On ‘Top (fill-in-the-blank) Things to do Before you Die” Lists and Other Things

Everyone wants to have a life well-lived, rich and full of varied experiences.  Proof positive, the travel sections of bookstores are riddled with ‘bucket list’ books titled, for example,  101 Things to Do before you Die, by Richard Horne or 1,000 Places to See Before you Die, by Patricia Schultz.  All express this urgency about living life to its fullest, you know, before the inevitable.  I have leafed through a few of these casually, but have never coughed up the dollars to pocket one home

Growing up, my mom would take my sisters or brothers to faraway exotic  places like Georgia, California, and Rhode Island for hockey, softball or skating competitions.  They were exotic to me as I don’t recall ever having a travel circle that extended further than the fertile Red River Valley including Canada, North Dakota, and Minnesota during most of my formative years (apparently I was in California when I was 2 or 3, but no lasting memories there to report).  Early on in elementary school, me and another classmate would scour the books on the 50 states of the US that we had never been to.  It was a time to dream.  A time to think of possibilities.  Then I would hear other friend’s stories of having visited islands in tropical climates or of travels to places like Epcot Center and the famed Busch Gardens.  I began to feel like a desert – rain clouds passing overhead – but never did they let out a single luscious drop on my parched soil.  It is no wonder that as soon as I got the chance, I finagled a way for my mother to allow me to go along with a friend’s family, all the way to Carrizo Springs, Texas, during Christmas break of my junior year of high school.

When my mom pulled up to his house to hand me over, we discovered my friend’s family car had taken a turn for the worse.  Their back-up plan was to equip their ‘one row seat’ truck with a heavily insulated topper on the back – and I am talking plain old topper.  We were lucky there was enough room to sit up inside with all the insulation packed in there.  The five of us (my friend, his mom, dad, brother and me) would take turns riding in back, covered in blankets, alternating with sitting in the heated front seat.  Against all of my mom’s better judgement, she agreed to let me go anyway.  Thank YOU mom!

It was my first year experiencing Christmas without snow.  This year, I only had to travel within the Midwest for the same experience.  However, in the deep south of Texas (we were practically kissing Mexico) I got to experience what it felt like to be part of another culture.  Spanish was the preferred language of choice, so I was able to pick up some new words, and I was given my first ‘minority’ experience as I was the only caucasian around.  It opened my world.  As I got older, I became more experienced in tackling practical and financial obstacles in my way, and jumped at any travel opportunity.

So it surprised me when I recently took an online Facebook poll to see which of the 100 places I had visited off the “2012 Travel Challenge List”.  I could only check 8 or 9 of them:  Death Valley National Park, California; Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri; the Grand Canyon; Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; the Las Vegas Strip; Mount Rushmore, South Dakota; Ruins of Athens, Athens, Greece; the Sears Tower in Chicago, Illinois; and Devil’s Tower, Wyoming (which I think I visited on a Geology field trip in college, but don’t quote me).  Not that I should let any list define me or the quality of my experiences.  Certainly not a list that I have not dreamt up for myself.  But I couldn’t help feeling a little miffed.  Was it my pride?  Yes, a little.  I’m a traveler, damnit!  But mostly, I think I was perturbed by that which was not represented on the list.  The many awe-inspiring places I have visited over the years.  The rich experiences I have had.  Put that trip to Carrizo Springs, Texas in your ‘bucket list’ pipe and smoke it.

The 2012 Travel Challenge List is indeed a veritable ‘who’s who’ of places to visit around the world.  Everyone agrees they are spectacular.  I would agree they are all worth exploring.  Just don’t feel that some magic list holds all the answers to constituting a life well lived.  Let the beat of your own internal drummer guide you.  Start to dream of the places that have potential for you.  What do you want to see, learn about, feel, sense, explore, taste?  If you think a weekend digging fossils in the hinterlands of South Dakota could generate a richer experience for you than a visit to the Ming palace ever could, do that!  But don’t let your world become so small, that you never ever step foot off the continent you live on!  Yes, I am talking to some of you, my dear family members.  You can learn a lot from other cultures and enrich your lives with experiences that you never could have imagined.

I’ll admit, going through a travel challenge list was useful in that it gave me a chance to reflect on the many places I have been, and to start dreaming of places I would like to visit with my family.  So, where are we headed?  Good question.  Current thoughts include planning for an extended trip down the west coast of North America, exploring all the way from British Columbia, through Seattle, down the scenic Oregon coastline, and meandering through the majestic Redwoods of California.  It may not happen until next summer, but it most certainly won’t happen if we don’t plan for it at all!  We will be replicating portions of a trip my husband designed (and went on with his family) for a class project in high school.  I just knew there was something special about that guy the first moment he walked into my photography class in college…

Tell me:

What/where are you dreaming of exploring right now?

Have you started making travel plans?

What is on your travel docket for 2012?


~ by urbanwandernlust on January 15, 2012.

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