancient Greek ruins. I want to stand where people stood thousands of years ago, contemplate my own existence, and imagine the possibilities of the future.

Easter Island Statue
Of course, these trips are more than possible. There’s a tourist industry centered on bringing people like me to these sites: the greatest obstacle is the cost. Flights, hotels, dining and transportation all require money. Vacations like these are expensive, and it’s difficult to save in this economy. One of the hallmarks of the middle class has been the ability to take a vacation every year, though, and that’s where I’m at in my life. No, I’m not going to get to do these things all at once, and yes, I’ll have to budget and scrimp to do them. But I can, one at a time. So I will.

And More…

There is plenty more that I want to see and do. From safari in Africa to kayaking in Anarctica (the obstacle there is convincing Sarah!), there’s a very large world out there to investigate. I focused on these three in particular because of the various difficulties I’ll have in finishing them. All dreams have obstacles, but priorities and sacrifices make dreams come true. Having that list in the back of your mind to organize your goals in life is the first step to actually accomplishing a dream. In the meantime, enjoy daydreaming about what you want to do next!

What Do You Think?

What’s on your bucket list?

Are bucket lists meant to be impossible?

Is it better to have specific goals, or general ideas?

7 Responses to “Three Obstacles to Finishing Your Bucket List”

  • Thanks Mark. This is great advice to everyone. I'm starting to dream right now. Can't wait till April!! Love you.

  • Mike is hiking the App-Trail with his dad this year..please join them
    ps: archaeological are the best and totally affordable

  • travelogueblog

    Let me know when they hit NJ! Maybe we can jump on the trail for a day or two.

  • Mark NP

    Let me know when they hit NJ, Jazzy! Maybe we can jump on the trail for a day or two.

  • Sarah Siering

    I think bucket lists are meant to be impossible. At least, most people end up creating unattainable lists. I'd rather strive toward reachable goals. Eat as many delicious meals as I can afford. Try to live in the present moment as much as I am able. If I had a bucket list, travel would of course be a big part of it…but if at the end of my life I can look back and say I never got to the Great Wall of China, but I saw the sun rise over the Grand Canyon once and it was incredible, I wouldn't be disappointed just because the Great Wall was what I wrote down on my list.

  • Hi Mark, your bucket list reminds me to pursue what I want in my life and not just live my life as wind blows

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