For a chick flick I have to admit the movie The Bucket List was pretty good. Featuring two older guys it details how they decide to tick off items on their worldly to-do list before they kick the bucket.
But I think we’ve got it all wrong. The moral of the story wasn’t that we should start travelling the world in order to tick off the places we just have to see before we croak. Surprisingly, for a chick flick, the film was deeper than that. I think it preached an entirely contrary message. It actually said: Ditch the Bucket List. Here’s five reasons why:
1/ Youth is lost on the young wielding bucket lists – It’s true. No Octogenarian has the strength to roam the world visiting hot spots, that McDonald’s type of tourist is more likely to be a backpacker fresh out of Uni. You see the wise older folk know that the destination is actually only one part of the trip. It’s the journeying that truly matters. No one takes the Indian Pacific train trip across from Perth to Sydney to get to Sydney. There are planes after all. It’s the journey that gives us time to reflect, learn and grow, like the travellers of old. Not all of the items of the Bucket List were destinations. Remember the scene in the Singapore bar?
2/ Take time to let a place grow on you – There’s a saying that goes: No one is better travelled than the one who’s lived in the same village all his life. Or something like that. Why? Because it’s the interactions of the villagers and the experience of life that really makes a traveller.
3/ Paris is more than the Eiffel Tower – Paris changed my life but I didn’t even climb the Eiffel Tower. I did however meet my Englishman who would become my husband in the garden of Musee Rodin. If you skip from must-see landmark to must-see landmark you miss things, like life-changing experiences and soul mates.
4/ Embrace the Delhi Belly – Every traveller worth their passport stamps has experienced being ill in a foreign place and had to swallow meds prescribed in a foreign language with fingers crossed behind their back. Some of us have even managed to decorate the plush entrances of a swanky Orchard Road hotel with diced carrots. Ahem. But would I have stuck to a diet of McBurgers and Coke to avoid it? No way. That’s all part of the experience, the one that challenges your narrow misconceptions of the world and makes you a more rounded human being. And it makes for a great travel yarn.
5/ Landmarks are over-rated – Just as cliches become cliches because they are phrases that are so well worn that are almost eye-rollingly boring, so too do landmarks become over-rated. Smaller in the real, somehow they just don’t live up to the hype and expectation. Am I the only one who felt London was small (inner London city I mean!) in contrast to my expansive expectation? Big Ben wasn’t as big as I’d thought, nor were the Crown Jewels as awesome as I’d expected. All because I’ve seen so many pictures and heard so many tales about them that they couldn’t possibly live up to my expectation.
So what was worth it?
The food at the little cafe at the Vaporetto stop on the way back from Burano beats the food or experience at Harry’s Bar in Venice, which we walked past twice. Seafood cooked in an unctious risotto washed down with a local vino. Watching the towns folk grabbing a bite before they head home. Fabulous.
The home made curry on the beach at Koh Samui with the local girls who worked in the guest house where I was staying was way more memorable (and funny!) than any swanky meal at any Bangkok club, pingpong balls or no pingpong balls!
Real girls, interesting chat in halting English, sharing jokes in three different languages and realising that humour is universally human – absolutely memorable.
The little forgotten second hand bookstores on the back streets of London’s South Bank beat Foyles on Charing Cross, hands down. And for a great view of London town? Head to the restaurant at the top of the Tate Gallery instead of paying half a kidney for a fab meal at the salubrious Oxo Tower.
Talking with the guy who owned the little taverna on the road to Masca on Teneriffe, listening to the tour guide painfully explain the dire economic situation in Oporto, laughing with the locals in the Trastevere (Rome) and blushing as a group of Parisian blokes toast us – a new courting couple – these vignettes make travel so much more than passport stamps and ticked boxes on a Bucket List.
They are the real benefits of travel, whether old or young.
Question is – are you ready to ditch the safety net of the bucket list?