5 Infallible Reasons to Ditch Your Travel Bucket List

The Eiffel Tower, Red Square and The Great Pyramids of Egypt: Ever since you were old enough to remember, they’ve beckoned you. Your whole life you’ve dreamed of seeing the world, and year after year, as you strike each off your wish list, ten more swoop in to fill the void. To infinity and beyond. Ad nauseum.

Although you might not realize it, your travel bucket list is bringing you, well, a step closer to kickin’ that bucket. Forget all the added stress: Simplify your travels and your life and ditch your travel bucket list once and for all. Here’s why:

Good Morning Cape Town

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You’ll never do it all.

Funny thing about travel bucket lists: they’re rarely fulfilled.

The world is huge. Our time is limited. And we’re not all trust fund babies, millionaires or solopreneurs who can wander the globe without worry.

If you want to climb to Everest base camp, safari in South Africa, and scale the Great Wall of China along with 30 other things, it’ll take time and money. It’s not impossible, but for most of us, it’s impractical to do it all, especially with an ever-expanding travel bucket list at the tip of your pen.

Travel isn’t a competition.

Bad habits rarely get worse than incessant country counting. And what do such egotistical practices teach us? That passport stamps trump experiences.

The travel bucket list is no better: It encourages us to privilege surface over depth, and then quickly move on; It becomes a means to itself, no longer acting as a guiding light towards enriching our life’s experiences, but existing simply to fulfill itself.

Last time I checked, travel wasn’t a game—let’s not make it into one by following an arbitrary set of checkboxes scribbled on a legal pad.

U Bein Bridge, Mandalay, Myanmar

Must-sees and must-dos don’t exist.

The travel industry peddles the idea that there are some experiences that we all simply can’t do without. Imagine living without ever snuggling next to your significant other in Paris or relaxing on a white sand beach in the Caribbean? Preposterous!

Don’t believe all the hype.

We are all unique in our travels and we each enjoy different sights and activities. A one-size-fits-all travel solution doesn’t exist.

When I say that must-sees and must-dos don’t exist, I mean it in a universal, rather than individual sense. And the problem with travel bucket lists is just that: they are chock-full of clichéd destinations that people feel they are expected to see.

Search the Internet and you’ll find that most bucket lists look something like the Ultimate Travel Bucket List at IB Times. It’s not coincidental: Travel bucket lists are rarely creative by design.

How do you know something will be life-affirming and worthwhile until you experience it? You don’t. And that’s partially why spontaneity in travel should never take a backseat to silly checklists.

Rapid Bay South Australia #dailyshoot

High expectations are a recipe for disappointment.

Imagine longing for a destination your entire life only to find out it just wasn’t for you? It would be a little painful, wouldn’t it? The feeling isn’t so uncommon.

For years, I dreamed of visiting Morocco—its name alone was enough to bring forth the exotic images of North Africa from movies I’d seen and books I’d read as a child. Within minutes of arriving in Tangier though, that image shattered. What followed was a less-than-pleasant slew of harassment and hassles, and although the trip grew significantly better after we left Tangier, it was already too late: the Morocco of my dreams ceased to exist.

In sticking to a travel bucket list, expect this to happen. Often.

High expectations are rarely met so don’t be surprised if the Great Pyramids are smaller than you imagined or that the stench of sewage in the canals of Venice sours your experience. Travel for travel’s sake and you’ll be much happier—and less stressed out.
Buenos Aires Skyline in Color | 111109-2-jikatu

Adventure can’t be planned.

By nature, travel bucket lists involve planning. Unfortunately, not all experiences fit neatly into simple lists. Force it all you want, but the greatest travel moments usually come when least expected.

Even if your travel bucket list reads like a list of challenges from a season Fear Factor, epic travel planning doesn’t create adventure on its own. You need spontaneity and an opportunity to let the world around you surprise you. Let the adventure come to you.


Ryan O'Rourke

Ryan O'Rourke is a Canadian traveller, food & drink aficionado, and the founder & editor of Treksplorer. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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